Melissa Hammersley and her husband Matt came up with the idea for Novel Effect — an app that enhances family reading time with sound effects and music — after an inspirational moment at their baby shower. Melissa dished about running a business with her husband, her most-loathed chore and how she harnesses her creativity to unwind.
We love the concept of Novel Effect! What inspired you to create it?
My husband, Matt, and I had an “aha” moment after our baby shower for our daughter, Eleanor. Knowing how much we loved books, our host asked each guest to bring a children’s book to start a little library. One of my friends read the book she gave us, adding animal noises and all sorts of effects. It was truly a magical experience, and after our guests left, Matt and I started talking about how amazing it would be if kids could be read to like that all the time. The more we talked, the more we just knew WE had to create the tool to do this – and Novel Effect was born.
What’s been the hardest and the best part of launching a company with your husband?
Matt and I worked together professionally previously, so we came into this venture with our eyes open to the challenges and knew the importance of approaching everything we do together as a team. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering we’re on the same side, but we’ve learned that’s critical to effectively communicating with each other, both personally and professionally. We’ve got a little system to remind each other to step back and ‘think of the team’ if things start to get out of whack.
The best part of doing this together is building something that has a positive impact on families and kids. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to work around our own family life; we make it a priority to sit down at the dinner table every night to eat together, and we take time on the weekends to slow down and relax or go on ‘adventures’ together—when Eleanor’s in charge, that usually means going to the park.
What’s next for Novel Effect?
We’re looking to enable Novel Effect in other areas of entertainment beyond books. We’ve got a few pilot projects underway that I can’t talk about quiet yet!
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Putting the clean laundry into the drawers! I don’t mind folding, but there’s just something about the last step of putting it away that I hate to do. I made laundry room artwork for Matt a long time ago that says ‘You Wash, I’ll Fold.’ I should probably remake it and add ‘You put it away,’ because sometimes, the clean laundry piles on the couch (or living room floor) end up being used as a dog bed before they make it to the drawers.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
Being creative—even if it just means pulling out my secret stash of ‘good’ markers or colored pencils after the kids go to bed and spending some time with a grown-up coloring book. I’m not always picky with my materials, though with the right tools you can turn a page from a kids coloring book into a work of art.
What is your best parenting hack?
Our three year old, Eleanor, has recently started being more of a picky eater. With the recent addition of solid foods into Max’s diet, Eleanor is quicker to eat more of her own food if she gets a little bit of puree on her plate to use as a ‘dipping sauce.’ We’re going with it as it’s another way to get in those fruits and veggies!
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
That outfit you picked out is amazing!
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
My three-year-old asked to be broccoli for Halloween this year, it’s her favorite food and she’s always ‘making it for dinner.’ I loved her creativity, and the chance to craft – let’s be honest, where are you going to find a broccoli costume for sale? So we went with it, and our baby even joined in on the fun by dressing as a carrot! I hope she’s always willing to stand out from the crowd and do what makes her happy!
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Don’t be afraid to try to reach your goals and dreams, and never let the fear of failure stop you on your way.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
Remember, your kids haven’t done this before, either!
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
I take it one day at a time. The privilege of starting a company for families is our kids get to be part of the process, and we can shift priorities as we need to. Eleanor, Max, and the kids of our other team members are regulars at the office and in the audio content we design. Some days finding balance is harder than others, and guilt or exhaustion may get to me, but I love my kids and I love what I do.
What was the last book you read?
With Novel Effect: Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin – the tune is pretty catchy. For Fun, I read The Haunting of Hill House. My sister-in-law recommended it and I had to read it before I watched the series.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Laura Mercier concealer – the six month sleep regression is real and rough!
Favorite Form of Exercise:
Carrying around a six-month-old while chasing a three-year-old.
What is on your DVR?
Season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the rest of The Haunting of Hill House.
I played the puzzle game Blackbox while I was up late nights with my first baby, now that I’m keeping odd hours with baby number two I’ve started trying to beat the puzzles I never got to, plus the new ones that have been added. It’s a challenging, well-designed and fun app that really appeals to my competitive side, even if I’m only competing against myself. And with the kiddos, we can’t get enough stories with Novel Effect, of course!
Favorite Kids Store:
We love Secret Garden Bookshop here in Seattle – it has a lot of fun kids books to explore!