Since the 1980s, LeVar Burton has been bringing the joy of reading to young kids through engaging television programs. Now he’s making the move to mobile devices with the Reading Rainbow app. The interactive reading enhancement app for 3 to 9-year-olds encourages and teaches reading through animations, games and video.
In 2011, Burton and long-time entertainment producer Mark Wolfe acquired the Rainbow license — which paved the way for the two to relaunch the Reading Rainbow brand under the RRKidz name and into the digital age.
To get a better sense of his transition into entrepreneurship and to learn about how he’s appifying Reading Rainbow, I interviewed Burton live on What’s Trending. He also shared his advice on how to effectively merge storytelling with technology and social media.
Q: At what point did you begin thinking about yourself as an entrepreneur? Why was this personal-rebranding effort valuable?
A: I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until we formed RRKidz in 2010. However, now that I know what an entrepreneur is, I realize I have been one all my life. As an actor and director, I created, managed and marketed the ‘LeVar Burton’ business.
Being an entrepreneur means developing and growing a product to fit the market need or to create a market for your product that never existed before. By that definition, expanding my own brand allows me to keep my first product — me — fresh and interesting to consumers while expanding my ‘product line’ to include software, feature films, television, speaking engagements, etc.
Q: How has social media helped you build your brand and now get the word out about the app?
A: I was an early adopter of Twitter and now with almost 2 million followers, I consider social media to be an integral part of my brand. Every day I have a conversation with my fans via Twitter, the content of which is completely of my own choosing in my own voice. No studio, network agent or manager in the mix. That personal connection with fans is, I think, core to whatever continued success I have.
Read more: Entrepreneur