Short of any junk mail that you might give them, it's pretty safe to say that kids don't get much mail. For children of all ages, receiving a piece of mail just like mom and dad can be an exciting experience. Depending on what the mail is, it can also be an enlightening one.
Every time Sherri-Lee Pressman would get the mail her children would ask if there was anything for them. Like many kids, they were intrigued by the idea of receiving mail but, unfortunately, they almost never received any. Inspired by their interest, Sherri-Lee formulated a business that would deliver postcards to those kids who loved to receive mail. Not only would the experience of getting something be fun, but each postcard would offer a little bit of education as well. This idea became Mail4Kids. Since the launch of her business, Sherri-Lee has expanded on her idea to include a crafts program with 2 more projects in the works. Each venture falls under the umbrella of 4 Kids Enterprizes.
As Sherri-Lee celebrates her birthday today, I have the pleasure of being able to share her story and the inspiration behind it.
Tell us a little about Mail4Kids and Crafts4Kids.
Kids love getting mail, so I created mail4kids in Sept of 2008 to address this love with something fun, educational and collectible. mail4kids has been very well received and I decided to continue to grow that model and expand it to include a monthly themed craft project club. Out of that came crafts4kids.
What inspired you to launch your business?
My kids are literally my inspiration. They constantly asked “is there any mail for me?” I knew other kids felt the same way and wanted to create something that not only was mailed to them regularly, but also encouraged a love of reading and learning about a wide variety of subjects.
I noticed on your website that you have 2 more sections to your business listed as coming soon, Literacy4Kids and Beads4Kids. When might we expect to see them launch?
Literacy4kids is going to be our non profit arm with the intent of raising funds for literacy programs for kids. We have started towards that goal with monthly Story and Craft times held in our city for free for any kids who want to attend.
Beads4kids will be launching in the spring of 2010 and will based on the same monthly mailings concept but this time with beading projects.
How has your business changed since it first launched just over one year ago?
A year ago, I thought I was creating one product that would make kids happy because they were getting mail and parents happy because it was educational. Today, I have a vision that includes mail4kids and now two new monthly project clubs and a non profit organization in the works. My vision has definitely grown from when I started this and the ideas keep coming.
Besides expanding your business into Literacy4Kids and Beads4Kids, what goals do you still hope to accomplish? What are your long term goals?
I plan to establish a non profit that will work to enhance literacy skills in children and to encourage a love of reading and learning. I hope to do a driving tour in the next year or two, where the purpose will be two fold: take pictures for use as mail4kids cards; and to hold literacy fairs in towns along the way to raise money for literacy programs that would stay in that town. I have other "4kids" projects planned as well, based on the same principle of mail that is fun and educational using different themes.
In regards to crafts4kids, there is some competition out there. Really, you have to look at themes, cost and customer service to pick one over another. Research the options and then choose the best choice for your needs. I am sure there will be enough business for us all. As for mail4kids there is no direct competition that I know of. Sure there are magazines that come out monthly and they are great and serve a need, but there is room there for a product like mail4kids. We aim to enhance reading skills with short snippets of information written with children in mind, not to dumb them down but to ignite their curiosity and to encourage them to seek out more information on the wide variety of topics we cover. Because we have pictures from all over the world, kids have an opportunity to learn about things they may otherwise never know about like: Ankor Wat in Cambodia, the Black Backed Jackal, Costa Brava in Spain and the Model T Ford, to name a few. It's like an encyclopedia for kids!
Have you always seen yourself as the entrepreneurial type? If so, in what ways did you see yourself as an entrepreneur? If not, are you surprised at how far you have gotten?
In all honesty, I had never thought of working for myself before I met and married my husband, who has always worked for himself. He inspired me to dream and has supported me as I spent time adjusting to the new lifestyle of a self employed person. I am very surprised at what I have done so far, really I think that I have done a lot in a short period of time, there is still so much to do, but that excites me now.
What are some of your own personal experiences that have aided in the launch and running of your business?
I think my father instilled a very strong work ethic in me, which of course helps. I have a diploma in Therapeutic Recreation and have 5 years of experience in restaurant management. Both have been very helpful in launching and running this business.
If you could change one thing that you did in the past while building/launching your business, what would it be and why?
I would have been able to see the future :) I started with mail4kids in the fall of 2008, then added crafts4kids and literacy4kids and created 4kidsenterprizes, that was kind of backwards and definately has presented some challenges, so things could have gone more smoothly as the business has grown. However, it has been fun this way and I tend to not have a "look back and change it" attitude, so I figure it all happened exactly how it was supposed to happen for me.
What advice would you like to offer fellow mom-entrepreneurs that are just getting started with their own businesses?
Be realistic about how much you can do. If your goal is to be at home with your kids, then keep that in your mind first and foremost, so you can make realistic decisions and commitments about your work time. It's easy to get excited about new ideas when you are starting a business. The next thing you know you have taken on more than you can realistically make time for and still have the time you want for your family. So evaluate each idea with your business plan so you can keep on track. Keep good ideas that you aren't ready to implement yet in a notebook so you don't forget them and return later to tackle them when the time is right.