Veoleo writes about bilingual parenting, children’s literature in Spanish, female entrepreneurship, and storytelling.

¡Veoleo Press featured in Voyage ATL!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janike Ruginis.

Janike, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Veoleo, an indie press, was an idea born of love and honoring. Last January 2018, my grandfather, an immigrant from Colombia, passed away at 94. We have all inherited our innate curiosity from him and my grandmother: we are a family of educators, avid learners, and lovers of languages and cultures. On the day of his funeral, my sister, Alexis, and I, with our significant others, were discussing his many feats and favorite books. This conversation led to one of my personal struggles as a new mom seeking to raise a bilingual baby in the United States: I couldn’t find the right Spanish children’s books for my then 8-month-old. The Spanish children’s books that I found were either translations of North American children’s books only focused on basic concepts or picture books that were targeting higher level readers. There was something missing from the selection being offered online and in stores.

As a mom embarking on the journey of raising a Spanish bilingual child, all I wanted for my son were books that would support his language acquisition. These books would be meant for his little hands, with simple storylines, interesting and colorful illustrations, and, most importantly, create a fictional world with authentic text in Spanish that spoke to our Latin American heritage. Did I also mention that a low price point would be ideal? That conversation we had in January concluded with a statement: Alexis and I would create those books. Between Alexis’ extensive professional legal background and mine as a scholar in Latin American language and culture, we had the professional skills and the drive to materialize our idea.

My sister and I launched Veoleo by October 2018. We formally launched our indie press with our first title, ¿Dónde está el coquí? Un cuento sobre una ranita cantante. Within those months prior to launching, we decided our name, Veoleo; wrote a book; counted on friends for a crash course in branding and the magnificent logo; found our talented illustrator, Eduardo Espada; contacted a printer; established our social media presence and website; and, had the infinite support of family and friends. It was months of learning and researching but it was exhilarating to be making something tangible out of an idea. Happy coincidences and connections have spurred great developments for us and it has been heartwarming to see how friends cheer us on.

A fundamental component to Veoleo has also been to participate in our local community. Working full-time and being a mom, I am always looking for fun activities for my family over the weekends. Guided by my family’s needs and Veoleo’s mission to support bilingual language learning, I decided to launch a Spanish story time. Families and I now gather the first Saturday of every month to sing and read in Spanish. It’s so fun to meet families, provide an engaging and fun space for everyone, and simply share my love for Spanish and Latin American culture!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think the beginning of any new business is entirely smooth! We are fortunate to count with diverse expertise in our circle, but there were always going to be things that we had no idea how to do. Luckily, we aren’t the type to shy away from asking questions. Figuring out the printing and illustration process, however, is a good example of an area we knew little about but would be crucial for the success of the book. We researched different aspects of printing, asked a ton of questions, and settled on a wonderful company in upstate New York. As we did that, we also put out a call for an illustrator. When we came across Eduardo Espada’s portfolio, we knew we loved it! We tried to be as clear as we could from the get-go because we knew that once we gave him the go-ahead, we would be hands-off. It was unsettling to relinquish control but we strongly believed in giving him creative freedom. Once we had sketches in hand, we were thrilled that we had found someone who knew how to manifest our vision in a way that was also true to his style. It has been a wonderful relationship. The final step was then making sure that his wonderful use of color was rendered correctly and it was! The printed illustrations are an amazing rendition of his hand-painted work! Everything has been a mix of hard work and serendipity.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Veoleo – what should we know?
Veoleo is an independent publisher that sells Spanish board books for children. Being co-founded by two sisters, raised in Colombia and bilingual, our mission is to publish board books that support Spanish speaking families and Spanish learning families. Each board book we send out into the world will be: small in size for small hands; entirely in Spanish to emphasize language immersion; translated for reference; about irreverent characters; and infused with Latin American and Caribbean culture.

Content is what sets our board books apart. Each storyline is authentic (non-translations), based on Latin American and Caribbean culture in a format that is durable for young readers, and teaches basic concepts through level-appropriate grammar (falling in between popular basic one-word translations and complex sentence structures).

Veoleo’s board books teach each small reader about language and culture while opening the doors to imaginative exploration.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I would define success not as one attainable moment, but rather as an ongoing path. Personally, this path is defined by giving the best of me to myself and others day in and day out. Most importantly, recognizing the days I haven’t. I firmly believe that we receive what we put out into the world. Alexis and I have put so much love in our first board book, and following the definition above, success is reached every single time a friend, a family member, a caregiver, looks through our board book, smiles, and affirms that it is a book they would like to share with their loved ones.

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