with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
Categories: Women Entrepreneurs
I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Belinda Takahashi, Ph.D., Emmy-award winning composer, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at The Juno Company while at Mom 2.0 Summit in New Orleans. The Juno Company is an award-winning producer of quality musical entertainment for children. Their DVDs are celebrations of classical music with adorable characters and positive lessons for young viewers. The company was co-founded by Belinda and her husband Adam.
About four years ago, I learned of the Juno Baby DVDs when my daughter was barely one. I was enamored with them, and somehow - through the power of the Internet - was able to get in touch with Belinda’s husband, Adam. We emailed for a while, and I think he kindly sent me another DVD and a CD. We enjoyed wearing them out, then my daughter moved on to older fare.
Fast forward to today: the company now has Juno Jr. so my daughter has a new set of musical videos to enjoy.* Plus, my little iPad-savvy child can also play Juno-inspired musical learning apps (iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Android). As a mom, I have tried to be selective about the things my daughter watches and hears. I feel good about The Juno Company products because of their quality, entertainment value, plus I enjoy watching and listening to them myself. And the music and apps make great travel entertainment, especially on our 7 hour drives to the airport from rural Alaska!
Here’s an interview I conducted recently with Belinda.
Entrepreneur Mom: How did you take the seed of an idea and turn it into The Juno Company? What were some of the key steps you took to get from concept to your first product out to market?
Belinda Takahashi, Ph.D.: Seeds are best sown with love and care. I truly believe that if you have an idea and are passionate about it, you have the possibility of developing something great. I started with a love and passion for music and the raw desire to share that with children.
Using original music performed by orchestral musicians as the foundation, I came up with a cast of puppet characters (designs I had created in the 5th grade and the main character named after my daughter, Juno) that could talk to and interact with young children and tell stories through song.
With that concept, my husband and I took a leap of faith, emptied our bank account, set up shop in our NYC apartment and began hiring puppet builders, editors, artists, camera and lighting operators (we filmed in my in-laws’ apartment), graphic designers, web developers, sound engineers, orchestral musicians, and a PR firm (that we very quickly fired and wound up doing ourselves). In short, our very first attempt stank! But, it was the best learning experience we could have asked for - a very quick education, learning as we went along. We decided to continue on with our next attempt and it was much better but still not the product we ultimately hoped to create.
The more we were learning about the process, the more we realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as we had originally thought! We came to a tough decision - do we sink more money, energy and time into this or just throw in the towel and move on with our lives?
Being too attached to our idea and naturally stubborn people, we continued and came out with the Juno Baby DVD and CD series along with a supporting line of apparel and plush. We had to learn about replication, product design and manufacturing - we designed all our shirts and plush ourselves working directly with factories overseas (again another huge learning experience)! When we were ready to launch we created a nice buzz with press and won many top awards which gave us credibility with retailers and customers.
Initially we sold our products on our own website and in upscale boutique toy and gift stores. I wrapped and packaged every order myself and wrote each customer a personal thank you note. Now Juno Baby has grown into The Juno Company with the addition of our new preschool brand Juno Jr. I am very proud of our newest line of DVDs, CDs, books and apps.
Entrepreneur Mom: How have you managed running a successful educational entertainment company and having a family - which obviously grew as you’ve been growing your business? What have you specifically done to be able to handle both?
Belinda: Being a “hands on” parent while also running a business is a non-stop juggling act and sometimes a three-ring circus! I think the key to managing it all is being flexible, prioritizing, creative scheduling, remaining present and being fully there (trying not to think about the other things that you should be doing), and simply accepting the perpetual tug of war of it all. There simply isn’t enough time in one day to accomplish everything that you want or need to do. If you’re going to try and “do it all”, you have to become comfortable with a certain level of angst and guilt. You’re also just going to have to let some things go (i.e. folding the laundry).
I am very fortunate to have the support of my husband who is my partner in business and life - we’re in all of it together which is a tremendous help and comfort. I also try and have the kids feel included and part of what I do - they have been my test market after all! They love appearing and lending their voices in the videos as well as making suggestions to our creative endeavors - it’s a true family affair!
Entrepreneur Mom: What has been your greatest business challenge to date - and how have you overcome it? What lessons did you learn from it?
I think my greatest business challenge has been maintaining the integrity and essence of the Juno brand as it grows and expands. The more images, messaging and copy that is out there, the harder it is to control and ensure that the brand doesn’t get diluted and the essence of our vision remains in tact. I think finding people that really get your aesthetic and ethos is essential.
*disclosure: While at Mom 2.0 Summit, Belinda surprised me with a tote full of Juno-related goodies including plush toys and DVDs.
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