The Elevator Pitch

The Elevator Pitch

My Kid the Writer

THE FOUNDER: Dustin Smith

THE COMPANY: Make Believe, Ink, Mesa, Ariz.

THE CONCEPT: Children's retail experience

THE PITCH: If Dr. Seuss got together with Build-A-Bear, Make Believe, Ink would be their love child. It's a "retail adventure" where children create and star in their own books. At Make Believe, Ink, guests are paced through a variety of virtual stages to create a digital caricature and guide a child through a "choose your own adventure" experience. A professional-quality hardcover storybook is created to take home. Icons such as Build-A-Bear Workshop and American Girl Place paved the way for Make Believe, Ink's entry into this $1.3 billion market.


Tim Chang, principal, Norwest Ventures, Palo Alto, Calif.

The pitch creates interest, says Chang, who might want to set up a meeting. Smith has tagged the lucrative children's game, book, and virtual entertainment markets. Similar successful businesses are Webkinz and Club Penguin, bought by Disney. Smith's link to Build-A-Bear is powerful: "People have seen this...and anyone with kids has wanted [one]," says Chang. Downside? Too many moving parts. The company must create ever-new content and publish the books, and needs at least one retail space plus future distribution points. "Investors today...are skittish about capital to build out a customer retail presence," says Chang. Reassure them by trumpeting key managers' qualifications or by securing a media or retail partner.

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