“Whatever your story is, it’s important. I feel like a lot of us don’t think what we have to say is important or that there is no one to listen. But that’s far from the truth.” Ardre Orie
Ardre Orie is the Queen of Storytelling. She is on a mission to help 100 men of color tell their stories. On January 14, 2019, Orie launched the 100 Seeds of Promise Literacy Initiative, a movement to empower men of color aged 15 years and up to become authors.
Orie discovered her purpose and gift at the age of 10 when she published her first book. Ever since then, she has been pursuing her passion for helping people write books and monetize their stories. She says the key to creating a blueprint to monetize your story is to “control your narrative and control your content.” As a Celebrity Ghostwriter, Book Publisher, and Media Haven, Ardre Orie has worked with several high profile clients including BET, MTV, VH1, and YouTube, just to name a few. Her story is an inspiration for everyone to be persistent in pursuing their purpose and passion.
BLACK AFFLUENCE: Since you are the “Queen of Storytelling.” We want to know your story. How did you start writing? What inspired you?
ARDRE ORIE: I was in this class at 10 years old, and I was probably just talking way too much. I always had something to say. My teacher recommended me for a pull out program, but it was more like enrichment. That gave me an opportunity to do something different. The teacher gave me a list of all these things I could choose from. I could paint, draw, build, invent, or write. So I decided to write because honestly I felt like that would be easy. I knew I could do that and be done.
Then, this project evolved. She asked me what I was going to write about. I had to figure the process out. It was not something that she gave me the answers to. I had to unravel them. I decided that I was going to write a book. I was going to a predominantly white school at the time, and I just felt like there weren’t a lot of black role models that we were aware of. I knew they were in our community, but we didn’t know about them. So I decided to contact all of these women who were amazing. I did research on them, and I interviewed them for the book…I invited them to the book signing, and I invited press and media. The school shut down for a moment to let me do this book signing. I really didn’t think that much of it because it came easy to me and I was just trying to get the grade. But the funny thing is that’s exactly what I do for a living today. So 30 years later I was doing what I was supposed to be doing at that time.
Fast forward, I went to college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. I got three degrees in education, and I really chose that career because I thought it was safe. Honestly, I was afraid to take risks. There were educators in my family, so I’m like cool I’ll do education. Eventually, I worked my way up, and I became an assistant principal. I really felt like that was going to be it…Then, my husband got an offer to leave to Tampa, Florida to go to Atlanta. I had a newborn baby, and I didn’t want to go back to work in the traditional field…I learned that people are dealing with self-esteem issues. People are not always proud of what has happened to them. I wanted to open up the doors for people to talk about that.
So I decided to write a book. I contacted 21 women and teen girls, and I asked them if they would let me write about their stories. When I did that and called them to read their stories, they all cried. That was my intro to ghostwriting. I didn’t know that I could write as someone else, as their voice. I published that book and put together a book signing. Then I got a call from a client from VH1 who had a show coming out. “Can you get a book done in 30 days?” So I’m like yeah I probably can. Your purpose is right under your nose. It’s the thing you do without thinking about it. So I did that book. Got that done…Then, the issue became people needed a place to actually publish their work. So if I wrote a story, great! But where was it going to be published? Would they have to find someone else? If you have a problem and you have the solution, then you have a business. So that’s what made me launch 13th & Joan: to create a home for other people to publish their work.
BLACK AFFLUENCE: What advice do you have for people who might feel like they want to give up on their business because although they enjoy what they do, they don’t feel it is profitable?
AO: I think that business is very much like relationships. After you spend about three years kind of doing a thing and it is not on fertile ground; you have to shift. It doesn’t mean that you have to change your goal or your vision, but you have to shift your actions…I worked on a nonprofit for five years. I gave it everything that I had. I had a team of people. Like maybe 10 people working with me. So when you have other people who believe in the vision and then they see it as well. It’s like how can this not work?
But the minute that I stepped into what I know now to be purpose — it was immediately fruitful. I don’t mean immediately like we didn’t suffer the three to five business year curve. At the end of the day, the opportunities just kept coming. There was no formal advertisement. It was word of mouth. It got to the point where it grew faster than we had the capacity. When you’re walking in purpose and on you’re on purpose, it’s right where you’re supposed to be. I call it the sweet spot. It’s fertile. It will just come to you. It doesn’t mean without work.
When you recognize it’s been three years doing it the same way and I’m not getting the results. You have to shift. You have to shift your actions. You have to shift your intention. You have to shift resources. You have to shift what you’re asking people for. How you’re asking people to support you. You have to look at everything that you’re doing and figure out which things are not yielding results and change them immediately.
BLACK AFFLUENCE: You started an initiative for black men to tell their stories. That is a very important subject because black men are really held to a different type of profile of being hard and not being able to express themselves without fear of judgment. What was your inspiration behind starting this initiative so we can understand the process?
AO: I’ve been married for 16 years, and I’m watching my husband navigate the world in corporate America. I’m watching him come home every day, how he feels and what the world does to him. I’m watching my black son who is in college. I’m watching how he feels and what he feels like the world has said to him about who he is. One of the major things that came to me is that black men don’t always feel heard. As women, we’re preconditioned to share our emotions. If we’re uncomfortable, we have no problem speaking on it.
Men are taught to kind of conceal those emotions and kind of keep it moving. Nobody has time for you to be sensitive. Men aren’t really given opportunities to be vulnerable. So the first thing that I did was I wrote a theatrical production. It was an answer to “Lipstick Monologues.” “Lipstick Monologues” was a theatrical production that I wrote for women and it was an all female cast. Then I thought, what about the man’s perspective? So I did the same thing, but I did it for an all-male cast. I launched the production in Atlanta. It was met with such welcoming, open arms. People were so excited about it, but most importantly, the cast. I took all of these different scenarios; everything from religion to sex, to sexual preferences. We talked about everything under the sun. It was meant to be kind of taboo and just the things that we should be talking about, but we’re not.
The male cast members were so excited…They said they never get a chance to tell our side of the story. one of the monologues that I wrote was called “Seeds.” It was about police brutality. It was about a gentleman who was a victim to all of the things this society does to black men. He was saying no matter what you’ve done to me, I continue to reproduce. My wealth is not in this world. It’s in all of the things that I touch. From my family to my home, to my finances. So people are great because of what I’m doing behind the scenes. I’m planting seeds with my life.
That particular monologue inspired me to create 100 Seeds of Promise. I’ve been working on it for maybe three years and sitting on it. Saying to people, “Hey, I want to do this.” When you have a new idea. Nobody can see that vision except you because God gave you that vision. So when you don’t get the response that you’re looking for, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go forward, full steam ahead…85% of the people who write books with our company are women. It’s time for me to do something to get these men’s stories to the table…The rationale behind 100 Seeds of Promise is to create a community of support so that men can not only feel heard but that these blueprints don’t die. We also teach them how to make streams of residual income from their stories. So that’s what the program is about.
BLACK AFFLUENCE: People are very inspired and want to congratulate you, but a lot of people are interested in learning how they can support you. What can people do to make this more public?
AO: First of all let me say thank you…We need for men to apply for this program. We’ve set it up as an application process because we want it to be taken seriously. We’re not looking for people who are going to back out or give up. We’re going to push them to the finish line because we want results from each participant.
There are a couple of ways that people can help. Number one is sharing. Everyone knows someone who should be writing a book. It could be you. Share it. Post it. That’s free. It cost you nothing to be able to share this information. If people want to support from a monetary disposition, we’re starting a program called the Circle of Influence, where we’re asking people to make $100 pledges…Pledge $100 that would go towards an author’s work. We’re not doing books that look self-published. We are after excellence in all assets for what we’re putting out.