2017 is a big year for Linda Greene, Founder of Identity Direct, as it heralds the enviable milestone of 25 years since the business started. Identity Direct started as a publishing business, offering unique personalised children’s books that put children at the heart of the story, with the intent to nurture a love of reading. Parents who enjoyed these stories now buy them for their children. The business has expanded internationally over the years, opening up new product lines including personalised gifts, to become a global leader in their niche market.
Linda also Co-Founded Horizon Media, a direct mail advertising company, now in its 16th year of business. Clearly a talented, entrepreneurial business leader to emulate and learn from, we spoke with Linda to find out more.
How did you start Identity Direct?
There was a gap in market for quality personalised children’s books. In 1992 we put together a team of Australian illustrators and writers to create the first collection of eight My Adventure Books. We marketed them in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. A few years later we expanded into the US and Canada and are now proudly the world leaders in personalised books, having delivered over 7 million books worldwide. Identity Direct now partners with some of the biggest children’s brands in the world, including Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, Mattel, Peppa Pig and Thomas and Friends. This combines the uniqueness of personalised gifts with the magic of children’s favourite characters.
The range has extended to include a complete Back to School offering from labels to backpacks and everything in between. Our personalised Gift Shop includes the largest range of personalised gifts for all ages and all special occasions like birthdays, christening, weddings, and anniversaries. In April 2016 we launched the Personalised Footy Shop. Since then we have delivered over 10,000 personalised NRL, AFL, soccer and netballs in one year!
What do you love about what you do?
I love being part of the gift giving experience. Designing and creating products that bring so much joy, and are the most remembered gifts at every occasion. People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Our products make them feel very special. When a person receives a personalised gift, they know someone has taken an extra step to think about the gift. It is unique. Every time that person uses the personalised gift, they remember who gave the gift.
Reading is such an important part of a child’s life. By personalising stories kids already love, we draw them into the world of storybooks, fostering a lifelong love of books and reading. Our books are often the only childhood books adults still have and cherish. When they pick up one of our stories they’re transported back to that world. They remember what it was like to be that kid, completely consumed, completely delighted, completely wowed!
From a practical perspective I also love reducing the stress of lost property with our labels and school range. This ensures children are reunited with any misplaced items.
What has been the most significant step in your journey?
Taking the business from a mail order business to an online retailer in 5 countries, and achieving Top 100 Online Retailer ranking in Australia and New Zealand.
Is there any advice you would like to share about running an international business?
Be professional. Build trusting transparent relationships with suppliers and customers. Remain open to new opportunities and different ways of doing business . Listen. Don’t think you are the smartest person in the room. You can always learn something every time you meet someone new.
What advice do you have for future female leaders?
Stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Ride the wave (take up surfing)! Sometimes you’re on top of the wave and sometimes you come down on the wave, but never give up and enjoy the journey.
What is your favourite My Adventure Book?
My Special Christmas Adventure. It brings all the joy, wonder and magic of Christmas to life for a child, as well as learning about Christmas traditions in different countries. I also like the fact that a customer may have received My Special Christmas Adventure when they were young, and now they are buying it for their children or nieces or nephews.
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