35 year old Katrina Greer grew up in Trinidad (a small island just above Venezuela), and moved to Toronto, Canada at the age of 8. “Though I graduated from Ryerson University (Toronto) with a Bachelors in Commerce and Specialization in Retail and Marketing, I moved to the States with my husband right after graduating, and his job had us travelling a lot. We started a family early, and I have been a stay-at-home mom. Spending much time in both environments, I acclimated to New Orleans well, as it’s the best of both worlds, with a relaxed vibe and big city dreams.” In 2016 Greer opened up The French Library, an independent bookshop and luxury kids brand offering children’s books in French and English, toys, games, gifts and a café serving French fare and the best local coffee.
Q: How did you get started? Tell us your motivation for starting this business.
A: I developed the idea for The French Library as all of my children are in French Immersion programs, and I found there was a lack of contemporary literature for them to read and continue their education outside of school. Like slipping spinach into a chocolate chip cookie, so that children don’t realize they’re eating something healthy; I wanted to create an environment where kids could find French books with topics they are interested in and develop a love for reading through play and their own interests. The French language and culture, is so important to New Orleans, and rooted in the everyday lives of its people. As it is also laced within my heritage, I am excited to be a part of a community that is invested in celebrating and emphasizing the importance of the French language and French cultures from all over the World.
Q: What are you most proud of (related to your business)?
A: Every time I walk into the shop, though I feel I have so much more to do, and it is a daily grind, I am always impressed by how far I have come. The balance between work and family is the hardest part about what I do, and I am thankful for those days where I feel like I am on top of it all.
Q: As an Carribean-American entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest challenges and/or surprised you faced when starting your business?
A: I find that people of all races are surprised in finding out that my concept and such a progressive shop was founded and is run by a Caribbean-American female. I enjoy pushing the envelope and know that the more successful I and fellow entrepreneurs become, progress is happening, even in the deep South.
Q: What advice do you have to fellow Black entrepreneurs starting business?
A: Stick with it! There are so many days where it may seem like it is so hard and running your own business doesn’t make sense. I have definitely had moments where I wonder what in the world I was thinking and why couldn’t I have just gone and worked for someone. Much of this is because I do have a young family and I am stretched thin by being a mom and a boss. But stick with it, believe in yourself, and know that opportunity only comes to those who are are ready for it.
Also, be flexible. I have pretty much thrown my business plan out of the window at this point and have had to shift, bend and twist in almost every area. For me, personally, the retail industry is very different even from 5 years ago. You have to stay ahead of the game and be willing to change daily until you become a trendsetter and not a follower.
Q: New Orleans is such a “robust” entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the resources (people, networks, organizations, programs, books, articles, etc.) that you have found most useful in starting and/or growing your business?
A: Being a part of The Idea Village has aided me in crossing all of my ‘t’s’ and dotting all of my ‘i’s’. Unfortunately , there is no checklist of how to start a business in New Orleans, and it tends to be very much about who you know and where you’re coming from.
In the early stages I had to figure out a lot as I went along. Being a part of an accelerator program has helped me catch the little things. Over time, I have built up a support system of lead mentors and those who have come before me. Their advice is invaluable.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your business or your personal story?
A: As an entrepreneur, you really do have to believe in yourself. That confidence will get you through the mistakes, judgments and hard times. Stick with it and be your own cheerleader.
Q: Is there anything you know now that you wished you had known earlier in terms of starting or operating your business?
A: Not at all. If I had known better I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to do it.