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    Melissa & Doug: Melissa And Doug Bernstein (2016)

    13-year-old Joshua overcame bald spots and invented Cut Buddy, refined it, patented it, launched it, faced challenges, and eventually brought it to major retailers with determination and creativity

    enFebruary 05, 2018

    About this Episode

    Melissa and Doug Bernstein's first success was a wooden 'fuzzy puzzle' of farm animals. Today, Melissa & Doug makes over 2,000 kinds of toys and serves as an antidote to the rise of digital toys. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," an update on The Cut Buddy, a stencil device that helps you cut your own hair. (Original broadcast date: December 19, 2016) See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • The Delta Sky Miles Platinum Business American Express Card enhances business travel, Amica Insurance personalizes insurance policies, the NSA hires for innovative tech roles, and Melissa and Doug built a successful toy company through perseverance and pivots.
    • Unexpected introductions and shared passions can lead to successful business ventures, even when they deviate from initial career plans
    • With creativity, determination, and resourcefulness, individuals can turn a vision into a reality, even with limited resources.
    • Persistence and innovation are crucial when facing business challenges. Direct relationships with customers and unconventional strategies can help new products gain traction.
    • Melissa and Doug started with educational videos, faced uncertainty expanding to tactile puzzles, and grew through hard work, learning from mistakes, and perseverance.
    • Betrayals can reveal the importance of loyalty and trust in business. Despite setbacks, these values can lead to growth and strengthened relationships.
    • Setting clear financial goals and identifying untapped markets can lead to success. Focusing on a specific category and offering innovative solutions can help grow a business.
    • Successful businesses face failures. Learning from mistakes and taking calculated risks are essential for growth.
    • Melissa and Doug learned to design products that resonated with customers and stayed true to their mission, despite pressure to follow trends and incorporate electronics.
    • Seeking guidance and resources from outside sources can significantly impact business growth
    • 13-year-old Joshua overcame bald spots and invented Cut Buddy, refined it, patented it, launched it, faced challenges, and eventually brought it to major retailers with determination and creativity
    • Unconventional ideas and people can lead to surprising insights and lessons, but their outcomes may vary. Pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo is essential for growth and success.

    đź“ť Podcast Summary

    Finding Balance in Business Travel and Personal Life

    Finding balance between work and leisure can enhance business travel experiences. The Delta Sky Miles Platinum Business American Express Card caters to travelers, while Amica Insurance focuses on personalizing insurance policies to protect more than just properties. The National Security Agency seeks exceptional individuals for innovative technology roles, offering great perks and a supportive work environment. Melissa and Doug Bernstein's story showcases how perseverance and pivoting led them to build a successful toy company, Melissa and Doug, with simple, old-fashioned toys. Overall, the discussion emphasizes the importance of human connections, innovation, and balance in various aspects of life.

    Unexpected introductions and passion led to the creation of Blue's Clues

    Sometimes, the most unexpected introductions can lead to profound personal and professional growth. Melissa and Doug, who were introduced by their parents, had an instant connection despite their strong personalities. Melissa, who believed in creativity but ended up as an investment banker, and Doug, who planned to work in education but became a marketing assistant, both felt an inner pull to create something for children. After brainstorming in a bed and breakfast, they decided to quit their jobs, pool their savings, and start a business creating interactive products for children. Their parents were initially concerned about their unconventional decision, but Melissa and Doug were driven by their passion and weren't worried about security. Ultimately, their leap of faith led to the creation of Blue's Clues, a beloved children's educational media franchise.

    Creating Children's Educational Videos with Limited Resources

    With a small amount of savings, two individuals were able to create innovative children's educational videos by casting real children, writing scripts, producing, directing, and even composing music. They engaged children directly by teaching them to sing and dance along, and talked to them as friends. The production cost was significant, around $30-$40,000, which wiped out their savings. They then had to figure out how to distribute their product, leading to their first lessons in business. They made thousands of copies and traveled door-to-door to retailers, ultimately selling their videos during the holiday season. This experience highlights the power of creativity, determination, and resourcefulness in turning a vision into a reality, despite financial constraints.

    Lessons learned from struggling with product distribution

    When facing challenges in business, particularly with the distribution of a new and unique product, it's important to be persistent and innovative. Melissa and Doug learned this lesson the hard way when they struggled to get their educational toy tapes into stores. Instead of relying on middlemen or manufacturers reps, they took matters into their own hands and went directly to the stores to promote their product. Although initial sales were slow, the experience taught them valuable lessons that shaped their business model moving forward. They learned that unconventional packaging and limited advertising could make it difficult for new products to gain traction, and that direct relationships with customers were essential for addressing their needs and building a successful business. The company, which was initially called Lights Camera Interaction, eventually became Melissa and Doug, and the founders' personal involvement and commitment to customer service remain central to the company's mission today. Ultimately, the early struggles with distribution paved the way for the company's long-term success.

    From educational videos to tactile puzzles

    The founders of Melissa and Doug started their company focusing entirely on producing educational videos. However, after three years and thousands of retail relationships, they decided to expand their product line based on childhood memories and a desire to create tactile puzzles. The process of creating these new products was filled with uncertainty and learning, with no clear roadmap or easy answers. They funded their company through frugality and self-sacrifice, living off cheap meals and shared living spaces. Despite their initial success with the videos, selling the new fuzzy puzzles was not an instant success. The journey of Melissa and Doug's company was marked by a lot of hard work, learning from mistakes, and perseverance.

    Discovering Betrayal Leads to Unexpected Opportunities

    Trust is essential in business, but betrayals can also lead to unexpected opportunities. Melissa and Doug experienced this firsthand when they discovered their agent was selling their puzzles as his own at a toy show. Instead of confronting him, they found that many customers were loyal to them and refused to order from the agent. This incident not only exposed them to the darker side of business but also highlighted the importance of loyalty and trust. Despite the setback, they saw potential in their puzzles and continued to grow their business. Trust is a two-way street, and while it can be broken, it can also be strengthened through challenging experiences.

    Identifying opportunities and staying true to your vision

    Having clear financial goals and working with a trusted partner like TD Ameritrade can help individuals achieve their objectives. Meanwhile, in the world of business, identifying untapped markets and reinventing traditional products can lead to great success. Melissa and Doug, a toy company started in the mid-1990s, saw an opportunity in wooden toys, which were often expensive and inaccessible. They decided to focus on this category, creating basics reinvented at low price points and innovative packaging. Starting as a two-person operation, they eventually grew their team, selling their products mainly in small independent stores in New England. This story highlights the importance of setting goals, identifying opportunities, and staying true to your vision. To learn more about achieving your financial goals with TD Ameritrade, visit their website to schedule a complimentary goal planning session.

    Lesson from a failed product

    Even successful businesses experience failures. The speaker shares an example of their company's investment in a unique puzzle toy line, called Puzzle World, which despite initial excitement and strong sales at Toy Fair, ultimately failed. The line involved significant investment in tooling and machining, resulting in expensive sets with a high price point. Retailers were informed of the long-term potential of the product, but customers did not respond as expected. Despite the initial success at Toy Fair, the product did not sell well in stores, and the company was left with unsold inventory. This experience served as a reminder for the speaker that the line between success and failure is thin, and that failure is an inevitable part of business. The failure of Puzzle World did not deter the company, but instead reinforced the importance of taking risks and learning from mistakes.

    Struggling to sell unique products

    Running a business involves many challenges, especially when it comes to selling unique products. Melissa and Doug, the founders of their eponymous toy company, learned this lesson the hard way when they struggled to gain traction for their wooden and analog toys in the late 1980s, before the internet took off. They realized that they needed to design their products in a way that resonated with customers, rather than relying on them to understand the intricacies of each item as the inventors did. The success of their company hinged on their ability to stay true to their mission and not follow trends blindly. Despite facing pressure from investors to incorporate batteries or electronics into their toys, they remained committed to their values and eventually brought in outside investors while retaining significant ownership. Through it all, they understood that there are no guarantees in business and that every day brings new surprises.

    Mentorship and investment fueled growth of Melissa and Doug's toy company

    Mentorship and external investment played crucial roles in the growth and expansion of Melissa and Doug Bernstein's toy company. The couple, who have six children together, started the business with no guidance and managed to turn it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise employing nearly a thousand people. The outside investment not only introduced them to valuable industry connections but also provided the financial means to expand their reach internationally. Despite the challenges they faced throughout their 28-year partnership, they credit their respect and admiration for each other as the key to their success, both personally and professionally. Their story serves as a reminder that while perseverance and determination are essential, seeking guidance and resources from outside sources can significantly impact one's journey towards achieving business growth.

    From bald spots to business success, Joshua's invention of Cut Buddy

    Resourcefulness and perseverance can lead to innovation and success. Thirteen-year-old Joshua Reynolds, who struggled with bald spots from attempting to give himself haircuts with his father's clippers, discovered a solution by inventing a head stencil. He refined his invention throughout middle and high school, eventually patenting it and launching the Cut Buddy in 2016. Despite initial trolling and challenges, Joshua persisted, casting models with ideal hair to showcase the product on YouTube. A viral video on a DIY site led to hundreds of orders, and an investment from a Shark Tank Shark allowed him to bring the Cut Buddy to major retailers like Target. Through determination and creativity, Joshua turned a common frustration into a successful business.

    Exploring the power of unconventional ideas and people

    Our fascination with unconventional ideas and the people who champion them, no matter how outlandish they may seem, can lead to surprising insights and lessons. Adam Grant, host of the podcast "Rethinking," explores this concept through conversations with leading thinkers in various fields. Meanwhile, Misha Brown on "The Big Flop" podcast examines the failures of unconventional ideas, such as the reality TV show "The Swan," which promised a dream opportunity but turned into a viewing nightmare. Despite the negative outcomes, these examples highlight the importance of pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo. Tune in to these podcasts to learn more and gain valuable insights for success at work, building better relationships, and more.

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