We had the amazing good fortune of being invited to feature in Channel 4’s Steph Packed Lunch – Small Business Market Kids Special. It was going to be in Leeds! During Lockdown! It all happened on Tuesday 23rd February. They’d seen us the week before in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express where we were featured because of our subscription box business Happier Every Chapter. Our mission is to promote literacy and diversity in middle-grade literature and also to create an engaged community of readers through our box.
The night before our trip to Leeds was very busy. After school, we spent the evening packing boxes, books, lifestyle items and props, for our table on the show, prepping for the actual show and doing our hair. It’s safe to say that night was a very hectic one! It was late before we left Northampton and that meant our hopes to have a McDonalds treat as extra dinner were dashed! However, we stopped at a service station and got sandwiches and crisps. We are not really sure what happened next as we had to go to sleep but the next thing we knew, we were walking into the hotel.
The inn was posh, everything was shiny and clean, and we could even see the studio from the foyer! We were too sleepy to admire how fancy it was as we bustled into the lift with all our boxes of books and other things from our website. When we got into our hotel room, however, we weren’t tired in the slightest and we whispered into the night about everything that could go wrong and how to prevent it.
The next morning, we had to wake up at SEVEN for rehearsal. Thankfully, our hair was still intact from the previous night and all that was left to do was shower and get ready. Mum had barely gotten any sleep from all her preparation over the past few days, so dad took us to rehearsal. We got ferried with our stuff from the hotel foyer to the studio by the Steph Packed Lunch runner! We were so anxious to be in a REAL studio with REAL cameras and REAL presenters. The rehearsal didn’t go too well… The nerves and hunger got the better off us to the point we forgot some of our answers! The lack of breakfast didn’t serve us at all as we hadn’t had anytime to eat. Once we were back from rehearsals, we made sure our stomachs were full and had a nap well before heading to the studio for the real thing.
30 minutes before the actual live show, we had a pep talk with mum and dad and felt much better though we were still SO nervous. There were two other young entrepreneurs: Cairo (a face and body cream maker) and Issy (a slime maker). They were both super nice and we enjoyed talking to them afterward! The set also was not as intimidating as we thought although all the different cameras and bright lights were a bit unnerving.
Once we had got everything in place, we stood at our individual tables and waited for the ad break to end. Once we heard Steph’s (the presenter’s) voice, we put on our biggest smiles and tried to relax. First off, Steph interviewed Issy, before the camera was turned to Cairo. We each had a different interviewer, and the person chatting with Cairo was Oti Mabuse, the Strictly Come Dancing star!
As you can imagine, we were getting quite nervous as Cairo’s interview came to a close. Oti handed it over to our interviewer, Alan Johnson, an author, member of parliament and also Golden Pharaoh on the masked singer! And then the spotlight was on us. Once we started talking we were on a roll, but there was a small microphone situation where we weren’t close enough to our microphone and the audio wasn’t as clear, but with a slide to the side everything was okay!
Our live appearance was a lot more smooth-going than our rehearsal, probably because we’d had a short nap and gotten some food in our stomach. We had questions such as “What started Mbawa Books?” and “What is Happier Every Chapter (our subscription box)?”. We rounded off by sharing our socials (our website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook). You can watch our appearance on this IGTV video. We also did a vlog which we will soon have up on our YouTube channel.
After the show we had went to the hotel and had to wait for the programme to finish before going to back to pick up all the things we had presented in the show. Reliving the experience with mum and Kaitlyn, the later couldn’t wait to meet Oti as she was a big fan. So when went back and cleared our stuff, we had to wait for Oti to come down for Kaitlyn to meet her. She was quite cool and we took some pictures (social distancing of course) with her and also gave signed copies of our books.
Approximately two hours after we had finished the appearance, we packed up and made our merry way back home. This time, we did get our McDonalds, which excited us a lot. After a couple of days, the excitement simmered, and it was like we hadn’t been on national television in the first place.
Overall, the experience was one to remember and we’d gladly do it again! To find out more about Happier Every Chapter, our book subscription service for 8-14 year olds, please visit our website. Our boxes ship monthly and come with 2 fantastic books (one of which is diverse or written by an author of ethnically diverse background), 2 short stories (written by us) & activity sheets, exclusive author goodies, 4-6 bookish treats/lifestyle items and access to author lives, competitions etc. For those not looking to subscribe, you can also buy our boxes as one-off purchases from our website.
Kirsten and Aiyven