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