Dream. Believe. Do. Interview #14 How solving a problem opened a door

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Lukasz Gozdzik lives in a multicultural household that speaks three unrelated languages. His search for multi-language books for his 4-year-old son, Jakob, led him down an unexpected path of creating his own book and starting his own publishing company.

 

DENNIS: Was the catalyst, to get you started, was the fact that you left a job, you were looking for something, what the next step was going to be in your career and…?

LUKASZ: You know, it wasn't planned. I guess it was – I always had a dream to have a publishing house of my own. I don't know why but I was always interested in it. And the completely other thing was I wanted to, you know, I was looking for books for my son.

DENNIS: Right.

LUKASZ: Because he’s growing up with three languages. And I couldn't find this kind of combination of languages.

DENNIS: So he's growing up with three languages because why?

LUKASZ: Yes, because I'm from Poland. My wife is from Turkey; she was born in Germany. I came to Germany as I was five years old. And we met, became a couple and now we live in Berlin. [laughs] And that's why we have in our household: German, Polish and Turkish.

DENNIS: Wow!

LUKASZ: And you know, we are not the only multi-cultural family. So yes I was looking for a book for my son but I couldn't find any book with this kind of language combination; it was just Turkish-German books or Polish-German. But yes, it was not really that what I was looking for. So I decided to make a book for my son. It was really just for my son. It wasn't you know, somehow planned to make a business out of it.

DENNIS: That’s interesting because you said that you’ve always wanted to have a publishing company.

LUKASZ: Yeah, this is something I've always wanted but at that time, I really haven't thought about it. It was at the end, it was maybe something… what I have done because it was somehow in the back of my head or something and something was driving me to these books. I don't know. [laughs] So it was really not planned.

DENNIS: Interesting. So your son is how old now?

LUKASZ: He's four.

DENNIS: Four years old. Right. So you're trying to find a book and the book… what do the books look like then?


LUKASZ: It's a visual dictionary, so children learn very easy, the basics, you know, all the fruits, all the vegetables, what's maybe a police man’s job…

DENNIS: Right. Okay.

LUKASZ: …and all these kind of standard things. But to be honest, also what's very interesting, there is no real planned concept behind the book; it was more or less me and my son also in the doing the book, I asked him, “Jakob, what should we have in the book?” “A car. A garage. A dinosaur.”

DENNIS: So it was a collaborative effort then. Cool.

LUKASZ: Yeah. And I also was looking at the time, you know, what is he interested in. He was crazy about construction workers and all these boy thing. So I made a big construction of a building and you can find all the things they need to build the building. And it's also things from the household, you know, the toilets or whatever. So yeah, very easy things. So that's it, yeah.

DENNIS: Well, that's cool. So you and your son creating this book and then, as I recall, you showed this to some family and friends or something, right?

LUKASZ: Yes. I live in Berlin. Berlin is very colorful; it's full of people from all over the world. So my environment and my friends, it's all so mixed up. You know, I have friends coming from different places all over the world and they also met in Berlin and have multicultural marriages or relationships. So even, you know, simple example, the kindergarten where our son is going to, there are twelve different languages.

DENNIS: Wow!

LUKASZ: Yeah. And it's all mixed up. So I started to make some books for friends.

DENNIS: Okay.

LUKASZ: It soon became, you know, people were very thankful and it was a motivation for me because they said something like, “you really solved something.’ It was very… a motivation to me to maybe add another language and do it for another friend. And then I thought maybe I just put it on Amazon and see what will happen.

DENNIS: And what happened?

LUKASZ: Yeah, [laughs] it all began with Amazon, you know, the book started selling itself. I was planning to make some marketing et cetera but it went on without, you know, marketing.

DENNIS: That's great!

LUKASZ: Yeah, it was great because you know the first time in my life, as a marketing manager with my background, I wanted to make a good product and I was not thinking about marketing during the whole process of the book. It was just, you know, really made with love and I tried to solve the problem we had in our family with all these different languages. So, you know, the book was not made to make money but just try to solve a problem at home.


DENNIS: Interesting.

LUKASZ: And it became a business. [laughs]

DENNIS: [laughs] So where is the business today? How’s it going?

LUKASZ: Yeah today, we are doing… I mean, few days after it was in Amazon and I was starting to sell it, I had to, you know, register a company, find a name for my publishing house, et cetera. But it went very fast and it was not really a problem because you pay 30 Euro and you have your registration number and that's it. So yes, and this was eight months ago.

DENNIS: Okay.

LUKASZ: And now we sold over three thousand books. We are working on a second book. Also, it starts over with my son because I know what kind of books he's into now, so I will try to make something for him.

DENNIS: Ah! So the next generation is going to be for an older child then, right? Is that it?

LUKASZ: Yeah, it will be more complex and it will be also about topics I try to teach my son at the moment. Because you know, now he's older, he has some friends so we will talk, in the book, about friendships, about tolerance, because he's also asking, “Why is this guy black? Why I'm white?”

DENNIS: Right.

LUKASZ: I try to explain to him there different skin colors but we are all the same. So, you know, tolerance, friendships and all those, you know, try to make a good person out of him. So we will find some topics which are, let’s say… which you’d just need when you grow up; your parents teach you to be a good person.

DENNIS: Right.

LUKASZ: And that we want to support the parents of course. And that's it. But of course, you know, he’s into a lot of different books and topics. Like for instance, he's totally crazy about superheroes so we would try to build something in that it's also interesting; it's not just like “the teacher is teaching something.” It should be fun for the kids too.

DENNIS: Absolutely. So Lukasz, so you said you had the dream of having your own publishing house but you don't have a publishing background, right?

LUKASZ: No, absolutely not.

DENNIS: So how did you make this happen? What made you believe you can make this happen?

LUKASZ: I mean, I just wanted to solve the problem for my son and when I needed a publishing house for it, I make it. I mean, it's not, let’s say, the biggest publishing house in the world, but you know, it's important what you make when you solve a problem and you need for it a different kind of company, so why not?

[both laugh]

DENNIS: That's great!

LUKASZ: Just do it!

DENNIS: So I mean, not having the background, I mean, I've got to believe you bumped up against some obstacles along the way or you found some… Was there some difficulties anywhere or has it all gone really smoothly?

LUKASZ: Yeah. Obstacles, there've been quite a lot to be honest because you know, to be honest, publishing house is quite a complex thing. But it's quite easy in our times because you have all the elements or information you need. You have Google as a friend, so you can type everything and read everything about it. There have been a lot of very friendly people giving me, you know, advices or recommendations. From – not even friends – when you just need for instance you know, each book has a different kind of registration number or whatever, then you just call the people who are selling these kind of numbers and you just ask them, “What do I need? How much is it?” blah, blah, blah. That's it. So it's not really so complicated. But I would say it's even very, you know, very cool to do something completely new so you can find out new information and they give you some support and you don't have, you know, the special look on the publishing house like all the publishers maybe have; you see it from a completely different point of view.

DENNIS: Sure.

LUKASZ: it's also interesting because I just made it like I think it's okay. So, yeah.

DENNIS: That's cool.

LUKASZ: Thank you!

DENNIS: [laughs] What's been the biggest surprise thus far in the journey?

LUKASZ: The biggest surprise? I mean, that we sold so many books without making any marketing. Because you know, coming from a different field being a marketing manager, I know how much effort and money it takes to sell some products. And we haven't made anything; we just made the product. So it's a big surprise that people somehow bought it and there have been a lot of recommendations in between the people. And it went a little bit viral, I would say, that this was a big surprise. Because, you know, a market like the book market, there is everything out there so it was a big surprise that we maybe found something that's not on the market and it's so simple.

DENNIS: Right.

LUKASZ: And it's really a simple idea. It's not rocket science. It's really simple but somehow there is nothing like that on the market at the moment.

DENNIS: So nothing like that in the market in the sense that if I have multiple languages in my house, I could customize the book then to the languages I need? Is that right?

LUKASZ: Yes. We have now over 80 languages and you can order a custom-made book for your children in the languages you need. So when you want a book with Spanish, Arabic, Italian and Chinese, we will make it. [laughs]

DENNIS: That's pretty complex! [laughs]

LUKASZ: Yeah. It's really interesting. I mean, also the people we met because of the book, it was amazing until now because when we haven't really planned this, but I have also a lot of clients who are not private households, but also schools and libraries. Because they saw something what I haven’t seen. [laughs] It's also you know, cheap alternative when you need some books in different languages, you can just buy one and you'll have the languages already installed.

DENNIS: Ah, interesting. Right!

LUKASZ: So they use it a little bit differently like we planned it but it's ok. [laughs] I mean, as long as they are happy, why not?

DENNIS: That makes sense. That works great for everybody in that case.

LUKASZ: Yeah. At moment, it's really going well. We are very happy.

DENNIS: So, what's next? What's the next step?

LUKASZ: I mean, to be honest, we have lot of ideas because you know, the target group is very interesting – this multicultural families with kids. But yes, what's next, we want to get some funds, so we want to start a campaign on Kickstarter. We already started a second book which will be more complex. And yes, of course, we're thinking about the educational posters and several languages to go online maybe within app but, you know, we will see. I mean, we're just at the beginning. We need some money. At the moment, we're also a little bit busy because we're selling so many books at the moment, so we're producing books. And, yes [laughs] there's still so much time for having any plans. We will see where it ends up.


DENNIS: That's great. Okay, other people out there have maybe have similar ideas or similar dreams or trying to solve a problem that's unique to their household situation; what advice would you have for them based upon your experience?

LUKASZ: I would say, you know, to just try to do it but also be patient. It took us a long time. To be honest, last seven months, you know, every day we worked on it. So it's not… there have been also moments where you want to give up but you have to be really patient. It needs time. It really needs time. Don't give up. Just do it. When you believe in it and it's really… in my eyes, for instance when it's also solving a problem and there is a need for such a product or service, yeah, keep it going. Don't give up!

DENNIS: Excellent!

LUKASZ: [laughs] Because it's really tough. It's really tough. I mean, then you have the moments when you sell a book and you get an email from a happy family saying, “Thank you, it's a great product.” Or you know, even people writing us email that they have bought the book three months ago and the kid is still interested in it and reading it, et cetera. So this is what keeps us alive and [laughs] keeps us going.

DENNIS: That's great! That's great feedback to have.

LUKASZ: Yeah, feedback is very important. It’s cool.

DENNIS: That's great. Lukasz, thank you!

LUKASZ: Welcome, Dennis.

[both laugh]

DENNIS: I'm Dennis Hodges. Dream. Believe. Do. You can find Lukas’ books on www.MilchMaus.com, or on www.Amazon.de. As Lukasz mentioned, MilchMaus has launched a Kickstarter campaign. Go to www.Kickstarter.com and type MilchMaus into the search area.

 




Dennis Hodges
Dennis Hodges

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