Jenny, Walter, and I founded our little company back in late 2006. After some time trying other possibilities, we finally found our first major product when we decided to build A Story Before Bed in late 2008. In November of 2009 we were the first and only service on the internet that let you record video of yourself reading (and in sync with) a children’s book and play it back as often as you like. We had 25 books and zero users. In January of 2011, a little over a year later, we’re still the only service that lets you record video of yourself reading children’s books, we have more than ten times as many books, and thousands upon thousands of users. You can use our service on the web and even on your iPad or iPhone. We’ve given away over 76,000 free children’s stories to parents in the U.S. Armed Forces who are separated from their children while they serve our country. And just today we were nominated of for a publishing innovation award from Digital Book World. We find out on monday if we won, but it’s an honor just to be nominated.
How did we do it? We didn’t take investment money, we didn’t kick in our own, we’re basically a mom and pop software company. The three partners plus a few helpers who contract with us and make up our extended family. And of course, the final component is you – people who look at what we’ve made and say to themselves… “this website looks nice, feels nice, and seems like something that should be a part of my life.” And to be honest, there are some (not all) web companies who are doing it very differently than us. They get a lot of money from investors, hire a bazillion people, spend a ton of money building something and marketing it and hope it will be an overnight success. When it isn’t, they often move on to the next startup. We’re more of the slow and steady types. We like to think of ourselves as craftspeople, slowly building our software one polished pixel at a time.
So back to the original question, why would you care about whether our business succeeds or not? I have no problem with large businesses or people being successful. But I also know that there needs to be room in this world for the small creators, the small business people. Those are typically the businesses that you love instead of just use or need. We want to be a business that you love. That’s why we work so hard on every book. That’s why we make sure the site keeps moving forward by polishing every rough edge. And that’s why we answer our own phone when you call and give you our e-mail addresses to get in touch whenever you want.
And to be clear, many of you have already done more than enough to help this small business succeed. You’re reading this blog, you may have registered for our site, or gotten a free santa book, recorded a book, signed up for our mailing list or even purchased a book or a subscription. And we appreciate it so much. But if you have the inclination, if you have a few minutes, and if you want us to keep making our site better, faster, smoother, more beautiful, and have even more great books for you to read to your kids, here are a few things you can do that would help us immeasurably.
Ten quick and easy things you can do if you Love A Story Before Bed and want to help it succeed. (Choosing one would be awesome. More would be amazing!)
- Record a free book on our site and share it with your friends and family on Facebook.
- Not on Facebook? Record a free book on our site and send the link out to your friends and family via e-mail.
- Think of five people you know who might like our site (the parent who travels frequently for work, the distant grandparent, etc.) and tell them about it.
- When you tell folks about our site, remind them there are books that they can try completely free (and if they run into trouble, we have free 1-800 technical support).
- Got an iPhone or iPad? Head over to the app store and download our app. Make sure to give us a rating and leave some comments.
- Got a blog or a website? Post a link to A Story Before Bed on your site and write about your experience with our site. Post a link to one of your finished recordings.
- Fan of someone else’s blog who might be interested in our site? Perhaps a parenting blog? Or children’s book site? Leave comments on their site about A Story Before Bed with a link to us. Or even contact the author of the site and let them know about our site.
- Know an accomplished children’s book author, illustrator, or publisher? Tell them to contact us to get their books on our site. We’re always looking for more great books.
- Know a teacher with a class from pre-K through fifth grade? Show them our site. They’ll immediately figure out ways to use it in the classroom!
- Know a journalist/reporter/talk show host? Tell them that there are thousands of parents in the military reading stories to their kids from distant lands thanks to A Story Before Bed and it would make a great story.
And one extra…
- Let us know what we can do better. We’re not a huge corporation with hundreds of staff, so we don’t always move as quickly as we’d like, but we do listen, and we care deeply. You can even let us know if there are things on this list that we’ve missed.
Thanks for even considering doing any of the above. We appreciate it! And we have a couple of tidbits for you this week:
- Head over to our Facebook Fan page. We’re having a contest where you can tag yourself on one of the books listed and vote for which book we should be free. At the end of January we will make the winning book free for a weekend! Our gift to you. And one lucky person who tagged themselves will win a free super subscription to A Story Before Bed.
- Head over to our new site: I Miss My Kids. It’s a live feed of people on the internet who miss their kids, We think A Story Before Bed can be a small part of helping ease that situation. If you like it, tell your friends about the site.
We believe that in the future, when a parent or grandparent can’t be around, every children’s book will let the child be read to by a loved one. And we believe that these recordings will be memories that families treasure for generations to come. That’s a future we’re working to deliver every day.