Today we’d like to introduce you to Payal Kindiger.
In March of 2014, Payal Kindiger was just a few months into rare she-time, having left an executive level marketing position at the tech company GenE (which later split into gen-E and Resolve Systems). Her youngest daughter was six months old, and her oldest, at seven years, was enjoying a creative phase of writing, drawing, and stapling.
“I thought it would be nice if I could catch up with my creative writing,” Payal remembers. But while she and her husband began writing their own nonfiction novels, the conversation turned to kids being able to make their own books. The idea rooted in Payal, and her mystery-drama had to wait.
“Self-publishing was a growing market, and apps for storytelling and drawing existed but there was nothing specifically designed for creating a book on demand for kids.” At the same time, she started researching retail. Destinations and experiential stores were growing even though general retail appeared to be struggling. “My vision was for an enriching, but fun, fully-guided experience so kids could get the maximum benefits of creative writing,” she adds.
Simultaneously, Payal was blueprinting the software. It needed to enable creative thinking and enrichment, and be viable with the publishing side of the business (printing, binding). None of this existed anywhere. So she made the decision to build software from the ground up, balancing the end user requirements as well as business requirements. Simultaneously, illustration designers from around the world – England, Russia, France, India, Sri Lanka – were creating characters and features based on the themes and details conceived by Payal. This was difficult, as everything had to meet requirements to work with the app.
That wasn’t the only integration necessary. The app and the printing system needed to work together. Payal selected Canon as her publishing partner. “They were collaborative about approach. They had not done anything like this before, so they developed a team to go through everything with us,” she explained.
And it was at this time that all the reading and all the writing and all the computing and all the management came together to create Storymakery.
In November 2015, Payal opened Storymakery at the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine California. It is the first self-publishing destination experience where children create characters, build a story, and bring home a copy of their book.
The Makery is the physical representation of the app: playful, colorful, accessible, and inviting creativity. In addition to ample creation stations, there is a thoughtfully curated retail area with costumes, clothing, and gifts that reflect storytelling and the app’s themes (mermaids, pirates, superheroes, etc.). In addition to coming home with a book, young authors can also buy posters and t-shirts of their main character.
Payal vets her staff (the Muses) with the branding in mind. Employees are light-hearted and excellent with kids, balancing focus and direction with curiosity and encouragement. They have strong writing skills, but can also bind books, handle retail, and sell.
For Storymakery, sales mean “clarifying perceptions that might compare this to getting a custom doll or toy. We must be clear about the experience being both fun and enriching, and spotlight the uniqueness of actually writing and creating a book. Also, this is as valuable an experience for boys as it is for girls,” notes Payal.
Storymakery is a work-in-progress. In May of 2016, hardcover books were introduced. The software is continually being developed to add new illustrations, characters, and formats. While the software is not generally available outside of the Makery, participants in the ChildFund Young Ambassador program are granted at-home access for a year. And in this next year of nimble adapting to its customers, the retail environment, and tech developments, the business is looking solid for exciting growth in 2020.
“My ability to build a strong foundation for Storymakery was the culmination of my long-time passion for creative writing, twenty years in the background of hi-tech, and over 15 years of experience in growing and scaling a business,” Payal says. The intersection of creativity and technology is a wonderful place to be, and the future of Storymakery will advance both fields.”
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with any new business, Storymakery today has been the result of a labor of love. We’ve had to work at overcoming perceptions that the story-building experience can be enjoyed by only children who love writing. Our experience is fun for children who may or may not enjoy writing. Storymakery has a unique approach to elevate the emotional and imagination experience for children at our destination store.
There’s also been much effort in trying to create overall category experience as our concept is completely new.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
- Storytale Workshop (1-2 Hour Experience). $75 Includes time with staff, hard cover book, character poster and plush toy. Ages 5 and up.
- Storytale Express (Approx 30 minutes) $45-$50. Includes writing time from staff, book and poster. Great for Pre-school Ages.
- Birthday Packages. Start at $200
- School Field Trips. Start at $10 per student during the weekdays. Pre-K thru 6th Grade
- Scout Field Trips. $25 per scout. Weekday and Weekend minimums apply. Ages 5 through 12.
- Address: 825 Spectrum Center Drive
Irvine Spectrum Center
- Website: www.storymakery.com
- Phone: 949-370-2211
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/storymakery/
- Facebook: @Storymakery
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/StoryMakery
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/storymakery-irvine