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Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons From Julie Aigner-Clark (Baby Einstein)
Today we’re going to take a closer look at a stay-home mom who just wanted to make a video to entertain and educate her children, but in the process helped develop a billion dollar business. This is the story of Baby Einstein developer Julie Aigner-Clark and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from her success.
“Before Baby Einstein, I was an English major in college and after that I was a teacher in high school and left when I had my first baby. At that time, there was nothing that existed that was fun educational videos for babies. That is when I realized that there was a need in the market place and best of all I was my own customer.” – Julie Aigner-Clark
Julie Aigner-Clark (born February 16, 1947) is an American entrepreneur that developed the Baby Einstein video series for children. She grew up in Michigan and went to Michigan State University, where she majored in the humanities. Right out of school, Aigner-Clark began teaching English to high school students. She was enjoying her new profession and her ability to help shape and educate young minds, when something happened that would change the course of her life forever.
After Aigner-Clark had her first daughter, she became fascinated by the latest research dealing with newborns and their capacity to learn. She began to search baby stores far and wide for material that was both educational and appropriate for her child’s development, while still being fun. At the end of her search, Aigner-Clark had come up empty handed. So she began to think about creating her own product. She thought that if she couldn’t find what she was looking for in stores, maybe other mothers were in the same situation. Being the busy mother that she was, however, she didn’t act on her idea until a full year later.
Along with her husband, Aigner-Clark borrowed a friend’s video camera and headed into her basement to film what would become the first of many Baby Einstein videos. With her baby as the live audience, her cat as a prop, and her husband as the videographer, the pair set out to create their vision. Turned down by many retailers, Aigner-Clark decided to hit the floors of toy trade shows to get the word out about her product. Still, she found it difficult to find people who shared her enthusiasm. Finally, however, Aigner-Clark was able to convince a buyer from The Right Stuff, a high-end toy retailer, to stock a few trial copies of her video in their stores. When they sold out within three days, The Right Stuff agreed to sign an exclusive deal with Aigner-Clark. Baby Einstein videos were now being distributed in 34 stores across the country, and selling out fast. Today, the Baby Einstein is being produced by Disney and total revenues are over $1 billion annually.
Action Item #1: Look for a Need
Action Item #2: Spread the Word
Action Item #3: Build a Brand
Julie Aigner-Clark fired up the TEDxDetroit Conference in Michigan in September 2011 by telling her remarkable story. The story began with her discovering that she had Stage 4 cancer and ended tearfully with her telling how she help build a billion dollar business while working at home in her pajamas. Aigner-Clark told the audience, “All the important work I have done in my life, I have done in my pajamas.”
Her inspiring story brought tears to everyone’s eyes, but part of the keynote address was Aigner-Clark’s lecture on the importance of self confidence, which she claimed helped her build the Baby Einstein video series and battle against breast cancer. Aigner-Clark told the crowd how you must believe in yourself, even if no one else does. Her powerful recovery from cancer, her creation of a billion-dollar business and her ability to raise three children are all attributed to her belief that anyone can do it as long as they have self confidence.
“In terms of regrets, I do not really have any. I have been able to be with my family much more than I ever could have for the past five years.”
“The response was amazing. Parents loved the video and it flew off the shelves, really by word of mouth.”
“In the first year, with one title, we made $100K in revenue. This was nearly five times my teaching salary.”
Michigan is Home to Twelve Billionaires
A look at the richest Michiganders
Twinkie Robbed Worker’s Pensions to Pay CEO Bonuses
Karl Marx famously wrote that capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. If true, the young, green shoots of that destruction may well be the corporate and billionaire excesses, ranging from the Hostess debacle to the billionaire oligarch Koch Brothers funding anti-union efforts by Rick Snyder and Republicans in Michigan.
As the former chairman/CEO of Domino’s Pizza Inc., Dave Brandon, AB ’74, brings unique perspective to his current role as director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Michigan. “Fundamentally the leadership role is very similar,” Brandon says of his shift from the corporate sector to the nonprofit realm. “But if your corporate team screws up, you can’t make them run laps.” Brandon shared his tips for leading high-performance teams during Reunion Weekend at the Ross School of Business Oct. 28.