Jean McGavin, Founder of History Chip, is one of 11 Connecticut-based businesses taking part in the reSET 2022 Impact Accelerator. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Jean about the importance of her business and what she hopes to gain from the accelerator experience.
NAN PRICE: Have you always known you were going to own your own business or had an entrepreneurial mindset?
JEAN McGAVIN: No, I haven’t. But for most of my career, I’ve been running my own business. I was a freelance set designer in New York for 10 years, which is essentially running your own business. And I started a small voice over production company in 2001. I can’t remember an extended period of time where I was working for someone else.
NAN: How did you develop the concept for History Chip?
JEAN: The impetus for History Chip is all about including everyone’s truth in history. When you have everyone’s truth, you have a better chance of understanding our larger truth. I wanted to build this website where anybody anywhere in the world can add their story to history, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+. Everyone can be on the same plane of validity in history and in truth.
I started History Chip in 2009. I thought it was going to be so simple—just start a website where anybody can tell a story and anybody can read the stories and it’s fully searchable. What could be easier?
When I launched the site it had early responders. But then in 2019 I took it down and rebuilt it and redesigned it. During that time, I found all the ways that it wasn’t simple—and all the complicated things I needed to do to make it simple.
NAN: How do you take that story sharing idea and monetize it and make it into a business?
JEAN: When I first started, that was something I didn’t think about. I knew I didn’t want to have ads on the site for various reasons. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how a website makes money. I guess I thought, it will just happen.
We’re currently setting up subscription options. When the database is large enough that it can be a significant research tool, we’ll begin offering subscriptions to institutions, historical associations, and community organizations based on the size of their readership, whether that includes an entire student body, faculty, staff, and alumni. We’ll also be offering individual subscriptions similar to a periodical where someone pays something like $5 a month.
Because we’ve been rebuilding the site over the last couple of years, the subscriptions aren’t up and running yet. It’s something we plan to institute in the next month or so. We’re also going to ask for donations. I’m looking to have made big changes by the end of the year.
NAN: How did you become involved with reSET and why did you decide to join the accelerator?
JEAN: I was introduced to reSET Managing Director Sarah Bodley through Nerac, Inc. President Kevin Bouley, who I met because I’m part of the XCellR8 program. I presented my first pitch in January. Across the board, it was conceptually very well received for the nature and the importance of the project. Kevin suggested that I work with reSET to make sure I’ve got all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed.
NAN: What are you hoping to gain from the reSET accelerator experience?
JEAN: What I need for History Chip is name recognition. So, I’m looking to expand our marketing. Right now, we have a significant database, but I want it to be much larger and I need to have more eyes on the site. History Chip is a well-kept and amazing secret—people don’t know about it yet. I need to get it out into the marketplace. In my XCellR8 pitch I said, “I need an Oprah moment or $1 million.” That $1 million would provide the kind of marketing needed to make History Chip a household name.
I’m looking to find ways to expand its notoriety and then get more money coming in through some investments. The site itself is built and beautiful. We have a long list of enhancements we’d like to add, but I don’t want to do that until we have more traffic and more proof that the community likes it and wants to participate.
NAN: Any major lessons learned?
JEAN: What I’ve learned is that this is a project I think is really important that no one else is doing. No one else out there is aggregating the stories of everyone all over the world for the purpose of expanding history to make it more complete and truthful. I’m reaching out to every single person on the planet to add their stories and have those stories searchable so all of our stories become part of history.
It’s a serious passion project for me. And if there’s a way to maintain that momentum, I’m going to do that because it’s not a question how much money I can make doing this, it’s really a question of how to make it happen. That’s what’s most important to me.