Photo Credit: Courtesy Eileen Gittins
Back in 2005 Eileen Gittins wanted to make a book of her own photography book. Simple, right? Not so fast. The “make a book” part was possible, sure, but the costs were prohibitive. Therefore Gittins did what any innovator would do: she created her own company, Blurb®, a self-publishing and marketing platform that unleashes the creative genius inside all of us. Blurb’s platform makes it easy to design, publish, promote, and sell professional-quality printed books and ebooks. “I started this company in 2005 as I thought it was just wrong that regular folks who wanted to express themselves could not publish a book—without a rich uncle,” Gittins says. “At the time, the only people who could get published were those who could sell through thousands of units. But, what about the rest of us who might have a collection of family recipes, a curated set of beautiful photographs, or even the bad poetry you wrote in high school? I thought the world needed to hear these voices too — so I started Blurb.” Blurb authors have created millions of books using the company’s full suite of free book-making tools, and today a new book is created every minute. We’re not talking just photo books folks. Gittins and her team built a self-publishing platform focused exclusively on making bookstore-quality print books, magazines and ebooks. This visionary shares with us what’s on her desk in her San Francisco office.
“Right after I raised the first round of venture capital financing, my husband and I were in Chinatown here in San Francisco, and I came across this paper mache tiger with a bobble head. In China, tigers are considered protectors of human life, and baby boys are often gifted tiger dolls or have embroidered tigers on their shoes. When I asked what girls received, I got a shrug from the older Chinese lady. I decided to buy myself the tiger because I thought ‘Why shouldn’t girls get tigers too?’ but also because I liked the idea of my own personal tiger guardian angel.”
“I often think a better title for me might be Chief Storyteller as I do a LOT of speaking at conferences, teaching workshops and lecturing at universities and colleges. I also attend conferences like the TED Conference plus investment banking, start-up technology and innovation summits. I keep my badges on the door to my office to remind me of all the places I have been.”
“There are a few personal items right next to my laptop, so I see them everyday. First is a little wooden elephant from one of our earliest employees. Whenever he travels, he brings little presents back to the office. I like the elephant. Elephants never forget. To the right is a black and white photograph of me with Frank Ockenfels, a well known and very fine professional photographer. I met Frank at the Palm Springs Photo Festival several years ago and became friends as a result. I am holding a copy of his amazing book that he did with Blurb; he took the book with him to his gallery opening in Amsterdam, personalized every one—and it sold out. Huge hit.
“Finally on the left is an image of my photography mentor, Orrin Moon, who passed away two years ago. Orrin is the reason i got into photography in the first place and I credit him for the inspiration for founding Blurb. He meant the world to me.
“Behind Orrin is the collection of pens—I am a pen freak—paper clips—I undo them and redo them compulsively—as well as a pair of fake Groucho Marx glasses someone gave me. You never know when you might need a disguise.