Big Idea: Meet the Creator of Baby Einstein
How the top-selling educational DVDs made their way to your living room.
Julie Clark, Creator of Baby Einstein
I left a job teaching English and art in the late '90s when I had my daughter, Aspen. I adored staying home with her, but I missed exposing kids to music and poetry and art. I thought I'd find some videos to show her and was shocked when they didn't exist. So I decided to shoot a video that my own baby would enjoy.
I borrowed equipment from a friend's husband and edited the footage on my home computer. It took me a year and a half. While Aspen napped, I'd shoot a few toys in the basement and try to edit it together with music. I was figuring it out as I went.
When I was done, I showed it to a handful of friends. They were pleasantly skeptical. "It's interesting you'd show classical stuff to babies," they said. The concept was pretty out there at the time. But I figured there was no reason a baby couldn't enjoy classical music as much as "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
I wanted to earn back some of the $15,000 I'd spent, so I sent the tape to a catalog company that I liked. They didn't get back to me. Later that year, I went to a trade show and spotted a buyer for the catalog. I charged over to her and said, "Please watch this." A few weeks later, the company ordered 100 copies and sold them all. They told me their customers loved it, and they ordered even more.
I was shipping tapes from my garage for the first two and a half years. That first year, we earned $100,000 in sales. As a teacher, I was making $22,000 a year, so the raise was almost inconceivable!
By the fifth year, the company was doing fantastically and earned $22 million. My husband was my CFO, and we started to see some competition going after us. The stress started to affect us. By then, we had a second daughter, Sierra. We sold Baby Einstein to Disney in 2001, and now I'm thrilled to be back to teaching again, part-time.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.