Startup Is All About Preserving Precious Memories

By Sam Lounsberry Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jordan Babeon is the founder of "SurroundUs! Services." The company digitally preserves photos, videos and kids' creativity ensuring that those priceless doodles and crafts live on.

Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo.

When Courtney Walsh's husband dropped his smartphone off a ski chairlift last week, she said he assumed the photos and videos captured on the device, including footage of their son taking first steps, were lost forever.

But he was relieved when Walsh informed him she had their memories stored on all their electronics backed up through a new business called SurroundUs! Services launched last year by Berthoud resident Jordan Babeon.

Now, Babeon is trying to expand her business's focus from condensing and managing people's libraries of visual files into the realm of digitally preserving children's artwork to relieve parents of the requirement to clutter up cabinets and cupboards with crafts and pages holding drawings, paintings and scribbles so they can be saved.

She hopes that SurroundUs! Services' venture into the increasingly competitive arena of digitally preserving kids' creativity -- which includes big tech brands like Shutterfly -- is kept viable by partnering with northern Colorado schools as a fundraising mechanism for elementary academics.

Babeon is holding an event Thursday to benefit Longmont's Gateway Montessori School, where parents can go during the school day to have their children's masterpieces scanned and saved forever by SurroundUs! Schools, the offshoot of Babeon's business that will concentrate on ensuring that kids' doodles and crafts live on.

"I think by partnering with the local schools and giving them a valuable fundraising tool, it's a differentiator," said Walsh, who has known Babeon since meeting while students at the University of Colorado. "The big services like Shutterfly in Silicon Valley, they don't have any local touch."

Half the profits generated by the business at the event will go to Gateway, which is raising money to remodel its facility in order to offer enrollment to children between one and three years old, said the head of school Reyn Hedger.

"(Babeon) proposed it to us, and it sounded like a really great idea," Hedger said. "I know it's hard to figure out what to do with the piles of artwork that your children create. We loved the sample books she had put together and the idea you could get it all on electronic (formats). It seemed like something our parents would like so we thought we would give it a try."

SurroundUs! also offers mugs that can be adorned with a child's artwork, plus the service works to professionally photograph and preserve three-dimensional sculptures and other crafts assembled by little ones.

Babeon said the business was born out of necessity -- she left her job with Oracle as a consulting director to launch the startup -- because her photos of and artwork by her 4-year-old twins were consuming too much space in her hard drives and home.

"When I was a working mom and all the sudden had these two humans I was taking thousands and thousand of photos of, it got unmanageable," she said. "... SurroundUs! is our name because we're one of the most photographed generations ever, but our pictures are stuck in these devices. We want to make sure people are surrounded by their memories."

Babeon is talking with other private schools in the Boulder, Longmont and Loveland areas about putting on similar fundraisers for the education institutions through her company, which is funded by private equity, and hopes she can forge similar relationships with the region's public school districts.

Walsh, whose wedding photo files from 12 years ago were stuck on a storage device that became corrupted before SurroundUs! was able to salvage them, applauded Babeon for making the leap out of a cozy tech job with Oracle to become an entrepreneur.

"It was difficult to leave Oracle," Babeon admitted. "It's a scary decision, especially when you have a family to provide for. I think that at the same time you have to follow your passion. I think it's important to set an example for my kids."

Returning to work with visual documents has been a goal since she left CU, where she majored in film studies, helping spark her love for saving images.

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