Monday, April 25, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Christy Cook of Teach My, an award winning all-in-one learning kit for babies, toddlers and preschoolers

What I love most about writing my blog is meeting and learning about amazing mom entrepreneurs, like Christy Cook of Teach My, which are award winning all-in-one learning kits for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  I was one of those moms who began reading to my daughter in the womb, and continue to read to her daily and try to teach her through play and various learning agents.  I was so thrilled when I came across Christy Cook and her Teach MyTeach My learning kit for babies, which I have been using with Savannah over the past few weeks.  I can't believe how excited Savannah gets when I use some of the teaching tools from the kit.  You will have to come back on Friday to read my full review on the Teach My learning kits.  But, before I do that, I wanted to share my interview with the creator, Christy Cook.  Enjoy! learning kits, and was even more excited when she accepted my invitation to be a Spotlight Mommy.  Christy kindly sent me a

Name:  Christy Cook
Company Name/Product/Service: Teach My, Award Winning All-In-One Learning Kits For Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
Company Location:  Toronto
Company Website:
Facebook URL: @teachmy
Twitter Handle: @teachmy
Age of Company:  3 yrs.
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fortune favors the brave -- Publius Terence
Favorite Book: So Cliché, Mommy Millionaire by Kim Levine!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc. 

I have one son, Finn who was the inspiration for Teach My. I also have 3 step kids, who are in their late teens and early twenties. I have a loving and supportive husband and an amazing cat, named Pluto! I like to ski and golf but sadly, spare time is rare in the first few years of a business, so I don’t get to enjoy these hobbies often enough! Life is busy but I truly love every minute of it!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

As I mentioned above, my son Finn was my inspiration. When he was 18-months old, I was excited to teach him the basic building blocks of learning - the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors. After searching several stores for an all-in-one kit, I settled for buying individual pieces at various teaching supply stores in my area. I filled a box with mismatched flashcards, kindergarten charts, books, and puzzles, and called it "Mama's School". My son and I sat down with "Mama's School" almost every day for about 20 minutes. By the time he was three-years old, he could read. Parents at nursery school and playgroups began to ask how I had taught him. At this point, I knew I had a viable business idea. 

What is a typical work day like? 

Finn wakes us up at 7am. I get on my computer to check emails and start thinking about my day as I get Finn ready for school. I drop Finn and I’m back at my desk by 9am, where I start to make it happen! A lot of days, it is all about making something out of nothing! I always have to be on the lookout for sales, marketing & PR opportunities. I have to be proactive about contacting people and persistent about following up. My goal is to get my products on retailers’ shelves and then move the product off their shelves by building awareness with potential customers! The equation is really that simple!

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

Staying focused! As an entrepreneur, I am contacted regularly by people with interesting ideas and opportunities. Right from the very beginning, I had a clear vision for Teach My. I have not wavered from that vision and I will continue along the same path. It is difficult for entrepreneurs to stay focused because by nature, we are idea generating visionaries! 

What did you do in your past work life? 

I worked for 10 years in Public Relations for agencies and hotel companies.

What have been some of your major successes? 

The biggest success was getting spotted by Toys R Us at New York Toy Fair in 2009. As soon as a large company like Toys R Us sees the value in a brand, the other big players want a piece of the pie as well!

What have been some of your major challenges? 

At the moment, Teach My kits are only available online with the big box chains. We are working hard to get our sales numbers up, so the store buyers will want to carry the kits in-stores. In the meantime, I am trying get small retailers to carry Teach My because although, the kits are available online, many customers really want to ‘touch and feel’ and buy the products at a physical store location.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
About once a month, I have a ‘blue’ business day. I tend to step away from the computer and spend the day rationalizing! I remind myself of my successes and literally, talk myself out of being blue. I always tell myself that for every high, there will be a low!

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family? 

I have learned to be very good at switching gears. I also get very focused from 9am-3pm and again after 8pm. My husband is extremely supportive and Finn, who is now 8 has a keen interest in being an entrepreneur, so he loves to hang out in my office, while I show him the ropes!

What is next for your business? 

I am working on Add-Ons by Teach My. These will be new sections that can be purchased and added to the kits, when little ones have mastered the basic sections in each kit.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 

I already mentioned the importance of staying focused. I also think many entrepreneurs underestimate the time and money commitment involved in bringing an idea to market. Be certain the timing is correct. I waited until my son was in full days at school, so I truly had enough dedicated hours each day to move the idea forward!

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