Happy Smarty Mom Saturday! I’m excited for you to meet another Smarty Mompreneur, Nathalie Jorge, co-founder of Professor Pocket, a family-owned company created to help children develop a lifelong passion for learning languages. At Professor Pocket, they produce entertaining and engaging products that children and adults can learn together. Our family fave is the Our Silly Farm Adventure CD – it’s always in play in our car! Such a refreshing change from Dora teaching my children Spanish!
Nathalie and her husband Carlos have two precious children, Louis (7) and Sophie (4 1/2 going on 16 according to her Smarty mama!). They have lived in Charlotte for 6 years and moved from New Orleans.
OK, let’s find out more about this Smarty Mompreneur!
What was your original inspiration to start Professor Pocket?
I started Professor Pocket with my sister-in-law, Paula Jorge Guglielmino in January 2005. Paula lives in Long Beach, CA, but during a family gathering, we decided to start a business together despite the physical distance between us. At the time, my youngest child was 8 months old. Having been an entrepreneur before kids, I was itching to try my hand at another new business. Paula had (and still has) a full time job but knew she wanted to branch into something more entrepreneurial as well. We immediately began brainstorming different business ideas.
The more we talked about building a business together, 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 two children. Carlos and Paula were both born in the Dominican Republic and are native Spanish speakers. 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.
You have an incredible success story. Tell us how your business took off.
Thank you, Jen. I wouldn’t say we’ve taken off just yet as there is still a lot we want to accomplish as a company, namely getting kids, parents and preschool/elementary programs all over the country passionate about learning new languages. In our increasingly global economy, it’s a must for our kids. The earlier we can get children excited about different languages, the better.
It is certainly very gratifying to create bilingual products that children and parents can enjoy together. I think people are genuinely shocked when they hear our CDs for the first time, even more so when their kids ask to listen to them again or start trying to incorporate Spanish into their day-to-day conversations.
Paula and I spent over 2 years writing, testing and producing our first children’s CD, Professor Pocket(r) Our Silly Farm Adventure. Rather than recording our CDs cheaply and quickly, we work with a talented team of musicians, recording professionals and artists to produce high-quality bilingual products that even adults can find entertaining. That investment in quality has served as our growth engine so far.
How do you manage juggling your busy household while running your business?
I am not sure how well I juggle it all. Patience, a supportive husband and my morning cup of coffee certainly help. I multi-task and make trade-offs regularly. I work when the kids are at school and when they’re in bed. I also have great neighbors. We take turns watching one another’s kids and doing carpool. I’ve learned to live with the fact that my house is not always as neat as I’d like and am very behind on what is happening on TV.
What Smarty tips do you have for other moms hoping to launch their own mompreneur endeavor?
1. Get ready to wear many hats. An entrepreneur has to be willing to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. I think most moms have an edge since we’re used to unglamorous work and know what needs to get done.
2. Exercise patience. It takes time to build a business, even more time if you want to be a hands-on mom too. A business is like a child. It needs to learn how to crawl before it can run.
3. Be persistent. Find inspiration from your strong-willed 2,3,4…year old and don’t take “no” for an answer. Don’t give up!
4. Build your network of contacts. Surround yourself with other mompreneurs and help one another out. Take an interest in what they’re doing and show your support. There’s strength in numbers.
5. Finally, stretch yourself! Be willing to move outside your comfort zone. I remember the first time I cold called a store. Never having worked in sales, I was horrified. I mustered up the energy to approach the owner and pitched Professor Pocket. He said he didn’t think my CD would sell in his store. I walked out of the store, got in my car and sank into the seat. It was really hard to gear myself up to try that again, but I did…and had better luck the next time.
Tell us what schools in Charlotte feature Professor Pocket as part of their Spanish curriculum?
We’re fortunate to work with several of the extracurricular Spanish programs in Charlotte, including Play Spanish, Babylingual and the Language Academy of the Carolinas. We are the first product Play Spanish has ever endorsed in its 11 years of doing business in Charlotte. This summer, Babylingual is planning on offering two week long camps based on our first two CDs.
Some local preschools as well as private schools are also using our CDs as a resource. My daughter’s preschool makes the CDs available at their classroom listening station.
Once we add books to our product line next year, we hope that more and more schools will begin bringing Professor Pocket into their classrooms to get young kids excited about learning Spanish.
Where can I find Professor Pocket?
In Charlotte, we sell our CDs at ImaginOn, Park Road Books, Belly Elan, Toys & Co., Pigtails & Crewcuts and NOFO on Liz. We also sell our CDs online at www.professorpocket.com, amazon.com, iTunes and cdbaby.com.
I’ve noticed that all communication from you begins and ends in Spanish – how do you incorporate Professor Pocket into your every day life?
I am always trying to improve my Spanish and the only way to do that is to use it. I’ve been learning Spanish as an adult by speaking with my husband and with our kids. Ideally, I’d like to find time to start taking some formal classes next fall.
In July, I started a blog called Raising Cultured Children One Meal At A Time (http://scrambledbacon.blogspot.com) where I talk about how important a role dinner plays in our children’s Spanish exposure. During dinner, we try to speak only in Spanish. Louis and Sophie prefer speaking in English even though they fully understand Spanish. To draw out their Spanish, Carlos and I will mix things up by playing games at the table like Simon Dice (Simon Says). If they want a turn being Simon, they have to speak in Spanish.
Do you consider yourself a working mom or stay-at-home mom?
I consider myself a glutton for punishment…but WAHM (work-at-home mom) sounds more professional.
OK, now to the less serious questions. What is your favorite family activity?
Aside from eating dinner together, we really enjoy listening to music and reading good books. We just started reading the Harry Potter series, and the kids are spellbound.
Favorite “mommy time” activity?
I enjoy jogging with my iPod. An occasional pedicure or massage is a real treat.
Favorite place to eat out with the whole family?
Pizza Peel in Cotswold
Favorite date night?
Carlos and I enjoy going out to eat, concerts too.
Some of our recent favorites:
– Cabo Fish Taco in NoDa followed by Chatham County Line (bluegrass) at the Neighborhood Theater
– Carpe Diem on Elizabeth followed by the Old 97s (alternative country) at the Visulite
Carlos and I also love to cook, so we’re just as happy putting the kids to bed, opening a bottle of wine, firing up the iPod and cooking a meal together.
Favorite place to get a good deal on kids clothes & shoes?
As much as I like to shop locally when I can, I can barely find time to get to the grocery store most days. I do almost all of my shopping for kids’ clothes online, and I often buy for the year ahead when things are on sale. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of their clothes from Garnett Hill, Gymboree and Mini Boden.
What’s the Smartiest way you save $?
As I mentioned above, I usually buy my kids’ clothes for the following year when they go on sale. I’ve also gotten pretty good at transforming leftovers into entirely new meals. Not much food goes to waste in the Jorge household.
Best piece of baby/kid gear?
Baby wipes. Crayons. Markers. Paper.
Favorite birthday party venue?
Minivan or SUV?
I have a Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV. I don’t know why I have resisted getting a van all these years. They certainly seem more practical. I am especially fond of those doors that close automatically.
Best thing about raising your family in Charlotte…
Charlotte is a welcoming city. There are kids everywhere. We love all the green space and the simultaneous access to some big city amenities.
Could not live without my…
Thanks, Nathalie! Do you know a mom who goes above and beyond the call of duty for others, someone who does incredible work for her family and a charitable organization, runs a company or a marathon, or is simply living the daily grit of motherhood? Then email us to send along your Smarty Momination!