Cinderella stories happen all the time. Mine isn’t exactly rags to riches— I still have to clean the kitchen floor. But I have found my glass slipper, and I love the way it fits.
As a child, I used to write stories, illustrate them with crayons and tie them together with yarn to give as Christmas gifts. Fast forward 40 years and I’m now the author of personalized storybooks, which have sold more than half of a million copies through fine retailers across the country. Titles such as My Very Own Name and My Very Own Fairy Tale (I See Me! Inc.) are the fruit of my imagination.
When I went on maternity leave from my marketing job at General Mills, my husband Allan and I received a personalized book as a gift for our newborn. We loved the fact that it was personalized for our new baby, but thought the book could have been better written with higher quality illustrations. The concept enticed us to think about producing our own series of books.
The birth of our first child inspired Allan and I to actually create the customized books and self-publish under our new company name, I See Me! Inc. Since then, we’ve expanded the personalized line to four book titles, puzzles and wall art.
Sometimes, the biggest bursts of creativity occur when changes happen, such as caring for a newborn. While strolling around the lakes of Minneapolis with our baby, I developed the idea behind our first book, My Very Own Name, in which animals bring letters one by one to spell out the child’s first and last names in a rhyme. The process of naming a child is often lengthy, so this concept seemed fitting. It helps children learn to spell their names as well as builds self-esteem.
Our second book, My Very Own Fairy Tale, came to life after many visits from fairy princesses one Halloween. The book creates a beautifully illustrated fantasy world of fairies, while showing little girls that being a princess or a leader is about one’s inner character traits— not what is seen on the outside.
The most satisfying part of book publishing is starting with a seed of an idea, planting it and watching it grow. It is hard work to create the distribution network for our books and build awareness. And yet, it seems that I See Me! Inc. gets sprinkled with magical fairy dust when a large retailer suddenly discovers the line of books because someone gives one of our books to the head merchandiser as a baby gift.
Being self-published is greatly rewarding. It has given me flexibility to spend time with my children. I work out of a home office, as does each member of our management team. This has given me the ability to choose my own work hours, easily attend our kids’ events at school and hear what our nanny is saying and doing with our children.
With rewards come challenges. The biggest challenge of my career path— often shared by the countless others who work from home— has been turning it off at the end of the day. It is easy to constantly think about the business, even after work hours. Because I work in the house, I walk past my office frequently and end up on the computer after the children are in bed. I’m constantly striving to keep my priorities in balance, sometimes with more success than many would imagine.
The story of I See Me! Inc. is still writing itself with an ending not yet in sight. We’re all about building a network of moms across the country who sell the books in their communities. Additionally, we’re building a great management team, creating new books and developing strategic partnerships. I feel as if the team is writing our future. The ending is only constrained by what we can imagine.