Profile: A Bright Idea

Seller creates line of preschool books to fill an underserved niche.

by staff writer
- Jan 16, 2009

Karissa Wright spent a lot of time online looking for books to help her then-preschooler learn to read. But finding none that she thought were reasonably priced or targeted enough, the former executive assistant decided to create her own.

The homemade books were such a hit with friends and family members who had small children that Wright realized she was onto something. And that gave rise to the Bright Ideas Company.

"Initially, I was just making things to suit my daughter's learning needs," she recalls. "But people liked what I was doing so much that I figured there must be a bigger need out there, and so I decided to try selling them."

Each of the 11 books Wright developed—with the exception of one counting book—focuses on a single vowel sound or letter combination. This allows kids to master one thing at a time and build confidence as they learn. And every book is priced at less than $3.

"To me, a lot of the standalone products out there—the books and DVDs—seemed to be very generic and vague. They didn't teach specific concepts like short vowel sounds or double consonants," she explains. "Where they do get specific, like the V-Techs and the LeapFrogs, you have to buy a larger learning system and all the add-ons, and it's kind of expensive. If you're just looking for something to focus on one area, it's hard to find something that's really targeted."

After developing the first set of books, Wright and husband Scott designed, printed and assembled them by hand, and Wright worked with her sister's private publishing company to obtain ISBN numbers. A year ago this month, she opened her eBay Store and simultaneously launched an independent online store, where she peddles her growing line of educational items geared toward early and pre-readers.

Last year, Wright sold an average of one book every three days—and that's without any investment in marketing or advertising.

"People find us through searches on eBay and Google," Wright notes. "And I do e-mail marketing with past customers and anyone who subscribes to my eBay Store newsletter—which has been very successful so far. I've had customers come back and buy whole sets.

"A lot of the growth is word-of-mouth," she adds. "After offering the initial books to friends and family members who had kids the same age as mine, I got quite a spike in traffic."

Branding with Auctiva

Wright discovered Auctiva's eBay listing tools last fall while perusing other sellers' shops for ideas to improve her own. "I kept noticing this little symbol at the bottom of the pages, so I clicked on it, and it was Auctiva," she says. "I'm thrilled because now my store looks like a professional Web site. And now I can focus on branding."

Right away, Wright took advantage of Auctiva's library of more than 1,500 free eBay templates to create her holiday-themed listings. But it wasn't long before she discovered the standard templates could be customized. Soon she was able to completely change the look of her listings and store pages simply by adding pictures and logos, and changing fonts.

"I don't actually know HTML at all, but I could read it enough to know what was what," she says. "It was nice having the ability to go into a template that was close to what I wanted and really make it my own. I thought that was fabulous because if I had to write my own HTML for a template, it never would have happened."

With Auctiva, I was able to schedule my listings to start the day after Thanksgiving, instead of sitting there at midnight waiting to push the button

Among Auctiva's many free features, Wright uses the Inventory Manager to keep track of which books she has in stock and what she's sold. The Scrolling Gallery has also been a boon by cross-promoting all the other books she has listed. And it serves as a portal into her Auctiva storefront, where buyers can learn more about the Bright Ideas Company and peruse every item she has on eBay, whether it's a fixed-price listing or store inventory.

Focus on the future

One of Wright's favorite features, however, is the scheduler. Not only has it saved her excess fees, it has saved this busy stay-at-home mom of three tremendous amounts of time—especially during the holidays.

"I wanted to have a sale right after Thanksgiving," she explains. "And doing everything myself, it's not like I have an IT department. With Auctiva, I was able to schedule my listings to start automatically the day after Thanksgiving, instead of sitting there at midnight waiting to push the button—and I didn't have to pay the extra fee that eBay would have charged."

The scheduler was also instrumental in allowing Wright to time the Jan. 1 launch of her two newest books, one of which is a sing-and-sign book, designed to help kids learn to count by combining song with pictures and American Sign Language.

Having introduced 11 books so far, Wright's goal is to launch at least one or two new products per quarter. She and her husband have another 27 planned or in the works—and the list keeps growing.

"Farther down the road, I have no idea," she laughs. "I'm still just trying to figure out how to get all these products made and on the market. But it's a lot of fun."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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