Sunday, September 21, 2014

UBT Magazine Entrepreneur Mom Spotlight

Urbanbaby & Toddler Magazine recently had a chance to talk Mom Entrepreneur Jennifer Dudzinski mother of four and co-founder of 2fish kids.

1. What is your product and what does the name 2fish kids stand for?
We currently have 2 products. My Week and Baby Talk. My Week is a magnetic, customizable weekly calendar for preschoolers. Children can see their week laid out with activity magnets and gain a better understanding of how we structure our time over the week. Abstract concepts such as today, tomorrow and yesterday are shown visually. The calendar also introduces the idea of weather, seasons, months and holidays. My Week has been designed so that it can be used even before children can read.

Baby Talk is a writable board book used to record baby’s first 20 words. Each word has its own page, where you can write and illustrate the word as well as record any precious notes such as baby’s unique pronunciation of the word and the story of when they first said it. More than just a memory book, soon, you have the first book that baby can read all by themselves! 

The name 2fish kids comes from a story in the Bible. After a long day of teaching and healing, Jesus asks his disciples to provide food for the crowd that has gathered. This crowd consists of more than 5000 people and his disciples bawk at the idea. They do not have the money and even if they did, where could they find so much food? In the confusion, a little boy is brought to Jesus, he has a lunch – 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish – and he gives it to Jesus. With this small offering, Jesus feeds the entire crowd. After everyone has had their fill, 12 baskets of leftover bread and fish are collected! In our hands, we have enough for one, in Jesus’ hands, many, many more are satisfied. It is my hope that as I give my life, my work and my efforts to Jesus, that he will use it to glorify himself and to bless many more than I could alone.

2. What or who inspired you to start your business?
My friend, Nathalie Cheng, co-founder of 2fish kids approached me with the idea of starting a business together. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs and really wanted to give it a try. We both had young children then (she was pregnant with her second and I had just had my second) and after being at home for a couple of years, she was eager to think about something other than babies!

3. How did you come up with the idea behind your product?
A calendar designed to help young children learn about the abstract concept of time in terms of the days of the week did not exist as far as we could tell. We knew from experience that our preschoolers anticipated events, (“How many sleeps until my birthday?”) but we had no way of showing them in an effective manner just when those events would occur. As an information designer and teacher, I tackled the problem from a human interface perspective. How could I represent the week in such a way that even pre-readers could understand and learn about how we structure our week? The result is a fantastic, fun learning tool – a highly visual magnetic, customizable weekly calendar. Using engaging activity magnets and a dry-erase marker, parents help kids lay out their many plans for the week. Once filled, children can find where they are in the week with the “today” magnet and then discover what their day will hold! Weather, seasons and holidays are also introduced. Using colours, symbols and letters, even pre-readers can find the playdate scheduled on Wednesday! Parents are thrilled with how their children refer to their own calendars to see what the day will bring for them instead of asking over and over again. It’s one more step towards independence and having a deeper understanding of this wonderful world that we live in.

The idea for Baby Talk came when my second daughter was a bit late to talk. She had some words but whenever we praised her for using them, she quieted right down and refused to repeat the words. One day, I suggested we list all of her words and her older sister was very eager to help. Together (my older daughter and I), we wrote out a list of all the words that my younger daughter could say. Then, I drew pictures to represent the words. She was completely intrigued and just loved to say the words on the pages that we had created. When I stapled the pages together to make a book, my little one would carry the book around, show it to whoever was visiting and then proceed to “read” each and every page to them. She was so proud of herself and it was just beautiful to see. I wanted other parents and children to experience the same kind of joy at a child’s acquisition of language, so Baby Talk Board Book was born!

4. What makes you unique and makes your business/product different?
I have a unique set of skills gained by being a designer (industrial and user interface), turned teacher (elementary levels), turned mom of 4. The experience gained from all these facets of my life gives me the ability to come up with ideas for products based on users’ needs as well as the background to design the products to be educational, effective and to be aesthetically pleasing. Nathalie, my partner also has a wide range of skills including business knowledge, accounting, math and computer programming to name a few! Together, we rarely needed to spend funds on hiring consultants as we are able to do the majority of tasks ourselves.

5. What was your process for getting the business off the ground? How much start-up capital and resources did it require upfront?
As stay at home moms, my partner and I decided right from the outset that our families would continue to be our first priorities and that our business would be conducted on play dates. One mom would look after the kids (and get dinner ready!) while the other worked. We did not want to work evenings and take time away from our husbands and we did not intend on finding childcare for our kids. Therefore, we required almost no start-up capital and/or extra resources. We only required funds when it came time to incorporate and to manufacture our product and that was raised as a shareholder loan, it was somewhere in the area of $5000.

6. What accomplishments are you most proud of in your business so far?
I am the most proud of our product, the My Week calendar. It is very rewarding to know that we are helping children to learn by providing them with good quality, fun tools.

7. How do you balance entrepreneurship and growing your business with motherhood and family life?
My business always comes after the needs of my husband and children. When life is busy in my home, I only do the minimum required to keep 2fish kids going. Then I dedicate more time to working when I have the time and energy.

8. What support do you have as a business owner?
Having a business partner in Nathalie has been a wonderful way to travel on this journey of entrepreneurship. Two heads are better than one and four hands can do much more than two! As well, our husbands have been consistent supporters and sources of encouragement. 2fish kids has also found a wonderful partnership in the husband and wife team of Debbie and Kevin Jiang who have taken on the marketing of 2fish kids and our products.

9. What is your best advice for a mom thinking of starting a business?
Absolutely keep your family first and business second. There will be time for growing a business later but the time with your kids is limited and disappears quickly. This may not be wise business advice if your goal is to maximize profit but I personally would gladly give up the extras that money can buy in order to spend time enjoying and guiding my children in life during the short period that they are young.

10. What are you working on now? What’s next for your product?

We are very excited to be developing a 2fish kids’ responsibility chart. It is a powerful way to help little ones with routines, daily responsibilities, ongoing goals and more. It will help parents move their children towards independence and also to make the day run more smoothly for everyone! Less reminding on the parents part and more self-direction on the child’s part, all before they can even read!

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