business

Baby Einstein: The Video That Took on a Life of Its Own

The first of eight ways entrepreneurs, investors and savers have made a million. Find out how they did it and read all eight.

Millionaire Lesson No. 1

Build a strong brand, and don’t be afraid to promote your product with passion.

Julie Aigner-Clark and husband Bill’s amateur video was such a hit with Aspen that Julie, 41, became determined to market what they called Baby Einstein to parents everywhere.

The couple invested about $15,000 of their own money in production and packaging and targeted Right Start, a small chain of baby-product stores, to be their distributor. Julie went to a toy trade show in New York City to try to find a buyer from the company. "I couldn’t afford a booth," she says. "On the second day, I found a group of women from Right Start, and I attacked them because I was so excited." The chain agreed to sell the video on a trial basis. "Parents would take it home, babies loved it, and there was amazing word of mouth," says Julie.

She and Bill made more videos set to classical music and started raking in the money. Sales, which topped $100,000 in the first year, snowballed to $1 million in the second year, $4.5 million in the third, $12 million in the fourth, and more than $20 million in year five.

Their production costs remained very low. "Duplicating videos is not very expensive," Julie says. Bill, whose background is in physics, eventually quit his job and became the firm’s chief financial officer.

In 2001, the enterprise started to get bigger than the couple could handle by themselves. "It was taking a lot of time away from family," says Julie. So they contacted Disney, which bought Baby Einstein for more than $22 million.

Now Julie’s back, partnering with John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, to produce Safe Side, a series of videos to teach kids about safety. And once again, she’s cracked the kid code: What may look like a silly video to grown-ups is a big hit with the elementary-school set. Meanwhile, the Clark family spends more time together at their Centennial, Colo., home. And in a few months, they’ll be leaving for a yearlong trip around the world with Aspen, now 13, and little sister Sierra, 10.

EIGHT MILLIONAIRE PROFILES

1. The Video That Took on a Life of Its Own

2. Know When to Make the Call

3. Pounce When the Time Is Right

4. It Started Over Cocktails

5. A Thirty-Year Plan to Make a Mil

6. Breaking With Family Tradition

7. Accumulating A Fortune on $11 a Hour

8. Suddenly It Clicks

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