With each passing birthday and holiday, Valerie Friedholm said her children seemed to accumulate a growing number of plastic, battery-operated toys that captured their attention for a few days before being cast off.
When asked for gift ideas, the Sudbury resident struggled to think of something of true value. What could create memories and then be passed down to younger siblings?
“I kept coming back to books,” said Friedholm, who worked in sales and marketing at General Electric and as an analyst and portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments before becoming a stay-at-home mom 11 years ago. She now has four children: Harper, 11; Rex, 9; Tatum, 8; and Brant, 4.
In February 2017, Friedholm co-founded Elephant Books LLC as a way to make book-giving easier for adults, as well as more fun for kids. Her partners in the book club for children are Stephen Murray, her former classmate at Harvard Business School who lives in London, and Trudy Nicolay-Deutz of California, Murray’s former colleague.
Their monthly subscription service, which began shipping in August, provides three board books plus customizable book plates for recipients 2 years old and under, and two picture books with library cards for ages 2 to 6. Both packages include tip cards designed to make family reading more engaging and meaningful.
Book selections are based on five criteria: titles released within the last few years; original and literary content not repurposed from television and movies; diverse subjects and themes; undiscovered treasures not on the best-seller list; and the stamp of approval from parents, educators, authors, and other kids.
Subscriptions are available for one ($26.99), three ($24.99/month), six ($22.99/month), and 12 months ($20.99/month), with free shipping. Each paper-wrapped package is stamped with the distinctive elephant logo and hand-tied with an orange grosgrain ribbon.
“As soon as kids see the package,” Friedholm said, “they get excited because they know it’s for them.”
In addition to a shared love of reading, Friedholm and her co-founders blend management and consumer product experience from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms. Along the way, they have also benefited from the generous assistance of friends, neighbors, and others who learned word-of-mouth of the need for photography, marketing, graphic design, and even models for the website and social media.
Despite the company’s local roots, Friedholm said she has plans for its expansion nationally, if not internationally. Future products may include gift baskets, subscriptions tailored to themes, and partnering with a children’s charity that would benefit from book donations.
“I couldn’t be luckier to live in this community, surrounded by so much love and support,” said Friedholm noting that the company is self-funded. During the launch for friends and family, more than one half of subscribers were from Sudbury.
“This is a feel-good story all around,” she added. “You feel good reading to your kids at night, and others feel good about giving a book over a lightsaber.”
For more information, visit elephant-books.com.Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.