Chic Interview with Shelly Bowen

Written by Jody Published in
Interactive Kids’ App Publishing CEO Talks About the Start. Shelly Bowen is the CEO and founder of a new children’s book app company called Red Piggy Press. They just launched their first interactive kid’s app, a storybook titled All Fixed Up. We’ve been dying to ask her a few questions ...
 
What inspired you to start Red Piggy Press?
Oh, I have lots of answers to this one. I started my career in the editorial department of a children’s publisher. I always loved to write, read, and paint, and children’s books are all about that. Then I transitioned to producing interactive online content, and I loved that too. Children’s books have pretty strict boundaries, and I could do just about anything with online content. I started my own content consulting business a few years ago and really enjoyed the business side of things more than I expected. I kept thinking I could create a product that combined all my interests: Red Piggy Press definitely does that.
 
Where did the name come from?
My mom’s best friend crocheted a red piggy for me when I was born. I still have it.
 
Can you describe your first app for us?
Sure. All Fixed Up is an illustrated children’s book, essentially, but you read it on on the iPad, and you can interact with the story in various ways. For example, you can have the story read to you, the words lighting up as the narrator reads, or you can click “Record” and narrate the story yourself. You can switch the characters from dad to mom, put your name right in the story, and even do things like fix cars and helicopters or apply hearts and kisses to soothe feelings. It’s a story for kids whose parents travel a lot, but I think all kids can relate to having a parent away from home.
 
How long did it take to create the interactive book app?
We took baby steps ... so, we were working on it in some form for most of 2012. Market testing, illustrator searching, developer interviewing. My business partner Tracy Jordan and I even took a weekend iOS bootcamp course so we’d know better about what to expect. In July, we did a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to prove the whole concept and raise a little money. All in all, the illustrations took about 3 months. The developer took another 3. We dedicated a whole month to quality assurance testing.
 
So you and your business partner are not a mobile app developers ... do you think that’s an advantage or disadvantage?
I see lots of advantages -- we focus on content first, so all interactions have a purpose and really enhance the story. We don’t get too hung up on adding features that people may or may not care about.
 
At the same time, it’s a little like being in the passenger seat with a blindfold. It’s been a challenge to determine how to plan ahead for development. For example, we had some difficulties getting the Facebook API working well so the customized stories could be easily shared.
 
That’s a feature I haven’t seen before in a kids’ app -- the video sharing. What’s driving this?
So we were thinking about military families as we created All Fixed Up -- and pilots and professional speakers and people who have to be away from their kids for big batches of time. And we thought, How can the kids and parents share the storytelling experience from far away? Generating a video of the customized book and sharing it by video seemed like a perfect solution.
 
You are balancing Red Piggy Press with another company -- your content strategy firm. How are you managing that?
That’s definitely been a challenge! I treat Red Piggy Press as a very important client. I’ve had to limit my Pybop clients to fit it in, which affects my overall income, but the learning has been tremendous and totally worth it. In fact, I get new ideas working on Red Piggy that I bring over to my Pybop clients all the time. And because I’m able to set the deadlines for Red Piggy, I’m able to balance it pretty well. We’re moving slower than I’d like ... but I’m happy with the quality and reader response.
 
Is that your biggest challenge so far, balance?
No, it’s probably the revenue model. The one-app-sale-at-a-time model is a killer, because public threshold of what an app should cost is very low and the costs of creating the app are very high. We’re still dreaming up potential solutions and partnerships that could help.
 
What has been your favorite mistake?
That’s a tough question. I think my favorite mistake has been a number of assumptions about what we can do on our own and how much time things would take. Every step opens a door that shows you there are so many more steps. For example, just translating the book into Spanish was a lot more work than I expected. It’s a good thing I’m enjoying myself and can laugh every time there’s a new surprising roadblock. Well, I eventually laugh.
 
So what’s next for Red Piggy Press?
More children’s book apps, for sure! But we’re going to work backward from now on, and first consider the revenue model and partnerships we can make to develop a sustainable and attractive business.
 
 

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