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Knowing Your Place in the Past Can Help Assure Your Place in the Future: How SBA Resource Partners Helped EyeSeeMe LLC Turn Their Vision into Reality
When she was a young child, Pamela Blair was spellbound by the stories her father, Shadrock Porter, would weave of the leaders and peoples of the ancient great kingdoms of Africa. Thanks to sage planning advice from St. Louis-area SBA resource partners, she’s joining her husband, Jeffrey, in an effort to bring tales of African heroes and great African Americans to children in the community.
The family-owned business, EyeSeeMe, provides books, games, puzzles, posters and music to highlight positive images to children of Biblical and African American heroes. The couple launched its web site in April 2012, and is becoming a steady presence at vendor fairs and school fundraising events.
While Pamela was proud of the history of her ancestors, and eagerly shared those stories with her curious children, she found the knowledge of their African past wasn’t well understood by their school friends. Pamela would visit classrooms, and was astonished that there were no pictures on display of African American inventors or other history makers. Students learned nothing of historic role models or heroic characters of the Bible they could follow as role models; without such role models children had no basis to discover their own ambition to succeed, especially in the classroom.
That lack of positive African American stories for children convinced her to join with her husband to create a prototype of tabletop family game based on a timeline from the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, through rulers of the Ottoman Empire, to scientists and inventors of modern times. As her children played the game, their school performance improved enough to attract the notice of their teachers who invited the couple to share their game with other students in their classes.
“One teen friend of my children watched the television miniseries Roots, and was ashamed that the legacy of slavery defined him,” Pamela said. She invited him and other children to start playing the new game, and soon enough, the other students repeated the academic performance of her children, as they saw their place in history and as valued members of society.
The potential of their game could do more than inspire a generation of young people; it could help launch a unique new business.
The couple first visited the Kirkwood SCORE office and worked with patent attorney, Robert Lewis, to copyright their product; next, they sat in on a marketing seminar and learned of the help available from the Grace Hill Women’s Business Center. Pamela signed up for the center’s Business Development Class, where she learned the basics: accounting, pricing, developing a business plan, and putting together a web site to promote their fast-growing line of educational merchandise. She continues to obtain advice from Grace Hill Counselor Tracey Jeffries.
With the help of SBA resource partners as a foundation, the couple wants to open a storefront for EyeSeeMe next year to conduct workshops as well as offer products for sale. They’re working on a mobile app for their new Inventors game, secular and Biblical product lines, and their vision for the company sees educational animation bits, computer games, even movies in the future. With the excellent reception and results in the African American community, they hope to offer the same for Hispanic children and other groups.
Moreover, the couple seeks to start a foundation to include after-school programs, parenting classes, and further education on history and culture from parents, teachers, and the community to build brighter futures for area children.
“We see our products in every household, and EyeSeeMe becoming a name in diversity education,” Pamela said. “It’s important for children to say to themselves, ‘I matter,’ and ‘I’m a part of the history of this country and the world,’ and to understand that we all bring things to the table.”
While EyeSeeMe is small now, their vision will take them as far as it will take the children who learn from their products. After all, when you don’t limit yourself, your opportunities are limitless.
To contact EyeSeeMe, visit http://EyeSeeMe.com/ or call 888-509-3998. Pamela and Jeffrey are currently operating out of their home, so any correspondence should be addressed to EyeSeeMe LLC, PO Box 220622, St. Louis, MO, 63122.
To find out more about the Grace Hill Women’s Business Center, visit http://www.gracehill.org/content/GraceHillWomensBusinessCenter.php, call 314-584-6840, or visit 2125 Bissell, St. Louis, MO, 63107. To contact SCORE, visit http://stlouis.score.org/ or call the main SCORE number at 314-539-6600 extension 242.
SBA’s St. Louis District Office can be reached at 314-539-6600 or at http://www.sba.gov/mo/stlouis.