Q&A with Christy Cook
Christy Cook is the CEO and founder of Teach My, award-winning learning toys for 0-6 years. Recognizing the desire of parents to give their children a head start, Christy created all-in-one learning kits. Teach My products are sold nation-wide through major retailers Teach My.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s degree in Communications. Both degrees taught me excellent writing skills and have been useful in starting a business. I worked in the marketing departments of advertising firms and hotel chains for ten years. When I started a family, I wanted to find a career that gave me lots of flexibility, so I started Teach My. I love being my own boss, in control of my schedule and being able to make decisions quickly.
What inspired you to start your business?
After having my son, I realized parents are their child’s first and most important teacher. I wanted to make it easy for parents to teach their children the basics. Using a box of teaching tools to teach my son to read, I knew other parents would want to give their little ones a head start as well. Parents are always pressed for time. An all-in-one learning kit saves parents from going to ten stores to buy individual pieces.
Where is your business based?
Teach My is based in Canada but we primarily sell in the USA and the UK.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
After teaching my son to read by the age of 3 and realizing there was a gap in the market, I had my teaching tools made into a prototype kit. I manufactured 1000 kits and made an appearance at a local consumer show. Selling 100 kits in three days gave me the confidence to call on local retailers. My first few kits were sold on consignment but I quickly picked up local, regional and national retailers. I met ToysRus at New York Toy Fair and then managed to secure accounts with Amazon, Walmart, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and more. I believe it is important to start small and scale slowly.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Mom Bloggers! I give mom bloggers full credit for raising the awareness of Teach My. I have worked with mom bloggers since the very beginning of the business. They have been instrumental in spreading the word and helping to create layers of marketing content online.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
In the beginning, I thought I could do everything required to run a business. I quickly realized that I was spread too thin. It is so important to recognize weaknesses and fill in the gaps with people who have those strengths. Numbers have always been a challenge. I have worked hard to learn all of the important equations but I am still happy to have a strong finance and accounting team.
How do you stay focused?
Keep your eye on the prize! It is important to set goals and stick to them. Write your goals down and refer back to them often. If you feel you are getting distracted, re-read your list of goals to remind yourself of your end game.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Teach My is screen-free. In an age, where so many babies are addicted to the iPad, we feel it is important to stick to our core values and offer screen-free learning fun.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
We have worked with many mom bloggers over the years to offer giveaways to their readers and our potential customers. Giveaways put our products into the hands of real customers, they are cost effective and they are extremely useful for growing our network and spreading the word.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Know your numbers! Always understand the dollars and cents behind every decision. You must continuously do return on investment calculations to make certain expenditures make sense. Too often, entrepreneurs spend all of their budgets too quickly leaving them with very little to maintain awareness over the long term.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
Social Media Examiner is an amazing blog that keeps me abreast of all new social media tips and opportunities. The blog covers a lot of platforms and features great recommendations for ways to increase fan base, use analytics and connect with potential customers.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I know an iPhone isn’t really a unique business tool but if I am honest, it is the best tool I own. My phone allows me to keep an eye on the business, dip in and out of social media and answer emails while traveling, picking up my son or at an appointment.
Who is your business role model?
Why? My father is my business role model. He had a very successful business career and has strong values. He is a man of his word and has always over delivered on promises. He taught me the importance of these qualities in business early on and I have done my best not to digress.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We have just launched the world’s first educational yoga mats for kids. The next six months will be focused on marketing the mats, raising awareness and garnering PR opportunities. We also landed the Staples account this month, so we will be busy building our partnership and generating sales.
How can our readers connect with you?