The inspiration to start a business can come from anywhere, even from tragedy. Laura Wellington, a seasoned entrepreneur running two successful IT businesses, was inspired to start a children’s entertainment company when she was hit with a double dose of tragedy: the death of her husband and the sad events of September 11, 2001. Without any prior experience in children’s entertainment, Laura took a huge leap into an industry far beyond her comfort zone and started the Giddy Gander Company.
Today, the Giddy Gander Company has developed a children show called The Wumblers http://www.wumblers.com , an online store called The Wumbler Patch http://www.wumblerpatch.com and even a retail store. With the characters of the show rooted in watermelon, Laura has won the endorsement of notable organizations such as The National Watermelon Association of the United States and Temple Inland. These organizations have adopted the Baby Wumbler as their new logo, and as such, will be displaying the Baby Wumbler image on all shipping boxes and watermelon bins found in supermarkets across the nation beginning Spring 2009.
We interviewed Ms. Laura Wellington on the success of The Wumblers, and the challenges of running not one, but several successful businesses:
What is the Giddy Gander Company formed and what inspired you to start the business?
The Giddy Gander was founded in 2006. The combination of my husband passing away from cancer and the ramifications of the Tragedy of 9/11 on families across the country and around the world compelled me to set myself on the path of helping to make the world a better place for kids. We (as parents and human beings) couldn’t allow our children’s futures to run the course it was as it was a course of destruction. The Giddy Gander Company, The Wumblers, and The Wumbler Patch brand is a means of change for ALL, for the better, and the long run!
You have been developing and supporting IT pricing systems for nearly two decades. What were the challenges of going in a different direction and starting a children’s company?
There was a significant leaning curve I needed to overcome prior to actually jumping both feet into the children’s entertainment industry. I spent about three years educating myself to the who, what, where, when, and how’s of children’s television and licensing. Although the learning was cumbersome, my passion for what I was venturing to do, drove me. I was also quite lucky in meeting wonderful people along the way who took me under their wings, mentored me, and guided me towards where I am today. This has been a journey of many.
Giddy Gander Company has created the cartoon show The Wumbers. What is the Wumblers and how does it differ from other cartoon characters?
The Wumblers is a highly imaginative, humorous show designed to educate kids to their social, global, and environmental responsibilities to humankind and the world. The series uses the languages of fun and play to relate to the target audience of 2-7 years of age.. As it is created by a mom as well as a former teacher, the series presents ideas, stories, and solutions that delve deeper than what is normally portrayed in television shows addressing the same age group. The manner in which my team has mastered combining “simplicity and sophistication” sets The Wumblers dramatically apart from the rest.
What was the inspiration to create the Wumblers?
Children, that’s where all children’s television shows should begin. I love children! In fact, I am expecting my fifth child after having remarried this year. We will have six children between my husband and myself.
Aside from the Wumblers show, where else can we see the Wumblers? What are the other products of the Giddy Gander Company?
Besides our informational-play website directed at parents and children (www.wumblers.com), The Wumblers merchandise are available through a variety of online merchants as well as at our own retail website, www.wumblerpatch.com. We also own a brick and mortar retail store in Ridgewood, NJ, which we invite you to visit. The merchandise line currently consists of dvd’s, cd’s, plush, puzzles, games, food products, books, apparel, etc.
How are you marketing the business, particularly the characters and the brands?
Our marketing, public relations, and licensing departments are handled in-house and led by my Vice President of Strategic Development, Heidi Schwartz. We found this to be the most effective way of building The Wumblers brand. It is the combination of our vast ingenuity and the efforts of our licensing and business development partners that has allowed us to grow as quickly as we have. We are a team oriented firm and everyone is encouraged to share their opinions even outside their particular domains. I am a big believer of learning from each other. I also am a stickler for consistency and credibility. Our goal is to build an evergreen brand which remains consistent with the reasons we set upon this journey in the first place.
You have also opened a retail store in New Jersey. What are the unique challenges of starting a retail store? What are your plans for the store?
Our store is more of a showcase store. We opened it to test and display product. We rely (and will continue to rely) on outside retailers to handle the majority of our retail distribution although we do sell product out of this store. We plan this to be the one and only one retail store we directly own, the lone patch where all baby Wumblers are actually born.
What are your goals for Giddy Gander Company? How do you see the company and its brands five years from now?
The Giddy Gander Company will continue to grow concentrating on The Wumblers children’s entertainment series and The Wumbler Patch brands. Right now, the baby Wumbler is an enormous product for us. We also recently launched an amazing iPhone application called iSeedSpit! which is activated by the player blowing into his/her iPhone microphone. It simulates an actual watermelon seed spitting contest but in virtual form and automatically translates scores to Facebook. This app has launched a global competition amongst children and parents. It’s also been accused of getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies as a result of the fun and good feelings it generates. We will continue to expand out with new and unique merchandise likes this and eventually move into creating a second season for broadcast television as we continue to grow internationally as well. We will undoubtably become a conglomerate in five years.
You also own and run two other companies. What is your secret for managing three different businesses at the same time?
The key to any success and especially many successes at one time are the people you surround yourself with. I have a great team supporting me professionally and personally. They make all of the difference in the world.
How do you balance your family and hectic business lives?
One step at a time. Everyday is a new adventure. Keeping priorities straight is key though.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from all the businesses you have started and run?
Enjoy what you are doing and you will not have worked a day in your life.
What tips can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
Fear is but a test. How you handle it will determine whether or not you reach the next step in your journey. Let it energize you but never stop you.