By Nichole L. Torres
Most great ideas are born from a need. The Baby Einstein Company LLC based in Littleton, Colorado, came from Julie Aigner-Clark's need for a learning tool for her infant daughter. In 1995, this former teacher and new mom read the latest research regarding babies' capacity to learn. Finding nothing in stores that used the research and that was developmentally appropriate, educational and fun, Aigner-Clark (pictured with daughters Sierra, 3, and Aspen, 6) decided to create something herself. Her first video, Baby Einstein, featured intriguing pictures and mothers speaking different languages. Says Aigner-Clark, "I wanted something that was not only entertaining but stimulating and engaging that would give [my daughter] exposure to things that were lovely."
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As a mom, she knew her product was good, but "nobody was returning my calls," she says. "I knew if I could get it into the hands of a mom or an executive who had a baby, [that] would sell it."
Two years later, with no responses to her many queries, Aigner-Clark finally hit pay dirt: She went to the American International Toy Fair in New York City determined to get her product into the hands of a buyer from The Right Start, a high-end baby retailer. She searched the huge show for two days without luck. When she finally found the buyers, she says, "I ran up to them [and said,] 'You're going to love this video! You have to watch it! It's perfect for your store!' " Aigner-Clark's instincts were right on: Baby Einstein soon became the store's fastest-moving product.
She's followed up with more books and videos-Baby Bach, Baby Mozart, Baby Shakespeare and Baby Van Gogh. She's also developing Baby Santa's Music Box, a CD set due out at Christmas, as well as licensing agreements with toy-makers to create educational toys to expose babies to the arts.
Still, even with 1999 sales of more than $4 million and a projected $10 million in 2000, Aigner-Clark's best rewards are being able to organize her schedule around her daughters and reading the stirring letters she gets from Baby Einstein viewers. How does she define success? "That I've made these kids-who are so special-happy . . . that I've made them smile."