Interview with Professor Pocket

I recently had the opportunity to work with Paula and Nathalie with Professor Pocket and thought they would be a great team to interview. Their company offers families with the opportunity to teach young children the Spanish language through a fun, kid friendly learning process. It isn’t only for young children, really any one can benefit from their CD. They are wonderful to work with and I hope that by sharing their story, you too will be inspired to follow your passion just as they did.

Interview with Nathalie, Professor Pocket.

1. How long have you been a WAHM?
I’ve been a WAHM on and off ever since my first child was born 6.5 years ago. I started Professor Pocket with my sister-in-law Paula in January ’05 and have been working “full-time” from home ever since.

2. Tell me a little bit about your business and how you came up with the idea.
Professor Pocket is a family-owned company created to help children develop a lifelong passion for language learning. We produce entertaining and engaging bilingual products that children and adults can enjoy together, whether new to the Spanish language or completely fluent.

As a multicultural family ourselves, we design all our products based on our own first hand experiences growing up and raising children in bilingual homes. Our lovable characters, silly stories and catchy songs get kids both young and old laughing and singing along.

My sister-in-law Paula and I started developing the idea for Professor Pocket back in January 2005. We live across the country from each other (I’m in Charlotte, NC and Paula lives in Long Beach, CA), but during a family gathering, we decided that we really wanted to start a business together and that modern technology would enable us to do so despite the physical distance between us. We immediately began brainstorming different business ideas. At one point, we even thought about launching a company to help the soon-to-be engaged man with everything from ring buying to planning the details of the proposal.

The more we talked about building a business together, however, the more we realized how much we both wanted to do something that reflects the value we place on multiculturalism. We discussed how fortunate Paula and my husband Carlos (Paula’s brother) were to have grown up in a bilingual home, and how I wanted the same experience for my kids. Not being a native Spanish speaker myself, I felt intimidated picking up Spanish children’s books and reading them to my kids for fear that I was pronouncing words incorrectly. We figured other parents and teachers might feel the same way and could benefit from high-quality, bilingual audio products that would be so entertaining that kids and adults would want to listen to them repeatedly.

3. What did you do prior to owning your own business?
I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs in my life, including being a claims adjuster for an insurance company that required I slide under cars, climb on roofs…even work on arson investigations.

I got hooked on being an entrepreneur back in 2000 during the dot-com bubble when I was living in Chicago newly married and kid-free. I decided to start a software business with a former colleague of mine. We raised a lot of money, hired employees, and set up shop. Unfortunately, the market tanked and so did our visions of grandeur. It was a humbling experience. The upside is that I learned a lot and vowed to do it differently the next go round.

A few days after 9/11, my first child Louis was born, and I decided to take a step back, relish my new role as a mom. Louis had other plans for me and was a bundle of colic for 9 months straight- another eye opening experience.

Right before Louis turned 1, my husband and I decided to move to NC, and I started exploring the possibility of starting a cooking business…even catered a holiday party when my now youngest child was 5 months old. It was then that I realized that I wanted to start a business that allowed me greater flexibility to spend time with my kids.

That’s when Paula and I started talking and the rest is history!

4. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Louis is 6 ½ and Sophie will be 4 in May.

5. How do you juggle work and family?
Good question. I often use the name “jugglingact” when I post on message boards because it’s so fitting. I definitely don’t have it figured out, and there are times when I’m overrun with guilt and/or exhaustion and feel like throwing in the “toalla”.

Thanks to a good friend who watches me juggle my career and my family, the following quote by Max Ehrmann is hanging on my wall “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”

I try to start each day with that in mind. I am fortunate to have an extremely supportive husband who brings me a giant cup of coffee every morning. I also have great neighbors who will help out with carpools or watch the kids if I am in a pinch. And although my mother-in-law lives all the way out in California, she’s been known to fly across the country to assist in times of need. Thank goodness for a good support system!

I also have a babysitter help me at least once a week since me youngest only goes to school 3 mornings a week. Since my son is usually home by 2 pm, the kids and I often spend afternoons together. We try to eat dinner together as a family almost every night, often conversing only in Spanish. I work almost every night after the kids are in bed and a good bit over the weekend when my husband is home.

6. What do you feel has brought the most success in promoting your business?
Other parents who experience our CD with their children!

Parents regularly email us that their children LOVE the CD, are mesmerized by it, and are singing in Spanish now because of it. Since Paula and I are self-funding this business and can’t compete with the likes of Disney or Nickelodeon who spend millions on advertising, word-of-mouth referrals are extremely important for the growth of our business. Parents and educators who blog or tell their friends about us make a big difference. That’s one of the reasons we so enjoy working with Baby Swags. Baby Swags helps us get our CD into the hands of some really influential parents. In fact, we recently received thank you notes from Coco Arquette and Kevin James’ family. Pretty cool!

7. What has been your biggest challenge?
Hmmm…I still joke about finding time to take a shower.

I’d say our biggest challenge is maintaining the emotional and physical stamina required to build a new business brick by brick, always looking at setbacks as opportunities for improvement rather than failures. I think the analogy of a roller coaster ride is really fitting, especially when your own money is on the line. Fortunately, I have a great business partner in Paula, and we keep each other sane.

8. What are your 2008 business goals?
We want to evolve from a one-product company to a multi-product company and expand our retail presence. Our debut CD Professor Pocket® Our Silly Farm Adventure isn’t really like anything else out there for children today, and we’re thrilled that it’s being as well received as it is. We’re about to release a second CD, Professor Pocket® Our Hawaiian Hula Adventure, in May 2008 and plan to introduce picture books and finger puppets later in 2008.

9. Do you have any advice for other WAHM’s just starting out?
• Surround yourself with a good support system.
• Try not to be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes.
• Get comfortable with uncertainty.
• Take time for yourself.
• Stay flexible and be open to changing things up if something isn’t working.

10. What are you the most proud of?
I’m proud of my kids and to have created something that I hope will benefit them and other children for many years to come.

11. What do you feel is the number one pro & number one con of working for yourself?
Pro: I love what I do and feel very gratified professionally.
Con: Nobody is sending me a paycheck!

Nathalie Simmons Jorge
Professor Pocket, LLC
Sing Spanish. Speak Spanish.
Canta en Español. Habla en Español.


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