Last year, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, founders of the media start-up Timbuktu Labs and authors of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, were the top honorees for 2018 PW Star Watch, a partnership between Publishers Weekly and Frankfurter Buchmesse.

In 2016, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls made crowdfunding history by raising more than $1.2 million from backers in 75 countries in a combined Kickstarter and Indiegogo InDemand book ordering campaign. The book, which they published and distributed themselves through Timbuktu Labs, laid the foundation for more books, a podcast, and other projects promoting strong women.

“Winning the Star Watch award felt like coming full circle in a way. We took an unusual route to get here--Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was published in a nontraditional way,” said Favilli. “To be recognized by the industry sheds a light on indie publishing, and the need to tell women’s stories. The impact of the award really goes hand-in-hand with the mission of our books. There is no direct path to achieve your dreams--the more disruptive, the better. If other authors and entrepreneurs can take away this message, that is extremely impactful.”

At the Frankfurt Book Fair last fall, they meet with their foreign publishers and Cavallo spoke on a number of panels about how they were able to launch a book in a non-traditional way. For the two, it was “great to be surrounded by other publishers and authors, hearing about trends in the industry and of course, getting our books in front of more people.”

Since last fall, they have released a companion journal to the books, I Am a Rebel Girl: A Journal to Start Revolutions, which features inspirational prompts to stir creative thinking and is illustrated by women. They have also released a second season 2 of their podcast, “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: The Podcast,” each episode highlighting a Rebel Girl narrated by such women as Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg, Justina Machado, Jackie Cruz, and Amy Landecker. They have also released a calendar, featuring a different Rebel Girl for each month.

“Taking the nontraditional approach, we’ve always felt confident in our fan base and understood that publicly, there is a strong need for stories about women,” said Favilli. “We broke the publishing mold, which made it feel all the more special to be recognized by so many big names in the industry. For a crowdfunded, feminist children’s book to win the Star Watch award was proof of the demand for women-driven content in publishing.”

And they continue to roll out new projects to meet that demand. Though Favilli notes they can’t announce some new projects quite yet, the “future projects will always be in support of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and children’s education.”

To nominate someone for Star Watch 2019, go to