Local startup lets parents create custom books
This valley is a magnet for entrepreneurs and visionaries who want to create financial success but at the same time make meaningful contributions to the community and society. Doing well financially and doing good for humanity is a powerful combination.
The concept was born out of Kummer’s own experience with helping her then 4-year-old son face the uncertainties of a tonsillectomy. She didn’t think a conversation would make sense to him, so she created a book and added just three of his pictures to walk him through the steps involved.
She recalled he re-read the book numerous times and that this seemed to help him process the experience before surgery. “He felt like it was about him,” Kummer said. The book created an opportunity to have conversations that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. That became the inspiration behind Read Your World.
Three stories are available at this point, including starting kindergarten, welcoming a new sibling, preparing for an upcoming tonsil/adenoid surgery. Two more stories are on the way, about starting preschool and moving to a new home. The possibilities of life situations that could be addressed can easily be expanded, she told me.
Kummer and her husband Nick, an oncologist at Confluence Health, moved to the valley a few years ago. She has a degree in biology and has done a number of different things in her working career, including a stint in corporate training for a biotech company. But it was her role as a parent that lead her to entrepreneurship.
She has tested the Read Your World concept with other families and their experience validated what happened with her son. “People tell me that after reading the book together, their children look through the book over and over, processing it on their own in addition to with the parent,” said Kummer. The daughter of one friend, after reading a personalized book about adding a sibling to the family, started asking questions and playing with her dolls about having a new baby.
There are other companies that provide books that insert a child’s name or photo into a fictional story, but Read Your World has a much more educational purpose. Seeing that the market was wide open, she engaged a local technology company, Firefly, to build a website capable of making it easy for consumers to personalize the books with just three family photos. Books are purchased online and arrive in the mail at the family’s residence in a matter of days.
To make this accessible to the widest group of people, she said, the books are written and illustrated to be as universal as possible. Families come in lots of different configurations, after all, Kummer told me.
Getting this project off the ground has pushed Kummer into sometimes new and uncomfortable territory in terms of her skills. Making decisions on technology when that’s not your core competency can be daunting, she acknowledged. Though the learning curve has been steep, she’s pleased that the company has launched.
Maintaining control of the creative process led her to avoid looking for outside investors. She didn’t want the important purpose of the work — helping parents engage with children to navigate life’s changes — become diminished in the rush for quicker or greater immediate profitability. Instead, she’s focused on long-term success. “I see this as a resource for humanity,” Kummer told me.
Creating a startup in a small city like Wenatchee has its advantages and some disadvantages. If she was trying to do this in a big city, she said, it would be very difficult to get noticed because of all the startups happening. But in a small community, there are a lot fewer technology workers to draw from.
Kummer has a bigger vision in terms of developing Read Your World, besides developing more stories. She hopes that a way can be found to develop technology internships for local college and high school students. If Read Your World can help develop expertise in the valley, that would be ideal. “I really feel I was born to do this — to run this business,” Kummer told me.
I was impressed by the purpose-driven emphasis of Kummer’s Read Your World project. There is a significant difference between efforts that seek to create a meaningful difference and those that are just money extraction exercises.
I think Jocelyn Kummer is on to something important with Read Your World. Check out the company and its offerings at readyourworld.com.