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Color Commentary

Monday, April 3, 2017
Peter working on a coloring book

Peter Licalzi spent many hours in  memory care facilities while working on a coloring book to benefit  Alzheimer's patients. Color Your Mind will be published by Blue Star, the publishing company he founded.

Creative entrepreneur finds success in specialized coloring book market

by Mary Denny

Peter Licalzi '08, B.A. Business Administration

Growing up in Houston, Peter Licalzi knew from an early age that he wanted to have his own business. He had no specific business in mind but hoped that whatever its purpose, it would allow him to be creative. That hope came to fruition with his very first venture.

With entrepreneurship in mind, Peter majored in business at Trinity, concentrating on management and finance—until he took professor Charlene Davis's "Principles of Marketing" course. When most of the class guessed that a picture she projected was a bottle of wine that sold for $20, she revealed that actually it was a bottle of water selling for nearly $100. "That opened my eyes to the world of marketing," explains Peter, who switched concentrations from management to marketing. As for learning about how business works in the real world, Peter credits professor Craig Wilson's "Studies in Finance: Risk and Reward" course. "I frequently use lessons learned from that class and still meet with Craig on a regular basis," he says. "He's been a great friend and mentor to me and is a testament to Trinity's mission to hire great professors."

After graduation, Peter landed a job as marketing coordinator, then brand manager, for a San Antonio construction company. "I was lucky in that my boss allowed me to be creative and take some risks with my ideas—many of which were awful," he admits. "But without that experience I don't think I would have learned enough or been confident enough to eventually take the leap into the scary world of entrepreneurship."

Peter took his first leap into entrepreneurship, Blue Star, with the intent of publishing fitness books. Faced with a development delay in getting off the ground, he searched for ways to keep the company afloat when his partner's wife mentioned that many of her physician colleagues often used coloring books to relax between shifts. He and his partner dove wholeheartedly into the then novel concept. They signed about 30 independent illustrators to create a collection of titles to appeal to every kind of coloring enthusiast. Within a few months, they had the #1 book in the country. "After that, it was chaos," Peter says.

Fast-forward two years. The dust has settled and the market has become saturated with more than 100,000 adult coloring book titles available on Amazon. While acknowledging "the days of putting out a simple coloring book and expecting them to sell are long gone," Peter says there is long-term potential in the space. He is diversifying into creative "how to books" on a variety of topics and is interested in exploring opportunities in the area of brain health.

Currently, he is excited about a new project they are wrapping up, which is a coloring book for Alzheimer's patients and those with other brain related challenges. Color Your Mind is the result of hours spent in memory care facilities. Blue Star has worked with art therapy experts to create an effective tool in Alzheimer's and other brain disease protocols. Developed with Maria Shriver, the leading voice behind Alzheimer's awareness and research, the new book will hit the shelves June 4.

As a busy entrepreneur with a few "too early to talk about" concepts in the works, Peter doesn't have a lot of free time. The free time he does have is most often spent hiking, snowboarding, fishing, and enjoying other outdoor pursuits with his girlfriend and three dogs near his Bend, Oregon, home. With Trinity friends, he participates in a high stakes fantasy football league that has a "creative punishment" for the last place finisher. One year, the loser had to express himself in a series of portraits to be turned into a calendar. Pictures were required to be embarrassing and/or promiscuous. "Long story short, I did a photo shoot for him in my living room, did some Photoshop work, and made a calendar," Peter says "It ended up on the Internet and the guy who posed for the calendar was plastered all over websites like ESPN, Yahoo, and was actually interviewed by Good Morning, Australia."

As for civic pursuits, Peter, a former football kicker at Trinity who spent the last three seasons as the team's kicking coach, is hoping to be a volunteer coach at a Bend middle school or high school. A Siberian Husky owner and lover of the breed, Peter would also like to start a Husky rescue effort. "They're tough to handle in the first two years, so a lot of people end up returning them or dumping them," he explains. "As soon as things slow down around here, I'm going to focus some effort on that cause."

You many contact Peter at peter [at] bluestarcoloring.com