It is hard being away from the children you love. Whether it is your niece/nephew, granddaughter/son, or your own child, saying goodnight and sharing a bedtime story offers a special connection. If you are many miles away, that is a moment you must do without. Thankfully, a new service is out to change that.
Be There Bedtime Stories is a unique service that helps connect love ones over distance using a webcam and their website. The reader picks a story and records himself reading it using a webcam. Then the recorded story is emailed to the recipient. From there an adult can launch the story and children can enjoy a fun story while watching their favorite person read it to them. Whether you’re on a business trip or in the army, they will know you’re thinking about them every story time.
Alison Sansone, the founder of Be There Bedtime Stories, recently answered a few questions about her business, the inspiration behind it, and a recent job opening at the company.
Tell Us a Little About Be There Bedtime Stories
Be There Bedtime Stories is a website that combines a webcam with bedtime stories to deliver “Webtime Stories™”. We position webcam recorded video of a storyteller onto the page of a children’s e-book, so families far apart – such as grandparents, traveling parents, military parents or even aunts and uncles – can still ‘be there’ for this age-old storytelling tradition, during the formative years of a child’s life. We like to think that Webtime Stories™ build relationships and build readers, through these read-aloud video recordings.
How Does it Work?
It’s super simple – as one of our focus group mommies put it “…I had a slight fear of the [webcam] technology, but your website did all the work!”
1. Choose an e-book from our online bookstore;
2. Read the story aloud in front of your webcam, as it displays on your computer screen – sound effects, hand gestures and duets are highly encouraged;
3. We position the video of you – the storyteller – onto the page of the e-book and then email a special link to anyone you choose; your recorded Webtime Stories™ are viewable any number of times, forever.
And Webtime Stories™ play direct from your own bookshelf on our secure website, so you don’t have to download anything or figure out how to transfer video files.
What inspired it?
Well, I don’t have children of my own and my only two nieces live 2000 miles away, in Chicago. It was really frustrating to not be recognized when I would visit in those early years. I wanted to be a part of those really neat memories that we all have from childhood – I wanted to make an impact on their lives.
I was running my own video marketing production company at the time and, so, combining video media with something for kids was making its way to the frontal lobe region of my brain and, wah-lah! video bedtime stories appeared!
The fact that it is a video recording makes for a really unique family keepsake. I think it’s so cool to think that my niece’s great-grandchildren will be able to know a bit about me by watching my storytelling style, 100 years from now!
How many stories do you offer?
We had six indie publishers and over 200 titles licensed to us in the first three months, which was great to get the beta website launched just before Christmas. At this point, we are returning to more consistent outreach to publishers to add more books to the bookstore on an ongoing basis – I just added two more publishers and over 25 new titles in May. The video element has been a new aspect that some publishers have had to address with their existing authors’ contracts before they can proceed with licensing to us.
Do you have any plans to add some new stories? What can we expect?
Absolutely! I believe that all publishers appreciate the value of this new channel to deliver content, and the new revenue stream that the children’s app market is creating, overall. We’re essentially a bookstore and looking for content from publishers and independent authors, equally. It’s an interesting paradigm shift in the industry right now – we actually act as publisher to a handful of indie artists, as making these e-books available to families on our website is a step they are taking before print production. We love the idea of expanding this part of our business and creating a publishing division, once we can devote more time to editorial support, including the illustration process.
We ran a bit of an experiment last year with a local high school. I made a brief presentation to the advanced art class, to explain a career as a children’s book illustrator. We had some new manuscripts submitted to us by published authors and now have two stories published on our site, illustrated by two students from that class. I’ve been invited back this year and plan to offer some of the public domain classics to the students interested in being published on the site.
Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish over the next year or so?
Oh yeah, what new startup doesn’t have pie in the sky aspirations! We’ve got mobile device formatting in the works; and we’d like to put some interactive ideas into development, maybe some animations. We also have a live format planned, where families can log on at the same time to read together. That’s about all I can reveal at this point, in the interest of preserving the secret sauce in our business plan cookbook!
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
Timing is everything and nothing at the same time. Sorry, it’s a bit zen, but it is the most common epiphany that I encounter each week, when it comes to assessing goals and benchmarks. There is a grand flow that is set in motion when you let your passion run wild. You absolutely must start by articulating it, organizing it, etc…, but the trick, the skill is in yielding to the flow. I feel like I got distracted by not meeting deadlines too much in the beginning, rather than just keeping other things moving that were ready to jump off my plate. It makes sense – the yielding part – when you consider so many unknowns and variables that come naturally with a new idea/concept.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Totally, I’m glad you asked! One of our best projects is offering people visiting the site the opportunity to buy Webtime Stories™ for military families. It’s such a simple yet powerful way to support the troops deployed overseas. We have a great partnership with a leading military family support org – BlueStarFam.org. Visitors to our site can purchase a story for just $4.99 and then we distribute the Webtime Stories™ through Blue Star Families.
We also have a way for folks to promote it in their workplace, church or organization. We can even track your group’s donations, if your company or organization is interested in matching. Here is the link to that program: http://www.betherebedtimestories.com/milfamsupport/
It might also be worth mentioning that we are in the process of seeking additional Sr. Level Management to join the team. Candidates that qualify would have a background in the consumer marketplace on the internet – specifically, e-commerce strategies or SEM. Someone from the publishing industry would be a nice bonus. Contact me direct for the details, if you fit the profile.
Do you have any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Relationships are key – strength in numbers, they say, right? When you’re wearing so many hats, you inevitably lose certain perspectives. I have a really collaborative style, which is a good thing because getting multiple outside, viewpoints and opinions has been vital for ongoing calibration of action plans.