What is your business, and what problem you are solving?
Rhymella is an automated platform for creating original, custom children’s stories. Rhymella weaves user photos and specifics from a particular experience into an imaginative story that features each child as the main character. Rhymella solves 2 key problems:
The photos we take everyday featuring loved ones have no place interesting to live. At best, they end up on a social media post, are among the select few pictures that get framed or printed in a photo book that sits on the shelf. Rhymella is a vehicle to enjoy these photos everyday when reading to your child (and for generations to come).
The process to write an original story is frustrating and time-consuming; while thoughtful, the output is aesthetically mediocre/ugly. Rhymella produces beautiful books and the process is easy, taking ~10 minutes time.
What inspired you to start your company?
Writing original books for my son inspired the idea. Each year I write at least 1 book about Charlie and his life. It takes days to aggregate photos and write an accompanying narrative that rhymes. I thought there must be a better way - how can we use technology to automate this otherwise painful process.
The actual incentive to push forward was inspired by the significant market opportunity. I saw a real hole in the market for this kind of content and we live in a time where we can build a technology to make this possible.
Why do you believe that you are you uniquely qualified to build a successful business?
The combination of 3 key areas of experience gives Rhymella a significant edge as we scale the business --
- 10+ years spent on Wall Street includes work on the buy-side, sell-side and in venture/private equity. I was exposed to all stages of the capital markets and intimately understand how to create value for investors.
- in terms of execution, my work in tech is directly relevant - from managing software development cycles, to tactical management of complex programs and strategy & planning.
- The last area is the intangible piece. I am enthusiastic and bring an energy and relentless drive that will see Rhymella to the top. For any work that I do, I hold myself and my team members to the highest standard. I’m also a mom whose son loves this kind of reading. And he is the best critic out there!
What's a childhood inspiration that helped get you to where you are today?
My younger brother Gerald has been a source of inspiration since we were kids. From very early on, Ger has been an advocate for those without voices. He roots for the underdog and is willing to stand up and fight against injustice. He does not just talk about the challenges of the marginalized but actually gets in and works with individuals to help them to have a better life. Gerald has made a difference for many communities, most of all Dominicans of Haitian descent in the batey of Yspaniola over the past 12 years. I aspire to do a fraction as much good for the world as Ger does everyday.
Our mission at Rhymella is to tell each child's story. Rhymella authentically promotes individuality and fosters self-esteem by featuring each unique child in his or her own series of books. We will serve all children, regardless of means; our premium product and focus on accelerating profitability will allow us to invest in impactful partnerships with community-based literacy groups. We pledge to give 1% of product, time and profit to such causes, and we will increase this as our business scales.
Ever experienced a life-changing moment that made you look at something differently?
Right after the birth of my son Charlie, I suffered from a severe case of postpartum HELLP Syndrome, a serious form of preeclampsia. It was touch and go; had I gone to the hospital several hours later, I wouldn't be here to tell the story. Since then my entire perspective has changed. Realizing that my time on earth is equivalent to the blink of an eye, I started asking myself the important questions: What really matters? What are the core values that I live by? What can I do to deepen my faith? What part am I playing in the world? The most fantastic piece of Rhymella is that it is entirely complementary to my enlightened view on life.
What are skills do you believe makes a good leader?
Drive: a leader needs both endurance with an ability to sprint, which requires Implicit is true grit, and insatiable appetite to win. At Allen & Company, I was known as “The Attack,” and with good reason!
Integrity: honesty and transparency at the core. Implicit in this is an ability to self-reflect.
Strategic problem solving: decisiveness is required at every turn. This is all a puzzle and we need to put together the pieces. For Rhymella, the building blocks are there, we now need to solve to make them work.
Who is in your core team? How did your team come together?
My co-founder Kate is a longtime friend and Rhymella would not exist if it were not for her -- Kate is the first person with whom I shared the idea and she grabbed on immediately. I could not be more grateful for our dynamic, and would characterize this process as fun and rewarding, entirely because it is us together at the helm. In addition to her enthusiasm and faith in the concept, Kate brings a proven track record in brand partnerships and deep technical/application experience from her former ventures.
We’ve put together a best in class team thanks to exceptional friends. One of my best friends from childhood (and fellow Middlebury grad) introduced Kate and me to the award-winning design team at Fair Folk. My mentor from my time on Wall Street introduced us to data scientist and technology advisor, Nasim. This combination of technology and design is a winning one - and positions us to continually innovate and build something differentiated and beautiful.
Lastly, and hugely important is Richard Henkel, who has been our champion from day one. From a strategic vantage point, having founded and managed the State of Arizona Retirement System private equity portfolio, Richard’s perspective is invaluable as we build the company and eye towards an eventual exit.
Why did you pick Republic and equity crowdfunding?
Kate and I knocked on many an early stage VC door with Rhymella. Several conversations particularly stood out (and will be my first phone calls for a later round), but it was clear that we were too early a stage. They wanted to see proof of concept. (Unfortunately and ironically, the audience we found least receptive was capital dedicated to women-founders.) Then a friend shared the Republic platform with me and it has served our needs perfectly. There is a systemic gap in the way that early stage capital is allocated — we are incredibly grateful for Republic.
Anything else you would like to share?
First, the legacy piece of Rhymella is a feature of our products that especially resonates with me based on how close I am with my family. I am fortunate to have the most wonderful parents and their legacy is something that I treasure and see being passed on to my 3-year old son, Charlie now. What a beautiful thing. This aspect of Rhymella product is an intangible whose value is immeasurable.
Second: I love karaoke. My voice leaves something to be desired but I make up for it with enthusiasm and audience engagement. My debut was while at Middlebury in both the dining hall and the local dive bar, Angela’s. Later while living in New York, I was found performing regularly at Mulberry Bar & Grill in Little Italy most often singing Hold On by Wilson Phillips. Nowadays I tend to limit the audience to an exclusive group of 2: Charlie and my husband Drew.
Lastly, I am a college football fanatic — specifically Fighting Irish football. While I recognize the risk in polarizing some of the audience due to the binary responses people have to ND, I absolutely love it. The school represents much of my family’s legacy. My dad (valedictorian '72) and I attend home games annually. My mom grew up in South Bend and Grandma still lives there. I have numerous other relatives who are alums. I bleed blue and gold, and tear up at the first few notes of Notre Dame Our Mother everytime.
Stories should be personal