Monday, October 3, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Mary Kate Mellow & Stephanie Troeller of Prima Princessa Productions

I am excited to introduce to you all to our Spotlight Mommies, Mary Kate Mellow and Stephanie Troeller of Prima Princessa Productions this week.  A few months back, I contacted Mary Kate and Stephanie about doing this spotlight and was sent one of their DVD's, The Nutcracker to watch with my daughter. This DVD is 1 of 3 in the Prima Princessa series, which also includes Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.  Each of these DVD's can be purchased online through Amazon, as well as select retail stores across the country.  These two moms have worked so hard at getting this production company of the ground, with no film making experience between them.  With hard work and dedication, they have since released these 3 titles in the Prima Princessa series, and will have The Nutcracker air on PBS this holiday season.  Congrats, ladies!!!

I will share my review of The Nutcracker with you all this Friday in my Feature Friday post, where I will also run a giveaway, where one Inspired by Savannah reader will have a chance to win Swan Lake, another DVD in the Prima Princessa series.  So, make a note to yourself and head back here on Friday!

In the meantime, please enjoy my interview with Mary Kate and Stephanie of Prima Princessa Productions.  


Name: Mary Kate Mellow & Stephanie Troeller
Company Name/Product/Service: Prima Princessa Productions, including Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker DVD, Prima Princessa Presents Swan Lake DVD, Prima Princessa Presents Sleeping Beauty DVD (release this fall), Prima Princessa Ballet for Beginners BOOK
Company Location: Montclair, NJ
Company Website:
Facebook URL:
Age of Company: 4 years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” -- Helen Keller (Mary Kate)
"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses." -- Joyce Brothers (Stephanie)
Favorite Book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It is a beautifully written and extremely thought
provoking book. (Mary Kate)
“My favorite book of late is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is a World War ll story
of one man's unbreakable spirit, his personal determination and will to succeed and
survive any and all adversities. Very motivating and compelling story.” (Stephanie)

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

“I am married with two wonderful kids, a boy 12 and a girl 8. For hobbies I enjoy jewelry-making, walking the dog, and reading,” says Mary Kate

“My husband and I have four amazing kids, 2 boys ages 6 & 12 and 2 girls ages 8 & 10. As you can imagine I don’t have much time for hobbies, but, I do enjoy working out, cartooning and cooking,” says Stephanie

Briefly explain your business. How did it come about?

“When my daughter Ana was just barely 3 she used to love dancing around to my odd collection of ballet DVDs. I’d fast forward to all the fun, fast moving dances that she liked best. I was thrilled she had a budding interest in the arts and really wanted to help nurture that, but I could not find any dance-along ballet DVDs for sale,” says Mary Kate

“If necessity is the mother of invention, well I guess that would make us the mommies of at-home-ballet. We made Prima Princessa for our ballet loving pre-schoolers because we couldn’t find any real ballet DVDs for them to watch!” says Stephanie.

What is a typical work day like?

“We really don’t have a typical workday as there are so many distinct parts to this business. Production involves lots of steps from getting together to write the script to the actual filming of the talent and then finally going into the studio to edit and pull it all together. When not in production we are busy marketing the show which may mean a conference call with a distributor or contacting bloggers to do blog reviews of our DVDs,” says Mary Kate.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?

“Neither one of us had any film making experience, so we had to learn the business on our own. Everything from writing the script, hiring a film crew to editing the film had a huge learning curve,” says Stephanie.

What did you do in your past work life?

“I had a jewelry business where I sold handcrafted jewelry to boutiques, museum shops and higher end department stores like Neiman Marcus. I also worked in the art auction business right out of college in San Francisco,” says Mary Kate.

“Putting my extensive knowledge of Machiavelli and Hobbes to work, I formerly pursued pursued a career in comics. I have under my belt 15 years of cartooning, directing and product design experience with Hanna Barbera, DC Comics, and Warner Bros. Studio Stores. I also created my own comic strip, “Relationstrips” which appeared for 5 years in many alternative weekly papers nationwide,” says Stephanie.

What have been some of your major successes?

“Seeing our two shows ‘Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker’ and ‘Prima Princessa Presents Sleeping Beauty’ on PBS is super exciting for us. We really wanted to make shows that would enrich the lives of children by exposing them to world-class ballet. It is really rewarding when parents tell us how much they appreciate the show and how much their children are enjoying it and learning from it,”says Mary Kate.

“Getting the shows into the market is a big challenge with the limited financial resources that we have. When we first started out we had to do tons of cold calling to stores to get them to take our DVDs for resale,” says Stephanie.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

“A passion for our DVDs is what keeps me going. It is really meaningful to think that we are inspiring in children a love of the arts,” says Stephanie.

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

“The more organized you can be, the better able you’ll be to manage a family and as well as business. But no matter what it can be exhausting and don’t expect perfection.” Weekly pizza night is nothing to be ashamed of!” says Mary Kate.

What is next for your business?

“We are currently working with a clothing designer to create a line of Prima Princessa clothing for young children. Additionally, we are planning to produce more Prima Princessa DVDs as well as write some more children’s books,” says Stephanie.

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

“A business plan is absolutely essential. We spent months researching and developing our business plan. Make sure to really think realistically about your budget. Try to find mentors in your field and be sure to meet with them and get advice,” says Stephanie.

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