Once immensely popular and still a staple of big brick-and-mortar bookstores, the name “Chicken Soup for the Soul” now inevitably conjures Y2K vibes. But the company is still at it, they’re backed by Ashton Kutcher, and their entertainment unit is holding an initial public offering. Well, they’re attempting to crowdfund one.
That is according to Business Insider. How did such an unlikely alliance come to be? According to a 2014 history of the company from Slate, the original founders (a motivational speaker and a salesman) sold the company in 2008, and the new owners, led by CEO and chairman Bill Rouhana, continued putting out highly specific versions of the familiar concept. Slate writer Katy Waldman rattled off several: “Beach Lover, American Idol, Dental, NASCAR, Menopausal, Golfer, Woman Golfer, Canadian, Coffee-Lover, Tea-Lover, Fisherman, Chiropractic, Scrapbooker.”
But these days they’re working to get past the book business. Kutcher entered the picture last year, when Chicken Soup for the Soul bought a majority share in his viral news site A Plus. Or, as the press release framed it, “the Positive Journalism Site.” Explained Kutcher—who BI says has stuck around as an investor—at the time:
“A Plus and Chicken Soup for the Soul have the same mission—to entertain and enlighten by telling positive stories to inspire change,” said Ashton Kutcher, who will also become an investor in Chicken Soup for the Soul. “Our content creation and distribution capabilities combined with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s represents a big step forward for both companies.”
And now, according to Business Insider, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment CEO chairman Bill Rouhana thinks the company could be “the Netflix for inspirational content.” The current state of the brand:
Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment produces a wide range of video content including reality-TV shows such as Project Dad, which follows the lives of three celebrity dads, and The Sip, a series of inspirational short videos.
“Anything that has something to do with human emotion and the human spirit is relevant content,” Rouhana told Business Insider.
Business Insider also explained that this isn’t a traditional IPO. It’s a “Regulation A+” offering, possible due to the passage of the Jobs Act, meant “to open startup investing to Main Street. And as part of the rules, there are fewer requirements and regulations for companies than with a traditional IPO.” It’s closer to crowdfunding and more like a Kickstarter than the Facebook IPO, though the plan is ultimately to list on NASDAQ. The company’s Twitter account is currently urging fans to invest.
At any rate, that’s what Chicken Soup for the Soul has been up to lately.
Update 7/18/17: Originally, this piece referred to Chicken Soup for the Soul generally, but it’s actually specifically the Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, the company’s entertainment unit and a separate part of the business from publishing, that is going public. The headline and post have been updated to reflect that specificity and we regret the error.