Sunday, November 1, 2009
Baby Steps and Milestones;-).
Today was a day of milestones, the culmination of many baby steps. I sent off my mentor application, with attached resume and executive summary. The summary is not at the stage it could be shown to venture capitalists, but it is good enough to start getting some feedback from a mentor. And I'm a big fan of the phrase the perfect is the enemy of the good;-). Working around a two and five year old will do that to you.
In addition, I've found my company name and bought the .com rights to it. My company shall be the Curiosity Cottage. The tagline will be something like, "Where the bits and pieces of daily life you (your children) touch, also teach." The rights are $15 for one year. If I want the email or webmail, that will be closer to $35, but for now the .com address will be enough. As I mentioned earlier, if you are ready to name your company, you can do an easy and free search at www.hover.com. Sarah Manski, the CEO with whom I met, strongly suggested you get the .com rather than .net or .org as it is more widely used.
Below is the executive summary of my new company. If you're in a field that sees these regularly, you will quickly realize the need to polish it and the additional information I will need about potential customers, a more specific understanding of the size of the market, and other things, but it is a start and I'm thrilled to have it and my resume on their way to seek more help.
Many, many, many thanks to all of you for your ideas and suggestions. They all went into the mix. Wishing you a lovely night! Off to the land of Nod. Eileen
The Curiosity Cottage
The Curiosity Cottage is an on-line marketplace that brings together items from many different companies that serve a dual purpose of being a necessary household product and also a learning tool.
The idea behind the company is that everything a child interacts with could be a teaching tool. Rather than be "branded" by Elmo eating cereal in a bowl each morning or going to bed with a Bob the Builder nightlight, a kid could be using these items, along with towels, rugs, and cups as a learning opportunity. And there is a variety of interesting, scattered random products out there. The Company store might have an alphabet quilt or Pottery Barn a series of bowls with Spanish verbs. There is a company that makes math equation and SAT word shower curtains and some woman in CA making a series of kids tee-shirts that have space and planet systems. But as of now, there is no one marketplace bringing together all these dual use items that capitalize on kids' natural curiosity and items that they will interact with each day anyway.
In recent years there has been a spate of studies showing that afterschool classes in Japanese and math tutoring on weekends can result in the “overscheduled child”. Kids need downtime and playtime too.
Addressing this need is an entire new toy industry called Edutainment, which refers to the overlap of entertainment and education. This market of education and entertainment is growing. A recent article from Entrepreneur magazine notes the Toy Industry Association estimates that the traditional toy industry (which doesn’t include electronics such as video games and handheld electronic games) is worth an estimated $22 billion in annual sales. Educational games like Cranium have enjoyed huge mass appeal. In the eight years since its inception, this board game, together with its sibling titles, has sold more than 15 million games in 10 languages and 30 countries. Educational toys like the LeapFrog learning laptops have also been popular. Industry observers believe that educational toys’ mass-market appeal will only continue to grow, as parents continue to search for meaningful enrichment activities for their children.
There is then an active need for products that fit that education/entertainment concept and a niche waiting to be filled in the enormous number of daily household items a child interacts with on a daily basis. In addition to creating a marketplace for the items already available, I have a long list of other products I would like to produce, from a nightlight that shows addition, subtraction, and multiplication to bath towels with the states, dinosaurs or the periodic chart of the elements.
Part of the concept of the company is to use the same tools as McDonalds or Coca Cola, but to put them in the hands of parents. Those companies spend millions on advertising, in part, due to something called the exposure effect. The exposure effect (also known as the mere exposure effect) is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Why not use that concept to make kids like geometry, the works of Monet or the basic principles of gravity by regular exposure during the day?
Similarly, many sites on education stress the need for repetition in learning. In an article about learning:
Repetition reinforces a student's understanding of learned information. Even students with extremely high aptitude will find it difficult to learn from presentations made only once. Depending upon the frequency and duration of each training session, entire sessions should, at times, be devoted to reviewing what students should already know.
And if you think back to learning your multiplication tables, this makes sense. Many things need lots of repetition and reinforcement in the learning process, and why not make the house or car time a part of that?
Another benefit of surrounding kids with learning tools is the concept of subliminal learning. A 2008 article in Science Daily discussed this idea in an article on subliminal learning. Research showed that images shown to participants led to learning without the conscious processing of contextual cues.
“Although the idea that instrumental learning can occur subconsciously has been around for nearly a century, it had not been unequivocally demonstrated. Now, a new study published by Cell Press in the August 28 issue of the journal Neuron used sophisticated perceptual masking, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to show that instrumental learning can occur in the human brain without conscious processing of contextual cues.”
The concept behind the Curiosity Cottage could be expanded in time to adults. According to a 2007 New York Times article, Americans see 5000 ads a day!
And if advertising is essentially a way to get a person to feel they need to buy a ABC product to make them happy or that without XYZ product they are somehow lacking, unfulfilled or not quite up to par, that's a lot of heavy duty subconscious programming. By using the same concept, but turning it on its head, so that in your own home, you are SURROUNDED by positive messages whether from Emerson, Lincoln, Plato, Aristotle or Descartes, particular messages that you chose for yourself, rather than a group of marketers, it seems this would help balance things out a bit.
And if that sounds a bit new age, there are adults as well as children out there who are learning all sorts of new languages in this global marketplace who might learn from all things Spanish (plates, dishtowels, towels, etc) or all things German, French or Italian. Or the budding scientist who would be well served by a room of all things science or all things marine life.
And for the adult or child who is trying to improve his or her cultural literacy, what about the great works of art? If a child or adult went to sleep with a quilt showing 20 of the greatest works of Monet or Picasso or Renoir, would this also provide a bit of visual education and sense of well being?
Additional ideas, whether for a moving nightlight or other products could include the following:
planets, dinosaurs, alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables, presidents, shapes, Spanish, French, German - basic nouns or verbs with pictures, famous women in history, land forms, shapes of states, parts of atoms, types of rocks, types of birds, types of asteroids, invertebrates, parts of the body, fractions, volcanoes, public service workers - police, firefighters, nurses, historical time lines (westward expansion, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Incas, Mayans, Aztecs), nutrition, parts of the cell, parts of the brain, mini-pictorial biographies or Lincoln or Washington, weather patterns, sports, mammals, various nursery rhymes, Monet's or Renoir's mini-paintings, parts of plant.
The Curiosity Cottage has a three stage development plan. The company’s first stage is to create an on-line marketplace of dual use household items that educate children ages two through 12, including the areas of languages, math, science, literature, reading, space, letters, numbers, and art . The company’s second stage is to expand into this marketplace by developing its own line of dual use items. The third stage is to expand the marketplace to adult consumers and positive thinking materials.