About this project
YOUR STORY, WELL TOLD.
Everyone has a story to tell. Stories help build connections, and when told well, can make it easier and faster to build bonds with caregivers, family members, or friends. MemoryWell produces beautiful life stories made by professional journalists. Originally built to help long term care recipients connect with their caregivers and improve their care, MemoryWells can also be unique gifts to be shared with loved ones.
Stories can be conversation starters between generations, a way to capture a snapshot of a life at a certain moment. Do you know anyone with a great story? Do you know a dad, or grandfather with a unique tale that needs to be told? Father's Day is coming up!
We want everyone to have the chance to have their story told by a professional. That's why we are using this Kickstarter to supercharge our operations and build our capacity to bring MemoryWells to people who need them around the world.
MemoryWell began with my father.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was still in college. I became his primary caregiver when my mother died six years ago. I quickly discovered I couldn't handle his needs, and I had to put him in a care home. When I did, they asked me to fill out a 20-page questionnaire about his life. I remember sitting there trying to summarize his 40+ year marriage to my mother in three lines thinking two things: 1) no-one was ever going to understand my chicken-scrawl handwriting and, 2) these answers were so inadequate to describe my brilliant father, who'd spent 40 years traveling the world as a United Nations diplomat.
I was a journalist, so instead I offered to write my father's story. At the time I'd been a correspondent for TIME Magazine for seven years. I wrote his story simply, just one page, and it transformed his care. Two of his nurses were Ethiopian and they hadn't known that my father had spent four years there early in his career. They were delighted that he'd known Emperor Haile Selassie and they'd sit for hours showing him photos of their home country. He also loved it; he might not have remembered the previous 30 years, but he remembered his early 20's in Addis Ababa. For him, it was like being there.
MemoryWell was born. We strive to replace those clunky, painful questionnaires for everyone entering long term care. And for anyone who has ever spent time in such homes, you'll know: we aim to create community where none exists.
Everyone has a story. Let MemoryWell help them tell it.
What Is a MemoryWell?
Each of our stories are relatively short—just one printed page. We designed it this way so that they can be printed out and put into carelogs, or laminated and put on walls. A brief snapshot like this has so many uses. Anyone can engage quickly with a story. Our digital display allows friends and family members to upload their loved ones’ favorite music, photos, readings and videos.
What are the Rewards?
We’re writers, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of our rewards involve writing. Sure, there are t-shirts and squeezable MemoryWell brains. But, mostly, we want to give you back your own stories. Or, if not your stories, your mom’s, neighbor’s grandfather’s, aunt’s, cousin’s or, really, anyone you know with a great story! To help us in this endeavor, we have enlisted an all-star roster of journalists.
The Famous Folks: ABC’s Ann Compton, PBS’s Judy Woodruff, BBC’s Katty Kay, The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift, CBS's John Dickerson, The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, TIME's Joel Stein, Fox’s James Rosen, USA Today’s Susan Page, WSJ’s Brody Mullins, Newsweek’s Matt Cooper, The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich, Washington Post’s Paul Kane, NBC’s Richard Liu and NPR’s Lizzie O’Leary—to name just a few!
We're the Right People
We are a team of journalists and entrepreneurs committed to storytelling. We have a network of more than 300 journalists across the country and can work anywhere, as most of our interviews are done by phone. Most of us have a personal stake. Our stories can help more than just those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We’ve told stories for folks with ALS, Parkinson’s, in cancer hospice, or people with just plain great stories.
As journalists we love this. We’re taking our talents, usually reserved for the rich, the powerful and the infamous, and applying them to every day lives. The readership may decrease, but we’d argue that the impact spikes exponentially.
Younger generations are living their lives online, but we’re losing daily thousands of older Americans and their stories with them. We want to preserve those stories, not just for their kids and grandkids, but for us. So that anyone doing World War II or Korean War research might find a trove of first hand accounts in MemoryWells, or people who were at Woodstock might compare notes 50 years later. Stories are what make us who we are and if we lose them, we never learn from them.
Jay Newton-Small, Chief Executive Officer
Jay has been a national journalist for more than 15 years, writing for TIME Magazine and Bloomberg News. She's covered stories on five continents and written nearly a dozen TIME covers. She's also author of the 2016 best-selling book, "Broad Influence, How Women Are Changing the Way America Works."
Theo LeCompte, Chief Operating Officer
Theo is a skilled operations executive who has managed complex projects for corporations, nonprofits, and the U.S. government. He believes that the best way to contribute to any enterprise is to know your own strengths and to put them to work in service of something that excites you. He joined MemoryWell because he was excited to help build a product that might help bring some peace to families and caregivers.
With Help from some Great Friends
We've Done a Lot
We are young, but mighty. We first launched nine months ago as a business-to-business company, selling our stories directly to the communities we knew most needed them. But then the Washington Post did this front page Sunday edition story on us in December and, well, things kind of blew up. The story went viral and 3,000+ email queries later, we decided that we’d also directly offer our service to consumers. So many people want—no, need—their stories told.
We've Gotten Some Attention
In November, MemoryWell was psyched to be accepted into Halcyon Incubator in Georgetown, where we’re currently hanging our hat. The Post story led to some more attention a couple of NPR stories (here and here). In March, we won a WeWork Creator Award! MemoryWell won top honors in the Launch category for the mid-Atlantic area, which came with a no strings attached award of $130,000!!!
And with Your Help, We'll Do a Lot More
With the money we raise on Kickstarter we are going to expand our team, bringing on full time editors, a director of content, and a director of sales. With the added help, we want to expand our capacity to bring MemoryWell to more people by expanding our network of journalists.
We are also working on pilots with multiple national partners to grow our core offering into a full fledged presence in long term care across America, helping improve care for people like Jay's dad. We know that our stories can do a lot to change care and build empathy between doctors, nurses, orderlies, families, patients, and caregivers.
Finally, we'd like to also launch a national ad campaign to let people know about the power of storytelling. Because our stories don't have to be for someone who's ailing or in care they can also just be because your loved one has a great story. Let us help tell it!
We are MemoryWell. We are giving voice to the voiceless.
Risks and challenges
We have been asked time and again to pivot to a Do-It-Yourself model, something that can be automated and easily scaled by VCs. We have strongly resisted such moves because we believe in the power of journalism. There's a reason why no one scrap books, but most families take months to fill out questionnaires and why everyone always puts off getting their parents' or grandparent's stories: it's not an easy or, often, fun experience. But by using writers, we make it fun. We turn hours-long sessions writing out difficult answers into short, fun interviews. Instead of hand-writing your loved ones important moments, having a conversation with someone else about what made them them is a thousand times easier.
Yes, there are more challenges to scale, but we're aiming to create what we hope will become a curated marketplace where we match qualified journalists with stories needing to be told. But to get there, we're going to first have to prove our niche—and long term care is not a market that is easily disrupted. Most homes have a six-month to year-long sales cycle. So, while we're working hard at the top of the market, we're also making an aggressive push on the grassroots business-to-consumer level. And all the while, we're recruiting writers (hey, if you're a writer, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org) so that when we do scale, we can quickly go big.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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