KC startup LittleHoots lets parents record and share their children’s memorable moments.
For parents, the moment when your child utters their first word is a colossal milestone, but often those funny phrases and clever comments that come after are forgotten. Now a Kansas City startup is on a mission to give parents the tool they need to keep those precious memories forever with its iPhone app, LittleHoots.
“We’re solving a real problem,” says Lacey Ellis, LittleHoots founder and CEO. “These quotes and conversations are getting lost.”
Ellis’ app takes your child’s quotes or conversations and creates what she calls memory tiles. It’s similar to the way Instagram puts a filter on your photos except the memory tiles are design templates that automatically lay out your tile for you. Then your child’s quote is display-worthy and storable.
Many parents then share the tiles on Facebook or Instagram, Ellis says, which gives the company what it calls backwards discoverability: Those who view the tiles suddenly find themselves curious about the app too. That type of built-in growth is exactly what LittleHoots needs since it’s barely two years old and without much of a marketing budget at this point, she adds.
Ellis always had the idea that there needed to be an easier way to store things youngsters say, but it was when her son Jett, who is now five, started talking that she tackled the issue with full force.
The mother of two says Kansas City itself also played a key role in helping to launch LittleHoots.
“The Kansas City community has just been ridiculous,” Ellis says. “It’s honestly been the reason that LittleHoots exist.”
Ellis checked out the Big Kansas City conference to get a feel for entrepreneurship and the Kansas City scene. From there she met some members of the Kauffman Foundation who pointed her to Startup Weekend, and that’s where the magic happened. At Startup Weekend 2013 Ellis found three members of the LittleHoots team and together they created the company in only 52 hours, taking home first place in the competition.
“That really surprised the heck out of all of us. We were like, ‘Umm did we just start a company?’” she recalls.
So far the free app has over 44,000 users, says Ellis, who quit her job as an art director to pursue LittleHoots. Nine months after making that decision, she met Eric Disney, a former Hallmark illustrator who joined her full-time.
The startup makes money by allowing users to make purchases in the app, ranging from $0.99 for a set of design templates to $79 for custom framed memory tiles and everything in between, including iPhone cases, canvases and ornaments.
Now the company, which has been featured by the Huffington Post and Today.com, is looking to expand and build out on the LittleHoots platform. It is currently in conversation with investors so it can add the ability to store different types of memories on what the company envisions as its memory-keeping platform.
Right now the app is limited to quotes and conversations, which is only a sliver of the memory saving market; however, in the future the team wants users to be able to store photos, videos, audio clips, stories and more. They’re also making a version of the app for Android phones and adding an automatic book generator for memories, as well as adding other keepsakes that users have been asking for such as jewelry and calendars.
There’s a whole world of possibilities that the company would like to expand to include, Ellis says, adding that her background in design fuels her focus.
She was also chosen recently as part of the Techweek 100, a group of curated innovators and entrepreneurs making a difference in Kansas City, and Ellis says the company plans to call KC home for the long haul.
“We’re very passionate about Kansas City,” she says. “We’re very passionate about staying here and building the product here. We hope that anything that we do will just add to the value of what’s already happening here.” –Riley Mortensen