By Amina Ramadan, Staff Interviewer
AK: What is Baby Einstein?
JC: Baby Einstein is a company I started in 1996 (our first product came out in 1997). It was inspired by my baby daughter, Aspen. I was looking for ways to have her enjoy things like classical music, art and poetry – things I used to teach – and I decided to make a video that she could enjoy watching and that would also expose her to these kinds of things. The company was very successful and now is much more than a single video – it’s videos, music CDs, books, toys and baby products.
AK: Why is the mission of the Baby Einstein products so important to you?
JC: I love teaching literature, and I love music. The mission behind Baby Einstein was to create ways for tiny children to enjoy these things, too. I think these things are beautiful, and it’s important for me to know that I’ve found a way to help parents expose their babies to these things while having fun.
AK: Can you tell us about how you began the company? What was your inspiration?
How did you overcome the obstacles associated with starting a business?
JC:: Part of this was answered above, but to be more specific – I borrowed a video camera and shot and edited the first two videos (Baby Einstein and Baby Mozart) in my basement. I had no formal training, but I believed in what I was doing. I didn’t know how to market a product – I’d never sold anything before – so I went to a trade show. At a trade show, retailers who buy products for stores walk around and look at peoples’ products and inventions, and decide if they want to buy them for the store that they work for. I found a retailer who was interested in my video and decided to buy a small quantity for their store (The Right Start – a baby store).
AK: How does it feel to be the founder of a company with such renown as Baby Einstein? How did Disney become interested in Baby Einstein? What is your role in the company today? What are the pros and cons?
JC: It feels wonderful! I’m very proud. When I was into the third year of Baby Einstein, Disney contacted me to write Baby Einstein books under the Disney brand. This was very exciting. When I decided to sell the company after five years it was easy to contact Disney because I already had a relationship with them.
AK:I and my fellow AK! staff member Holly have participated in the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society for several years. It’s truly a powerful experience, and cancer survivors are some of the strongest people I know. How has being a breast cancer survivor affected your life and your work?
JC: Well, it really made me aware of how fragile life is, and how important it is to look at every day as a new and special experience. It made me more grateful for my family and my friends, who helped me immeasurably as I was going through cancer treatments. And it reminded me that there is no greater gift than life – that life and love are a lot more important than financial success. Money can’t buy you health. And a BIG thank you for you and Holly and your wonderful support!
AK:There has been some recent controversy regarding Baby Einstein products, mostly due to theories that the video products may encourage parents to let their babies or small children spend too much time watching television, rather than playing outside or doing other activities where they might learn by ‘natural inquiry’. What would you say to these claims?
JC: There’s a longer answer to this on my web site (www.aignerclarkcreative.com), but the press release that came out about the research is not accurate. At Baby Einstein, we never suggested that a parent leave children in front of the tv. Our videos were always about interacting with babies while watching the videos in the same way you’d read a book to your baby – by talking with them and engaging them. I’m all for going outside and playing with your children – Baby Einstein was simply a way to expose babies to music, poetry and art – just one of many ways to interact with young children.
AK:What charitable programs are you involved in? How do you pick these programs and how do you work with them?
JC: I’ve become involved with The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as I founded The Safe Side, a company that makes products that help kids to stay safe. I’ve also just begun working as a humane educator for the Denver Dumb Friends’ League – I do this as a volunteer rather than a paid employee. I go into elementary schools and teach children about the importance of taking good care of animals. And I teach two electives at my daughters’ school on a volunteer basis.
AK: What are some of your future goals, hopes, wishes or aspirations you’d like to share with our readers?
JC: To remember to live every day like it’s the last.
AK: Amazing Kids! believes all children are amazing in their own way. We seek to inspire kids to discover and explore their own “amazingness,” so they can one day realize their potential. Do you have any advice to the amazing kids reading this who are motivated by your innovation and the inspiring example you set?
JC: To do what you love. I did go to college, where I studied literature and education. I didn’t have any business background when I started baby Einstein, but I believed in what I was doing and used common sense to understand the business world. You can do it!
AK: Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule for us—we appreciate it!