Alicia Carbo-Guha is an author, illustrator, graphic designer, and marketer.
She tells us that, “I am originally from Barcelona, Spain, living in Toronto, Canada. Life has not always been easy, but this has made me resilient. Early in life, I decided not to dwell on adversity and to seek new opportunities. After retiring from a corporate position in marketing, I returned to my old crafts as a self-published author and illustrator. Interested in children’s education and topics that help them discover their world, I created the Adventures with Buku series with probing and easy-to-follow stories that stimulate critical thinking. Saving Nature is the first book of this series. It helps children understand why it is important to protect Nature and gives them tools and hopes for building a better and cleaner future. The Curious Planet of Rules followed. This new adventure with Buku is funny and intriguing and helps kids understand the “why” and “how” of rules. A new title is in the making, and I plan to publish it in the beginning of 2024.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career.
I was a happy, outgoing kid until my father, a prominent entrepreneur, died suddenly in a car accident. My mom’s grief had no end, and our family life was changed forever. Growing up under Franco’s dictatorship in Spain was not easy, especially for a non-Catholic family like mine—things at school were also difficult because of bullying. Myself and my siblings eagerly awaited our summer vacation in Seva, a small Catalan village on the Montseny range. My fondest childhood memories are vacationing there with all our cousins. Together, we cycled full speed in the mountains, climbed trees, went on long hikes, and bruised our knees often. We were in constant contact with nature and felt free and happy. In the 1990s, Spain suffered from repeated forest fires, and you could see the consequences of not prioritizing sustainability and nature conservation. In 1994, fueled by my passion for nature and concern for our planet’s future, I wrote, illustrated, and self-published my first children’s book, Buku and Nature. Others would follow under my imprint, Ediciones Ipse.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
After graduating in graphic design and having worked for a big agency in Madrid, I decided that to move forward with my career, I should acquire further experience abroad. My first turning point was an opportunity in Canada, and I left. What was supposed to be a year abroad became several years. During that time, I learned English, worked in agencies in Ottawa and Toronto, got married, and had a child. The second turning point came when our family moved to Barcelona, where my husband was enrolled in an International MBA program. After our second daughter was born, I started looking for a job. I was very excited. I knew I had a strong resume with international experience and was fully proficient in four languages. However, for a woman, being married and having two small kids was a big handicap. Marital status and number of children had to be stated in the resume. Thus, while my husband started to work soon after completing his MBA, I struggled. The end of my career in advertising. But a source of new opportunities and new beginnings. Multi-language proficiency was in high demand, and I worked in smaller roles in other sectors. I accepted an offer from a literary agent. It was my introduction to publishing, an experience that later proved very valuable. Also, it led to a career in marketing with a large multinational. While working there, I obtained a master’s in marketing, and over time, I assumed the marketing and sales responsibility for the Mediterranean region—my third turning point. Next, I incorporated Ediciones Ipse. I envisioned personalized children’s books as a didactic tool to cover educational topics and started writing, illustrating, and self-publishing my books. I believe in the conservation of nature, and I was ecstatic when, before Christmas, my first book, Buku and Nature, was endorsed on national TV as one of the five best books for children that year. Years later, Spain’s economic crisis didn’t spare our family, and we moved back to Toronto. Since then, I enjoyed working as a marketer, most recently in the aerospace sector. In 2020, COVID allowed me to take a step back. Since Buku and Nature was published, our planet’s environment has continued to degrade. This prompted me to review it. What initially started as a review became a new book, Saving Nature, the first book of the Adventures with Buku series to which I am now dedicated full-time.
Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.
I believe we must help children understand their world, and picture books can introduce concepts at an early age. I wrote Adventures with Buku for my grandkids and all other kids, and my goal is that beyond the adventure, they capture the meaning and concepts that will help them later in life. I am inquisitive, with many interests. I especially love reading, hiking, nature, photography, and traveling. Along the way, I have encountered many people who, one way or another, have impacted and influenced me as role models. However, the imprint that my father left in my life as a child will always stay with me. He was and still is my role model and a role model for many others who loved him.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
I love challenges because they test our boundaries and help us move forward and learn. The outcome of a challenge can be a success or a failure, and we should prepare for both. When it’s a success, I like to explore other situations or environments where this experience is applicable. Failures are underrated. There is a lot we can learn from them. And whether the outcome is a failure or a success, they always lead to opportunities. Be vigilant and take advantage of them.
What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?
I enjoy seeing the impact of my work when I visit schools to read my books to the kids. Teachers also seize this opportunity to have them work on the topic. It’s been very rewarding seeing kids interested in the environment and asking questions about things they can do or why grownups are not doing more. In the coming years, I will add stories and new topics to the Adventures with Buku series and start writing for middle-grade readers. It is a very competitive sector for self-published authors, but I like challenges and will continue striving to meet them and grow.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
COVID allowed me to step back. Leaving the corporate world, I returned to writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
Not being deterred by adversity. I tried my best and moved forward.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would like to see gender equality everywhere.
What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Of course, we need to work smart for this to be true.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
We have come a long way, but there is much to be done. It is important to foster initiatives that provide platforms to educate, inspire, and empower women on their journeys. Women are effective leaders and less reactive. Gender equality would mean a better corporate world—a win-win situation.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Work hard, and don’t get discouraged. Join women’s leadership networks and conferences for professional development and support. Get involved. Be smart with your choices.