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Entrepreneur focuses on empowering children

MELANIE KEIL is co-creator of the online platform Red Clover Reader, a service specializing in the promotion of children’s books, with fiancé Armand Tossou, who is completing a Ph.D. in applied economics. Melanie earned a degree in environmental health and radiological science. Together they write books for children about the power of positive mindset and self-improvement.


What is Red Clover Reader, in your own words?

It’s an early-stage educational tech startup based in Champaign. We are creating a fun, online reading application where kids can read books online and parents can track their progress and create reading incentives. 


How did you come up with this idea?

It was born out of our own struggles (my partner and I) as parents and self-published children’s authors. As parents, we worried about what our kids were consuming online: Is it safe, is it worthwhile, does it align with our values? We were always looking for a great solution that was fun, educational and affordable. 


And what problems do you solve?

When we wrote and published our first kids book, we realized there are tons of self-published authors, like ourselves, who have great stories to tell, but lack the industry connections or the financial backing it takes to be traditionally published. We provide families free access to fun online content that they feel good about and give independent authors a chance to share their stories with a wider audience.


Is it available on all platforms?

Our vision includes web, iOS and Android application availability. Right now, we are focusing on the web application. Parents do not need to invest in a specialized reader like Kindle or LeapFrog to take advantage of our offerings.


What kinds of books are available?

Authors in our community write in most of the popular kids’ genres, such as adventure fiction, fantasy fiction, realistic fiction, poetry and verse, concept books, and faith-based books. These books are written to help kids develop much-needed non-cognitive abilities that will accompany them into adulthood. Examples of such values are self-confidence, imagination, courage and persistence.


What else do you offer?

Parents can “invite” their favorite kids’ authors into their homes in a virtual way. This is through an ongoing two-way communication between parents and authors. Also, authors get direct feedback from parents, which can be very useful in writing new books. Additionally, parents share comments and suggestions with like-minded parents. This creates a sense of community among our users.


Any advice for someone who’s starting up?

Believe in yourself and your bold ideas for making the world a better place for all. Find a local community of entrepreneurs. Put yourself out there. Get feedback from potential customers and successful entrepreneurs in your space. Stay committed to your personal values and focus on creating something useful to society. Surround yourself with people who will push you to be your best self.