Preserve Your Legacy in a Book
By Sarah Kelley
On the surface, Carson Rouse seems like an average 16-year-old boy. He is the wide receiver and linebacker for the football team of McKinley High School in Sebring. He spends his time playing video games with his friends. He’s busy studying for final exams this month to complete his sophomore year.
But when you ask Carson what he likes to do in his spare time, he’ll tell you he’s interested in entrepreneurship and that he is the CEO of his own business, Legacy Book.
At his website, BookYourLegacy.com, customers can create a customized hardback book about their lives by answering an extended questionnaire.
“I always thought about how it’s kind of sad that we’re forgotten so quickly after we’re gone,” Carson says. “After a few generations, the only thing people know about you is your name. This is a good way to preserve who you are.”
Carson got the entrepreneurial bug by watching the TV series “Shark Tank” with his brother, Rob Rouse Jr., and his father, Rob Rouse Sr., who enjoy brainstorming their own business ideas together.
Pictured: Carson and Rob Rouse Sr.
“On Saturdays, the three of us will go out to lunch and we’ll say, ‘Let’s talk business,’ ” says Rouse Sr., whose title is manufacturer of customer relations for Legacy Book. “We like the idea of trying to start a business.”
The idea for Legacy Book came about seven months ago when Carson was watching a video on YouTube channel Vsauce. The videos on the channel cover an array of topics featured to educate and entertain viewers, including science, psychology, mathematics, philosophy, gaming and cultural topics.
In one video, host Michael Stevens asked viewers if they could name 10 people who lived in the 14th century. It got Carson thinking.
“We have historical records of those people but we don’t know anything about them or what they were like,” he says. “That’s hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And now, just a few generations ago are forgotten too.”
After watching the video, Carson told his dad and brother about his idea to create a personalized book that would help tell the story of someone’s life.
“When I brought up this idea, we all agreed it was a great idea and that we wanted to pursue this one,” Carson says.
Although the family has never pursued one of their business ideas until Legacy Book, they have participated in other business endeavors such as eBay drop shipping. For this, Carson and his brother bought items in bulk from a supplier and then sold the item to a buyer on eBay at a higher cost than what they bought it for.
With his father’s help, Carson used the money he saved from this and other small jobs to start his business. Now when the Rouses get together for Saturday lunch, instead of brainstorming startup ideas, they work on how they can improve Legacy Book.
First, they had to decide what questions they thought people would want to know the answers to about their loved ones.
“We had to think creatively and that was hard because we wanted to think of questions that would cover the span of an entire life without them being too long because that would drive people away,” says Rouse Jr.
His title is vice president of Legacy Book.
Some questions asked in the book are, “What was your first, most vivid memory?” “What were your childhood nicknames?” and “What were some of your favorite vacations with your family?”
Customers can type as much or as little detail as they want in the spaces available on the website after each question.
“You think about your great-grandfather and all you really know is his name and maybe what he did for a living,” Carson says. “You don’t know about his nickname as a kid and his memories that actually matter and things that actually make a person a person.”
The questions are separated into nine chapters of the book: The Beginning, Family Roots, Extended Family, Childhood, Love & Marriage, Starting a Family, Work & Career, Passions & Pastimes and Future Plans.
For each chapter, a customer can attach a picture that goes with the theme of the chapter.
Carson’s brother is studying computer science at the University of Akron where he is a freshman. He helped to create the website for Legacy Book.
“I had to figure out how to make a nice landing page so when people go to our site, they can fill out the questionnaire,” Rouse Jr. says. “It hasn’t been too difficult because I’ve done it before for other people.”
The process to order a book takes about an hour, Rouse Sr. says. “You can go on a website and spend one hour answering questions about every facet of your life and put your credit card information in and a hard-backed book is going to be shipped to your house with the story of your life in it.”
A Legacy Book is available for $39.99 with free shipping.
Rouse Sr., who has worked as the sales manager at Abrasive Supply Company in Minerva 16 years, helped Carson start the business by setting up appointments at four book binding companies in Cleveland.
The Rouses visited the companies and Carson ultimately decided which one to go with.
“This is the best quality book that any of the book binderies were offering and it’s an affordable price,” he says.
When someone places an order, the answers and pictures for the questionnaire are emailed to Carson. Carson then transfers the file into a PDF and sends it to the bindery to manufacture and ship to the customer.
Carson made his first Legacy Book prototype by filling out the questionnaire with answers his grandfather gave him.
“We told him the questions were for a school project and then surprised him with the book and he thought it was a cool idea,” Carson says.
The black cover on the book has gold letters in the center that read, “Bob Rouse,” his grandfather’s name, along with “Legacy Book” in the bottom right corner.
Carson flips to a page under the Love & Marriage chapter in his grandfather’s book, which shows a black and white photo of his grandparents’ wedding picture.
He reads a question, “Do you have any dating or love advice?” His grandfather’s answer, “My only advice is to take it slow and not be in a hurry for anything.”
Legacy Book is different from other companies with a similar idea because it is the first of its kind to do online customization, Carson believes.
“Most of them are physical books that you’re ordering and writing in,” he says. “For this you go online and every year the older generation is getting better and better with computers.”
“It’s going to be a cool gift for someone’s kids or grandkids,” Rouse Sr. adds. “I read this book about my dad and there were several things in here I never knew about him.”
Just a few weeks ago, Rouse Sr. told his friend Derek Egli about the business his son started and it sparked Egli’s interest.
“We were downtown having a beer when he told me about it,” Egli says. “I thought it sounded like a good idea. So I went on the website and I’m very impressed.”
Now a resident of Sebring, Egli spent many of his younger years traveling the world while in the military. A couple of the places he visited for extended periods were Alaska and Ecuador.
“I’ve had several friends tell me, ‘Derek, you should just write a book about all the places you’ve been.’ Now with Legacy Book,” he says, “I have the tool to do it.”
Another interested customer, Renee Barkley, says she wants her mother to fill out a book since there are questions she read on the website that she doesn’t know the answers.
“She was raised in France by her grandmother. So she had quite an interesting childhood,” Barkley says. “But a lot of that has been lost in translation, even photo albums didn’t come over when she did, so we don’t have a lot to go off of besides what she tells us.”
Barkley wants to fill out one herself to give to her children, too.
“It’s a neat idea, because you don’t tell people all of these things,” she says. “My kids probably don’t know my nickname or a lot about my childhood either. So it will be something that everyone can have to remember.”
The next step the brothers want to take to improve the business is work on marketing it through social media. Rouse Jr. uses YouTube videos and reads articles to learn how to use Facebook ads, he says.
“The biggest struggle I didn’t think of at first was how we were going to get people to our site,” says Rouse Jr. “My brother and I have to start learning how to do Facebook advertising and it’s a hard thing to learn.”
Next fall, Carson Rouse will enter the business and marketing program at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield.
Until then, Carson plans to start a Kickstarter campaign in the next couple of weeks to help fund marketing for Legacy Book. This way anyone can donate money to the business by going to Kickstarter.com and searching “Legacy Book.”
“Rob and Carson applied for summer jobs but they may not need them,” Rouse Sr. says. “They haven’t got this in front of anyone yet because it took them months to get everything done and put all their ducks in a row, but now they’re ready to get it out there.”
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.