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Calendar Girls

Friends' pregnancies give birth to a business idea for three entrepreneurs.

When Julia Linden Frazier was working as a New York City graphic designer in 1986, she was surrounded by pregnant women. All her friends and co-workers were having children--and that got her to thinking about having a baby of her own.

But this "baby" would be different: not a child at all, but an educational tool for pregnant women. After hearing her friends talk about the size of the fetus in this week of pregnancy and its stage of development in that week, Frazier was struck with her great idea: Why not feature gestation information in a special calendar for pregnant women, so they could track their babies' development and know what to expect along the way?

"The women I knew were always asking each other things like when they should expect morning sickness and if they could eat such-and-such," says Frazier, now 39. "By putting the answers into the form of a calendar, they'd have all the answers when they needed them."

The concept had potential, but Frazier wanted to raise this baby with more than one parent. So she called on her freshman-year roommate at the University of Colorado in Denver, Marion Finholm Jones, who was in nursing school. Frazier envisioned herself designing the calendar and Jones writing it, providing medical information with the text.

"At the time, all the [reference materials] for pregnant women read like textbooks," says Jones, 39. "What I liked about Julia's idea was that it put the things a woman needed to know at different times right in front of her--no flipping through big books. You could look at the calendar and say `Okay, I'm at 24 weeks. Here's how big the baby is; here's what feelings are normal.' "

Sensing their success was about to hatch, the pair then recruited Jones' sister, Beth Finholm Rumbach. She worked for a property management firm at the time, and brought sales and financial expertise to the budding business. She and her sister also had already had their first babies, giving them firsthand pregnancy experience.

Together, the trio of moms (12 years later, they have a total of eight children) dubbed their company Linholm Corp. They launched the Denver company in 1987 with $11,000--the sum of Frazier's inheritance, Jones' savings and a loan from Jones' in-laws--and a goodwill deal: The Colorado hospital where Jones worked ordered 1,000 calendars and agreed to pay
50 percent upfront to cover printing.

Since that time, the pregnancy calendar has sold more than 1.26 million copies; spawned (in 1990) a "baby's first year" calendar that has sold 498,000 copies to date; and most important of all, been a resource for new mothers nationwide. Since start-up, Linholm Corp. has earned $6.4 million--not bad for a business that remains a part-time endeavor. (Frazier is still a graphic artist, Jones is a nurse and Rumbach works for American Airlines.)

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Calendar Girls.

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