Laura Miranti founded Board Book Albums, LLC in April 2008. When her daughter Lucia (then age 1) was working with a speech therapist, she was asked to put together a photo album filled with photos to encourage Lucia’s speech development. When Laura was unable to find a kid-friendly album, Lucia’s needs inspired the idea for the new Take Your Pix® board book photo album.
Take Your Pix® photo albums (patent pending) have sturdy cardboard pages, into which photos can be inserted from openings in the top of the pages. Unlike traditional photo albums, Take Your Pix® board book albums have thick rigid pages that won’t bend or tear, so they’re perfect for kids to handle (like children’s board book storybooks).
MO: Are you an accidental entrepreneur or did you always have an interest in creating your own company?
Laura: I would say a little bit of both. I always wondered what I could do with the few hours that I spent relaxing in front of the TV many evenings. I had a nagging feeling that I could be accomplishing more by using those hours more productively. However, I did not exactly look for business ideas or think of starting my own manufacturing business. When Lucia needed a sturdy photo album for her speech therapy and I couldn’t find one anywhere, I knew that I had an idea for a successful business. It just stayed with me and soon I started taking the steps to create the product and start the business.
MO: How long did it take from initially having the idea for Board Book Albums to getting your product to market? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Laura: It took just a little over a year from the time I had the product idea in summer 2007 until I had inventory ready to sell in November 2008. Some of the biggest challenges included finding a manufacturer, founding the LLC, setting up the business and raising funds to make the initial inventory order. I actually did a lot of research online and located manufacturers who made similar products. Then I just started calling many of them to see if they could help create and produce my book design. I also researched business entities online and found articles that others had written about starting their businesses. One of the biggest challenges to overcome when starting a business is the feeling of being overwhelmed by all you need to do to get it going. The best advice that I can offer is to feel accomplished with every single step you take toward your goal of starting a business. That way you feel good about tasks completed and not just overwhelmed by all that there is yet to do.
MO: How is your new, Take Your Pix® board book album different than traditional photo albums? What are some of the advantages of creating an album for children to look at?
Laura: The Take Your Pix® board book album is different from traditional photo albums because it has thick sturdy cardboard pages that won’t bend or tear. Photos slide inside the pages through spaces at the top of each page. Clear plastic coverings protect all photos from contact, so they don’t get damaged by small fingers. Children love photos. However, parents are often hesitant to share their cherished photo albums with little ones, because they don’t want them to get messed up. Now kids can have their own albums and the photos are safe from drool and smudges. Our sturdy albums encourage speech development and fine motor skills for children. They are a useful learning tool for autistic and other special needs children, but all children love them!
MO: You raised most of the funds yourself (total $40-$50K) by buying and selling real estate properties. How did you figure out a system of identifying desirable properties and selling them for profit? Do you still dabble in real estate or did you stop once you raised the money you needed to start the company?
Laura: I have contributed a good amount of my real estate earnings in the past few years to funding the business. I actually became interested in buying and selling real estate at the same time I was researching ways to start the book business. I had no idea that the real estate interest would end up funding much of the photo album business. The real estate interest started when I kept seeing the tax sale infomercials on late night TV. I just had to figure out for myself if there was anything to this get-rich-quick hype they were talking about. But rather than buying one of the infomercial programs, I just spent many hours looking into it online. I learned more information that I can probably ever use, but also figured out a streamlined system to find properties and sell them in specific areas that I know well. I continue to buy and sell properties today and will continue to do so, in order to supplement our income, help fund the book business, etc.
MO: You’ve received an impressive amount of traction since first launching in 2008. Have you hired any marketing or PR agencies or did your initial growth depend largely on word of mouth?
Laura: We have come a long way since the product launch in 2008, but I’ve done most of the marketing myself. I did hire a company to design and maintain our website. I also recently hired a PR firm for 6 months to gain some social media exposure. However, I think that by using HARO and other marketing services and ideas that you can find online, you can do much of it yourself. I would say that it all depends on your budget and whether you have the means to pay for large scale advertising, etc. I have not yet taken that step. I believe that a great product sells itself. When parents buy something that their kids love, they tell other parents. We have tons of repeat customers and have never had a single return. Many of our customers ask us when we’ll have products in their local stores and international customers order from all over the world!
MO: What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for Board Book Albums?
Laura: This year we’re very excited to be partnered with a new sales rep who will be working to get our albums into many prominent retail stores nationwide. So hopefully you will soon find our Take Your Pix® albums on the shelves at a store near you!
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