This Founder is Helping Parents Have Difficult Conversations With Their Children
BinoBooks, creates personalized e-storybooks on complex topics, that act as conversation starters between parent and child while making the child feel seen through character customizations in the storybook.
Bino Books is proudly female-founded and run team! Their co-founders Jessica Dassanayake, Sydney Terry, and Danielle Baxter met during our time at Queen’s University, where we initially launched our venture through the Queen’s Innovation Centre program in 2020, with a prototype book on covid.
As of January 4th, 2022, Bino Bookssuccessfully completed a crowdfunding campaign for their first official book “Humans Can’t Fly, But They Can” on Kickstarter, which is on the topic of body image. Now, they’re continuing to build storybooks on tough topics, and further develop character customizations, and technology to ensure every child feels represented in their readings.
Bootstrapped, Angel, VC or something else — and why?
Our main sources of funding have been from pitch competitions. We were fortunate to place first in the Queen’s Innovation Center Summer Pitch Competition in 2020, as well as the Enactus Pitch Competition, paired with the funding we received from our Kickstarter launch campaign.
Our vision as a company is to reinvent reading through representing all children in their readings while helping parents ease into difficult conversations with their children with ease, and no-added stress.
What inspired you to start working on your business idea?
Our team connected in the hopes of being accepted into the Queen’s Innovation Centre summer program in early 2020. This program was specifically centered around the topic of COVID-19, and how we can build solutions to help vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic. During the program, there is an e-weekend (or entrepreneurship weekend) where you’re challenged in 72 hours to come up with a business that solves a problem and pitch it to a panel of judges. We used the e-weekend as an opportunity to narrow down the vulnerable population we wanted to focus on, which came down to the prison population, the homeless population, and the parent population. Naturally, we moved forward with the parent population, seeing we all had a passion for education and camp counseling. From here we just kept the ideas flowing, using design thinking, and this lead us to come up with BinoBooks.
Were there any big surprises or challenges you encountered along the way as you were building and scaling your business?
100%! There are always learnings from the challenges and surprises we face. I’d say some of the big ones were:
- Realizing building an impactful business is about staying close to your people, who you’re building the product/service for
- Hearing the stories from families about how their child(ren) aren’t represented in stories, or alternatively how they have had difficult family issues arise, such as illness in the family and how it was a challenging conversation to have with their child(ren)
- It’s important to know what social platforms your target market uses, and hone in on those. We are finding most interaction with our brand occurs on LinkedIn, and Instagram, whereas it’s pretty quiet on other platforms, so doubling down on that to build the community.
- On top of the above point, it was tough when we launched Kickstarter and quickly realized very few people in our target market understood what Kickstarter was
- A big surprise for us was when we had a Queen’s Alumni back us on Kickstarter without hesitation. We reached out with the mentality of “YOLO” not expecting this person to read our message nevertheless back us, and this just made us so fricken happy! It’s like this for each and every person who supports us, it’s such a high to know someone sees what you’re doing and appreciates it.
What’s the biggest risk your business ever took?
In terms of our business, I think the biggest risk we have taken is launching our Kickstarter. The one thing that makes Kickstarter super intimidating is it’s an all-or-nothing platform. Until you’re live, and in it, you don’t realize how much is on the line if your campaign doesn’t succeed. Mid-way, when we were quite far out from our goal, with 15 days left, I nearly broke down. You could just feel the pressure of not wanting to let people down who supported you so blindly, while also wanting to see your efforts put in return. Kickstarter can really be a mental game, especially as a new venture. But the main learnings from this are community and communication is so important.
What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently?
Our team is all working on BinoBooks outside of our current day-time jobs, and I’m very much a believer of things happen for a reason. But if I had to elaborate, I’d say I wish that our team invested even more time during the Queen’s Innovation Center program looking back we could have had much more of an impact with the knowledge we have today back then. Even imagining what having 8 hours a day to work on our startup would look like is unimaginable!
The most important skills and traits entrepreneurs should possess?
Adaptability — Entrepreneurs need to always be adapting, whether that’s changing the product/service, learning new skills, taking over stuff you aren’t in love with but need to do if your team parts Empathy — Entrepreneurs need to always been understanding their target market, and the needs/wants/pains or the people they are building a product or service for Communication — Entrepreneurs are going to be working with teams, customers, partners, and it’s so important to have reliable, and strong communication skills
Your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just start, the best way to figure out what you’re good at, what you like, and what you don’t like is by just starting.
A quote you live by?
Invest in those who invest in you
Oh boy! Who hasn’t been a mentor to us? If we had to shout out a few mentors we’d definitely say the team at the Queen’s Innovation Center, Volition, and League of Innovators program. As well Victoria Preston, Founder of Big Spoon Lil Spoon, and Eric Zhang, Founder of Pastel Education. Victoria and Eric both mentored us from the early days in the QICSI program, and we appreciate their wisdom and insights. More generally speaking, the parents, partners, and professionals who have given us their time throughout our conception of BinoBooks has made a huge impact on our team, and venture.
Anything else you’d like to include?
As much as we’re building a business to serve families, we’re trying to share our experience from being an early-stage startup throughout time as we continue to grow, expand and learn. We’d love for anyone who is interested to follow us at @hellobinobooks, or join our newsletter to join the BinoBooks fam, and get in the know of behind-the-scenes action on how we’re building and launching our business.
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