Rana DiOrio, JD’91, wasn’t planning to create a children’s media company when she left her job in 2008. She was working in investment banking at the time, and it was, as she puts it, “not a fun place to be, with the economic recession coming in like a freight train.”
Fortunately, the bad news in DiOrio’s working life was balanced by the personal happiness of a baby on the way, her third. She and her husband agreed that it made sense for her to step down and reassess her professional prospects after the baby was born. Although she welcomed the opportunity to regroup, she quickly found herself at work on a new endeavor: writing children’s books.
“I don’t sit still very well,” she says wryly. She quickly completed three manuscripts, for which she received universally positive feedback. “People said, wow, there’s nothing like this in the market. We need this book,” she recalls.
Determined to fill that unmet demand, DiOrio eschewed traditional publishing outlets. “I knew they weren’t going to meet my needs,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine relinquishing that much control.” She hired an editor, a book designer and an illustrator, and founded Little Pickle Press, a company devoted to cultivating “conscious, responsible little people” through books that celebrate cultural diversity and teach social responsibility. The company’s first offering was DiOrio’s What Does It Mean to Be Global?, which she was inspired to write in response to the election of Barack Obama. The book has won six industry awards.
DiOrio’s other titles, What Does It Mean to Be Green? and What Does It Mean to Be Present? have been award winners as well. Little Pickle Press is now publishing the works of other authors, too, including Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak and Sofia’s Dream by Land Wilson.
DiOrio’s vision for Little Pickle Press is to create a children’s media company that is “firmly entrenched in the 21st century,” she says. The press is offering music and e-books and is partnering with other digital media companies to expand its outreach to young readers. At the same time, it remains true to the values it promotes in its books through maintaining responsible production and labor practices. Ten percent of the revenues from the What Does It Mean to Be series of books go to support Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit that aids seriously ill children.
As both author and CEO, DiOrio struggles to balance it all. “I burn the midnight oil every night,” she says. But she hasn’t lost sight of her own core values. “Being a mommy,” she says, “is my most important role.”
Find out more: www.littlepicklepress.com
© 2014 Vanderbilt University | Photography: Jasmine Saldate
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