In August of 2018, my grandmother, Estelle Lazell, came to me with a single printed document that contained about half a page of text. It was a simple, children’s story that she wrote over 20 years earlier.
She asked if I could turn her story into an illustrated book. Then, she gave me the opportunity to sell this book as a way to make some extra income. As an entrepreneur, this sounded like a great side project for me to pursue along with my other work.
At the time, I was 2 years out of college, and I was a part-time freelance writer. I had always wanted to start my own business selling a product that I created, and even though 1 book by itself is far from a business, this was an opportunity to grow it into something bigger.
From a Book to a Business
I recognized early on that there was more to this opportunity than just a book. So, I started brainstorming on how I could turn this story into a business.
Since my sophomore year at the University of Arizona, I have been involved in entrepreneurship. After working with my older brother on his startup company during this time, I decided that I would focus on my entrepreneurial efforts instead of pursuing a neuroscience degree.
Since that point, I worked on a couple of different startup ideas, and I even got an invention patented. Through these entrepreneurial projects, I learned a tremendous amount and applied this knowledge to each new business.
Part of an Educational Program
In all of my work, I try to minimize my reliance on professionals as much as possible. This is the main reason that I learn so much while working on these projects.
To start off, I mapped what I wanted each page of The Book That Wanted to be Read to look like. In this process, I sketched out all of the pages and created a detailed presentation to describe exactly what I was looking for on each page. Below are a couple of examples:
I gained a solid understanding of the illustration process through my involvement in each step. At the same time, my two younger brothers, Max and Elai, who were 8 and 7 at the time respectively, watched as I worked each day on this project. As expected, they wanted to copy everything that I was doing and create their own illustrated children’s book.
To help them with this, I began to simplify all of the concepts and strategies that I was employing so that they could easily digest the information. I realized that I could transform these activities into some sort of educational program to help children create their own illustrated stories.
The Story Booklet
Although an educational workshop that helps children create their own illustrated story sounds great, there are plenty of existing solutions for that in the marketplace. It would be incredibly difficult to create a program out of nothing and hope to gain traction. Then, everything clicked.
Buddy the Book loves when you read his stories, but he also loves when you WRITE your own.
Because Buddy the Book is, well, a book, it makes perfect sense to include some sort of writing activity to follow the story. From this basic concept, I immediately started coming up with more and more ideas.
I realized that if the story led into a writing workshop, the participants would obviously need some sort of booklet to write their story in.
Imagine yourself as a book. What would be the most interesting story that you would share?
Each participant could imagine what they would be like if they were a book like Buddy. Then, they could write their story in a booklet that is shaped as a book character. The booklet could have legs and moveable arms and be fully customized by each participant.
It all worked out beautifully in my head. Now, I just had to validate it and ensure that I was not spending too much time or money on something that brought no value.
Validating the Program with Experts
At this point, my grandmother had already read the story to several groups of children and only saw positive responses. Therefore, I already knew the story was effective. The next step was to see if there was any room for a follow-up, creative writing program. To do this, I had to set up interviews with experts in the field.
While in college, I took part in 3 different business accelerator programs. First, I was in the first ever accelerator program by Startup Tucson, a non-profit out of Tucson, Arizona. Then, I participated in another accelerator through Innovate UA, a University of Arizona run organization that works with the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, and lastly, I was involved in a separate accelerator program with my Smart Mason Lid invention, which was created through a partnership between the University of Arizona and Perkins Coie Law Firm. Outside of these 3 programs, my startup during college, Smarter Lids LLC, was offered a spot in the Fennemore Craig venture accelerator program, but due to the terms, I had to decline.
These accelerator programs were designed to teach us how to validate our business ideas and build solutions that solved the proven needs of our potential customer base. The goal is to figure out whether or not an idea is viable before spending too much time or money.
After developing the idea behind the Buddy the Book Workshop, I set up meetings with parents, teachers, and administrators. The initial goal of these meetings was to simply ask questions and learn as much as possible so that I could implement this knowledge into my program. Then, I would show the current state of my program and gather feedback for improvements.
After a few months, I fine-tuned the entire program, including the digital materials, and got it to where it is today.
Testing with Therapists and Schools
At the moment, 2 licensed professional counselors are testing the therapeutic version of this program with their clients here in Scottsdale, Arizona. Additionally, we are working with Scottsdale and Phoenix private schools to test the workshop for General and Special Education.
The purpose of these tests are to improve our products and to validate the effectiveness of the workshop activities. We will be posting the results of these tests in the coming weeks on our website. Visit our Store to learn more about what we are offering!