Know how to turn a shiny idea into a tangible, moneymaking reality? Vanessa Nielson does, she’s here to share the steps! I had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa late last year, and her determination, creativity and business sense inspired me. She noticed a need in the market for a bilingual book subscription service for kids and made it happen!
One of the moves she made was to enter a “Shark Tank” style competition to showcase her idea, and receive funding – and she won! You can read all about it here.
How did you come up with the idea, why did you see there was a need?
When my daughter Leila was born, my husband and I agreed that it was very important for us that she speak Spanish. I grew up in Mexico, and my husband’s Ecuadorian family speaks Spanish in their home in New Jersey. We had both seen all too often how family ties often suffered when family members struggled to communicate with each other across language barriers. I have my own parents to thank for a bilingual and bicultural upbringing that allows me to seamlessly jump from Spanish to English to (let’s be honest) Spanglish, and I desperately wanted to provide the same for my kids.
As a huge reader, one of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was look for books for my unborn bebé. I’m sure the experienced parents invited to our book-themed baby shower had a good eye-roll when we asked them to forgo onesies and diapers in favor of Spanish children’s books! However, despite my best efforts to keep on top of finding new books, by the time Leila was a year old, I had memorized most of the books in our personal library and pretty much exhausted our library’s selection of Spanish children’s books. I desperately wished someone would just hand me a stack of curated books en español.
And then one night, after reading ¿Eres Mi Mama? for the 4 millionth time, it finally hit me: I should be that someone. I knew soooo many parents in the same boat as me, committed to raising bilingual babies but too busy to obsessively read Amazon book reviews (ahem…) and in need of a little extra support to raise bilingual readers.
And that´s how the idea that became Sol Book Box was born!
How long did it take to go from ideation to selling live?
It seemed like it took forever, but really it was only about 6 months. I officially opened for business in December of 2016!
What setbacks did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?
It feels weird to think of this as a “setback” because I was actually super happy about it, but shortly after I decided to follow my passion and start this business, I found out I was pregnant. The first trimester of my pregnancy was frustrating because I had all of these ideas for what I wanted to do with Sol Book Box, but I was so sick and tired (especially keeping up with a one-year-old toddler all day!) that I really didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with my business.
As a first-time entrepreneur, I also had no idea what it took to build and run a business and had to start from zero with, well… basically everything. Luckily with time I’ve been able to learn the MANYYYY facets of e-commerce and get a little more efficient so that things don’t take me so long to accomplish!
What three tips do you have for people who have a “bright idea” for a product or service?
- DO IT. Bet on yourself! If you have to start small, that’s ok.
- People (in my experience) are always so willing to help. Just ask! Even if they don’t have the right answer, most people are willing and happy to point you in the right direction.
- Be patient. Growth takes time, and you’ve got to be willing to tough it out until you build some momentum (v. hard!)—but after you do, the long wait makes it feel soooooo good.
More about Vanessa:
Vanessa Nielsen is the founder of Sol Book Box, the subscription service for parents raising bilingual bookworms. Born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, Vanessa moved to the United States for college and has since lived and worked in countries including France and Honduras. The experience of bridging languages and cultures, as well as her own experience as a mother, inspired her to use literature to empower other parents raising bilingual/bicultural kids. Vanessa’s background and expertise lies in reaching multicultural audiences through marketing and PR campaigns for corporate, non-profit and government organizations.
Website: Sol Book Box