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On Sept. 16, the Daniels College of Business Voices of Experience Speaker Series returned for the school year, and the speaker who addressed a packed Newman Center, was Baby Einstein founder Julie Clarke. She told the story of her company’s rise to prominence from humble beginnings, starting in her Alpharetta, Ga. basement in 1997, and growing to generate annual revenues of approximately $10 million just four years after its conception in 2001. Clark and Baby Einstein’s success was predicated on the development of videos intended to captivate infants and expose them to classical music, famous artists, and images of around the world from a young age. After a meteoric rise to prominence in a short period of time, Clarke and her husband sold Baby Einstein to the Walt Disney Company for an undisclosed amount. However, her company’s success was not the most interesting part of the night.
As is the case with most startup businesses, the most interesting time is the start, when a company is still trying to get itself up and running. Clarke emphasized that she did whatever was necessary to get her company off the ground when it was still in its infancy, including lying to a popular children’s toy retailer, saying that she had lunch with a representative of that company in order to get her product in front of that representative’s replacement at the company. Lucky for her, the replacement loved her product, and the Baby Einstein videos went on to be wildly successful.
The “whatever it takes” sentiment seems to be common among extremely successful entrepreneurs, who emphasize the amount of time, effort, and resources they had to pour into their companies before they had any degree of success. Clarke’s ability to sacrifice so much for her company is not unique among entrepreneurs. However, what does make her unique is the rest of her story. Throughout the night, a common theme presented itself. When asked why she sold such a successful business, Clarke emphasized the value she placed on being a mother to her two daughters before anything else. In fact, her maternal values appear in the rest of her entrepreneurial efforts, which range from videos for people with Alzheimer’s to clothing that helps reduce stretch marks for pregnant women.
Julie Clarke’s story is an amazing one not just because of her business efforts, but also because of the tremendous balance she has had between being a mother and a businesswoman. She is a mother to two daughters, founder of several successful companies, and a two-time breast cancer survivor. A testament to her will is her ability to persevere through difficult situations while still maintaining focus on what is clearly her greatest passion, being a mother.
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