Subscribing to Success
PROVO, Utah – Dec 06, 2021 – When Rebecca Tanner was a human development student at BYU, she wrote a research paper about the benefits of reading to a child starting at a young age. This research helped fuel her passion behind Bookroo, a children’s book subscription box company she cofounded with her husband, two sisters-in-law, and their husbands.
Although the company had humble beginnings in Tanner’s college apartment, Bookroo blossomed into a company that has now delivered more than half a million books to 30,000 homes. Tanner credits the company’s success to the combined efforts of her team, as well as early mentorship provided by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the BYU Marriott School of Business.
During her time as a student, starting in 2013, Tanner and her team entered the Student Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) competition, hosted by the Rollins Center, three times. The Bookroo team was recognized each year. In the first year, the team received a cash prize, which helped the company financially. In the second year, Bookroo had the opportunity to work with a local company and receive a free marketing analysis.
In the third year, the team was invited to join other SEOY qualifying companies for the Founders Launchpad, a summer program hosted by the Rollins Center that aims to help student entrepreneurs grow their businesses. As a result of the launchpad, Tanner and her cofounders expanded their network by connecting with other entrepreneurs. The provided office space also gave the team a much less cramped area to work in. Additionally, the mentors in the Founders Launchpad provided Tanner and her team with a clearer vision for the future of their company.
After Tanner’s graduation in 2016, the company continued to expand and gained media attention from notable publications. Bookroo has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Parents magazine, among others. The company now offers four subscriptions: the Book Board Club for children under two years old, the Picture Book Club for ages three to six, the Junior Chapter Club for ages seven to ten, and the Middle Grade Chapter Club for ages nine to twelve. Each box delivers two to three books to customers once a month. The Bookroo website also offers a book platform similar to Goodreads, where users can rate, review, and discover children’s books.
The company’s rapid growth allowed Tanner to take on various roles. The most fulfilling part of the entrepreneurship process for her has been the opportunity to try on many different hats and learn new skills. “I started taking product pictures for our company, even though I didn’t know anything about photography,” she says. “I also learned about networking, negotiating with other companies, and marketing. I grew our Instagram page from 13,000 followers to 24,000. I love to jump in and learn what I can—I experience growing pains, but the growing pains are awesome because they help me recognize how far I've come.”
Growth in the company also brought changes and challenges. “When you start a company, you need to learn how to be flexible, and you also must be willing to change,” Tanner explains. “Our company constantly changes and requires innovation. Something I’ve realized about myself is that I need to be ready to try something new and not put off changes that might be painful. Reinventing the wheel can be difficult when I already have a process, but that process can always improve.”
One process Tanner and her team decided to improve was their method of wrapping the books. Each individual book in the Bookroo subscription boxes was previously hand wrapped by Tanner and her sisters-in-law. “I hosted what I called ‘wrapping parties,’ where we sat down and wrapped hundreds of books in one night,” says Tanner. “Eventually, we had too many books to wrap and too many other responsibilities, so we decided to hire the task out to members of the BYU Marriott MBA Spouse Association and the BYU Law Spouse Association instead.”
For Tanner, one of the most rewarding aspects of working for Bookroo is hearing stories from parents about how the subscription boxes help their kids feel excited about reading. One memorable thank you she received was from a customer whose daughter struggled with dyslexia.
“Dyslexia made reading harder and less enjoyable for her child, but the mom sent us a note saying that her child loved the books we sent. Our subscription box helped her overcome her obstacles and look forward to immersing herself in the stories,” says Tanner. “Comments like that are my favorite, because helping kids learn to love reading is truly our goal behind Bookroo.”
Although starting and maintaining a company has been challenging, Tanner also views her experiences with Bookroo as an adventure. “The key to success in starting a business is to jump in and give everything you have,” she says. “Entrepreneurship seems scary and unknown, and I'm always worried about finding new solutions. I know that I will try several solutions that don't work, and I might fail. But in the end, the process of trying, failing, trying again, and eventually succeeding is incredibly rewarding.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert