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An Interview with Wizz-e.com Founder & Mompreneur, Jeanette McLeod

March 9th, 2009

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Lucky me! I got the chance to interview fellow mompreneur and super savvy business woman, Jeannette McLeod, about her new company, Wizz-e.com. She’s figured out how to harness our children’s insatiable appetite for the internet to strengthen their reading skills – awesome!

Below Jeannette, a Londoner and busy mom of four, kindly answers ALL of my questions about Wizz-e.com!

I am fascinated by the concept of Wizz-e. Can you tell me how the idea got started?
I recognized in my own kids that the computer was far more attractive than sitting and reading a story book. They are such a tech savvy generation. I thought – ‘why not leverage the medium they love to get them reading more?’ Rather than converting existing picture books to PDF files and putting them on the internet I thought how the technology can bring reading and books to our newest generation in a way that makes reading fun? After all if it is fun, they may not even know they are learning!

You’ve chosen e-books rather than traditional “hard” books? How did you come to that decision?
It really was because if I asked my kids to read to me they would be itching to get up after 10 minutes- give them the opportunity they would be on the computer for hours!! So rather than children spending their time just playing games, I wanted to create something that would educate and help children to learn. My ultimate goal is to give these books to developing countries so that they can learn to read. Without an education starting with the basics of literacy real world-wide change cannot happen. There is obviously the environmental impact of paper books too.

I’m in the “my son already spends too much time on the computer” camp, and I know other parents who are too. What can Wizz-e ebooks provide that traditional books cannot?
Kids want to use the computer. They enjoy it. They are comfortable with it. So why not use the time that they already enjoy spending on the computer encouraging them to read rather than just playing games? Traditional books, (unless read aloud by you), cannot model fluency, cannot check the child has paid attention to the story, cannot help emerging readers by telling them a word they do not know. Reluctant or disengaged readers can be encouraged to start to enjoy books in a format that is less threatening. Learning to read is an involving process, I am a time pressured mom too who can leave her kids to read/listen to a book on the computer whilst doing homework with the other. It is not a substitute for a bedtime story or reading a book together. It is another choice for helping kids learn to read and develop a love of books using the technology they enjoy.

Your e-books also carry an environmental message, don’t they? Can you tell us a little about that?
Paper books consume far more of the world’s resources in their production than eBooks. Firstly, there is the paper production – trees required to make the paper, as well the paper making process, chemicals produced in making dyes for the inks. Transportation of the paper to the factories. Then the books have to be printed, stored and then shipped. All this uses energy. There is also the sad fact that books that do not sell are simply destroyed (more than 1 billion books in 2006) some are re-pulped (using energy) others end up in land fills. Our eBook business is completely electronic. Apart from the energy we consume using computers in their development we do not have a detrimental impact on the world’s resources.

Some key facts:
-The carbon footprint of a book (2006 figures): 8.85 lbs, in carbon dioxide terms
-The total carbon footprint of the book publishing industry (2006 figures): 12.4 million metric tons
-The biggest contributor to the industry’s footprint: using virgin paper – forest and forest harvest are responsible to 62.7% of the industry’s total carbon emissions.
-The book world (in the U.S.) uses up more than 1.5 million metric tons of paper each year.
Full report here http://www.ecolibris.net/book_industry_footprint.asp

On your site you have free e-books and e-books for sale. Is there a difference in quality between the two?
Absolutely not. We chose to have 2 free books so that customers can understand what eBooks are all about. Each of the books for sale allows customers to view the first few pages, including animation and audio files.

I’m thinking about getting a Kindle. Can I download e-books from your site for my son to read on it?
No. The kindle and other eReading devices only have black and white screens at the moment. We are working on producing versions of the books which will be compatible with the iphone/itouch and similar popular (‘Android’) devices as these do have color screens. Color e-readers, from all the rumors, are on their way!

Are you looking for children’s authors to feature on Wizz-e?
Yes, we are currently accepting submissions from children’s authors. The ‘author zone’ on the site gives lots of details about what we are looking for. We’d also love to hear the views of children’s authors.

I love that you’ve chosen to donate 10% of your profits to the non-profit Room to Read. Tell us more about what they do and why you chose them.
I was truly inspired by John Wood after reading his book ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World’. Room to Read is a charity that builds schools, libraries and computer labs in developing countries. They also sponsor education for girls. 76 million pre-school children throughout the world are not enrolled in school. Without access to even a basic education real world-wide change cannot happen. Room to Read is set to change this. If you haven’t visited their website or read the book I would urge you to do so.

How has the launch of Wizz-e impacted you as a mom? Were you ready to enter the world of the mompreneur?!
I think the kids have got used to me being attached to my laptop!!! But it does mean I am home rather than dashing out of the house early in the morning and not back until it is late. They appreciate that. And it comes in handy when there is a request for a fancy dress outfit with less than 24 hours notice!!!!

I think the biggest impact on me (apart from the spreading backside from sitting at my computer all day!!) is spending my time doing something I love and believe in passionately. If I have an impact on one child who is turned back on to reading and develops a love of books I will be happy. My ultimate goal is to have that same positive impact on millions of children, giving them a better chance to make a change in their lives.

And what do your kids think of your business?
I am lucky that our 4 kids think the business is really cool. I have involved the younger ones in the design of the website, choosing voice over artists, trialing the books etc. One of the kids has also done the voice over for one of our books for charity (yet to be released). He really enjoyed that.

Anything else you’d like to share?
My passion for starting the business is to get kids reading. There are over 750 million adults who cannot read or write. Let’s not let the next generation contribute to that figure. With teaching resources in schools stretched and more parents working and unable to spend time everyday reading with their kids something has to fill that gap. So by leveraging the technology that kids feel comfortable with and enjoy using they can read and have fun at the same time.

What an amazing concept and company! Thanks so much Jeannette for sharing your time and energy!

Stop The Silence – For Our Children's Sake

February 4th, 2009

Part of my mission for The Maverick Mom is to call out and highlight nonprofit causes that are doing Uncommon Good in the world.

The one I’ve chosen to talk about today cuts me to the core: www.12for12k.org is raising money to support the work of Stop the Silence – a nonprofit that is completely focused on the heartbreaking work of dealing with the sexual abuse of children.

 Did you know that in the U.S. alone,  at least one out of four girls and one out of seven boys are sexually abused by 18 years old.  Nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults are against girls aged 15 or younger. As a mother, these are statistics I can hardly bear to consider.

The life victims live if they are not properly treated is full of shame, poor school performance, depression, psychosis, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, prostitution, drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, homelessness, suicide and homicide, and chronic disease.

Stop the Silencehas a three part mission to stem this epidemic. They are committed to exposing and stoping child sexual abuse and help survivors heal worldwide. The charity’s overarching goals are to:

1) help stop child sexual abuse (CSA) and related forms of violence;

2) promote healing of victims and survivors;

3) celebrate the lives of those healed.

Through their work, Stop the Silence aims to address the relationships between child sexual abuse and the broader issues of overall family and community violence, and violence within and between communities.

www.12for12k.org has made is their mission to raise money for this uncommonly worthy cause during the month of February. I will support them and I am asking every mompreneur who reads this blog to do the same. Even $10 will make a difference. I will forgo my trips to Starbucks this month to make my contribution. I hope you will find a way to offer your support, too.

I retweeted a great quote today: “Anything you ignore, you condone.”- Coach Gary Henson ~

For our children’s sake, we cannot afford to ignore Stop the Silence. Join me, won’t you?

A Roundup of Mompreneurs in the Media

February 4th, 2009

Looks like Mompreneurs are coming into their own. We are our own demographic – how cool is that?!

Health and Fitness: Running The Race Of Life, This Mompreneur Is …
RunnersWeb – Ottawa,Ontario,Canada
From her business to her children, to her witty sense of humor.this Mompreneur is BornFit! BornFit, an innovative apparel collection that creates athletic …

“Mompreneurs” earning extra money through their hobbies
WIS – Columbia,SC,USA
Even some stay-at-home moms are thinking outside of the box to earn some extra money by taking on the title of “Mompreneur.” Lexington mom Tonya Douglass …

THE ROOTS OF A MOMPRENEUR’S SUCCESS
The Patriot Ledger – Quincy,MA,USA
Cronin, 27, is a new breed of female entrepreneur – or mompreneur – that has left the rat race to set up shop at home. By definition, a mompreneur runs her …

A Day in the Life . . . Part I
MSNBC – USA
This is the first in a three-part “Day in the Life of a Mompreneur” series. … If you’ve ever wondered whether you could hack it as a mompreneur, …

Rufa Mae is happily single
Inquirer.net – Philippines
Celeb “mompreneur” Tintin Bersola and her Mommy Ching are inviting all “entrePinoys” for the Grand Fiesta Summer Event. Bookings and sponsorship inquiries …

Local magazine portrays ambitious ‘mompreneurs’
Calgary Herald – Calgary,AB,Canada
Kathryn Bechthold first published a 16-page Mompreneur Magazine in June 2006 that was distributed in a few grocery stores in Calgary. …

Mo Lynch Vashel of Diablo Doggies
The mompreneurial spirit
Marketplace – Los Angeles,CA,USA
Mitchell Hartman: If there’s a typical mompreneur out there, Mo Lynch Vashel probably fits … But she does have a bone to pick with the “mompreneur” label. …

Giveaway: Bellalulubaby
TheInsider.com – San Francisco,CA,USA
Bellalulubaby was created by mompreneur Paula Seguin who felt compelled to develop this luxurious line of products that were inspired by her own little …

The Day All The Wheels Came Off

January 19th, 2009

Over the weekend, a mompreneur friend of mine asked me how I came to do what I do for a living. At first I started to tell her about my first experiences with my friend and mentor Martha Beck, who has played a HUGE role in my development. But then I stopped and realized that it all started way before I even knew who Martha was.  She found the story kind of interesting, so I thought you might, too.

Back in the day when I had an RJ (a Real Job), I was what some considered a “turn around specialist”. I would get my hands on some failing program, project or  organization and infuse it with unusual approaches and strategies (and a TON of hard work) and turn the thing around in a fairly short time.  I absolutely LOVED being good at that. Head hunters would call and say “What if we could find you your dream job?” and I would say “I already have it. Good-bye.”

An national organization hired me (no naming names to protect the innocent) to come into a local office that was truly on it’s last leg. I was the last ditch effort to get it back on track and maintain a presence in the community. Sounded like a ton of fun to me and I eagerly signed up for the challenge.

I walked into an organization that 1) had no active board of directors 2) no community relationships left 3) revenues of $25,000 and an operating budget of $100,000 4) no staff and 5)no deliverables in place – those had all tanked. Yep – that was my kind of challenge and I took it on with all I had to give.

Then the person who hired me left and was replaced by a person who, let’s just say, did not think I was right for the job.  No matter what I did, there was something wrong with it or me, or something I was neglecting to make this fabulous thing happen. I brought on a major community partner. “Yeah but where are your deliverables?” I put $50,000 in the coffers in my first six months “Yeah but your services aren’t running strong.” Put a major CEO on the board of directors “Yeah but…” can’t even remember that one.

Oh and my favorite – I put on an event that became a national example. I was asked to teach everyone across the country how to do it. Did I the invitation come from my boss? No. Did she way one word about my personal and professional success? No.

Finally her incessant questioning and discounting of my abilities came to a head. We were interviewing candidates for an open position on my staff. The hire was to be a joint decision, so my boss came down to “help” conduct interviews. I left to room for a few minutes while she we were interviewing a candidate I was uncertain of. I cam back to find that my boss had offered her the job. No consultation – she did not even pretend that my thoughts about my staff were relevant.

I tried to stay because I loved what I was building. But the remarks from my boss became more and more condescending while my reputation with others continued to grow stronger. That’s how I knew I didn’t really stink at my job.:)

One day, triggered by nothing specific, all the wheels came off. I walked in the door at home and told my husband, “I’m quitting.” He’d watched me as I’d worked and celebrated and achieved so much. He’d also watched the incredible toll working in this environment was taking on me. So he said “I’m betting you’ve already thought this through and I support you.”

Now realize I had no job lined up and was in no frame of mind to go out and find one. I didn’t care. The next day, I submitted my letter of resignation.

The flurry of astonishment and support that poured into my office was surprising. And apparently my boss got a great deal of pressure to “do whatever it takes to make her stay” because I received a most uncharacteristic phone call making all kinds of promises to make our relationship better. Because I really want to give people second chances, I conceded and said ok.

BIG mistake. Within two days it became super clear that her call came under duress and she had no intentions of doing anything differently. So, I quit again for the final time.

Was it hard? Yes. Did people call and beg me to stay? Yes. Was I sad to leave behind an organization I’d rebuilt into a $250,000 entity with a board comprised of major power players in less than two years? You bet.

But it was killing me. I knew there was a better way to work and live. There just had to be. So I took a major leap of faith and set out on the journey to discover that path. For a year I learned from masters and re-invented myself and my ideas about what “work” was. (That is the subject for another post.)

That was over seven years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision once. Not once.

While I don’t advise waiting for all the wheels to come off to make such a monumental decision, I do recommend paying attention to the things that are dragging down your soul and dampening your spirit. Let them go. Leap. The universe is waiting for you.:)

Mompreneur Defined

January 14th, 2009

This is probably one of the best, most succinct definitions of who we are that I’ve ever seen!

New York Post: “Leave it to Manhattan moms to milk motherhood for profits. Call them ‘mompreneurs’ -a new breed of educated career women who give up high-powered jobs to stay at home, raise kids – and still turn a profit.”

Though as we all know – we span the globe, not just the island of Manhatten.:)