We had the good fortune of connecting with Jd Banks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jd, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Black Bear Cat Press was born from one event and one pet. My partner and I went to an urban book conference in Los Angeles. While we walked around and listened to several authors discuss how they didn’t edit their books, we realized that there is a market of writers who don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for editing their works or creating well-formatted and professional book covers. As writers and artists, my partner and I also have a long history of reading books and stories that are also not culturally competent. We’d read black and brown folx as either gangsters, justice-impacted individuals, criminals, or caricatures instead of regular human beings. We thought up a business surrounding affordable and culturally competent book services. We named the business after our black cat who resembles a bear when she stands up. Over time and because of our clientele, Black Bear Cat Press has evolved into a creative small business covering custom art, printing, buttons, event setup, and consulting.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
First off, it’s never easy to do art, especially doing art as a livelihood. The art market/industry has so many people within it, so being different isn’t enough. Being consistent, staying in one style, marketing to specific audiences, creating predictable content online–all of those things are constant challenges. Because Black Bear Cat Press has two artists, the art styles and journeys are different. For example, my artwork is more in the style of anime and manga with a focus on content and histories from Black and brown communities. My partner’s artwork is more raw and very colorful. I like to use traditional media for creating art, whereas my partner uses both traditional and digital means. Because of our differing styles, it’s harder to market to one specific audience and it confuses folx when they walk up and see different types of works. It’s also Black Bear Cat Press’s strength. When someone asks us to do a logo, they’ll get two different logos based on their needs, and the client gets more choices that are closest to their vision.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is that every creative needs to become business savvy, so I went back to school and got a degree in business and marketing. It helped me understand how to market, prepare for tax season a year in advance, and leverage my networks in a beneficial way.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend visited, I would hope that they liked the same things that I do (i.e. comics, art, books), so I would take them to either a convention, a museum, or a cool comic book store like Panels Cafe (Oceanside). Since I’m vegan, it’s a little more difficult to go out to eat, especially if they’re picky, so more than likely I would cook or take them to Sipz (Clairmont) or the Gentle Grill (Temecula). (I don’t know if you noticed, but I don’t have a best friend aside from my partner.)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people who have helped us to get to where I am. There are family members, mentors, and those we’ve worked with.
Guillermo Galvan (They’re all originals)