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BigKidsVideo.com: A Home-Based Mom's Success in the World of Children's Videos
Tamara Carlisle gave up a lucrative career to start a catalog and wholesale business selling independently produced children's videos. While her initial days were enough for lesser mortals to give up, Tamara persevered and now reaps the fruits of her hard work. Learn the strategies that propelled her to succeed both in direct mail and on the Web.

by Isabel M. Isidro
Managing Editor

Tamara Carlisle left her successful career as an independent film and commercial producer to distribute videos for kids. She has found a niche distributing her own videos as well as those of other independent producers all over the United States.

Success, however, did not come easy.  Customers were slow to discover her wonderful videos. There even came a point that she had to call herself just to hear the phone ring.

Now, she ships a 44-page catalog featuring over 250 videos, software and audio products to a growing number of customers around the world. She provides parents an alternative to Disney and Barney videos, and some of her award winning titles include "Rock 'n Learn: Phonics," "I Dig Fossils," "I Want to Be a Ballerina," and many more. 

To complement her print catalog, she opened a web site in 1996. However, it was a dud. She did not know how to tap the Web for her business. Relaunching her site three years later, BigKidsVideo.com has become an important source of educational and fun videos for parents, libraries and schools.

Tamara showed how best to combine the direct mailing world with the web. In this interview, she shows us how to promote a small business site, manage customers, and persevere even if the going gets tough. Most of all, she demonstrates that there is more to life than earning big bucks -- there is the sweet sense of fulfillment.   

How did you start your business?

I was in the film business as a film producer for 10 years. I produced high-end commercials. I was completing a two-month shoot, which was very tough. At that point, there was a surge of independent live action production being done for children's videos. My father, who has a construction company in Cincinnati, said, "You need to make a children's video about construction." And I thought, "Oh my gosh. Here I was working with 400 extras on the set and a 50-man crew. A children's video was totally different from where I'd been for many, many years."

But I did do it. I produced a children's video called "What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?" and it was called "Heavy Equipment Operator." It was a very big success. It was written up in all the papers around the country, and it was in schools and libraries, and a lot of retail stores.

So I followed up with other 30-minute videos called "Railroaders" and "Zoo Crew." Basically the videos are a "behind the scenes" show.

Upon completion of "Heavy Equipment Operator," we quickly discovered how difficult it was to distribute a children's video in a market dominated by multi-million dollar corporations. We also realized that there were many fabulous children's videos out there but their producers, many of them working mothers, were not able to find adequate distribution.

So we decided to start our own distribution company through Big Kids Productions, Inc. Big Kids Productions, Inc. and BigKidsVideo.com have become important parts of the children¹s entertainment industry. We search out the very best live-action, independently produced video and audio products for our catalog, web site and other distribution efforts.

Describe Your Early Days

It was just a tough situation in 1994 and 1995. I was getting out into the distribution world, which I had never been in, and I found out that it was very hard to distribute against powerhouses like Nickelodeon and Time Warner.

So I started with a small brochure of about 9 videos and did the direct mailing. I started to make my way through the maze of distribution in the country, both retail and other wholesale distribution companies.

After many months of making calls and waiting for the phone to ring, we gradually developed strong relationships with our wholesale outlets and expanded our retail customer mailing list. We have since grown into a company with a few hundred audio, video and software titles, and we pride ourselves on customer service and quick, accurate order filling.

BigKids started distributing in late 1995. Since then, our sales were approximately $45,000 that first year and we'll probably do a million in sales this year. We have worked very hard.


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