Elizabeth Edwards moved to Nashville, Tennessee four years ago. It was her eleventh move in nine years; she’d been working in corporate strategies for GE Capital when she decided to relocate to the Volunteer State—this time for herself and not for work. “I moved to Nashville… to be close to one of my best friends,” she explains.
Edwards doesn’t have kids—“Yet!” she adds—but many of her friends have children she loves dearly. “In 2013,” Edwards says, “I had twenty friends who had babies… I was spending a lot of time with them, and with all these friends having babies, and was realizing that there weren’t really great ways to capture their child’s memories in ways that felt technologically relevant for our generation.”
For example, Edwards once tried to make a photo book for her niece only to discover just how tedious and time-consuming the process was. After completing her book, she decided to do some research, and she found that with programs like Shutterfly, people spend on average eight to sixteen hours making their first photo book. This was a problem for which she was determined to find a solution.
Edwards pulled together a team of people and did extensive ethnographic research of about 150 families to discover what parents and children wanted most. “What we realized,” Edwards says, “is that people wanted to tell stories but they didn’t know how, and they didn’t know what was possible when it came to storytelling.”
That’s when she came up with the idea for storieChild, a personalized photo-storybook creator that allows caregivers to tell their child’s story not just with pictures, but with artwork and a narrative, too. And the best part is, it only takes fifteen to twenty-five minutes to design.
Edwards says storieChild, which officially launched earlier this year, is much more than just a company that creates photo-storybooks. It’s a mission-driven business with very clear objectives. “I started the company for three reasons,” she explains, “I wanted to celebrate children, I wanted to create flexible work for women, and I wanted to bring art into people’s lives—specifically into children’s lives.”
StorieChild celebrates children by engaging them in their own stories with the help of therapist-designed and tested narratives that strengthen their attachment to their families and communities. It creates flexible work for women by offering impactful, part-time job opportunities in varied geographical locations. And it brings art into people’s lives by providing artists with opportunities to share their work with families around the world—and collect royalties for the work they create.
“We think stories matter and that’s why we exist,” Edwards says, “But we also think that people matter.” This conviction has permeated the very business model that shapes storieChild. “Everybody who is on our team has equity stake in the company,” Edwards explains, “And I’ve intentionally taken a smaller equity stake myself and created a pool so we can bring people on. Many of our team members work part time and are flexible”—several of storieChild’s employees work remote—“We’re doing good work, but making it work as part of what people do every day.”
Until now, storieChild has been a bootstrapped venture, but Edwards says the company is ready to raise its first seed round. And while the storieChild continues to offer its products directly to the consumer, the company is also diversifying its portfolio with B2B relationships. “We’ve written a book for kids playing soccer, and it’s called ‘My Soccer Adventure,’” Edwards says. “This book in particular is really targeted toward kids in the 3-7 year old range playing soccer. We are reaching out to soccer groups to see if we can create a partnership so that our books”—which feature soccer drills along with the narrative—“are promoted to their teams.”
Edwards believes strongly in the power of communication, which she hopes will contribute to the stable growth of the company in the months and years to come. But she admits that sometimes listening to others’ voices can seem overwhelming, especially if those voices are telling you to do things differently. But she offers this advice to entrepreneurs like herself who may find themselves overwhelmed by all the noise, “I think at the end of the day, part of learning what voices to listen to, part of learning to be comfortable with this level of being uncomfortable is also learning what it looks like to listen to yourself in the midst of many voices.” In other words, listen, but don’t forget which voice matters most—your own.