Lansing Mom’s Local Love Spotlight | Nyshell Lawrence Socialight Society

Lansing Mom’s Local Love Series highlights local women and the businesses they have built. Supporting Small Businesses is so important to us at Lansing Mom. Today’s Local Love Spotlight belongs to Nyshell Lawrence Owner of Socialight Society.
Three Facts About Nyshell:
1) I’m a mom of four girls (ages 6-17)
2) I write and perform spoken word poetry. I recently released a chapbook called “I’m Praying For You, Girl.”
3) I collect Funko Pops

How did you come up with the idea of your business for Socialight Society, and how did you start?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with words, with stories, specifically poetry. In 2017 my husband suggested that we go to a local bookshop before going to dinner one evening. I went to the section labeled “women of color” and to my surprise or not, it was disappointing. It felt haphazard. You could tell that this section existed to check a box. And I’m certain, not one woman of color was consulted on the curation. I left the store very disappointed, without making a purchase. And my husband and I spent the rest of the evening talking about this space I could create where women, specifically Black women, would feel seen and celebrated. After doing some research I learned that at the time there were less than 10 Black-Owned Bookshops in Michigan. The Open Education Database reports that there are around 10,800 independent bookstores operating across the United States. Of this number, a mere 6 percent of those are Black-owned. I wanted to fill an obvious gap in our community.

Fast forward to 2021 and I entered the Lansing Built To Last Startup Competition. Having the opportunity to win a year of free space in Downtown Lansing, I pitched my business idea, and finished as a Top 5 Finalist. After seeing the response from the community, I knew this was a dream that I had to make happen. In a 9 month span we started as an online book club, began operating as a pop-up bookstore, and then crowdfunded to raise the money to open our retail location now located in the Lansing Mall.

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?

Honestly, I would have started sooner. As a stay-at-home mom with young children starting my own brick-and-morter business seemed so out of reach. With the support of my family, and backing from the community it was actually much more attainable than I ever could have imagined. I also would have at least doubled what I asked for in crowdfunding. They say “it takes money to make money” and often times to make the big impact we want to, funding is key.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

The best business advice I’ve been given came from my grandfather and he said, “always do what you say you’re going to do.” Socialight Society has been blessed to have the continued support of the Lansing community and beyond, and I truly believe it’s because they see the impact made on the causes we support and we can be trusted to back what we believe in.

Have you faced adversity in business due to being a woman? How did you navigate that?

Not specifically from being a woman. But definitely for being a Black woman, celebrating the work and stories of women who are often underrepresented. Unfortunately, it’s an ongoing issue but I navigate it with ease by staying true to my mission and calling.

How do you persevere in challenging times?

In challenging times I slow down, lean into my faith, and remember why I started. I’m not just filling an economic gap, I’m fulfilling my calling — knowing that alone is much greater than any challenge I could face.

What impact do you want Socialight Society to have?

Socialight Society was created to celebrate Black women + Black literature. I want women, specifically Black women, to feel seen and celebrated. I want little girls to be inspired to dream big. I want underrepresented communities to know that a space was created with them in mind. More than anything though, I want to be a light in the lives we touch.

What are the pros and cons of being a woman business owner in 2024?

Being a woman comes with so many hats. It’s not always easy balancing home, family, business, and other commitments/responsibilities. Sometimes there are also barriers when it comes to capital and funding. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources (local and beyond) that support women in business and provide business education, funding opportunities and networking spaces.

What knowledge would you share with someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?

I would say go for it! Often times we have goals and dreams that may seem out of reach but if you dare to take one step — maybe it’s buying the domain name or filing your LLC — before you know it you’re much further along than you imagined. Find your group of people (preferably other entrepreneurs) that you can collaborate with, learn from, and be held accountable by. This journey is much easier when you have great people by your side.

What do you do for personal and professional development?

I’m committed to my personal and professional growth, always seeking out opportunities to expand my business knowledge and skills. This involves actively participating in diverse programs, both in-person and online. Networking is a key aspect of my strategy; I connect with fellow business owners, particularly those in the bookselling community, to exchange ideas and insights. Plus, I’m an avid reader and researcher, maintaining a continuous curiosity for learning and embracing new knowledge and skills.

What Mantra or Quote do you live by?

“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” -Maya Angelou

What’s Your Favorite Place in Lansing or Michigan?

Socialight Society, of course! As you can imagine this space has become somewhat of a second home. I’m also rarely turning down brunch at People’s Kitchen, lunch at Hela’s Kitchen (see a theme here?), or a trip to Horrocks.

Where can our readers find Socialight Society on social media?

We hope you loved getting to know more about Nyshell Lawrence and Socialight SocietyCheck out more Local Love Series here!


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