Barefoot Books, illustrated children's books; founder Nancy Traversy
Traversy is the CEO and founder of today's very successful Barefoot Books. She has accomplished dramatic growth in the company recently, mainly selling books, gifts and the Barefoot Lifestyle directly to consumers and retail partners, and through a grassroots but global community of more than 1,200 members.
But this growth didn't happen overnight, nor was it easy. Traversy has had to overcome many obstacles to make Barefoot Books what it is today. When Barefoot began in 1993 in the U.K. homes of co-founders Traversy and Tessa Strickland, things were a little simpler. As the company grew and they began to hire staff, the women realized that the U.S. would be a wonderful market for their books so they set up shop in New York in 1998. With four children under the age of six, and while still managing a growing U.K. business, Traversy struggled with the transatlantic commutes.
That decision marked the beginning of a traumatic 6-year phase in Barefoot's journey. On Traversy's 40th birthday and 10th wedding anniversary, her husband surprised the family with a trip to Kenya. However, on the British Airways flight from London to Nairobi, a deranged passenger broke into the cockpit and attempted to take control of the plane. In the struggle that ensued, the plane stalled, fell 12,000 feet and nearly crashed, before an American basketball player and the pilot managed to restrain the hijacker and get the plane back under control.
On Traversy's return to London, she found a letter from the receivers letting her know that her U.K. warehouse had gone bankrupt. The doors were locked with hundreds of thousands of books and a similar amount of money inside. Traversy eventually got her books back but lost all of the collections, which represented about four months of holiday sales. However, with a pending move to the U.S., she didn't have the resources to enter into expensive and uncertain litigation to get her money back.
Around the same time in early 2001, Traversy's right-hand person in New York resigned. It was at this point that she began to doubt her mission and her ability to make the company succeed. She knew she needed either to throw in the towel or give Barefoot one more chance with her move to the U.S. In July 2001, Nancy moved her four children, husband and entire life from London to Concord, Massachusetts.
During the early part of 2001, Traversy sold her house in London and found a new U.S. home and schools for her children. She moved her New York office to Cambridge, hired a new team and relocated her U.K. team to new premises in Bath. She also designed a new flagship store in Cambridge, which opened in November 2001, and decided to mail 100,000 catalogs directly to U.S. parents and teachers. Unfortunately, this mailing occurred at the same time as the post office anthrax scare, so she got almost no orders and incurred a significant financial loss.
With all of the global turmoil and economic uncertainty, Traversy once again questioned the wisdom of her decision to move to the U.S. and carry on with Barefoot. But she also knew that Barefoot's values and mission would resonate with parents and teachers around the globe and that her books needed to be published. For the next few years, she focused on cutting costs, building a dedicated and talented team, putting in place innovative new programs and raising awareness for her company.
By summer 2005, just when things were beginning to look brighter with business growth of nearly 40 percent that year, Katrina hit and the growth tapered off. Then came inspiration. During the holiday season that year, co-founder and close friend Strickland sent Traversy a deck of "52 ways to simplify your life" cards. Many of the messages in the deck inspired Traversy to rethink the way she was living her life and running Barefoot. She knew she needed to continue to produce beautiful and inspiring books for children and focus wholeheartedly on finding partners around the globe. With an unstoppable determination, Traversy continued to move her company forward.
Lisa Druxman is Entrepreneur.com's "Mompreneur" columnist and the founder and CEO of fitness franchise Stroller Strides. Druxman is also a nationally recognized speaker and author, and is considered an expert in the field of fitness, particularly pre- and postnatal fitness. She hosts a free monthly webinar during which she answers questions from fellow mompreneurs. If you are interested in participating, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.