Chad Kase – Co-Founder of First Time Books

Keep trying new things. It keeps the creative juices flowing and keeps things fun and refreshing.

Chad Kase is the Co-Founder of First Time Books, a personalized children’s book publishing company. We offer a unique line of completely personalized children’s books, whereby a shopper can customize a child’s name, gender, ethnicity, hair color, age and friends’ and parents’ characteristics in the story. This experience allows children to experience familiarity in the story line, thus increasing their interest in reading!

Chad has been working downtown Chicago as the Chief Technology Officer for a printing company, Palmer Printing for the past 16 years. His experience with web development and design, along with his career in printing has given him all the tools he needed to bring First Time Books to life. Chad helped launch First Time Books in 2009 with his partner John Burke with the personalized potty training book for John’s daughter. Since then they have created ten more personalized children’s books and expect to launch another four this year.

Chad lives in the Chicagoland area with his wife and two little boys. When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys training for his next Ironman triathlon race.

Where did the idea for First Time Books come from?

My partner John Burke was potty training one of his daughters and wrote a fun story about it to get her engaged. He asked me to lay it out in a book form so that she could read it, and I had the idea to create illustrations so the main character in the book resembled his daughter. That’s how First Time Books was born!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Typical day? No chance of that! However, my productivity secret is simple because I write down my to-do list in the morning and stick to it regardless of the interruptions I get throughout the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

John and I start by just telling each other our ideas for new books or products. If they do not get rejected right away, we start creating the story line and sketching out what type of images will go on each page. Then we will go back and look for all the opportunities to add in custom variable images and copy. The zoo adventure book started off with just the main character being personalized and taking a trip to the zoo. Then we saw a great opportunity to add in a friend that can be fully customizable. It truly makes our zoo adventure book standout from all other personalized books, and children really love seeing themselves and a friend in the book.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

We are really excited to start adding in quick response codes into our books which will make our books completely personalized and digitally interactive. I do not want to give away too much, so you’ll just need to check back in later this year!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Not giving up on my business idea regardless of how challenging starting up a business can be.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Welding for my dad when I was younger. It was not a bad job but it is a very hard job. I learned quite early the value of a hard day’s labor.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Not waiting so long to take a real run with First Time Books. This has always been a hobby to me and something fun that I liked doing. It was not until recently that I have really started to log serious time into it. And now I see the full potential of where we could go.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep trying new things. It keeps the creative juices flowing and keeps things fun and refreshing.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Getting help with getting our name out there. Trying to do all the marketing and PR on your own is just too overwhelming. It is imperative to hire professionals who work in that industry than trying to do it by yourself.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We once did an expensive postcard mailer with bad data. We purchased a large mailing list from a vendor because it was cheap but it wasn’t a targeted/smart list. We did not get any responses. Now we really focus on the quality of the list over quantity.  It is much more important to focus on 100 people that are looking for personalized books and within our target audience, than 1,000 people within the general public.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Adidas running shoes. I love running and it’s the best way to release stress and recharge the batteries.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Of course I am going to say one of our books! With that, I would go with the Zoo Adventure Book. It is a great story about friends getting help from zoo animals; the illustrations are our best yet. This is a wonderful book for your children and for you to read to them.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs.