Brian Dwyre is the founder of Kidioke Media, a company that creates musical books that play timeless classics like “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “My Girl” by The Temptations. The song plays in its entirety with the push of a button. Parents can read or sing the lyrics, which make up the text of the book, while kids enjoy the song and themed illustrations.
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” Vs. “Thunder Road”
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and I always knew I wanted to start something on my own. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father’s always been his own boss. He started a wholesale office supply business a long time ago. He sold that and started a medical imaging business where people come for MRIs, CAT scans and that kind of stuff.
I’d been working in the medical imaging business for 10 years, but the whole time I knew that I wanted to start something on my own. I have three young kids at home, and when I would sing them to sleep at night, I couldn’t sing nursery rhymes – I would always sing Bruce Springsteen or James Taylor. Before I knew it, my children would start requesting those songs, “Dad, I want ‘Sweet Baby James’ or ‘Thunder Road.’” That’s when I came up with the idea for Kidioke and started doing all the work at night. I would do my fulltime job, come home, have dinner, and spend time with the kids. At night, it was back to work. I had to source and manufacture in China. I had to get a mold made. I used the website Alibaba.com to find people all over the world to help me with my illustrations and my animations for the app. I had to hire an attorney to clear the rights for the songs. I had to get it ASTM safety tested. It’s been a very long process and a big learning process.
Managing Business Finances
I refinanced my house and took cash out to start the business. There is absolutely no debt on the company. I took out enough to cover myself and some marketing. I’ve had some good sales. In December, my books appeared on “The View” when Whoopi Goldberg chose them as one of her favorite holiday gifts. I sold a couple thousand books overnight. All that money went right back into the business. I ran a bunch of commercials. I still have some working capital and some inventory. I ordered a large quantity of books to get the price down at the beginning.
I don’t have a particular approach for managing cash flow. I put all of my expenses on an AmEx. The business is exactly one year old, so it’s hard to do any forecasting because I’ve only had one of each season. I pay our vendors in China upfront. I pay one third when they make it, one third when it leaves the port, and one third when it arrives.
Business Challenges and Rewards
The most challenging thing about running the company is the time it takes. I have a full-time job and three kids. It’s every night and it’s a lot of work.
The most rewarding thing has been to be able to get on national television within the first few months of being in business. And, I was able to get a celebrity endorser, Snooki, who endorses my products.
Business Lessons Learned
I’ve made about 100 mistakes. I probably should have sourced a different manufacturer to get different quotes. Not that I got a bad price, but I think I could have used a company that had more experience shipping to the U.S. The company I used had never shipped to the U.S. before. I could have shopped around the mold and gotten the price down a lot. I paid a lot of money to an attorney to clear songs when I could have gone straight to a clearance company and had it done for under a third of the price.
A smart thing I did was to do my due diligence at the beginning. I was able to choose a manufacturer and get the rights cleared for a book that’s never existed before. I was entirely new to the music business. I was able to get everything put together in a timely fashion. Considering I’ve never made or done anything like this before, I kind of impressed myself.
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
Try to use other people’s money as much as possible. I’ve been using my own money this whole time and it would have been nice to have some investors. Get some other people with skin in the game who can help you out.
What’s Next for Kidioke Media
I have six new titles almost ready to be released, including John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” Extreme’s “More than Words,” and some Christmas songs like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Hopefully, in the next six months, I’ll be able to release some new titles to the library.
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