Learning kits sound interesting. Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business.
I am Christy Cook, the CEO of Teach My. We design, manufacture and sell award-winning learning toys for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. Our annual revenue is over 1 million USD.
This is based on sales to Amazon, Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, Zulily and Teachmy.com. Our busiest time of year is the 4th quarter as a result of Back-To-School and the holiday shopping period.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
Necessity was definitely the mother of invention. When my son was 18 months old, I quickly realized that parents are the most important teachers. I spent countless hours scouring stores for tools to teach the alphabet, counting and reading.
When I couldn’t find one kit that did it all, I began creating my own teaching tools that matched some of the tools I had purchased. My son was reading by the age of three and parents at nursery school were asking how I had taught him. It was at this point that I realized there was a gap in the marketplace for all-in-one learning kits.
My background is in PR and marketing. These skills proved to be very beneficial. I knew from the outset that I must move our products off the ‘virtual’ shelves with lots of media exposure and attention!
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
I created a box called ‘Mama’s School’. My son absolutely loved it. We got the box out almost every day for 20-30 minutes. He learned all of the basics. I used this box as my prototype. Taking my vision to a graphic designer, he brought my ideas to life with amazing precision.
I managed to connect with a China manufacturer in my hometown of Toronto. We had several meetings and I reviewed a lot of samples. Once we agreed on the final prototype, my designer sent our files to the China manufacturer and they created 1000 learning kits. I had an early meeting with an established toy company.
They warned me not to be disheartened when 900 kits were still in my garage in a year’s time. This negativity spurred me on to sell, sell and sell!
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
A hard launch is critical. I attended a local consumer baby show. When I sold over 100 kits in 3 days, I knew I was on to something. I used these promising sales numbers in my pitch to toy stores and got a few to take my kits on consignment.
I started selling locally and slowly branched out to regional toy stores then eventually national toy stores and finally internationally, most particularly the massive market known as the USA.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
Since Teach My offers a learning kit series, we get repeat customers organically. Once a family purchases our first kit, Teach My Baby, they often come back for Teach My Toddler, Teach My Preschooler and more. We retain customers with great customer service.
I ‘hug my haters’. When it comes to dissatisfied customers, we do everything in our power to make customers happy. We are quick to replace parts and offer replacement sets. In this transparent world of reviews, no company can afford to offer poor customer service. It is most definitely the way to set your company apart.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
We are currently well established with all of the top online retailers as wholesalers and drop shippers. We are looking to diversify and build our business with educators and non- profits. We are looking forward to winning contracts with school boards, preschools, early learning, and Head Start centers
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too?
Four years after starting the business, my husband quit his currency trading job at a major bank because we won, the now-defunct Toysrus contract. My husband is the CFO and COO of Teach My. As a team, we have managed to make the business much more than only ‘financially uplifting!’
What tools or services did you use?
Hootsuite, Constant Contact, Skype, Quickbooks, My B2B (EDI provider), Shipstation are the main tools we have relied upon to grow the business. We outsource skills such as bookkeeping, accounting, and legal work.
It is imperative to identify and fill the skill gaps early on. Founders need to be honest about their weaknesses and find effective tools and resources to meet the skills required to run a business.
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
Our key challenge is pricing. In the online world, pricing is so competitive. Our retailers are constantly trying to offer the lowest price for our product which in turn falls upon us, the vendor.
We have to stand our ground and stick to our guns with MAP pricing. We also need to be on top of our suppliers to make certain we keep our cost of goods low.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
I like Social Media Examiner. It is an amazing resource for all things marketing and social media. It is very current and the readers are all experienced marketers, so comments on posts are super useful.
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
In my opinion, running a business has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with personality and character traits.
A business owner must have never-ending passion, quick decision-making skills, a thick skin and the ability to easily move on from negative criticism.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses??
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.
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