By Mark Ambrogi
Bradford Wolf hated to see children not reading.
So during his Noblesville High School Innovations class as a junior, Wolf began to develop a concept.
Wolf, who graduated from NHS in 2016, launched The Storybook Factory in June.
“I want to find a neat and engaging way to get kids reading again,” said Wolf, who took this past year to work on the business and plans to attend classes at IUPUI in the fall. “It really bothered me when I saw kids picking up their parents’ tablets or phones and binge watching YouTube videos or playing Angry Birds. I wanted them to get back into reading more. That had a huge impact on me when I was a kid. I wanted to bring that back to life.”
So Wolf began thinking of ways to make children’s books more engaging for kids.
“I thought, ‘Let’s meet them on the platforms they are using most,’” Wolf said. “So I started by setting up a YouTube channel, and I would read books, and we got close to 2 million views in six months. It was a huge success. That caught the idea of our first investor (Steve Robinson). He loved the idea and the vision so much that he gave us a small amount of money to get off the ground. That all took place during my senior year.”
Wolf decided to create the Netflix (subscription-based service) of children’s books.
“A kid will log into his own account and there will be an entire library of books we got from publishers in New York and other states, and self-published authors as well,” he said.
The Storybook Factory also has made books more interactive by putting animations within them.
“We can have a pig who can hop around the screen, and the words are interactive as well,” Wolf said. “You can click a word, and you’ll get the definition and the pronunciation.”
Children will be able to choose from a large digital library of books.
“We’re hoping to meet them on the platform they use most,” Wolf said.
Wolf said he has to flown to New York several times to show publishers their plans and how it can benefit them.
With a target market of pre-kindergarten to third grade, he said he has pitched the idea to a lot of self-publishers and smaller publishing companies.
“We have close to 200, and we’re hoping to get to 700 books in a couple of months,” Wolf said. “The bigger publishing companies, like Scholastic and Random House, don’t want to take a risk because they don’t need to. They make a ton of money off Dr. Seuss books and things like that. We’re looking for smaller companies who are still trying to make a name for themselves.”
Wolf brought his best friend, Hunter Stone, into the business to help. Stone, a student in the school of informatics, is serving as chief operating officer.
Stone said he shared Wolf’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“Since we wanted to take a software-oriented approach to the company, my background in SaaS (Software as a Service) and project management helped kick us in the right direction,” he said.
Stone said he believed from the start the project would come this far.
“I continue to believe it will exceed everyone’s expectations,” he said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that you must wholeheartedly believe in and dedicate yourself to every project that you work on. If you nurture and approach your idea with care and passion, and approach them as you would the next Fortune 500 company, then that’s the only way your business will succeed.
“Brad and I both work to define the high-level goals for the company, then as COO, my primary focus is to translate these missions into daily objectives and ensure that our team is able to hit them,” Stone added. “Brad, in turn, works on pursuing partnerships, creating more opportunities for the organization and pushing our overall mission.”
Wolf also found two web developers, Nick Wanninger and Saul Garza, and two graphic designers, Kathryn Lynch and Alex Latham, all 2017 graduates, from his innovations class.
For more, visit thestorybookfactory.com
MEET THE TEAM
Wolf is the chief executive officer. He graduated from NHS in 2016 and is taking a gap year to continue work on The Storybook Factory.
Stone is the chief operating officer of The Storybook Factory. He graduated from NHS in 2016 and completed his first year of college at Indiana University this spring.
Garza is a senior engineer for The Storybook Factory. He graduated from NHS in 2017 and plans to soon move to Japan for one year.
Lynch is the creative director of The Storybook Factory. She is a 2017 graduate of NHS and plans to join Garza in living one year in Japan.
Wanninger is a senior engineer for The Storybook Factory. He graduated in 2017 from NHS and plans to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology in the fall.