Customizable Books For Kids

At a time when many children find themselves nose-to-screen with their favorite television programs, it is refreshing to see more and more kids burying their nose in a simple book instead.

That is, of course, unless you got that book from Little Write Brain. In that case, there is nothing simple about it. From the hair color of the main character to the words used in the story, nearly everything is customizable to suit your child and their interests.

What started out as a simple frustration and the need for a solution has since turned into a growing business for Ila Bahuguna-Mehta. Marketing her books as “the most personalized storybooks in the industry”, Ila hopes to show fellow parents that it is possible to buy a book that is not generic and lacking in unique style.

Tell us a little about Little Write Brain.

Little Write Brain, Inc. is a Chicago-based education and entertainment company that aims to cultivate the creative expression of young minds. Our fun and exciting online book creation tools can help instill a passion for reading, writing and storytelling in children.

We offer the most personalized storybooks in the industry. All of our stories – the characters, the plot lines, and the illustrations – can be created and modified by children and their parents through our fun and easy-to-use proprietary online tools.

What inspired you to launch your business?

My background is in healthcare consulting, so I never imagined that I would ever author children’s storybooks. The inspiration for the concept of came from my own frustration with contemporary children’s literature. I am a mother of two small children and we live in an urban setting, where our senses are more or less accustomed to heterogeneity and nonconformity. The books aimed at children in the large bookstore chains hardly embrace the uniqueness of modern American families. Many of the books are based on popular television characters and retell the plots in the related TV episodes. Other storybooks seem to serve as promotional pieces for upcoming children’s movies or toys.

Other customizable storybook sites on the market still create a one-size-fits-all approach to personalization (which can be great for consumers “on the go”). Those sites that allowed for more detailed customization and user involvement, such as character development, seemed to have characters that were not so easy on the eye – I couldn’t imagine that children would want to see themselves portrayed as so “ordinary.” Young children have an incredible energy and zest for life. They see the world in dramatic, vibrant color tones and I wanted storybooks that were reflective of their own perspectives. allows children to create unique characters that are reflective of their own homes. Our storybooks are flexible enough to embrace all households – multiracial families, adoptive parents, single parents, children raised by grandparents, single-sex parenthood, etc.

As an added bonus, parents and children are not required to purchase a book to use the site. They can create unlimited storybooks and characters at no cost and use the site as a free resource for online education and entertainment.

What are the story themes you currently offer? What themes might we expect to see come out in 2010?

We have launched with 5 storybooks, with an additional 10 to be launched by this Spring. The initial 5 books star just one character (with the exception of the “School” book where a user creates a teacher character), while the remaining 10 will involve many more character choices. The current 5 storybook topics are:

  • “First Day of School” – The user can choose how to go to school and what subjects to learn.
  • “Princess Storybook” – Aimed at girls, the user can choose a path for the main character in her quest to become a princess.
  • “Treasure Hunt” – The user views a map that provides various routes to a hidden treasure. The user selects the preferred route, and can also select the contents of the hidden treasure.
  • “Environment” – The user chooses ways he or she can best protect Earth’s environment.
  • “Sweet Dreams” – A charming bedtime storybook with rhyming text where the user can select his or her bedtime ritual.

The 10 storybooks to be released by Spring include topics based on holidays, art projects, sports, becoming an older sibling, camping trip, birthday party, etc.

How long did it take you to build your business from conception to launch? What was the most difficult part of that journey?

The concept came to me in 2006. My daughter was 2 at the time and I began to grow disenchanted each time I went to a major bookstore and found her drawn to books containing stories and characters from recognizable brands. My husband and I then brainstormed the concept of an online book creation site in which children could select storylines, develop characters and even modify illustrations. Shortly after I gave birth to my son 2 years ago, I decided to put my plan to action. I incorporated Little Write Brain, Inc., and consulted with attorneys and various software development firms. I was amazed to realize just how complex this software would have to be – there are many possible combinations of character poses, and even mapping out one storybook that could take so many different directions was difficult from both the creative and development sides. In the first phase of development, the site was hard-coded which created a choppy user experience. We then proceeded to make it completely database-driven which made the experience much smoother. By far, the most complex piece was the conversion of a dynamic web image into a PDF document suitable for printing. In fact, we are still trying to perfect this.

How has your business changed/grown since it launched in 2008?

The business spent most of 2008 and 2009 in product development and fundraising from angels. In that time, the business transitioned from an amorphous thought to an actual tangible product. It is very easy to think up something “neat” but also quite difficult to communicate that thought into just the right words so that it materializes into precisely what was conceptualized. I have worked with a software development firm for about a year and a half, but it was not until earlier this summer that I began to feel that both concept and product development were finally on the same wavelength – and that is a tremendous milestone!

Now that we’ve entered a new year, what are some business ‘resolutions’ you’d like to make?

2010 will be a year where product development will be completed by the end of Winter and we move heavily into marketing and promotion. In a web-based business, we can grow very comfortable in dealing with developers, advertisers, consumers, manufacturers through indirect channels such as email or Skype. So, my personal resolution is not necessarily to attempt direct communication, but rather to communicate a thought or idea as clearly as possible so that the concept is always aligned with the end result, whatever the means of communication may be.

What are some of the lessons your business has taught you?

Patience. That’s really the key. Patience with others and, more importantly, patience with one’s self. The moment a person chooses to act upon a thought and turn it into a business (hence, become an entrepreneur), it is too easy to focus on the end product well before it has completed development and testing. So, hiccups in the development phase (and there are many) can be discouraging and can push back time-to-market. The software architecture behind Little Write Brain was so elaborate that even our software developers did not anticipate its complexity, pushing back our time-to-market by nearly one year. Still, I am pleased with the final product and very happy with the work put forth by the development team.

As we all know it takes a lot of time and work to build a great business, which can sometimes make it difficult to find time for family and yourself. Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you find a balance between it all?

I am a mother of two (one in diapers), and I maintained a full-time job in healthcare all while developing this business. While life can appear to move at warped speed when attempting to optimize this intricate work-life balance, I still feel that I could maintain a reasonable equilibrium during the long product development phase – a process that needed my input only at the end of the workday (about a couple of hours a day, on average).

I am curious to see how moving towards active promotion, aggressive fundraising and team building may begin to disrupt this balance in 2010 – the comfortable full-time job may have to be sacrificed, unfortunately. I have a very supportive husband, which helps immensely.

Do you have any advice that you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?

Try to relax and re-focus. The hardest part about launching a business is not so much the financial risk. Rather, it’s the potential blow to one’s ego if it fails. Entrepreneurs come up with great ideas that are often personally inspired (e.g. Baby Einstein started by a new mother, Bonobos Pants started by an athlete who wanted better-fitting trousers, and even the case of Little Write Brain). So in a way, one can feel exposed and vulnerable when showcasing on the world wide web a product that is so personal because it offers insight into the entrepreneur’s consciousness and values – we need it to succeed. It’s best to focus on how the product will make people better off, as opposed to how it is a reflection of one’s self.

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