BooksBugs received a People’s Choice Award at the 2015 reSET Impact Awards. The annual event recognizes winners of the Impact Challenge and honors innovative, impactful and viable early-stage ventures and startups from all industries.
Innovation Destination: Hartford asked Impact Award winners about their companies and their experiences. Read the interview and watch a video with BookBugs Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dave Rader.
IDH: How did you develop your company’s business concept?
RADER: The combination of growing up in a household of educators and working at Disney, then Bain & Company led me to believe that addressing children’s literacy through a benefit corporation had the potential to be a clear win, as both force for good and a potentially successful business.
I studied socially conscious companies like TOMS and Warby Parker and decided to mimic their model of giving back, but with a focus on children’s books. After brainstorming about the specifics of how to build such a company with Ryan Greer, a childhood friend who shared my vision, we founded the company in September 2014. The BookBugs website launched that November.
IDH: Tell us about BookBugs.
RADER: BookBugs sells children’s books and donates books to kids in need. Our key product is a personalized book-of-the-month subscription tailored to each child’s interests and skills, with the reading level gradually increasing to ensure a consistent challenge.
Kids and parents tend to love what we send them because we only select books that have been written by authors who have won major awards and recognition. And the best part is that for every three books we send out, we give one to child in need.
IDH: Why did you get involved in the reSET Impact Challenge?
RADER: reSET has emerged as a regional leader in social entrepreneurship. Having grown up just outside Hartford, and now partnering with a nonprofit that serves inner-city youth in Hartford, we see reSET as a leader for social innovation in an area we care about tremendously. We wanted to be part of that network.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next three to five years?
RADER: In the next three to five years, BookBugs will focus on growing our monthly subscriber base, serving schools as a book retailer and continuing to donate through nonprofit partners.
Down the road, we may explore online education, educational toys and even a brick-and-mortar store. But right now, we are focused on premium recommendations for subscribers and ensuring high-quality donations.
IDH: Any advice for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
RADER: Invent your passion. It is incredibly difficult to build a business—it was hard to fully appreciate that when I was advising major corporations, but building something from the ground up can be emotionally and physically draining.
You have to dare to believe that you can change the world, otherwise there is no way you’ll stay in the game long enough to actually do it. That’s why you have to be truly and deeply passionate about whatever you are building.