Bryher Scudamore started out as a journalist 40 years ago. She worked as an editor of top rating BBC One programme That’s Life! and editor-in-chief of BBC Online. She also worked as Director of Communications at the Eden Project after that.
Bryher sadly lost her mother 15 years ago. She had a very close relationship with her mother where they would spent a lot of time going to the theatre, dining out, and discussing both the news, living in the present, rarely discussing the past. It was during this sad time that Bryher came up with the idea of autodotbiography, as she realised that when her mother died, so too did her memories.
She was very interested in the idea of families being able to have a memory of past conversations, photos and stories. Bryher says “Everyone has a precious story to tell their family and all too often they realise it too late. It really is the gift of a lifetime.”
Bryher thought about becoming a ghost writer, but found that the cost per book would be too high for most families, at least £5,000 – £6,000 per book. She instead pursued the idea to start up her own online business of creating beautiful books of people’s life stories thus creating a legacy for families to treasure.
Starting up a business at the age of 60 and having never run a business before, Bryher attended a British Library Innovating for Growth course, as well as receiving mentoring support from Start-up Britain.
She began working on her business idea in the evenings and at weekends. But it was impossible, holding down a demanding job at the Eden Project and concentrating on the idea. She therefore decided to take a risk and resigned from her job to start working full time on autodotbiography.com. She used all her life savings to help start the business up. Two weeks after leaving work Bryher was diagnosed with breast cancer, but her determination to launch her business remained strong.
In 2011, Bryher soft launched her business at a ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ exhibition where she sold 19 orders for books over a 3 day period, which gave her a really good insight as to how the business would take off.
Since the launch, the business has been going from strength to strength. 98% of people who buy an autodotbiography buy an additional 4-5 books for their family members. More recently, this has increased with one customer ordering 15 books for their family members.
Bryher has won a number of awards including Winner of the PRIME Award (Prince of Wales Initiative for Mature Enterprise) for Best New Digital Business 2012 and the Grannynet Gold Award. She has also been nominated for the Best Website for Over 50’s Award.
Update (August 2017):
autodotbiography has been launched successfully in the USA, with modified spelling and historical references appropriate for the territory.
In August 2017 autodotbiography added a new feature to make the system even easier to use. Now it is possible to talk into the system and speech is turned into text, so users don’t even have to be proficient on a keyboard in order to write a beautiful book about their life story.
The company continues to get praise for its services. “Absolutely thrilled with the arrival of my books today. The quality of them is brilliant. The help and support from Bryher has been wonderful. I am delighted to have my life story down in print for myself, my family and future generations. It took nine months to compile and get into print; like the conception and birth of a baby. It felt like a rebirth, the whole process and now my new chapter of life awaits. Just hope this opportunity is still available in twenty years’ time; so I can add to my memoirs. Can’t recommend this experience enough. Thank you.”