Denise Oliveira has always been a proactive self-starter. Whether it’s creating a new product or testing the waters of a new industry, she always enjoys a challenge. She founded Prequels, a company that allows people to have their story told, designed in a unique layout and then given as a gift at events.
For now she has focused on weddings, where couples and their families are interviewed separately and then the stories are compiled with photos in an arrangement guests can take home with them. She’s also got big plans to expand.
After growing up in Brazil, where couples she knew stayed together a long time before they got married and their families became intertwined, she moved to the US and realized at the weddings she attended, the families and friends barely knew each other. It gave her the idea to help people tell their stories so these events could feel more intimate.
How did you come up with the name?
I wanted the sense that when you get to these milestones in life it’s sort of a culmination of what came before it. The wedding is more than a party, it’s the celebration of a relationship that’s been built. Or when you retire, it’s not just an event, it’s the culmination of a career. So that’s where Prequels came from, it’s about thinking about what came before.
Who was your first guinea pig?
We’ve had a few. We had a couple Micah and Aidan. Micah is studying to be a Protestant minister he’s going to Union Theological Seminary and Aidan studied in the graduateacting program at the New School and before that had a career in the circus- a very dynamic couple who have come from different walks of life and have created this amazing bond.
Who is your team?
I am the lead person and I have a partner who has a creative writing degree. He will do some of the interviews and its great to have another person to bounce ideas off of. We try to look at it from the other persons point of view and in that way we weave everything together.
How many clients have you had so far?
We’ve shared four on the website. I just got an email from someone in Missouri who wants to give it as a gift to her nephew, which is something we’re encouraging. This is a great gift for a grandparent to give to a couple or for bridesmaids to get together and give together to the couple.
What have been some of the hurdles in starting a business?
For now there haven’t been many surprises, it has been pretty much what we’ve expected. One thing that we didn’t really expect but hasn’t been a hurdle, is how many drafts you go through to get the product the way you want it. The design is really special and it took longer than I thought. You look at the computer but once you get it professionally printed the colors look slightly different so you go back and redo it. A font might look great online but once you print it it’s a little funky.
You also give the stories back to the customers.
Yes. We want them to read it over and make sure they’re comfortable with it. We use our discretion to leave out certain things they might tell us that we feel might be best left out, but we let them read it over to make sure that they agree that it’s an expression and reflection of who they are.
Do they give you a lot of edits?
The edits have been minor, very minor.
Are you going to expand into other areas?
Yes, we haven’t yet. But I’ve started the preliminary work to expand into baby announcements. Also retirements, graduations, sweet sixteen. Wherever there is a story to be told.
What is the best part of being your own boss?
The creative license. The space to really dream and to realize that these ideas can be implemented. That said, its definitely been important to partner with people who give feedback. There’s definitely been a lot of exchange with graphic designers and brides and other writers because I also don’t want to be isolated. It shouldn’t be what I think will work it should be what couples want.
Do you do the graphic design yourself?
We partner with a professional designer. For the ones we’ve done, we designed the templates. Going forward couples can use exactly what we have, make a few changes or come up with a whole new look depending on the feel of their ceremony.
What’s the worst part of being your own boss?
I’ve always had incredible bosses, I’ve been really fortunate in every job I’ve had. I’ve had wonderful mentorships, my bosses have become friends. I’ve always had access to their wisdom. So I’d say, the disadvantage of having the immediate access to these sources of inspiration and wisdom. It takes a little more effort to get to the them.