Personalised kids' books are nothing new - but the diversity in Family Stories is

Personalised kids' books are nothing new - but the diversity in Family Stories is

Family Stories is another contender in the personlised kids' book market. The difference? This one's focused on diversity.

The pitch

New international start-up Family Stories offers personalised illustrated childrens' books that take families on a global road trip. The company's online platform allows families to create avatars that truly reflect them - including same-sex, single and mixed-race parents - and who then become the heroes in their very own print book. Young readers are taken on a treasure hunt through seven countries - Peru, Kenya, Australia, Jordan, China, Italy and USA - with the aim of promoting greater cultural education and tolerance.

"Along the way, your child gets introduced to each local culture by the local kids he or she meets, while looking for clues and items that will help him or her get back home," explains co-founder Sunjay Veda. " We believe that the more your child knows about this world, the more they will love it."

The team

Family Stories was co-founded by Veda and Danai Balta this year. Balta is based in Geneva, and has 15 years' marketing experience in large multinationals including P&G. Veda is based in the greater New York area and, after working in investment banking technology for 14 years, joined Balta to build out the proprietary platform.

Family Stories also works with a team of freelance web developers, creative agencies and digital printing agencies. It prides itself on its international outlook, with partners spread across New York, Geneva, Athens, London and Mumbai.

What's the gap in the market?

From Wonderbly to My Given Name, personalised books are becoming a thriving sub-genre in the children's book market. But the Family Stories team believe the diversity of its characters exploits a glaring gap.

"There is a lack of diversity in children’s books," Veda declares. "Most books cater to stereotypes. For example, Danai needed to explain her professional travel to her three year old daughter - at the time she was taking frequent business trips to China.  When she tried to find a book that could explain to her daughter that Mommy has to go to China for work, she found a lot of “Daddy goes on a business trip” or “Daddy goes to work”, but nothing for Mommy.  This sparked a deeper discussion for us around the lack of diversity in children’s books. We decided it was time break the barriers and create books that cater to all families without stereotyping anyone."

The books offers a rich array of skin tones, hair styles and hair colors, different eyes shapes and eye colors, and facial hair to customise the ethnicity of the characters to an impressive degree. There are also options for LGBT and single parents.

Success so far?

The first Family Stories was published in July, and Veda reports "very encouraging" feedback from parents so far. They are currently working on adding more countries to the book, as well as a Christmas edition where the child makes a stop at the North Pole to meet Santa. "This is just the beginning." Veda insists. "We have plenty of future stories in the pipeline..."

Biggest challenges?

That old new-product chestnut: education.  "Our product is so unique that people need to see it to understand how cool it is," Veda says. To help overcome this barrier, the team offer a free preview of every book on the website, so customers can read the entire story online before ordering it.

Ultimate ambition?

To raise a new generation of print-loving bookworms. "There is something special about holding and reading a book and owning it, which is very different from reading something online. For a child, the book is about them, and their family is in it, which makes it much more engaging and endearing.  Remember the stories your parents told you when you were growing up?  We want your children to read about the same stories, but in a more exciting way where you are all part of the story.  We plan to publish many books and tell many stories - all with the same level of personalization."

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"A start-up is no different from anything else in your life. If you have a dream, you need a plan to achieve that dream.  Along the way, you need help, but you have to be prepared to do a lot of heavy lifting.  So, our advice is to start by envisioning what you want, find the right people to help you get there, and break your dream down into small achievable tasks. Then put your head down and get to work.  Despite the challenges that come along, you will figure things out as you go."