Customs Made launches DIY storybook website


CornerstoneStoriesDid you know that there are hundreds of fables — some quite famous — that fall under public domain? That means that they have moved past the window of copyright limitations and can be freely used for commercial and personal purposes.

Here’s the problem: they aren’t really being used.

“Ironically, because anyone can interact with the content, nobody does,” says Jeff Ochs, the man behind Cornerstone Stories, a product of parent Customs Made. “We think that’s a tragedy.”

The Minnesota-based company was conceived in November of 2012 by Ochs, along with partner and graphic designer Patricia Hayes Kaufman. Their business, which enables customers to create customized storybooks online, is unique — and so is their business model.

Ochs labels the company a social business and touts a “double bottom line” approach, wherein the focus is on making a concrete social impact in addition to turning a profit.

“Our mission is to preserve, promote and pass on fables and parables,” says Ochs.

They accomplish this by presenting a catalogue of illustrated stories on their website, from which users can select four and create a personalized book, with options to print in different languages and arrangements, adding custom dedications.

Cornerstone Stories also welcomes users to become involved with the creation process, which is where the social element really ties in. Artists are encouraged to take the stories from the database and retell them through their own work, adding them to the catalogue. Those artists are then able to earn royalties based on how well their versions sell.

Ochs says his hope through this feature is to gain exposure not only for talented artists but also for lesser known fables. While everyone is familiar with the classics such as “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” there are hundreds of other great stories that aren’t really in circulation. It would be impractical to make major up-front investments in publishing those stories on a mass scale, but if an artist can create an interpretation that resonates and sells, the opportunity for monetary reward is there.

That circles back to the second aspect of the “double bottom line” philosophy. If the model succeeds, not only does the company profit, but independent artists also benefit while fables that had been nearly forgotten find a new audience.

Cornerstone Stories has gone through somewhat of an evolution, earning a spot in the Minnesota Cup social division earlier this year.  Now fully live, with storybooks available for order, Ochs says that the next step will be exploring the market learning how customers react to the products and what features they gravitate toward. He hopes to gain traction in 2014 across two different bottom lines.

“We’re pioneering not just a new business, but a new way of doing business.”