Karen Richard landed her Top 5 spot in Canada’s Total Mom Pitch 2023 for her startup, Made Live, a company she launched after attempting to publish children’s books of her own. Frustrated after hitting roadblock after roadblock in the publishing process, Richard and her husband launched their AI-supported book creation platform to provide support to others seeking to publish children’s books.
After reviewing hundreds of business pitches for Canada’s Total Mom Pitch 2023, judges narrowed down applicants to the top 100 and later to the top 5. Karen Richard was honored to be among them. On May 30, she presented her pitch for her company, Made Live, to those judges along with business leaders, supporters, and guests at the Canadian Women Entrepreneur Industry Gala.
Describing how it felt when she learned she was in the top 5, Richard says, “It was an exhilarating whirlwind of inspiration. I was shocked, honored, surprised, pleased, encouraged – all at the same time! I reviewed my competition when I was selected for the top 100 and was in awe of the amazing things they were doing. It was very humbling and rewarding to be acknowledged for the work I have done. Best of all, I was there because I am a mom, not in spite of it. I felt seen, heard, honored, and respected for being both a parent and an entrepreneur.”
With authenticity and transparency, Richard shares that her journey to this point was not a straight, easy path to the top. But, accepting the bitter with the sweet, she claims she would not change a thing. There was purpose in every challenge and setback, and she believes everything played a part in landing her in this business she is so passionate about. She and her husband are “all in,” totally committed to Made Live’s success.
Richard spent almost twenty years serving pediatric patients in need of her expertise as a licensed speech pathologist. She worked hard and reaped the rewards of job satisfaction for many years.
In 2017, Richard and her husband sold almost everything they owned and used savings to travel around Canada and the U.S. in a motorhome in search of a new place to put down roots. Formerly located in Alberta and drawn to fast-paced city life, Richard surprised herself by the attraction she felt to the beauty and nature they found in and around Vernon, B.C., where after a year of travel, she landed a speech pathology position.
Like so many others, the pandemic had a monumental effect on Karen Richard. Before Covid, she was doing a pretty great job of managing the juggling act required of a professional, wife, and mother. When the world shut down and she was forced to keep all the balls in the air from the confines of her home, while sharing space full time with her family, it proved to be too much. Late in the summer of 2020, symptoms emerged that were first misdiagnosed as anxiety and were later deemed to be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Richard describes what was going on in her brain when her symptoms peaked: “The thoughts buzzing through my head were like a yard full of leaves that had fallen off a tree, and every single one represented a task I was responsible for. I knew it was likely that some could be organized into piles, simplifying the process, but I didn’t have the bandwidth for it. The constant chatter and chaos in my head were wildly overwhelming.” Even though Richard had worked with scores of children with ADHD, she never knew it could affect someone’s brain even if they weren’t physically feeling hyper. Through her own research and professional help, she learned a lot more about ADHD.
“I had an amazing family physician who worked through this with me to see what management solutions would be effective,” says Richard. “Diet and exercise helped, but not enough. Within a week of starting medication, those piles of thoughts in my head fell into place in a linear path so that I could see how to get things done.”
As things normalized with her ADHD, the idea began percolating for launching Made Live. In October 2020 she resigned from her speech pathology position, and Richard and her husband, Jesse, a software engineer, invested themselves fully in this new self-publishing business.
Richard first sought to self-publish picture books that would facilitate language development for children in need of speech therapy. Waiting lists for services like hers are long in Canada, and her intention was to provide resources for teachers, parents, and children that could be utilized while waiting to receive therapy. Traditional publishers considered her books “too niche” for mainstream publication, and when Richard explored self-publishing options, she discovered that route would be too expensive and fraught with challenges.
Through experience, Richard discovered self-publishing can involve a process of 100+ steps. “Jesse designed Made Live’s cutting-edge software platform so that self-publishing is simplified into three key milestones,” says Richard. “We are in the final stages of beta testing, and we are confident we will be launching this platform by October 2023. Made Live will enable authors to focus on their creativity instead of the technicalities of picture book publishing. It will empower them to bring their vision to life as they confidently take control of their book from start to finish.”
Made Live’s AI-supported tools will assist throughout the planning, writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing process, providing industry standards, guidance, and support. Authors with all levels of experience, or none, can achieve the professional results they desire and be ready to distribute their work through reputable self-publishing companies. Made Live is a labor of love and a work in progress as they continue to improve each of the three milestones in response to client needs and technological advances.
Richard’s heart for serving others was tested and proven in her years as a speech pathologist working with special needs children. Her focus has shifted to include the company she’s now investing heart and soul into, Made Live, but customer service is still at the forefront. For anyone who is feeling called to write a children’s book, but cannot seem to find the courage to get started, she invites them to reach out to her through Made Live’s website or on social media. No wonder she was chosen as one of the Top 5 for Total Mom Pitch 2023. She is a woman with the extraordinary experience, strength, and hope to become a winner among winners as a mom entrepreneur!