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Blogglebeans uses animated world to help keep grandparents connected

Blogglebeans is an interactive website that allows grandparents and grandchildren to connect via animated characters Hanlon, Zonk, Lolly, Toggle and Doug. 

One of the greatest challenges grandparents face is keeping in touch with their grandchildren as they age and get busier with school, sports and other activities.

Betsy Perez aims to overcome that challenge with Blogglebeans, an interactive experience that allows grandparents and grandchildren to connect via an animated world.

Grandparents can send messages and animated gifts via Blogglebeans.com, and the website features games that will appeal to children as well. It also allows grandma or grandpa to stay up-to-date on what their grandchild is doing via calendar events, such as the first day of school, a soccer game or family vacation.

“The whole point is to get that grandchild-grandparent conversation going again,” said Perez, one of the founders of the Omaha-based team behind Blogglebeans.

Membership for a grandparent with one grandchild on Blogglebeans is free, Perez said, but grandparents can enhance the experience by adding other grandchildren for a one-time $9.99 fee. Other enhancements, like a wider selection of animated messages, can also be purchased for one-time fees.

Aimed at children ages 6-12, the website is also COPPA compliant, making it safe for children to use without mom or dad hovering over their shoulders. Parents can, however, monitor their child’s activity on Blogglebeans via their own account. 

“Our main goal is keeping kids as safe as possible online,” said Blogglebeans vice president Sara Hanlon. “A child cannot even request an account or set one up on Blogglebeans. A parent or grandparent sends an invitation to get the account started, and mom has to approve the connection.”

The idea for Blogglebeans came to Perez and her three co-founders, Doug Smith, Sharon Carleton and Heidi Mausbach, in 2009 after reading research by Brigham Young University that showed children with involved grandparents are more social and do better in school.

Perez said it took about a year and a half to then develop the brand, characters and story lines. Code development also took a year.

(Left: The Blogglebeans team. Standing, from left: vice president Sara Hanlon, senior developer David Shreffler, co-founder Doug Smith, co-founder Sharon Carleton. Seated, from left: senior animator Jim Mehsling, co-founder Heidi Mausbach, co-founder Betsy Perez and creative director Craig Hughes.)

For now, Blogglebeans is Flash-based, with full features only available to PC users. Making the site compatible with mobile devices is a goal for the future if users express the need for it, Perez said.

“Our wish features list is long,” Hanlon said. “But we really have to make sure we’re building the features our customers and user base are clamoring for.”

Perez said Blogglebeans has taken the bootstrap approach for now. The company currently contracts its four employees from the advertising and public relations firm Ervin & Smith, also based in Omaha.

Meanwhile, the company’s founders are finding big pockets of users in unexpected places and have aggressive goals over the next few months.

“It would be great to have a full-on animation studio here,” Perez said. “We would love to create that success.”


Credits: Screenshot courtesy of Blogglebeans. Team photo by Kathy Rae Photography

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