To change the literary landscape of a country and a continent takes passionate and pioneering publishing champions, and South Africa has found one such champion in Thabiso Mahlape, founder of Blackbird Books. She is establishing a new and exciting framework for South African narratives and is winning author and readers fans alike with her business.
LoA had the pleasure of having Thabiso Mahlape as a guest speaker at a recent Lioness Lean In event in Johannesburg and found out more.
Tell us a little about Blackbird Books
In August 2015, the face of South African publishing changed. This is the day that I launched the new book imprint BlackBird Books. The imprint, incubated by Jacana Media, provides a platform and a publishing home to both new voices and the existing generation of black writers and narratives. I honed my skills as a publisher with a number of highly acclaimed bestsellers; the award-winning Endings & Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi, the ground-breaking My Father My Monster by Mcintosh Polela and Malaika wa Azania’s Memoirs of a Born Free. All these books talk to multiple audiences on issues which impact us as South Africans. Other titles published include Bonnie Henna’s Eyebags & Dimples and Zoleka Mandela’s When Hope Whispers. I describe BlackBird Books as a ground-breaking move in the South African literary landscape and looks forward to continue pioneering and establishing a framework for new South African narratives.
“I wanted to be able to curate on my own terms the kind of African Literature that I think people who look like me should be reading.”
“It was important to create work that represented black people in a more realistic way.”
What inspired you to start your company?
I wanted to be able to curate on my own terms the kind of African Literature that I think people who look like me should be reading. But also because it was important to create work that represented black people in a more realistic way.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Blackbird Books publishes some of the most exciting new voices in South Africa. Read them because it is an incredible way to have your finger on the pulse of what the South Africa Youth is doing and what their thoughts are.
Tell us a little about your team
The work is outsourced and the team is me.
“Blackbird Books publishes some of the most exciting new voices in South Africa.”
“It is an incredible way to have your finger on the pulse of what the South African Youth is doing and what their thoughts are.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I never did think that I would end up as an entrepreneur, I am excited to be one in this space though and learning as I go along. I am lucky to have been incubated by a company that used to employ me and I am learning everything I need from them and they make the blows easier to take.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
To eventually stand alone, as soon as I am confident that I am ready. I would like to expand into the rest of Africa and find possible partners in different regions.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Staying alive :-) But seriously it’s knowing that you are able to take risks, and have no regrets.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Start, but have support in the professional and personal space. It will save you.
Contact or follow BlackBird Books
Why LoA loves it….
Literature has a pivotal role to play in documenting the growth and development of the African continent, and the challenge has always been to provide a powerful platform for Africa’s new literary voices to be heard. Thabiso Mahlape is addressing this challenge through her business, Blackbird Books, creating a magical place where some of the most exciting new black authors are showcased to the world. She is one entrepreneur really making a difference to the lives of the next generation of South African black literary talent. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa