Julie Clark was a mompreneur and woman startup founder years before it became trendy. While on paper she may seem to be an unlikely entrepreneur, there’s a good chance you have one of her products in your home, or were raised on them.
In our exclusive interview on the DealMakers Podcast Julie also revealed some unconventional beginnings of this household brand in the eyes of many of today’s founders. Yet, which are clearly recognizable common threads that are shared with some of the biggest tech companies, like Facebook and Microsoft.
Julie Clark is the founder of the Baby Einstein brand. A company she built from scratch, to being bought by Disney for $25M, and becoming a $300M a year phenomenon
In this episode you will learn:
- How to run a lean operation
- The process of building relationships with potential acquirers
- Using content marketing as a strategy
- Building meaningful relationships
- Closing a transactions during tough economic times
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash. Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
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About Julie Clark:
Julie Clark disrupted the child entertainment industry by creating high quality audio and video productions for very young children, with a focus on exposure to the arts. This basement start-up grew to $25M in sales in 5 years, then to $250M in sales after its sale to Disney. Not bad for a full-time mom and former teacher.
Currently Julie Clark is focusing on making smart parenting simple with WeeSchool which provides information to new moms and dads about the parenting journey and how help babies and toddlers thrive. The program contains a complete curriculum for new parents, delivered by app. Content includes milestone info & tracking, daily activities, videos, e-books, music and word cards.
Before launching Baby Einstein, Julie Clark was a school teacher.
Connect with Julie Clark:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrightee. Well, hello, everyone and welcome to the DealMakers Show. So today I’m really excited about the guest that we’re going to have especially because I have three little ones and maybe, more than maybe, if you have little ones too probably you’re using or you’ve heard about Baby Einstein. So Julie Clark, welcome on to the show today.
Julie Clark: Thank you so much, Alejandro. It’s so nice to be here. I appreciate it.
Alejandro: So your journey is quite remarkable but you know most of the founders that I interview they have like this background either on finance or they did some type of sales but your background was before you became an entrepreneur you were a teacher. Is that right?
Julie Clark: That’s exactly right. Yes, it’s funny because I started out as a teacher and actually my intro teaching started with high school students and I was an English and Art teacher. After I got pregnant with my first baby, I had decided that I really wanted to leave teaching to be a stay at home mom. And when I did that, I realized that I was actually much more of a teacher as a mom than I had ever been as a teacher of kids that I had for 15 minutes a day. And so, I realized at that time that stay home parents, moms or dads, we have this tremendous responsibility to educate our kids from a very young age and that became very clear to me once I became a mom.
Alejandro: Got it. Got it. So how did you get started with Baby Einstein, like what was that, obviously ideas take some time to incubate and it’s not like an overnight thing. So how did everything start?
Julie Clark: Yes. So I was staying home as I said with my daughter and she was an itty bitty baby and what occurred to me in spending time with her was how few resources there were for me as a parent to expose her to the things that I really loved and those were things that I had taught, so things like art and literature and poetry and these sorts of humanities that were important to me that I loved and again, no one had found a way to expose the youngest people in the world to those really beautiful elements of our world. And I thought wow, you know, if I have this baby and I can expose her to anything, I can expose her to you know cartoons, you know sort of ineffective not so beautiful kinds of media, or I could expose her to things like Mozart and Shakespeare and Bach. And why would I not expose her to those things? Again it occurred to me that every baby born is really a blank slate. So they’re essentially a sponge, right? And we as parents have the opportunity to put anything we want in to that sponge. Why not put in these really beautiful elements of our world? And so I thought okay, no one has done this yet. I looked around and I couldn’t find anything and I said okay, I can do that. I think that I know how to do that because I spend all my time with my baby. I know what she likes to look at and I know how to give that stuff to her and I bet, I said to myself, I bet I could make some kind of a video that would give her exposure to these beautiful things like classical music and that was really the inception of the whole idea.
Alejandro: That’s really cool. And what was the business model?
Julie Clark: So that’s the funny part, right. So because I was a teacher and again a mom staying home with her baby, I had absolutely no idea how to write a business plan. And I didn’t. When I first came up with this idea, I essentially was making something for my own daughter. I had no idea at the time that I was going to be creating something that would become one of the most recognized brands in children’s media and in the whole baby space. So what I did is I went in to my basement. I had borrowed some video equipment from a friend and shot those very first Baby Einstein videos myself. So I knew again what she liked to look at. I would take items like those things she liked to look at which where things like stacking rings or the cats or you know toys that were interesting to her, put those on the table with black and white backgrounds and then combine those video elements that she so enjoyed looking at with the kinds of things I wanted to expose her to. So the very first video was Baby Einstein which ultimately was called Language Nursery and what that did was it exposed her to the sounds of nursery rhymes in a variety of languages. So languages like Spanish or Hebrew, Russian and then my daughter was hearing these things. So she was hearing nursery rhymes in languages that were really beautiful and appropriate for her. And the business model in it of itself was literally that. Here is something that my baby likes to look at that exposes her to beautiful things and ultimately what I realized was that of course babies are babies. My baby wasn’t the only one who would enjoy looking at this so other babies must as well. And so then I started thinking about how I could get that in to the hands of other parents in the world and see if other children did indeed like looking at those things and it turns out they did.
Alejandro: Got it. And so you mentioned that initially it was called Language Nursery. So did you like any type of rebrand or in to Baby Einstein or how did that work?
Julie Clark: Yeah. So it’s funny, my instinct was to call the company or the business or the very first video Baby Einstein because my thought was of course I’m taking a baby and I’m exposing her to things that will stimulate her brain and will help her to become a rounded citizen of the world if you will by exposing her to these things and so the idea was okay, well, Einstein of course was one of the most incredible brains that we’ve known in our world and so it made sense to call this Baby Einstein. So the name actually of that first video was Baby Einstein. Ultimately when I became more successful and began to create additional videos, I thought, okay, rather than having a separate name for each of these, let me call the whole brand Baby Einstein. And so the Baby Einstein name is what ultimately came to be my company but when I started my first video was first Baby Einstein then Language Nursery, and then the second video was Baby Mozart but it was under this Baby Einstein brand name, and then the third video was Baby Back, again under this Baby Einstein brand name. And so yeah, that’s really how the branding came to be.
Alejandro: Got it. So I mean one in three homes with babies have Baby Einstein, at least they’re playing it. In my house as I was mentioning, we have it back and forth like all the time. It was like playing in my head probably right now but I guess in terms of marketing tactics, Julie, what did you use to gain traction because this became like a movement?
Julie Clark: Oh my gosh. It was amazing. So when I first was trying to launch the brand and get it in to homes and get it in front of people, it occurred to me that I was my own customer. I was making something that I myself wanted and so in a very practical sense I thought okay, where do I shop? And I looked at really at the time and you have to remember this was 20 years ago, there was no internet to speak of. There certainly was no believe it or not at the time I had no email. I mean this is a different world. It’s quite remarkable when you think about how the world has changed in 20 years. So 20 years ago, I decided to try to get my first video in to a store brand called The Right Start, which was a specialty store and this was again at the time when there were stores that existed called The Right Start, Zany Brainy, Imaginarium. A lot of these specialty baby and toy stores that sadly are for the most part out of business now that we live in a world that really you know exist of organizations like Amazon and Walmart and Target where most people do their shopping. So I thought okay, I will start in specialty stores. I went to a trade show, the one that I went to was Toy Fair which is at Javits Center in New York every year. And I started just shopping that video looking for a specialty retailer that would pick up this brand which is very new. Again at the time, there were very few videos made for very young children so there was Barney, there was Sesame Street and there was Teletubbies. And now here I was with this very new brand called Baby Einstein. So I will tell you that the name itself spoke volumes to what it was and parents absolutely fell in love with the name. And you know as you yourself I’m sure as the parent with little kids would say which parent in the world doesn’t want a baby Einstein, right? Who doesn’t want their baby to be the baby considered very smart, very well stimulated, very educated. And so the name spoke volumes to what it was and of course that helped to get the brand in to homes so once The Right Start agreed to try it out in stores, what they found was that it was flying off the shelves. Parents loved it. They said oh my goodness, oh my gosh, Baby Einstein, I must have that for my baby. And then the real magic behind the brand of course was the babies loved it. It was so new and it was so beautiful because babies were responding to Mozart. These were babies who didn’t need to hear Barney or Purple dinosaur with a voice that made parents want to you know scream. So this was something that parents felt good about exposing their babies to and that their babies loved, and that was how it became a movement. A baby would be crying, mom would pop in Baby Mozart and the baby would stop crying, and that in it of itself was absolutely huge, right.
Julie Clark: So I would say it was not just this great name and the fact parents were looking for something very new and different and educational for their children, it was the fact that babies responded to it in such a beautiful way.
Alejandro: Got it. And on the PR side, I was very impressed. I mean you were on O’Brien multiple pictures with O’Brien and then you were also mentioned by President Bush during the State of the Union address I mean with your daughter next to you. I even watched video. It was really unbelievable. And I guess you know were you like once this becomes so big, I mean did you have like other people helping you because in many instances I see founders really like wanting to manage the process and how the company is portrayed. So did you do it yourself or did you have people helping you with all of that?
Julie Clark: To be frank, I did it myself and to be honest, I felt like I wasn’t even doing it, Alejandro. It was so crazy because Baby Einstein is really an anomaly. I mean it happened so quickly and so unexpectedly as it was happening I was sort of participating in it and it was almost a flurry of events, right. So I was featured in People Magazine. That was the first real you know sort of large media publication that wrote about Baby Einstein and this was just two videos in but what had happened was a writer at People Magazine had the video, her child responded to it and she said oh my gosh, I have to interview this woman. And so I got a call from People Magazine and they said, “We really want to do a story on you.” And I said, oh my gosh, perfect. Then Parenting Magazine called and you know then we were given an award for best video and then were given an award from Working Mother Magazine nominated Baby Einstein as sort of the thing that every parent had to have. This was all without any kind of PR firm behind us. These were people who were responding to what they saw, what they loved, what they children loved and as you know I mean as a parent of three, if your child love something, you love it, right? So it was again this incredible flurry of media that was happening in response to something that I had created and I can tell you that five years in to the company as I had you know worked and I had created at that time nine videos and many books and many audio CDs, I was one of five people who worked at my company. There were five employees.
Julie Clark: And we were working out my basement. I mean it was so grassroots and it was so natural and so beautiful the way that it rolled out and evolved and I was having so much fun because I was making things not only for my babies but for babies around the world and I was getting this response from parents that was overwhelming. So it was truly as I said it was an anomaly. When I talk to people about the business and they ask me, “Tell me about your business plan. Tell me about how you did this.” And I have to say I wish that I had the secret sauce. All I can say is that I made something that people wanted. It was completely new and the response of the customer who ultimately was the baby was so true and pure that it was just incredible.
Alejandro: That’s just amazing. When they ask you like maybe one that has not been familiar with your business or anything, and they ask you, “Who’s your customer?” And you say, “Babies,” probably their face you know would be really interesting to watch. But I guess kind of like going to the beginnings, so you go, you starting this incredible business from your business, how much capital did you invested initially?
Julie Clark: Do you really want to know because it’s really funny. Fifteen thousand dollars.
Alejandro: That’s amazing.
Julie Clark: I know, right.
Alejandro: That’s amazing.
Julie Clark: Because I did it all myself. Well, I have to say I have to first of all backtrack and say I did it with my husband. My husband was my partner in all of this and although the idea was mine and I was the one creating the videos and the content for the children, in the “back room” in his office, in my house, in my basement was my husband who was you know sort of handling the PO’s and figuring out how we’re going to ship which was out of our garage, and how we were going to you know handle billing and those sorts of things. So yeah, it was just crazy because it was teeny tiny and you mentioned for me of course the most miraculous thing was being invited to participated as a guest at the State of the Union address in I guess it was 2008 or 2009 with President Bush talking about Baby Einstein and a camera like my daughter and I, I mean it was insane.
Alejandro: That’s amazing.
Julie Clark: Yeah. It was so crazy. I was actually watching the news this morning and of course there was George H. Bush was being honored and George W was speaking about him in the funeral and I was so touched because it was such an incredible event in my life and such an honor to be a part of something that was so great. It was very, very incredible.
Alejandro: And did you, so okay, 15,000 to create this unbelievable thing. So did you raise any outside investment or that was it?
Julie Clark: That was it you know. The reality is we continued to create product out of our operating cash flow. We never took a penny from anyone which was I mean as you know insane, right?
Julie Clark: We never had to raise money. It was beautiful because we never have to answer to anyone, right?
Julie Clark: I mean it was just us and so I was able to make things that were so pure that came from my heart as a mom and as a creator of something that was for children. It was really beautiful and so ultimately when I sold the company to Disney, it was very different because now as I was continuing to work now for Disney and create products under an agreement that I had with them to continue to participate for a few years, it was different, right? Now suddenly I had to explain myself. This is why I think I should make this video and then there were people on the other side saying, “Well, we think you should do it differently,” and that was really strange for me.
Alejandro: I can imagine. I can imagine but I guess before we go in to that I want to ask you on what you were pointing to before which is really remarkable. So the revenues grew very quickly. What were the revenues right before the actual acquisition?
Julie Clark: We did about $23 million in sales and that was five years in and the really of course the part that everybody was just amazed by is that again that was with five employees in a company that I ran you know from my basement and shipped out of my garage.
Julie Clark: It was crazy.
Alejandro: And so I guess five employees, so how were you able to keep such a lean operation? Like what was that culture like, Julie?
Julie Clark: Oh it was amazing. So I worked with my husband of course. I was the “CEO” but god knows, I was really sort of mommy and chief. I was working again at home with my baby. But the culture was beautiful. I had my husband working with me, my VP of sales and international sales lived five doors down the street from me so he would walk to work every day and comes at my basement and the woman who handled our customer service was a neighbor as well, she lives a few blocks away, and then we had another woman who kind of again sort of helped with shipping and picking and packing but what’s very difficult for people who are younger to understand was it was a different world. This is where people would order off our website. There was no Amazon. There were no other places to really order the product from. You could eventually five years in you could purchase the product at Costco and Walmart and those sales happened as a result of those organizations coming to us and saying, “Hi, I’m with Walmart. We’re really interested in carrying your product in the store.” I mean twenty years ago it was different world, so that’s how those things happened. So our culture was tiny. It was beautiful. The people I worked with are still great friends. In fact, a couple work with me in my new company that I got going now and it’s just difficult to really explain that culture in relation to how things work today but it was small, it was simple and I would literally like kind of go decide what video I was going to make next. I would work with a consultant or a contractor to make that video. I would work with another contractor to produce the music that went on that video and that was all done again with contractors who weren’t employees.
Alejandro: That’s fantastic. And were you always, Julie, were always really planning to sell the business or what was the trigger?
Julie Clark: Yeah, you know, I would say the trigger was what we found was five years in with this incredible success that we had we began recognizing that there were other people who wanted to get in to this space. We created a space that was completely empty and so we were the only ones doing this and with our tremendous success, what we recognized five years in is that, or really four years in, was that if we didn’t grow, if we didn’t actually step it up and add another 50 people to our organization and begin to produce videos at a much quicker pace and begin to create music and toys and really expand the brand that we were going to get crushed, that we were going to see all of a sudden an organization like Disney or Viacom or Nickelodeon or any of the at that time real big people in the space of children and media come in and wipe us out because they were huge organizations. And so we got to a place where we said, my husband and I sort of looked at each other and said do we want to be an organization with a hundred employees and the answer was no. We’re not those people. We’re small entrepreneurs. We like to control what we do. We like to be personally involved and engaged and we did not see ourselves as people who wanted to start an organization like that so it was literally sell to someone who could scale or try to scale it ourselves and we didn’t want to try to scale it ourselves. And because the whole thing was such a beautiful, amazing sort of dream that had come true, we said, “Let’s get out. Let’s do what we really as human beings and parents who are very committed and devoted to our children would love to do which is let’s sell this for more money.” Let’s face it, I was a teacher. I was making $30,000 a year as a teacher. This was more money than I had ever anticipated seeing in my life. And while you know and we can talk more about this but while the valuation 20 years ago of the company was not nearly what it is today when you don’t see multiples of 10x, 20x, 30x sales, it was still so much more money that we ever thought we would see in our lives and so we said okay, this is it. Let’s take a look and see how we might sell this to somebody who could really scale this and we found that.
Alejandro: And what was that process, Julie? So once you spoke with your husband and you guys realized that you were small entrepreneurs like you mentioned earlier, like how was that process until you actually close the transaction? I mean did you hire a banker or what was the process?
Julie Clark: Yes. So to backtrack a little bit, three years in to Baby Einstein’s success, we were contacted by the Walt Disney company because they were interested in creating a book line, a Baby Einstein book like. And so they had contacted us and said, “Would you be interested in licensing the Baby Einstein name to Disney Publishing Hyperion Books,” which is part of Disney Publishing, “and writing books for the Baby Einstein brand,” which I was very excited to do and so I had began to write Baby Einstein books and in fact had five years in published over 50 Baby Einstein books that were all best sellers and were published around the world in various languages. So we had a wonderful relationship with Disney already. And so when we sat down again and decided that we were interested in offering the company for sale, the very first call that we made was to Disney and we said, “Look, we’re very interested in selling our company. Would you be interested in an acquisition?” They said yes. And so that was it. We never got another person involved. We didn’t work with a venture capital firm. We didn’t work with any outside parties. It was just a deal that we did ourselves with Disney who we already had a relationship with.
Alejandro: Got it. Got it. And how aligned were you for example like say with your husband in terms of, because I mean you had no investors which is amazing. So I guess how aligned were you with your husband in terms of the value of transaction? I mean what was really driving that price for you guys?
Julie Clark: Yeah. Well, we came up with a price and again our sales were close to $23 million that year. We came up with a price of 25 million. We made that offer to Disney and they said yes. And you know to be frank, my background is not in finance or numbers and to me that just was so much money, Alejandro. I was so amazed and honored and thrilled that I had created something with that kind of a value that it didn’t occur to me to say, “Let’s get an outside investor involved. Let’s see if we can get more than that.” And then I will tell you, the year was 2001 and we got in to this sort of negotiation, not negotiation but in to this relationship with Disney and now they were looking at our books and they were doing their due diligence and you know making sure that this was a deal that they wanted to do and as you well remember, as we all do in this country, 2001 was also the year of the Twin Towers fell and 9/11 happened and that was a few months after we had begun this due diligence process with Disney and when all of the nightmare happened that involved 9/11, many companies including Disney came out and said, “We’re not doing any deals. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the world,” and no one was doing deals or acquiring companies and Disney continued their situation with us. They continued the deal with us and so we were very happy. We didn’t have any outside involvement with anyone else who could have complicated the deal because we were suddenly afraid that maybe this deal wasn’t going to happen and it did which was beautiful.
Alejandro: That’s fantastic. And how long did it take from beginning to end? From the minute you told them 25 million to the minute the deal was closed, what was the timeline?
Julie Clark: Gosh, it was six months.
Alejandro: Six months.
Julie Clark: It was fast. Yeah. It was quite fast. I mean one thing that I can tell you and I know that you know many of your listeners could be people involved in potential sales or acquisitions and one thing that I will say that was beautiful and that I can totally attribute to my husband is that everything was in order. Our books were beautiful. We had local firm here in Colorado called EKS&H that does accounting. We had them in every month from the moment that we really recognized that we had a company, they came in monthly and did our books so that we were very clear. We were very honest and open. Our numbers were beautiful. Everything was in order and that was something that was very helpful for us as a company. So I would tell anyone who is a new business owner or a business owner looking to sell eventually or not, that having someone to do that for you if you’re not good at it yourself is key. And it was excellent. So due diligence is so important and again having someone who could do that for us was key and ideal and it made the process beautiful.
Alejandro: I agree. I agree with that, Julie. I think that right from the beginning having everything well organized is going to save a ton of headaches down the line. But in this process, Julie, I mean the other day for example I was speaking with a friend that he sold to a large corporation for quite a big price and they actually did this internally too. I think it was seven of them involved against 200 or 250 of the other organization in the deal room. I mean he said it was like crazy. So in your situation, was it just yourself and your husband really driving this process or did you have any type of support from maybe like a contractor or someone else?
Julie Clark: No support. It was just us.
Julie Clark: Yeah.
Alejandro: And how many people were probably like behind the transaction on the other party on business side if you have to estimate?
Julie Clark: You know, we never had a situation where we’re sort of sitting in a room us and them at a table because we had come up with a number and they had said yes. And so it wasn’t you know sort of this back and forth situation. It was truly again I continue to call it an anomaly. It was just a very different situation. We had a great relationship with them already. We put a number on the table. They agreed to that number and there was no negotiation beyond that.
Alejandro: Got it. And nothing like legacy, right, Julie? Because I think that when you build a company obviously you’re looking for the exit but who is coming in and ultimately their culture and what they can really leave behind for you to look back and be proud of is really remarkable. So Disney I believe they grew the business by like over 200 million. Is that right?
Julie Clark: Oh my gosh, yes. You know that Disney machine is pretty incredible and so they grew the company to close to gosh I don’t know the numbers exactly, I want to say 300 million in two years. It was astounding. And they also of course took the company in to additional relationships with juvenile product manufacturers so they began to work with an organization called Kids II which produces things like exersaucers and a lot of these baby things, right, that exist now, like playmats and then they did a relationship with Hasbro and they were creating toys, Baby Einstein toys. And so they took the brand so much further out than we had created. So you know when I owned the company, we were really essentially a media brand. We were creating video and books and music. Disney then continued that sort of element of the brand but then again they branched so much further out in to areas that we had not pursued including some that you know I thought this was kind of silly I mean they had Baby Einstein branded toothpaste. It was clearly like wow like I had no idea we were going to be in the toothpaste business.
Alejandro: That’s fantastic.
Julie Clark: But you know at that point I have to say I was only involved as a consultant because we’ve done a cold sale to them. I mean we sold the company. I had no additional interest in the company as an owner, right, so I didn’t own a piece anymore. I literally sold the whole thing outright.
Alejandro: Got it. So there was no vesting where you guys had to stay on for a couple of years or any of that?
Julie Clark: Well, actually, so I did stay on as a consultant and I was paid as a consultant and so that continued for a couple of years. It sort of then we had this crazy family situation where I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and so my whole life went upside down as you can imagine. I pulled back from a lot of my professional responsibilities which was fine and not a problem with Disney of course. So that all happened and got a little bit crazy. So yeah, that was that.
Alejandro: And I wanted to ask you here, Julie, I mean you are a cancer survivor and I think that in many ways also I guess life and also building a company is really about surviving and what I wanted to ask you is who is Julie Clark in moments of uncertainty whether that is the business or the personal side? Like how do you deal with those moments?
Julie Clark: Oh boy, well I have to say that I am an optimist, right. So I have been diagnosed with breast cancer on two occasions. The first time again 2004 and had surgery, got through it, felt great and was doing well. And four years later was diagnosed a second time and the second diagnosis was stage 4 breast cancer and as you may know or may not know there is no stage 5. Stage 4 cancer is considered for many people to be a death sentence and so on a happy note, that was 10 years ago. I’m cancer free. I have been involved in clinical trials and many, many other types of treatments including chemotherapy and surgery and all kinds of stuff. But you know because the diagnosis was stage 4 and again that’s not considered something you’re ever cured of, I consider myself cured. So I look at life in a very different way than many people do. I get up every single day with an enormous sense of gratitude and that is for my life, it’s for my children, it’s for my health and it’s for this beautiful opportunity that I had to create something that made a different in the lives of many, many families. So I continue to be involved in creating products that helped children and help families to do well as family units. I continue to create products that I believe help children to thrive and to help parents do a great job parenting, and I consider that my legacy and also my responsibility that I have found something that I’m really good at and that I believe in and that makes a difference in the lives of other people. And so that I feel is my reason to be here. When I look at my live that way and I look at role in the world, I see myself as somebody who has made a difference and can continue to make a difference and as long as I’m doing that, as long as I’m continuing to make a difference in the lives of other people, I think I’m going to be around. And so I believe that looking at my life that way has helped me to stay here and to be here and to fight against this sort of dark place that came to me and you know I look at it as okay that was a dark time and I still have some moments of fear and some moments of darkness as somebody who you know continues to go through cancer treatments so every three weeks, I continue to receive treatment as a patient but I look at myself not as a survivor but as an assassin of cancer. So actually I have not a moment where I see myself as a survivor hanging on to a life raft but as an assassin who fights against something. And I continue to fight. I continue to feel strong and I think that being in business I see myself in the same way.
Alejandro: This is truly remarkable, Julie. So thank you for sharing that experience. Shifting gears a little bit, can you tell us a little bit more about WeeSchool. This is your latest initiative I believe.
Julie Clark: It is. So WeeSchool is the way that I like to look at it is WeeSchool is what comes before PreSchool is wee like tiny, W-E-E. And the idea of WeeSchool is that I give parents and caregivers everything that they need to feel confident as new parents to babies up to the age of three so that on a daily basis parents can understand how to help their children be stimulated and grow whether it’s in a verbal sense, how do I help my child to learn to talk, how do I understand where my child is developmentally in those first three years and all of this is done through an app for parents. So if parents log in to the app store and they go to WeeSchool, they would find for free all of the information that they need from a developmental standpoint and how to help their children really thrive in those first three years. And you know my passion has really become those first three years of a child’s life because what we know as people who studied child development, what researchers would tell you is that the first three years are really the most important time in a child’s life in terms of learning and stimulation, that the brain grows to 80% of its adult capacity in three years time and that it’s not rocket science you know. Giving your child what they need in those first three years is really not hard. It’s only hard because you don’t really know what to do. If you’re not involved in child development, most parents don’t know. Gosh, what do I do with my baby at eight months? And so what WeeSchool does is it helps you understand here’s what you can do today for an eight month old. So every single day we give you a little piece of information, a little activity that you can do with your baby on that day and you can do it at home and it doesn’t require toys or books. It’s something that you know might be sing this song with your baby or in the app itself play this little piece of music to your baby and move your babies hands in this way as you play this music for your baby. And it’s completely free and it’s sort of a gift that I feel that I’ve given to parents around the world and we’re pretty excited about it.
Alejandro: And now this is, so now you’ve been around the block a few times, Julie.
Julie Clark: Yes.
Alejandro: And I guess what are some of those learnings that you’re applying now with WeeSchool that you wish you had known when you were building Baby Einstein?
Julie Clark: Well, I don’t know if I can equate it to the things I’d known when I was starting Baby Einstein as much as I can say that what I learned in Baby Einstein and have tried to apply in WeeSchool is that and this isn’t a business thing as much as it is a personal thing, it’s more that you know we are given a gift of a child and every child is a unique beautiful opportunity and it’s like I said earlier, we can put anything we want in to our baby. We can expose them to terrible things and even worse in ways we can expose them to nothing, and we have to help our children in those first three years when they have no understanding and they have no ability to expose themselves to things. We expose them to things. Again, I’m sorry that this isn’t a business, it’s not really a business answer. It’s really an answer that comes from my heart which is to say that we as a society and as human beings and especially as parents have unique opportunity to enrich the lives of our children especially in the first three years when they can’t do anything for themselves and when it’s completely our responsibility to expose them to the right things. And so all I can say again this is our responsibility and I believe that WeeSchool and Baby Einstein both have given parents help in those kinds of exposure in helping parents. I’m sorry it’s not really a business answer. It’s more of an answer from the heart.
Alejandro: No need to be sorry at all, Julie. I didn’t mention this to you but my three little ones, so I two of them are two identical twin girls…
Julie Clark: Oh my goodness.
Alejandro: And they were very premature when they were born. Now they were like one year old and I think that before they were before it was like 80% chances of them dying and 50% chances of potential brain damage if they were to survive. So they stayed in ICU for 180 days. I mean it was like crazy journey but thank God you know they’re like really huge miracle. They’re really well today but this comes to show that even if you’re not thinking that like you’re saying, no need to apologize because you made a huge difference at least for me and I know that I need to get up to speed at least you know until they turn three. So thank you so much for that, Julie. So I guess what is the best way for folks that are listening to reach out and say hi.
Julie Clark: Oh my goodness. Well, it would be wonderful a great way to reach me is through the weeschool.com website. We have a Contact Us form there. So weeschool.com, and again it’s WEE school.com. Great way to reach me and I would love to hear from anyone out there. I do, well, I’m not a professional consultant and I don’t charge anyone anything, I do hear from a number of people in particular I would say new parents and moms who have ideas like me and I would love to say if I could do it anyone can do it because I was that girl in the back of the classroom writing poetry. I was not your typical from birth entrepreneur with newspaper routed at six. I was a teacher and I’m a mom and those are the things that I’m really the most proud of and if I can do it I feel like anyone with commitment and tenacity with an idea can do it. I would say you know make sure your idea is unique. If it doesn’t exist in the marketplace already, the first thing you ask yourself is does it not exist because no one wants it and if that’s not the answer, does it not exist because no one is done it yet. And if no one has done it yet, get out there. Ask people if they think your idea is a good one and if they do, start really thinking about hmmm, is this reasonable and realistic for me to do? Can I do it at a cost that I can afford? And again for me it was $15,000 which you know it doesn’t sound like a lot to most people when it comes to starting a business, but I can tell you it was a lot to me then because that was half of my annual salary when I was a teacher. And so $15,000 was a lot of money to me but you know if it’s a good idea and again it’s a unique idea, I think it’s worth giving it a shot. So I would say again if I can do it I think anyone can do it.
Alejandro: Well, Julie, it has been a pleasure and an honor to have you on the show today. Thank you so so much.
Julie Clark: Thank you. It’s been my honor as well. I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.