Media production startup wants to preserve family legacies

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,549 views 

Eric Hinson, left, and David Baker are the co-founders of media production company Parable.

Two veterans of Northwest Arkansas’ startup scene are working together on a new video-based product they hope will preserve family legacies.

Parable is a media production company that enables customers to create videos based on their life stories. The co-founders are Eric Hinson (COO) and David Baker (CEO).

“Using video, Parable captures the stories of its clients and the people in their lives so that they can inspire the next generation,” Baker explained. “It’s such a meaningful business, and we’re having so much fun. My days are [spent] talking to people. I have done sales in some capacity my whole life, and this doesn’t feel like that. I’m hearing about someone’s love for their mom, dad or grandparents. It is amazing to be part of that process and help them preserve their stories.”

Parable had a soft launch in February and went live on March 1. Baker said the venture was self-funded initially but is now post-revenue with a product that is building momentum.

“We’ve only relied on word of mouth so far, but we’re incredibly thrilled with the reactions,” he said. “We’ve got about $500,000 in potential projects in our backlog that we’re looking to close. Several projects are already underway, and we’ve cut costs by 20% to 30% based on user feedback.”

Baker added that a private seed round is live to support scaling the business. He expects that to close in the coming weeks.

“The investment we’re seeking is to accelerate marketing and tech investments,” he said. “Our target is between $150,000 and $200,000, and we have $100,000 already committed.”

The Parable process takes two to three months, from beginning to end. Before the cameras roll, the company conducts multiple interviews with the client to build a timeline and prepare for the actual visual shoot.

Parable’s studio partner for video interviews is Go Rogue X in Bentonville. Baker and production director Jim Ward have also traveled to several states for in-person interviews, including Utah, Idaho and California.

“We will go anywhere to capture a story,” Baker said.

Ward has more than 30 years of production and interviewing experience. Among his credits, he was a senior production coordinator for a company that produced the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Parable produces a 45-minute documentary after completing the video interviews and editing process.

“It’s rich media,” Baker said. “Home videos and photos, footage of you at your house talking about the room where you grew up. We capture as much as possible to create this movie, and it’s chaptered so you can follow along.”

The two founders say Parable’s initial target market has been a fascinating discussion.

“The market is big,” Hinson said. “People get it, and that’s working in our favor. Marketing people say you can’t market to everybody, and that is true. But, generally, it’s something that everybody needs to do.”

That’s what inspired one of the company’s initial clients, John Ahlswede, a successful homebuilding executive in California. Ahlswede said he’s often asked how he got where he is in life.

“I’ve never really had a good answer,” he said. “I wasn’t sure that my family knew my legacy to my family. If I had never gone through this process, my family and those important to me would have never known my story. Parable’s process breaks loose old memories that I don’t believe would have [otherwise] surfaced.”

The price point for the product is $8,500, which includes the clients’ visual timeline, videos and edits on a secure web page accessible from anywhere. Parable also gives clients high-quality copies of all the content to keep.

“That is the price if we can get you here and shoot in the studio in Northwest Arkansas,” Baker said. “When we travel, we just add travel expenses to that.”

Baker said that for customers who’ve expressed interest in Parable, that price point is something they can engage with. Still, it’s not something that is accessible to everyone — and he wants everyone to participate. As Parable works to dial in the product/market fit, Baker said that the company would soon launch a “family-funding” feature on its website to allow families to crowdsource a project. He also envisions Parable opening hubs throughout the U.S. for clients to visit so the company can interview them in-studio for a base cost.

“We believe we can innovate and disrupt the market and create lower price points and get this to the masses,” Hinson said. “Where it’s not about dozens of families, but about thousands of families having their family legacies preserved.”

The two founders, both 35, believe Parable can be as successful as other ventures they’ve been involved with. They’ve known each other for a decade and reconnected a few months ago while having similar thoughts about purpose and meaning in the “what’s next” part of their careers.

Hinson is the founder and CEO of Fayetteville-based Explainify and has the experience of bringing a video-based product to market. He launched the company in 2011 to take complicated messages and make them simple through short videos. Explainify is now a market leader for explainer videos and has worked with various companies, including international corporations like General Electric, Expedia, Coca-Cola and NBC Universal.

“We’ve built a great leadership team, and after 10 years, I sort of became obsolete, which is what I intended and wanted,” Hinson said. “Moving toward exiting the business hit me harder than I ever expected, which surprised me. It’s been a journey of discovery to find what’s next. I kept coming back to meaning, purpose and what I’m good at.”

Baker has a background in technology, branding and growth strategy. He co-founded multiple businesses, including digital marketing firm Moxy Ox in 2011. Baker later sold his stake in the company and was one of the first handful of employees at Bentonville software firm RevUnit. He left the company as senior vice president of operations in December.

“I didn’t really have a plan [for what was next],” Baker said. “I thought about starting something, but also thought I would find my way into another [existing] startup.”

Baker said several people reached out, including Hinson, who shared with Baker a business idea that was percolating — a need to help people share their stories. Hinson told Baker he sat with his father for a lengthy interview last summer, and it was a cathartic experience for both of them.

Hinson’s business plan resonated with Baker, who told Hinson he’d been having similar questions about meaningful work and all those things a person starts to think about in mid-life.

“We live in an age of unprecedented content creation,” Baker said. “While companies like Apple and Google are working hard to leverage AI in the pursuit of creating meaning from this content, it’s become clear that the human element is an important factor in creating stories. Our vision is to build a platform that allows customers to create those meaningful and durable stories from that content.”

Baker said Parable’s business plan includes introducing new products and services over the coming years. He said he has many ideas on applying technology to make Parable easier and more accessible.

“We started with documentaries because it’s the richest form of communication today,” he said. “While we can never recreate the fullness of a person’s life experience, we hope to get close by using emerging technologies. The chance to help families preserve their legacies forever is what drives us.”