This morning I’m drinking my tea out a mug personalised to Josep. Josep was the youngest (and craziest) member of our tech team not so long ago. He wore his heart on his sleeve, fell in love most days and his youthful exuberance could be felt within a 40km radius. We have 24 mugs in the office and sadly many no longer have their namesake sipping from them. Each morning I choose a different mug to remember the person and the part they played in the story of The Book of Everyone. I feel the honesty of Josep is partly responsible for this end of year message.
We love to talk about our successes and how well things are going – it’s human nature. The truth about 2019 for The Book of Everyone was that it was hard in every way possible. With half the team of 2018 and severe financial constraints in marketing, we needed to create a new personalised gift to complement our books and it had to be successful. There would be no second chances.
Founding a new company is tough, especially one built on originality and creativity. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear the warnings that it will not be easy, they bounce off your naivety & ego like ping-pong balls. They simply don’t compute because your scale of tough is not calibrated to running a new company-tough. However, if you really knew beforehand what was ahead of you mentally, physically and financially in order to turn a business idea into a valuable company, you may not set sail in the first place and companies like The Book of Everyone would not exist. Hats off to each and every one of you who have achieved the promised land of profits and longevity. I don’t care if you revolutionised the toilet brush, I salute your tenacity, the sacrifices you’ve made and I’m left with nothing but admiration.
Despite this being our toughest year, we have achieved more in 2019 than any other of our 5 years. I judge ‘achieved’ nowadays not by sales growth but by listening to our customers and creating products that serve a purpose in their lives.
This year we launched 2 wonderful new lines of personalised gift: The Map of Everyone; beautifully designed wall art that you can personalise to the places that mean the most to you. Stories are central to all products at The Book of Everyone and in this case, each map becomes a miniature story around a memory of somewhere special – the family home, where you tied the knot, that unforgettable holiday. Choose any location in the world, pick your colour, write a dedication and off you go. If you haven’t already, you can try making your own map here. The Map of Everyone has been a rising star this Christmas, painting a silver lining to 2019.
Our second new product, The Video of Everyone, is free (another tough decision to make when the chips were down back in January). Finding new customers is a huge challenge to small online businesses like us, and we felt by providing a free service that was collaborative and fun, users would tell their friends and in turn discover our books, cards and maps. And it seems to be working, over 20,000 videos have been uploaded so far.
The Video of Everyone is a brilliantly simple way to celebrate someone when your family and friends can’t all be in one place – be it a birthday, wedding, an office leaving party or just a thank you to someone deserving. I made one for my son Leo’s 6th birthday. I shared the video upload link through the family WhatsApp groups and within 24 hours we had video messages from our family in Colombia, family in the UK and Leo’s school friends in Barcelona. The Video of Everyone montages them all together on the fly into one big colourful birthday celebration of Leo.
We also used The Video of Everyone to recognise the UK’s unsung community heroes in our Humble Heroes 2019 campaign in the lead-up to Christmas. Folk like Harry, the 16-year-old stereotype-smashing football coach. Ray the legendary 80-year old warden of Skippers Island. Hilda, the crochet queen of Shaw Wood school, and Jane Walker, who has given dignity and hope to thousands of families across the world. In the end, our winner was Lidia, the lollipop lady, who was nominated by so many people for simply lightening up their daily lives with her inimitable joy for life. Lidia was presented with the UK’s smallest and humblest public monument – a monument that represents all those people who woke up one day and decided to do something, however big or small, to make the world about them a little better. Many thanks to the very talented Alexander Lumsden who was the sculptor behind Lidia’s statue. Have a look at the heart-warming film about our Humble Heroes.
I’m very grateful to everyone who purchased our products this year and humbled by all the wonderful reviews – I know reviewing takes a little effort but it makes a huge difference to us. Take good care of your books, cards and maps. They were built on passion, hard work and a desire to help the world feel a little more human.
Happy Christmas to everyone who has been part of our journey so far – our customers, our investors and most importantly to Josep and every member of The Book of Everyone team whose personalised mugs are a daily reminder ensuring their contribution is never forgotten. This is for you.
To all of you who survived 2019, here’s to thriving in 2020. It’s fitting (and the irony is not lost on me) that we have 2 fabulous Wise(ish) Words books on this very subject. They make the perfect gift for those needing a lift in 2020. You can make one here.