Bilingual Publisher Encantos Raises $2 Million to Launch Subscription Box, Expand Spanish Content

A then-tech executive at Oracle in 2015, Steven Wolfe Pereira was a new father and wanted to do some more meaningful work. So with his wife, who had run Twitter's multicultural market strategy, and their two good friends, they began pitching an idea of a bilingual children's book series to publishers.

"I was aghast at the responses I was getting," he said. "They were like, 'Latinos really don't read'. It was really insulting."

So, the four — all with Latin immigrant roots — came up with their own brand, Encantos, that loosely translates in Spanish to "charming." It started with a board book, app and YouTube channel that had traditional Latino children's songs in Spanish and English like Los Pollitos Dicen or a different take on Happy Birthday, Las Mañanitas. They called it Canticos.

Two years after launching, Encantos picked up a deal with Nickelodeon to license Canticos. And the company has been expanding their edu-tainment brand since. Pereira, whose family is from the Dominican Republic and who took over as chief executive last year, said the public-benefit company aims to be a culturally authentic direct-to-consumer brand for preschoolers.

Last month, the company raised $2 million in an oversubscribed seed round Oakland-based Kapor Capital with Boston Meridian Partners, Chingona Ventures, Human Ventures, and MathCapital.

Encantos plans on using the funds to launch a subscription box service tied to their TinyTravelers series, books exploring cultures around the world. It also is looking to grow their brands. Chef and television personality Aliya LeeKong announced last week she is launching "Issa's Edible Adventures" in partnership with Encantos. The book, app, and animated series is centered around a "feisty, funny, and resourceful" 7-year-old, half-black and half-Indian girl.

Wolfe Pereira, who helped bootstrap the company, said Encantos wants to tell stories that aren't being told elsewhere and will be using a diverse cadre of writers.

"Part of the issue is we don't have enough diverse voices in 'the room where it happens' so we can have culturally authentic voices sharing their everyday lived experiences," he said.

About 41 million Americans speak Spanish, but options for Spanish children's books have been slim, he noted.

Many blame this on the lack of diversity in the publishing, which recently came under fire over "American Dirt," a novel by Jeanine Cummins about a woman who fled Mexico to escape cartels. Latinx writers challenged the portrayal of the immigrant experience as a cheap stereotype that sailed through the largely white literary world because there are few people of color in the upper ranks of the industry.

"Lots of people talk about diversity, equality and inclusion — but year after year it's just that: talk," Wolfe Pereira said. "This is impacting every industry, not just the publishing industry. But for some reason, it's really pronounced in publishing. 'American Dirt' is just one of many, many examples where folks miss the mark. It's 2020, and over half of all kids in America are multicultural. Diversity is a business imperative today."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

When Christine Outram, founder and CEO of Everydae, a digital tutoring app, met with investors last year to try to raise a seed round she kept being told to come back in six months.

"I guess you can say we were turned down," she said.

Outram decided to try a different route, turning to equity crowdfunding, which allows mom and pop investors to dabble in something that until recently was solely the domain of professional investors. Her campaign proved successful – she raised $1.2 million from 1,586 people who wrote checks between $250 and $50,000.

Read more Show less

Barbara Chandler believes she contracted COVID-19 in March at her job, working in an Amazon warehouse in New York where she experienced "a culture of workplace fear reinforced by constant technological supervision, retaliation against those who speak out, and the threat of automatic and immediate job loss in a job market where it may be impossible to find work elsewhere," according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York this week.

Less than a month after contracting the virus, Chandler says she woke up to find her cousin, whom she lived with, dead after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Read more Show less

At a virtual town hall held Thursday by dot.LA and PledgeLA to identify actions leaders in the L.A. tech and startup community can take now to break down racial barriers to jobs and capital, and to democratize economic opportunity for the region -- there were ultimately a robust number of questions asked and interest expressed around the issue, though tangible actions remain to be seen.

Nearly 30 years after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, protesters across the U.S. gathered this time to march against systemic racism and violence faced by the black community after George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Across social media, tech companies in L.A. and beyond have posted and tweeted their support for #blacklivesmatter, muted their feeds, and opened their pocketbooks, while music companies took part in a blackout. Companies have also donated to various diversity, equity and inclusion causes, but it remains an open question as to what impact those efforts will have.

Read more Show less