PROVO — When Kimmy Crosby drew out her sister Alissa’s name in the annual family Christmas-draw party two and a half years ago, little did she know it would spark the next great invention the world had no idea it couldn’t live without.
When she asked Alissa what gift she wanted, she answered, “You know what, I’d like a genealogy chart cool enough I could hang it on my wall.”
She wanted to be surrounded by her family — going back five generations — but in a trendy way that matched the color scheme of her living room.
Kimmy put her husband, Chris, a graphic designer, on the case. He came up with a template using a common circular fan diagram, with each circle containing the names of another generation.
Then Kimmy, an event designer, got to work on the aesthetics.
When they were finished they printed their creation, framed it and sent it off to Alissa, figuring that was that.
And it was, until Alissa deemed it indeed cool enough for her wall.
When her friends saw it, they wanted one, too.
And so it began. Two and a half years later, Kimmy and Chris have their own website — www.i-chart-you.com — a steady clientele, and a whole new hip and relatively inexpensive variation on a very old theme.
For $25 customers get a completed, proofread file with the names of their ancestors spelled out on the circles — all in the color scheme of their choice. They’re free to print it themselves, wherever they want and as many as they want. (There’s also a full-service print option, but it costs more.)
Kimmy and Chris get at least one online order a day. Sometimes five. Sometimes 10.
The hearts, and debit cards, of genealogy consumers have turned to them.
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Why anyone didn’t think of this before now is as big a mystery to Kimmy and Chris as the pyramids.
“There’s nothing terribly original about the design,” says Chris. “The basic idea was to make it modern, something that doesn’t look like an old-fashioned family tree.”
Or a family group sheet.
“It’s church art without being church art,” says Kimmy.
The only somewhat complicated part was coding a file so the process could be automated and family names could be typed and automatically formatted in the proper circle. They got Ryan Packer, their brother-in-law — Alissa’s husband — to do that part.
Did they mention that Alissa and Ryan can have all the charts they want at no charge for the rest of their lives?
Interest, and business, took a huge surge last December when Stephanie Nielson, the celebrated LDS mommy blogger, touted i-chart-you’s “ready-to-print genealogy charts” on her NieNie Dialogues blog.
Hundreds of orders poured in during the holidays, and, in an LDS culture where looking up one’s ancestors might accurately be considered the national pastime, the stream has not abated.
They’ve sold more than 1,000 to date, and so far their biggest marketing scheme is to put it on Instagram (@ichartyou).
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Chris hasn’t given up his day job — he works full time for a software company in Provo — and neither, for that matter, has Kimmy — she’s a full-time stay-at-home mom to Penny, their 14-month-old daughter.
But it’s easy for her to fulfill the i-chart-you orders at home, and create some new color schemes.
A fringe benefit, she says, is hearing from satisfied customers.
“People get excited about this — some get teary-eyed.”
One woman wrote that she had never talked to her husband’s grandmother until she started working on getting the names for her chart. After that they talked every day.
Another said she has her kids aim rubber darts at the chart. Whatever name they hit, that’s the ancestor they talk about that week.
“It’s kinda crazy, the response,” says Kimmy, “and really, it all goes back to what Alissa wanted for Christmas.”
She wanted to be surrounded by the whole family — and all of them matching her color scheme.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org