When Manuel and Geiszel Godoy got married 14 years ago and had kids, they started paying to attention to a jarring phenomenon: They couldn’t find any comic books for their children with characters who looked like them.
But Manuel and Geiszel decided not to simply accept the situation. Instead, seven years ago, they formed Black Sands Entertainment, a Delaware-based company that produces comic books and graphic novels for young readers in the Black community. They feature Black characters, telling stories of ancient Africa. “I didn’t want to constantly see only Hollywood versions of the ancient cultures of Africa,” says Manuel.
Now, with $3 million in revenue, the company is focused on a strategy to boost growth, primarily through sales to schools.
Manuel and Geiszel both were stationed in the army in the early 2000’s, mostly in Germany, she for three-and-and-a-half years, he for six, but they met after leaving the military. Each pursued various degrees, Manual in economics, Geiszel in fashion design and fashion management. (She also had a degree in management). Six months after meeting, they got married. Then came kids—and the inspiration for their company.
The first year of the business was tough. The couple planned to start with video games. But they didn’t bargain for how expensive that would be. After spending thousands of dollars, they decided it was time to pivot. So they raised $20,000 via a Kickstarter campaign and switched to comics with a book called Kids 2 Kings. Since that time, they’ve produced close to 50 chapters of comic books—12 series, each with multiple chapters. The comics are distributed through Publishers Group West.
In 2021, the company launched an app for content creators who lacked their own platform. “We wanted to make sure they got a lot of exposure,” says Manuel. Black Sands also brought some of those artists in-house.
More recently, the company closed down the app, part of a strategy to focus on faster growth. “We have to get bigger to make a real difference in the culture,” says Manuel.
With that in mind, the Godoys are dedicating $500,000 to hire a team of sales reps specializing in the education market, as part of a strategy to sell to school districts and libraries. They recently signed a deal with the Birmingham, Ala. school district for $37,000. They also just held two virtual professional development sessions with librarians and educators in New York City and Washington, D.C. “We’re teaching them how to use comic books and graphic novels in the classroom to get kids to read more,” says Manuel.
In January 2022, the Godoys appeared on the show Shark Tank. Comedian Kevin Hart, a special guest, and regular Mark Cuban agreed to invest a total of $500,000 for a 30% stake. Later on, the deal ended up breaking down, but the publicity, says Manuel, “was huge for us.” The company also plans to raise $2 million through Wefunder; they’re kicking off the campaign on May 7. And it’s also back to making video games, “now that we have the resources to do it,” says Manuel.
“We wanted to create content for the next generation, with heroes who reflected them and their ancestral upbringing,” says Manuel. “Every child needs to know about their heritage and their culture.”