Q&A4Her: Cassandra Hill
1. Did you ever imagine yourself achieving what you have?
I’ve always believed in myself as an author, illustrator, performer and television host. I feel God blessed me with those specific talents. I wouldn’t feel right not sharing them.
My book “It’s Your Birthday Shyann!” really impacts children whenever I perform. I teach children how to say “Happy Birthday,” in eight different languages. I teach them that we are all more alike than we are different to advance Martin Luther King’s dream of equality for all children. When I perform, I see joy in their eyes and hear it in their laughter and in their giggles.
It’s an awesome feeling knowing that what started out as a concept in my mind is now being shared with so many. More importantly, the students continue to read the book and learn well after my visit and performance at their school.
Reading and performing for children is a labor of love. I’ve always imagined it, specifically since the age of seven. Mom endorsed that dream and purchased a typewriter for her budding seven year old author. I won my first book award at age 12 for “Sleepy Hollow Mountain.” I still have that book.
I’ve written a musical CD that accompanies my children’s book “It’s Your Birthday Shyann!” called “Change the World Shyann!” That spawned a Download Campaign and YouTube Contest that raises funds for specific charities targeted via the download campaign. Whenever one downloads the song on my site, I give 50% of the proceeds to the charity selected.
After sending my song to my friend and R&B producer Bowlegged Lou, he decided to help search for children to re-record the song via our new “Change the World Shyann!” You Tube talent search.
Out of creating what was imagined, I’ve also hosted my own TV show called “Unity,” which targets events in communities that bring people of all colors and walks of life together in a positive way. The show airs on Access Montgomery Channel 21. Clips are also on YouTube under Unity/Cassandra Hill.
Thankfully, I’ve produced segments of “Unity” featuring Michelle Obama and Arne Duncan of the US Department of Education, and interviewed Bowlegged Lou of Full Force, Mr. Dennis Van Roekel of the National Education Association, singer and entertainer Janelle Monae, Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Roman GianArthur of the Wonder Land Arts Society regarding the importance of education and the arts in our school system. Those inspired may follow me on Twitter @Cass4Arts.
And I have more to accomplish still yet. I continue to dream and imagine.
2. What in hindsight would you say you underestimated about your industry or business and why?
I’d say, I underestimated the industry itself. One can’t just write a book and then it get’s into books stores all over the globe. One needs things in place to share the word that your book exist. It’s important to have a team, people that will market for you, book your performances, book community outreaches. It’s important to partner with like minded individuals, social media groups, and organizations that share in your vision. The road to success is a long one. Make sure what you’ve chosen as a passion is truly a passion and not a short sighted side hustle. That decision will give you determination to see your dream to fruition.
3. What is the best business related advice you have ever been given?
The best advice that I’ve ever been given is three fold. One is to not wait on your dreams. Don’t wait on someone to tell you what your dream is worth. Just do it, whatever it is. Find a way to research it, pursue it and get it done. Two is to hire a great Public Relations firm and save up funds ahead of time for that relationship. I’d say 6 months to 12 months worth of funds. PR firms have the credentials to bring your vision to the masses through their level of expertise. Thirdly, Put God first ahead of all of that and go for it!
4. What do you love most about what you do and why?
I love traveling to the schools, performing and experiencing the reaction from the children. I perform for the K-3rd grade populations. I’ve even performed for a slightly older crowd. It’s a high energy performance that really involves the children from beginning to end. They get to share in the performance at the end when I bring a select number of students on stage to be a part of the performance. The audiences give me so much love. It’s been life changing for me.
5. What if you knew then what you know now what would you do differently and why?
I would have saved up my money so I could pursue the dream full time. I’m successful now and my name is traveling via word of mouth. But, I sort of did it as I went along and as I could afford things. First I hired a lawyer and established my LLC. I waited, saved and then wrote a book called “Shyann I Am!” followed by “It’s Your Birthday Shyann!” I looked for illustrators for five years before deciding to illustrate the books myself out of encouragement from my father. I then saved and built a website to share my experiences. I then started test marketing my book (s) by volunteer performances in classrooms in my immediate area. Then I saved money and wrote a song “Change the World Shyann!” which compliments my second title “It’s Your Birthday Shyann!” Then I saved funds and produced a television show called “Unity,” to share with the public what I do. This is all well and good, but I didn’t understand the importance of a team to help me get there faster. I didn’t understand how much money publishing books and studio time for songs costs. One needs funds to hire a team, produce songs, and produce television shows. Save, save and save. Pay off all of your bills and have lots in reserve before you start. You’ll get there much faster than I did.
6. When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I love to read books on the publishing industry and biographies of successful people in the industry. You can learn a lot about which direction to take and emulate. I’ve put down martial arts for roller skating for exercise. And I truly enjoy going out for a really good relaxing and inspiring movie with my husband.
7. How do you define success?
Success for me has come from others seeing my passion and seeing it bring joy to them as well. I teach children in a way that parents love.
Even endorsements from the professional community defines success for me. Tamara Monosoff of Mom Invented found me on Twitter. Now I’m part of a national campaign to raise funds for schools and organizations across America. Moms Helping Schools donates 40% of proceeds from the sale of my book “It’s Your Birthday Shyann!” to schools. Tamara Monosoff is former Chief of Staff of the Department of Education and she served under President Bill Clinton. She established Moms Helping Schools for mom entrepreneurs across America to sell their inventions and give back to education.
Had I never tried to succeed at my dreams or put them into action, I would never have been noticed by Moms Helping Schools. That’s a wonderful endorsement of my product. That’s success.
8. If you had to share one final thought with our audience of thousands of women in business – what would it be?
I would say, be willing to learn from others. Take criticism as something that can help shape and mold you and your dreams rather than take away from them. If you fail and fall down, get back up immediately. Understand that behind the last person that told you “no,” is another person standing there waiting to tell you “yes.” If you stop at the “no,” you’ll never get to the “yes.” And most importantly, be kind to everyone you meet for you never know whose hand you shake. It could be that person that will support you the most and elevate your dreams.
Cassandra Hill is a native of South Carolina. She holds a Bachelors of Arts from Columbia College and a Master of Arts from SC State University in the field of Speech Language Pathology. She Currently resides in Maryland.
For eight years, Cassandra Hill delivered speech therapy services to children in MD and DC. She continues to serve that population by using her gift of illustration, face painting, storytelling, and performing. She is the proud author and illustrator of Shyann I Am! and It’s Your Birthday Shyann! It’s Your Birthday Shyann! promotes multi cultural values through celebrating international birthday and cultural traditions.
Currently, she hosts two community television shows called “Unity” and “International Child’s Play” on Access Montgomery Channel 21.
Mrs. Hill started an international campaign called “1 Million Downloads for Charity,” to bring national attention to the lack of funding in our school system in support of our teachers and the arts across this country.
Mrs. Hill is now also proud to partner with Moms Helping Schools. Moms Helping Schools is an organization that features products of mom entrepreneurs. Products featured on Moms Helping Schools website helps not only schools but non profit organizations to secure a revenue stream generating 40% of profits for themselves.
Cassandra Hill expresses her feelings as to why she is so involved in helping save school programs and why she wants to support her community, “We often feel powerless to really help our community or support our schools on a large scale. I feel this is my way to make a contribution to schools throughout the country and to my community. I’m an example of what one person can do to help change circumstances that take away from our schools and arts programs. Giving back also makes me a philanthropist and I like that thought.”