Amplifying the power of the voice
‘Stories are the most wonderful way to take yourself to another world and learn whilst it’s still fun.’
My name is Caroline England. Quite late in my career, I realised that the corporate world wasn’t for me and left that behind to begin my entrepreneurial expedition, founding ‘Featherbed Tales’.
I was born in the South of England to a very serious, almost Victorian family. My parents were both scientists, and I inherited much of their solemnity. In fact, when I was 15, I was voted out of the girl guides leaders because I didn’t allow anyone to have any fun.
As a result, I learned the importance of introducing fun to your everyday life. My love of the outdoors helped that process. I swam in Lake Windemere when I was 8 years old, which was quite scary considering that power boats were still allowed back then.
When I was 16, I embarked on an expedition to Norway. It was the most life-changing experience. During my sheltered life, I’d never before had the opportunity to meet so many different people. I learnt invaluable lessons about the world and team working skills.
During my childhood, I also began exploring my great love of the English language; I wrote poetry and stories my whole life. But as I headed into my university career, I was driven more by my great love of nature, heading to Sheffield to study physical geography.
Whilst at university, far from my family home in Reading, tragedy struck. My brother, a fighter pilot, sadly lost his life in a plane crash. I was left feeling extremely lost.
I’m grateful that my mother was very open with me, explaining that people grieve differently. She later became a bereavement counsellor herself.
At that time, I was also flying in the university air squadron and decided to put that behind me. My brother had had 900 hours of flying behind him whilst I only had around 40, which was understandably very scary, but coming from an airforce background, I attended many social events, which equipped me well for conversation with a wide variety of people. So following university, my natural move was to head into a business environment.
When I entered the world of work, I chose a company that I thought would suit me, working on European waste disposal sites. Following that, I moved into a small consultancy working in marketing and research.
I worked on some hugely important projects during my career, including campaign engagement with the World Health Organisation’s fight against TB.
I believe that fundamentally we all have a responsibility to help each other. I love to learn, and I love to help others learn as well. I’ve realised that those passions triumph earning shedloads of money, and so I decided to pursue my own entrepreneurial journey. It meant I could finally do and be exactly what I wanted.
In the beginning, my husband and children were sceptical. But both my children study business, so it was interesting chatting to them about my journey.
I’ve always written children’s stories and other flash fiction (short stories), and I found it fun. I definitely wanted to do something in the children’s literature field, but the market is so saturated that I knew it would be challenging.
Alongside my passion for literature, I became fascinated with the power of the voice. A close friend of mine passed away from a brain tumour around 6 years ago. After she passed, I came across a photo album that included her voice recording. Instantly, I was taken aback. The sheer power of her voice in reconnecting me to her was incredible.
On another occasion, I was about to swim the length of Lake Coniston, and as I was standing in the water I saw another woman about to take on the same challenge. I didn’t recognise her until she spoke, and it brought me straight back to my teens when she and I had known each other. It was yet another testament to the power of voice and how it uniquely delves into the subconscious.
So I decided I wanted to create beautiful digital picture books which people could overlay with a recording of themselves reading the story. Therefore, when families aren’t together, the power of storytelling can still be felt.
I originally named it ‘My Kinder Stories’ because I live at the bottom of Kinder Scout hill in the Peak District. But I soon discovered that name was copyrighted so I switched to ‘Featherbed Tales’, which encapsulates that cosy feeling at story time.
It took 2 and a half years to find an illustrator but now we’ve found someone who perfectly brings our stories to life. It also took a while to figure out the tech side, and there were a lot of false starts. But we’re working with ‘Bad Dinosaur’ on our app and website development.
When Covid hit, it was a positive thing in terms of business. Lots of families were separated, so our company helped them. Recently we’ve been approached by Suffolk Libraries, who said they were interested in what we were doing, particularly the well-being aspect of our group.
We now focus on the well-being side of things, working with the ‘National Literacy Fund’ and the ‘Motor Neurone Foundation’. Our books are free of charge to those suffering from the disease, as 80% lose the ability to speak. As a result, our books provide people with that invaluable family story time.
We’d love to print more copies of our books in the future. But, at the moment, we’ve been focussing on the functionality of the website technology itself and the well-being side of our project.
I want to emphasise that when we reach the end of our lives, we regret doing few things. However, there are far more things we regret not doing. So I want to encourage everyone to go with their heart.
I became an entrepreneur past the age of 50, so I’m a prime example that we can all do so much more than we think.
This blog was written by Elena John based on the interview with Tales to Inspire.