Start-up of the Week: Writing for Tiny

19 Sep 2016

Gail Condon, co-founder and CEO, Writing for Tiny and Tiny Health

It may seem impossible to publish children’s storybooks that are fitting for all types of kids, families and scenarios, but Writing for Tiny’s software is making it possible.

September can be a manic month for parents as the back-to-school rush kicks in.

It’s much the same for businesses dealing in products for schoolchildren, but I managed to secure some time with Gail Condon, co-founder and CEO of Writing for Tiny and Tiny Health, amid “a crazy busy week with the starting-school book orders”.

‘Our books are a tool to help parents find the words, helping them to communicate’

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Writing for Tiny uses software to make highly personalised children’s picture books about changes, worries and milestones. “Our ethos is to facilitate open communication with children, to encourage the inclusion of children in big decisions and to engage children in independent thought,” Condon explained.

Writing for Tiny claims to create the most personalised books on the market today, using a specialised software system. The end result should help the child to truly engage with the story and connect it to significant moments in their own lives, whether that’s starting school, welcoming a new baby, dealing with parental separation or facing an upcoming surgery.

“Our books are a tool to help parents find the words, helping them to communicate,” said Condon.

Recognising that not all children come from the idealised vision of a nuclear family, Writing for Tiny’s software conjures tales for children and families of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities and dynamics.

“We accommodate all children, such as the child who comes from a single-parent family, who is mixed race, or who comes from a blended family. This degree of personalisation is unmatched by any of our competitors,” said Condon.

Opening up communication

Condon came to this business through a career in nursing, centred on children’s health and wellbeing.

“The story of Writing for Tiny began when I worked as a paediatric nurse on the wards both in the Cork University Hospital and in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Ireland. I used illustrations to help children to understand their condition, to explain their condition to their siblings, or to distract them from frightening procedures. Parents, children and staff used my drawings, and later my booklets, on the ward to open up communication lines and to get talking.”

Co-founder Dr Mick Carter is a paediatric doctor, and COO Clare Condon is an experienced programme manager and economist with international and sectoral experience.

“We lead a strong team with dynamic expertise in paediatric healthcare, creative communication, illustration, software development, marketing, business strategy and publishing,” Condon summed up.

Personalisation is Writing for Tiny’s key selling point and it’s supported by the software system developed and owned by the company.

“Our software was built with the purpose of creating and scaling highly personalised books,” Condon explained. “Our customers can build their own book by personalising characters with names, hair colour, skin tone, outfits that represent the whole family. We also include pets.”

Every book produced from this technology is designed, produced and published from start to finish in Ireland using the best quality materials, according to Condon. “Our two product types are traditional hardcover books with dust covers and varied endpapers inspired by the Beatrix Potter books, and our newly launched larger soft-back books.”

Owing to the background of the founders, they have made children’s wellbeing and communication of paediatric healthcare their specialty.

“We apply the science that inclusion, communication and independent thought are vital for happy, well-adjusted children,” said Condon.

Mastering the trade

Writing for Tiny is marketed internationally through its website.

“We currently have six titles with a unique problem-solving approach, adding more over the next one-and-a-half years,” said Condon.

“We have successfully established our brand and market of mainly female consumers in Ireland and the UK and the US. We have the systems in place and are currently further developing our growing business internationally.”

Writing for Tiny also works within the corporate market, with hospitals, schools and healthcare companies. The Tiny Health imprint utilises the company’s expertise and software to provide books on health education, particularly at the time of diagnosis. For example, when a child is newly diagnosed with diabetes or asthma.

‘Starting a business requires you to be a master of all trades at the beginning and, indeed, still, three years down the line’

Tiny Health brings new, exciting projects to the mix while the main company is “scaling all the time”, according to Condon.

“Like all start-ups, we have had our fair share of bumps and knocks, but we brushed the dirt off our knees and stayed motivated and positive,” she added.

Condon said the main challenge in starting up has been the huge amount of work involved over the last three years. “Starting a business – particularly starting a full-stack business like ours – requires you to be a master of all trades at the beginning and, indeed, still, three years down the line.”

Recognised by Enterprise Ireland as a high potential start-up, Condon has plans to expand the team and solutions internationally, and to seek investment for both Writing for Tiny and Tiny Health in 2017.

The end goal, then, is to help parents and health professionals around the world find the words they need in situations that can be difficult to communicate.

“Stories are at the centre of family life,” said Condon. “Writing for Tiny has a place in every family, in every home. The ultimate goal is to be a leader in publishing innovation.”

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic