Origins Publishers: Creating African Storybooks for children to learn from home
For many, there is nothing like a good book. The articles on the benefits of reading are endless, and the effects of storytelling are particularly important during our early years as children.
Meet Author and Publisher of Johannesburg-based Origins Publishers, Mosa Mkhize, who explains, “One of my most vivid memories in my childhood is that of storytelling and books.” Reflecting on the beginning of her business venture, Mosa realized that it wasn’t until she had her own children that she realized the importance of reading for children’s development, but more than this - that they enjoy the benefits of multilingualism. Mosa explains, “It is really important that for me as a parent, that black children have access to educational books and materials in our home languages.”
When searching for materials in the relevant languages that her own children could relate to, Mosa found that the existing stories were not particularly exciting. “We searched the market high and low and really couldn’t find what we were looking for. And so, we started Origins Publishers. What Origins is really committed to doing is telling the exciting, positive, aspirational and global stories to African children so that they can see themselves as creators, as enablers and as world changers.”
Looking back at Origins’ journey, Mosa states that, “The first books that were published were Isizulu and English combination and the Sesotho and English combination. We then expanded and now offer the book in all of South Africa’s languages and then increased even further to Swahili and French.”
While Origins started in 2015, it was only in 2019 that Mosa was able to raise enough capital to publish her books. Mosa initially self-published and received such a phenomenal response that she immediately started exploring how she could broaden Origins’ capabilities and publish other people’s stories.
Mosa explains, “While many of my friends knew about Origins, the world did not know about us.” To combat this, Mosa looked for ways to increase her visibility and brand awareness online and decided to set up a Google my Business profile: “Creating my business profile on Google my Business was such a simple, seamless and really easy process,” says Mosa, “the impact of that really was that we now had a business profile on what is the biggest business referrer on the planet. The outcome was really transformative. It really allowed more people to know about the business, we had an increase in terms of numbers of reviews, and we had more and more people going to the website.”
Origins really saw a lot of growth which unlocked sales and grew from having a catalogue of eleven books, to now having over fifty books. At the same time, Mosa had read about the importance of playing with puzzles, so they went from having no educational materials to having an exciting range of six puzzles. What they have now is a range of books and puzzles by leading local and international authors that are available in all of the different languages.
At the beginning of 2020, Mosa had high hopes to expand and scale the business. However, when COVID-19 reached South Africa, the country went into lockdown. Going digital was the only option for Origins in order to keep growing sales and impacting lives. Mosa once again turned to Google for digital solutions to help her through this difficult time.
Mosa explains, “During the pandemic, we then decided to run a Google Ads campaign. We saw an increase of fifty percent in terms of traffic to our website from Australia, Dubai, London, the US and all across Africa. I had to rope in my whole family just to keep up with the orders which was absolutely phenomenal.” Mosa continues to grow her business and firmly believes that, “It is at the youngest age when those seeds of possibility and ambition and confidence are planted and my hope is that we can be able to keep up and produce what kids are needing to fulfil the vision, so that they see themselves as enough. They can be anything that any other child can be.”