Looking to support female-founded businesses this season? We are too, and that’s why we’re highlighting fun gifts from some of our favorite brands. As part of this initiative, we spoke with Heidi Umur, a CT-based mom of two that founded Sketch My StoryBook, custom children’s board books that make an amazing holiday gift.
The order deadline for Christmas is Wednesday, Dec. 9. Go to sketchmystorybook.com to order yours today.
Can you please share a bit about yourself?
I’ve lived in Cos Cob for the past 5 years with my husband, Serdar, and two kids – Adam (4) and Ella (6 months). My background is in marketing and media (I also work full time for Acxiom Corporation, part of the IPG advertising network of companies) but I’ve always been drawn to photo projects in my free time.
What is Sketch My StoryBook?
Sketch My StoryBook is a custom children’s board book company. We help our clients create personalized books for the “characters” in their lives, that are truly all about them. Our product is different from other personalized books on the market that simply insert a child’s name into a few pages of the book or stick a photo of them at the end. Because we use your own personal photos on each page and incorporate a storyline around them, you end up with a book that is totally unique. We have almost a dozen different storylines to choose from, some of which feature grandparents, siblings, pets or other cherished family members, so our books are a great way to document family memories and celebrate loved ones.
What’s new for your brand this season?
Recently, we created a storyline to celebrate becoming a big brother or sister and another one to document an adoption journey. We’ve also had quite a few requests to create books about recently deceased grandparents and pets so we had to find a delicate way to celebrate those loved ones in a children’s book and strike the right tone to share fond memories but not make the story too sad.
Why did you start this business?
The first book I created was a project I wanted to do for myself. When my son was 2 and really getting into books, I wanted to create a special book for him where he was the main character. Some children’s books are so great and others can be painful to have to read repeatedly so I was pretty confident that I could write something at least as good as what already existed. I’ve always had a knack for rhyming so I knew I could come up with a cute story about him but I lack illustrating talents so I had to get creative. One day as I snapped a photo of him, a story popped into my head that I knew that image would be great for, so I researched a way to make that shot look illustrated, gathered a few more photos and created my first book. When friends and family members saw it, they wanted me to make books for their little ones so I decided to set up an Etsy Shop and see if I could fill a niche in the children’s book market. Before long, I started getting a decent amount of orders and needed to streamline my process so I decided to create an app that would allow me to handle orders much faster and also let people create books themselves using the photos right off their phone.
How does the process work?
There are two ways to order books, a do-it-yourself option and a we-do-it-for-you option. We just launched our app in the Apple App Store in October so for people who like having creative control, they can create a book themselves on their iphone and have the option of using our pre-created storylines or writing their own text. For people who don’t have an iphone or don’t want to do it themselves, they can order books through our Etsy Shop. Links to both options, as well as samples of our books, can be found on our website at www.sketchmystorybook.com.
Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on?
One of my dear friends lost both of her parents soon after meeting her husband and getting married six years ago. Since then, she and her husband also struggled repeatedly with fertility challenges. Fortunately, just last year, they welcomed a sweet baby boy into the world. He recently turned one and I created a book for him all about his grandparents who never got to meet him. When my friend received the book, she called me in tears to let me know how amazing the book was and how touched she was to have such a special story about her parents to share with her son.
What is your favorite part of being a small business owner?
I love the challenge of trying to figure out something totally new. It’s also very rewarding to see something you’ve dreamed up, come to life. I’m always so excited to get the hard copy of a new book I create. And the day that my app first appeared in the App Store felt kind of surreal. It took two years to develop from the time I had the idea until it was launched so to see it finally exist was a proud moment. I’ve also loved connecting with other female entrepreneurs. Between the women I met taking a class at the Women’s Business Development Council in Stamford, CT, to other people I’ve connected with in Facebook Groups, it’s inspiring to see so many women take the initiative to follow their dreams.
This story is sponsored by Sketch My Storybook.