I am a book lover and mom and the creator of PicPocket Books, bringing children’s picturebooks to life on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Here at PicPocket Books, we champion books, literacy and reading and love to see kids reading books anywhere, anytime. We create an experience for young readers which maintains the qualities of reading a traditional picture book while increasing the opportunities for learning and engagement thought the interactive platform of mobile digital devices.
What inspired you to start your business?
I love books, particularly picture books, and it is really important to me to help kids learn to read and to enjoy reading. With the prevalence of mobile technology, there are a lot of games and media options available to kids. Some are educational, and some, not so much. I wanted to offer parents and kids the opportunity to choose quality picture books on their mobile devices – both to help with literacy and increasing the amount of time kids spend reading in their day – and also for pure enjoyment of stories and beautiful pictures.
How long have you been in business?
I started developing the concept and our platform in January 2009; the first PicPocket Books App was in the iTunes App Store in July of 2009.
What did you do in your past work life?
I have a background in teaching and Special Education. I spent some very rewarding years working at a residential school for kids with special needs. I also homeschooled my three children for several years during their early elementary grades. Now my oldest child is in high school and I am teaching her how to build apps!
Describe your ideal workday.
I really love my work and the flexibility it gives me – both in terms of my schedule of juggling working from home and being around for my kids when they need me – and also for the opportunities for artistic expression as I select, lay out and produce the picture books titles we publish with PicPocket Books. My day includes app design and production, including time at the recording studio, working with our team of graphic designers, PR work and social networking to market our collection of app.
What have been some of your major successes?
In addition to having over 50 iPhone and iPad picture book apps in the iTunes App store, some of the successes I am really proud of have been securing the digital rights to some really great books that enhance our line of titles, some fantastic media placements in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Fox TV News, Inc. Magazine, and others. A real highlight of this summer was the fabulous recognition and support from Kimberly-Clark with their Huggies MomInspired award for PicPocket Books.
What have been some of your major challenges?
Unlike some other entrepreneurs who are constantly dealing with suppliers and a variety f merchants, all of our sales of our product – our picture book apps – go through the Apple iTunes App Store. This is both a blessing and a curse. Through the App Store, we can reach a global market overnight, and that is great; however, like the hundreds of thousands of other app developers, we have the challenge of getting our apps noticed among the 200,000 apps that are up there. We’ve also had some challenges around version compatibility because of some of Apple’s business decisions which of course we have no control over. To deal with these rather specialized challenges, I co-founded a group called MomsWithApps. MomsWithApps has grown to a group of about 200 developers and creators of family-friendly iPhone content with a stong online presence in the Kids’ App space. It is a revolutionary cooperative group for sharing developer questions and concerns, helping each other with best practices and cross marketing, and general “mompreneur” support.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
I think that every start up, unless you are totally “win-the-lottery-lucky” has its ups and downs. I’ve accepted that there are going to be hills and valleys in this journey. I really believe in my product and have confidence that even when it feels like a low point, there’s a success around the corner. I do work hard and put in long hours, but I can see that my efforts are paying off and I’m really proud of the business I’m building – that keeps me going.
Do you have a motivational quote?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your children about running a successful business, what would it be?
Believe in yourself, your ideas, and your abilities to turn your ideas into reality. Don’t give up when things seem difficult.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
Oh, dear. I am not sure I am so good at this! My kids often complain that I work too much! I try to get as many work hours in while my kids are at school, then go back to my desk after they are in bed, but it makes for late nights for me! I involve my kids wherever possible when they are interested in creating apps – they help me with selecting fun books for kids and as beta testers for new features for PicPocket Book Apps, and my oldest teen likes that she can earn some extra money working for mom’s business!
It’s not secret, but I think it is really important to put the business aside at times – I try to keep my weekends all family. I like to find ways to spend special time with my three kids separately so we get one on one time.
Do you have a favorite business tool and/or resource?
I love my contact database system: Highrise. It is great for keeping track of all our projects, tasks, and especially my media contacts. I couldn’t function without it!
I also really love Twitter as a way to reach a large audience. The MomsWithApps group I mentioned above is also an invaluable resource.
What is next for your business?
We’ve got a bunch of new titles coming out in the next months, and we are continuing to add additional features to PicPocket Books. We’re in discussions with several larger publishers to produce collections of their picture books, so stay tuned for new developments in 2011!
Your two cents sales pitch?
Here at PicPocket Books, we offer parents and their kids an alternative to flashy, and sometimes violent, fast-paced video games. Our bookapps have some simple animations and/or interactive hot spots to encourage exploration and engagement. Overall, we strive to remain quite faithful to the original books with our apps. We champion books and reading aloud to kids, and see bookapps as supplements, not replacements, for print books and the valuable time parents can spend reading with their kids. If having kids books available on your iPhone means more exposure to stories and enthusiasm for reading for kids, then we consider that a success! Check our apps out in the iTunes App Store under “PicPocket Books!”
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