Lisa Riebe, from Morris, has always had a vivid imagination and would often spend her spare time looking for new things to invent.
A few years ago, Riebe was sitting around a pond in her backyard with her son and a friend. At that moment, she came up with the idea that she wanted to develop a toy that that would be specifically themed toward ponds. With that thought in mind, the evolution of the Pond Punkies began.
However, Riebe believed that it might be difficult to get children to play with Pond Punkie action figures if they didn’t know anything about them. So she decided to write a book that would introduce the characters and explain where the Pond Punkies came from.
After an eight-year development process, she was ready to take young readers, ages 7 to 10, on an adventure that is out of this world. The start of one science fiction book has already transformed into a three book series.
The first book in The Remarkable Adventures of Pond Punkies titled The Arrival was released in 2009. The first book was co-authored by Riebe and Cynthia Nunn. Book two in the series, The Unearthing, was released in 2011 and was authored by Riebe. Book three, The Departure, was released in June 2012 and was co-authored by Riebe and Miriam Ofstein.
Riebe also hired an illustrator to give the books some exciting, visual elements.
Each of the books in the series feature large fonts, extra space between lines and up to 18 pages of illustrations to make it more appealing to a young reader.
Riebe said, “Young readers are often reluctant to read because of how many words they see on the page. Intimidation sets in and they close the book. That’s where this series is a little different.”
The book series was selected as an Indie Book awards finalist for Science Fiction and Children’s Fiction and was recognized as a Global eBook Award winner.
Riebe has also been working with a local toy designer to develop a prototype of a Pond Punkie action figure that she hopes to manufacture. Her website is full of a variety of interactive materials that young readers can visit to enhance their experience with the Pond Punkies book series. She often visits local schools and libraries to inform children about the Pond Punkies.
The books are available in eBook format and can be purchased and downloaded through iTunes, amazon.com or the Pond Punkies website. A printed copy of the book can also be purchased through the Pond Punkies website or at Barnes and Noble bookstore upon request. The book can also be found on the shelves of some area libraries.
Ultimately, her plan is to create an entire industry centered around the Pond Punkies. The books are a launching pad to develop other merchandise such as action figures, trading cards, t-shirts and much more. Riebe also hopes that her book series will encourage children to read.
She said, “When you get a child reading, there’s nothing like it.”
She realizes that by creating great stories with interesting characters, it will help to build an interest in Pond Punkies.
Even though Riebe has a business background, she consulted with a business analyst from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at JJC to receive additional expertise. Joe Giunta, business analyst, assisted her with her uploading the eBook to iTunes as well as developing a business plan. Riebe stated, “Joe is fantastic with the business plan. He broke it down so that I could understand it one step at a time.”
Giunta also provided her with contacts at the Village of Plainfield so that she could take advantage of an opportunity to rent office space in their building. This will allow her to have an office location for her business. Riebe would also like to add an intern to assist her as her business progresses.
In addition to a business analyst, Riebe also met with Eric Peterson, a Small Business Jobs Act (SBJA) consultant to receive assistance with adding social media to the website as another element to promote the Pond Punkies. Peterson initially gave her an overview of social media and started her with the development of a Facebook page. She is going to continue consulting with Peterson to add Twitter and other components to increase traffic to her website.
Giunta stated, “Lisa is a very remarkable person. She had this dream for a long time and has an extraordinary amount of tenacity to do whatever it takes to make the Pond Punkies a household name. She should really be congratulated for her efforts.”
Under the SBJA grant, clients of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at JJC have the opportunity to receive free consultation in a variety of specialized areas such as: financial planning and accounting, bookkeeping with QuickBooks, website design and development, social media, marketing and more. Funding is provided by a grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The grant is part of the Small Business Jobs Act (SBJA) that was signed into law in 2010. The grant funding has been extended through Jan. 31, 2013. This will provide additional opportunities for small business owners to receive free specialized consultation.
To learn more about Riebe and the Pond Punkies, visit pondpunkies.com or call (815) 942-2344.
To learn more about the Illinois SBDC at JJC and free specialized consultation that is available, call (815) 280-1400, email email@example.com or visit the website at www.sbdcjjc.com.
The Illinois SBDC at JJC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and Economic Development and Joliet Junior College.