How Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton Is Bringing Storytelling in to the Digital Age

Because the 1980s, LeVar Burton has been bringing the joy of reading to small children through engaging television programs. Now he’s making the proceed to cellular devices with the Reading Rainbow app. The interactive reading enhancement app for 3 to 9-year-olds encourages and teaches studying animations, games and video.

In 2011, Burton and long-time entertainment producer Mark Wolfe acquired the Rainbow license — which paved just how for both to relaunch the Reading Rainbow brand beneath the RRKidz name and in to the digital age.

To have a better sense of his transition into entrepreneurship also to find out about how he’s appifying Reading Rainbow, I interviewed Burton go on What’s Trending. He also shared his advice on how best to effectively merge storytelling with technology and social media.

Q: At what point did you begin considering yourself as a business owner? Why was this personal-rebranding effort valuable? A: I never considered myself as a business owner until we formed RRKidz this year 2010. However, given that I know what a business owner is, I realize I have already been one all my entire life. As an actor and director, I created, managed and marketed the ‘LeVar Burton’ business.

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As an entrepreneur means developing and growing something to fit the marketplace need or even to create market for your product that never existed before. By that definition, expanding my very own brand allows me to keep my first product — me — fresh and interesting to consumers while expanding my ‘product line’ to add software, feature films, television, speaking engagements, etc.

Q: How has social media helped you build your brand and today get the term out about the app? A: I was an early on adopter of Twitter and today with almost 2 million followers, I consider social media to be a part of my brand. Each day I’ve a conversation with my fans via Twitter, this content of which is totally of my very own choosing in my voice. No studio, network agent or manager in the mix. That personal reference to fans is, I believe, core to whatever continued success I’ve.

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Whenever we released the app, social media allowed me to attain audiences directly. To allow them to hear from me relating to this project and that I really believe it’s something they might like, rather than commercial, was key. Social media allows me to speak personally with fans plus they can hear my passion and belief in the app.

Q: You’ve mentioned how arduous it had been creating the app. Why was it so challenging and lessons is it possible to extend to others jumping in to the app scene? A: Whenever we started, my business partner and I were Hollywood storytellers, not technical developers, marketers, quality-assurance experts, accountants or whatever starting you possess tech business may need. We had to understand very fast and we’d to bring about a team that knew what we didn’t. That’s my main advice: Find the individuals who know very well what you don’t know.

Q: Think about tips for young entrepreneurs? A: Know what you should do, why you should do it, who you’re carrying it out for and how it’ll be financially successful before you design anything, write an individual little bit of code or pitch to anyone. Know it completely inside and out. Have confidence in it.

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When you’re ready, you need to be focused on living and breathing your business. Entrepreneurs work 24/7, 365 days of the entire year. They invest their own money, reputation, sweat, blood and tears from day one. I’d tell them it’s essentially the most rewarding thing you will ever do, set up product succeeds.

– This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

Want to listen to more from LeVar Burton? Browse the What’s Trending episode:

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