Sunday, November 1, 2009

4:45 PM - No comments

Intimate Conversation with MahoganyBooks

MahoganyBooks was founded by Derrick A. Young, a graduate of Bowie State University and his wife, a graduate of Langston University . Born in Washington DC and raised in Prince Georges County , he acquired a love for music, art, reading, & writing. That love was reinforced during his time working at Karibu Books. Seeing first how words enriched the lives of people added to his appreciation for books. At Karibu, Derrick saw firsthand the impact a small business could have on a community and set his sights on making a similar contribution. In late 2006 he made up his mind to start a community oriented internet business that used literature to teach, inspire, & enrich the African American community on a national level.

Ella: Introduce us to your company MahoganyBooks.
Created by an enterprising husband and wife duo in the Washington DC area, MahoganyBooks is positioned to become the premier online destination for books written for, by, and about people of the African Diaspora. Coupling a dynamic social networking community, robust inventory selection, easy to use website, and provocative literary content–MahoganyBooks is the ideal online bookstore dedicated to “Books, Community, Words, & You.”MahoganyBooks is an online bookstore that specializes in books written for, by, or about people of African descent.

Our site went live December 2008 and recently underwent a re-design in June of 2009. MahoganyBooks also features a blog: The WritersBloc and a social networking site: The Lit Lounge. Both engage the African American reading & writing community in dialogue about literature, as well as, showcase the considerable talents of new and established writers. Whether featuring a short story from an up-and-coming fiction writer, having our “Poet in the City” review an Open Mic poetry event, or discussing the changes in the industry and how to best prepare for it…MahoganyBooks is a leader in and an advocate for African American Lit.

Our tagline is “Books, Community, Words, & You.” It’s a reference to the powerful relationship books and words have in developing the individual and the community with which they belong. (Pic: From the Black Coalition Mixer in DC)

Ella: How would you describe your experience as an Entrepreneur?
Becoming an entrepreneur has been one of my most sought after goals and reaching this point has been extremely fulfilling. Outside of my family, and God, there is nothing that means as much to me as the development of MahoganyBooks into an enterprise that serves, supports, & enriches the lives of African Americans. I feel so passionate about what we are trying to accomplish that the time I put in to our business never feels like work. In fact, it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment that outweigh all of the late nights, frustrations, or doubts I face as an entrepreneur. I enjoy seeing the growth and impact our company has on the industry and knowing it’s all a product of hard work, creativity, & dedication. It’s a clear reminder that anything is possible when you strive for it.

Ella:  What do you hope to offer your customers at MahoganyBooks?
Aside from a great shopping experience, we want to offer every customer “access” to the books that interest them. Karibu was the first bookstore I had seen that stocked a broad range of books covering the topics and authors that represented or reflected my heritage and culture. Prior to that I had seen at any given time maybe four bookcases at most in a bookstore that dealt with African American culture. Usually they were filled largely with fiction books and the rest were your typical black history month selection of titles. But never had I seen books about the Spanish Moors or an actual copy of Two Thousand Seasons, or the poetry of Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka. Neither ten plus ago with Walden and Crown Books or today with Borders and Barnes & Noble have I seen anything approaching that level of selection.

It was an eye opening experience for me then and it’s something that we feel every other person, regardless of where they live should have. That’s why we decided to open an online bookstore versus a traditional retail space. We wanted to give African Americans on a national scale, specialized attention and access to a large selection of books that reflected their various tastes and needs.

Ella: What’s new with MahoganyBooks? What should people keep an eye out for?
Just recently we established a Resident Poet or “Poet in the City” position at MahoganyBooks. The person in this post will review area Open Mic poetry events, provide interviews, chronicle their journey to become a published poet, as well as, solicit, select, and submit original poems to our blog. We are very excited to have made our first selection to this post. Evelyn N. Alfred, from Maryland is a talented writer that is also a student of her craft.

We wanted a person that had the talent to become a nationally recognized writer and the ability to communicate the process with great personality. Evelyn fits this role perfectly and I’m looking forward to the content she will add to our blog. But more importantly I think people will enjoy watching her emergence as a writer. Additionally, my wife has spearheaded the Black Book Coalition and has partnered with two other book industry organizations to help unify the literary community here in the Washington DC area. We strongly feel that combined efforts often more than outweigh single handed ones and are excited about being creators of such dialogue.

We are also working on a number of events that will bring authors to the DC area in different types of settings that will be engaging and enjoyable for the participants to interact with their favorite authors. We’ll be announcing one of those events very soon, so stay tuned. Piece-by-piece we are expanding the content on our blog, the activities in our social network, and adding a diversity of books to our online catalog. We are well on our way to becoming the destination website for readers & writers of African American literature.

Derrick A. Young, CEO MahoganyBooks 
Books, Community, Words & You



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