Entrepreneur Roy Moëd set up LifeBook, a bespoke autobiography service, in 2010 with the mission of helping older people enjoy their lives and ‘age successfully’. He was inspired by his elderly father, Jules, who was blind, in a care home and felt he had nothing left to live for. Determined to give him a stimulating and fun project, Roy came up with the idea of capturing Jules’ life stories. His colleague, as a third party outside of the family, listened to Jules’ memories, anecdotes and life lessons every week, and a professional ghostwriter then wrote up the recordings. Jules’ outlook on life completely changed as he had a project and a purpose, at a time where there were few activities that he could enjoy, and he was offered additional companionship by having someone actively listen to his stories each week.
Jules never got to finish his book, but Roy was so affected by the benefits the experience brought for his father – the renewed self-confidence and feeling of self-worth – that he wanted every older person to have the opportunity to create a LifeBook. The experience not only provides a treasured memoir for the family and a rewarding project for the author, it also keeps the mind active and the brain healthy, and aids loneliness and depression.
What do you think is the most important thing that LifeBook does?
LifeBook has many benefits – not only for the author, but also for their family.
For the author, reliving their life stories and telling them to an engaged listener gives them a great sense of self-worth and purpose. The experience recognises that everyone has a story in them, a story that is precious to their families and a story that lets the author look back and be proud of everything they’ve achieved. The act of having someone there to listen also provides them with companionship.
The telling of these life stories also connects families and brings them closer. For example, a grandchild might learn that their hobbies, school or life experiences are not so different from those of their grandparents, bridging the generation gap and refreshing family conversations.
Although we insure our most valuable possessions, we often forget to insure things that are harder to put a price on – our memories. One of the most important things a LifeBook does is keep our minds active and ensure we never lose our experiences, even when our memory starts to fail. The autobiography produced at the end of the experience holds these memories forever, creating a family heritage for generations to come.
What problems have you encountered starting up the business?
The hardest thing is to create a new product in a new sector. While the autobiography industry is saturated, no one had come up with an affordable way to enjoy recalling and telling your stories to another human being. We provide not just a product, but an experience.
Having created the business, the next difficult step was the time it took to make people understand that autobiographies are not just for celebrities. Everyone has the permission to tell their story and create a book that will be a priceless legacy for their family.
For me, another learning curve was founding a B2C (business to consumer) business rather than a B2B (business to business) business, which I had previous experience in. The sales process is very different but seeing the individual benefit for each customer makes the new challenge well worth it!
What’s the next step for your business?
We now have a working business operating in four continents, which is built on human interaction rather than the latest app or technology. The person-to-person contact is at the core of the business as it is integral that everyone, especially older people, have human contact, with someone talking to them and listening to them rather than chatting to them over email/Skype. We have proven that this can be done in an affordable way. We now need the critical mass to make it work so that thousands, rather than hundreds can enjoy and benefit from LifeBook globally.
What’s the most heart-warming story you’ve encountered?
There are too many to recount, but what I love most is when children find out things about their parents that they had either never talked about or not listened to before. We have a number of clients who have bought the experience as a gift for a loved one, and found that it was a gift that gave back.
This video clip is of a client who gave the LifeBook experience to her father, a doctor living with Parkinson’s, and it gives me a shiver down my spine every time I hear her say how this positive project has changed her father’s life. It has given him a renewed sense of purpose and has reinvigorated the relationships with his carer and his family. For Ali, the experience gave her father “his sparkle back” as he could own a project again and share his story.
What has the reaction been to your business?
Every customer loves LifeBook and everybody understands it. The most common reaction we get is, sadly, “I wish I had done this for my mother/father/grandmother/grandfather who passed away last month/year.” No one has ever regretted doing a LifeBook, but many have regretted that they haven’t done one.
It’s hard to instil in people the importance of doing one now, not putting it off. The motivation behind the business was my father and unfortunately he never had the chance to complete his LifeBook, so I would encourage everyone to get those precious memories written down as soon as they can.
Can we have some tips about balancing business with providing a social/community benefit?
I don’t profess to be an expert but I have an interest in homelessness and the depression that often causes it, so I was keen to find a way to use my entrepreneurial skills with my social aspirations. After watching my father in a care home, and getting older myself, I was also keen to find ways to help the elderly, so I set myself the task of creating a commercial business in a social space.
We have the structure in place to grow LifeBook globally and create thousands of books every year, each one positively affecting at least ten people aside from the author, including interviewers, friends, family and ghostwriters.
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