Mormon Channel Blog

An Abundant Life: Faith and Fear in a Start-Up

July 21, 2015

Mitch Stevens is a graduate of Brigham Young University’s advertising program who, with his business partner Ben Ehlert, recently started a children’s book publishing company, Dreamling Press. The company is based in Salt Lake City. Here Mitch discusses his road to pursuing a start-up business with more faith than fear.

Let me tell you a story called “The Treasure,” by Uri Shulewitz. An old man named Isaac was so poor that he often went to bed hungry. One night Isaac had a dream. In that dream a voice told him to go to the capital city and look for treasure under the bridge by the royal palace. It took Isaac having the same dream three times before he believed the dream might be true. He then decided to set out on the journey. He walked through forests and crossed over mountains. Sometimes someone gave him a ride, but mostly he walked.

Eventually Isaac reached the capital city, only to find no treasure where he had expected. One of the guards in front of the royal palace asked Isaac what he was doing, so Isaac told him about the dream. The guard laughed and told Isaac that it was a shame he wore out his shoes just because of a dream. He then told Isaac that if he had listened to a dream he once had, he would have gone to the city Isaac came from and looked for treasure under the stove in a house of a man named Isaac. Isaac bowed to the guard and started on his long way home. He walked through forests and crossed over mountains. Sometimes someone gave him a ride, but mostly he walked.

At last he reached his own town. When he got home, he dug under his stove, and there he found the treasure. In thanksgiving he built a house of prayer, and in one of its corners he put an inscription: “Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near.”

About two years ago, I got a call from my good friend Ben Ehlert. I had just quit my job in advertising to pursue my dream of writing children’s books and Ben had heard about my literary adventure. He let me know about an idea he had been cooking up to ease the burden for aspiring authors and illustrators to get published. After being rejected by every single publisher I had contacted, I wanted in.

That idea turned into a crowd-sourced publishing community for inspirational stories. Basically, anyone from anywhere can upload a story or an illustration sample. Users then create critique groups, view online workshops, and ultimately share and improve their work. Then the community works together to decide what stories should be published.

It hasn’t been easy. We have failed way more times than we have succeeded. We have needed and received lots of help from so many people that it would be impossible to thank them all here. But slowly, little by little, we feel like we’re finally getting our heads above water. I don’t know if the fear of failure ever goes away, but our perspective on that fear is changing. We see it as a motivator not to quit. I have a bigger fear of regret than I do of giving everything I’ve got to this project and coming up short. There is no shame in the latter.

The Kickstarter launch of our first book was a huge moment for us. The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth is written by renowned surf and adventure photographer Chris Burkard and illustrated by David McClellan of Disney Interactive. Now we’re focused on building and testing our storytelling platform. It should be available in the coming months for anyone to create a profile and get involved.

Ben and I started Dreamling Books because, like the story about Isaac, we both realized where our treasure was. It wasn’t in business strategy, and it wasn’t in advertising. Those were our capital cities. We had to travel down those roads before we realized that our true passion, our lives’ work, was in stories.

Do I think it is necessary to pursue our true passion if we want to live an abundant life? No. I am convinced that satisfaction in life comes from living righteously and cultivating relationships. That being said, I have found immense happiness and satisfaction through my pursuit of a dream. It has taken harder work than my previous jobs and is therefore more rewarding when it works out. Starting a business is scary. It’s not for everyone. Sometimes I feel like it’s not even for me. But I have an innate desire to tell stories. They make me giddy. And to have that feeling multiple times a day because I’ve chosen to make a career out of storytelling—well that’s just magical. Stories help me make sense of the world around me. They help me to live righteously and cultivate relationships. Stories, then, are necessary for me to live an abundant life. And I count myself lucky to have figured that out.

For more, listen to an interview with Mitch and Ben on Mormon Channel Daily.