During the start of the school year moms spend a lot of time talking about preparation—preparing kids to do well in school with the right school supplies, preparing meals that can easily be eaten between homework and sports’ practice and even preparing themselves to be more organized for the school year. But along with all the back-to-school preparation there is also a celebration—a tradition that has been going on in Germany since the early 19th century.
Born in Berlin and raised in Munich, Germany, Vivian Lie couldn’t wait to introduce the cherished German tradition of Schultute to the United States through her product, KinderCone. “Oftentimes, the first day of school can be a bittersweet moment in a child’s life, but in Germany and Austria it is marked by a day of celebration and appreciation,” says Lie. “On that day, families present their first grader with their very own Schultüte. Inside, the child finds little gifts, treats, and school supplies. KinderCone wants to inspire every family and their young children to enjoy learning by celebrating this special event in their lives.”
Lie, who attended the 2008 M2Moms®-The Marketing To Moms Conference, recently spoke with Patti Minglin, editor of M2Moms® E-ssentials, regarding the launch of her new U.S. business and how M2Moms® gave her the confidence to become part of the conversation of moms.
Patti Minglin: You were born and raised in Germany. How did you eventually come to call the U.S. home?
Lie: Having dual citizenship (editor’s note: Vivian is the second daughter of a Pan Am pilot of Irish decent and a Tyrolean mother. Her father eventually returned to live and work in the U.S.), I had the chance to study and live in America, and my fascination and connection to the U.S. made it an easy decision to come and attend college in Detroit. My German background and language fluency opened many doors for me in the automotive industry, first with General Motors as a translator for the legal department, then in advertising for J. Walter Thompson, and lastly as an online editor for an automotive magazine. I was almost on my way to return to Germany when I met my husband Lancelot, a Detroit native with family roots in Indonesia and The Netherlands. Now, my four daughters are growing up in a multicultural and bi-lingual household; German being the primary language at home. America with its cultural diversity and entrepreneurial thinking has become my home, even though I miss the sights and sound of Germany, and of course my family and friends in Europe.
My early connection with the American way of life made my daily experiences here less surprising than they would otherwise have been. But one aspect of American culture that continues to inspire me is the resilience and positive outlook that Americans generally tend to have. Even though I am starting a business during a serious economic downturn, it is the fighting spirit of small businesses and innovative entrepreneurs that will eventually lead to recovery. America is still very much a pioneering nation and a place that I’ve come to believe will always offer fertile ground for new and innovative thinking.
Minglin: What is your personal memory of your own Schultute?
Lie: I still very much remember my first day of school, clutching my very own Schultüte. It was filled with lots of candy, school supplies and a doll and to me, like everyone else around me, it marked that passage from kindergarten to the “real and important life” at school.
Minglin: And bringing it to the U.S. just made sense?
Lie: It was one of those light bulb moments. I made and decorated aSchultüte out of cardboard when my daughter Lillian entered first grade. When I picked her up from school that day, the reaction from other children was so positive and curious that I began thinking about this tradition and what it could potentially become in American life.
Minglin: What has been your greatest business challenge so far?
Lie: One challenge is explaining the tradition of the Schultute and basically creating a brand new tradition in the United States. Overall, a woman-owned business faces numerous challenges, and as a mother of four, I imagine my challenges are like those of so many other women who are trying to create a profitable business from a great idea. I’m constantly multi-tasking my life – running the business as well as the dishwasher, chauffeuring the children in between meetings, and trying to provide a healthy dinner for my family every night.
Minglin: You attended M2Moms®-The Marketing To Moms Conference in 2008. How did that conference inspire you with new insight?
Lie: When I attended M2Moms® in 2008, I was still in the stages of R&D for my company. It was certainly a little intimidating to be in a room full of experienced and seasoned marketers and influencers, as I was one of the very few attendees not affiliated with a medium or large sized company. I learned so much in those two intense days of presentations and workshops and I perfected my 45 second pitch. Nothing more difficult than explaining your business in that short amount of time! What was most valuable was M2Moms® ability to really be right on target on the most pressing marketing issues facing large and small enterprises alike, including issues around social networking, new markets and looking at the customer in a different light. For my company in particular, it taught me to use resources such as the web, word of mouth marketing strategy and the confidence to become part of the conversation that made the conference so valuable to me.
Minglin: What new and exciting things will you be doing with KinderCone?
Lie: KinderCone aims to go nationwide through tradeshow exposure, school fundraising programs and an extended offering of KinderCone-branded products through our online store. Ultimately, I would want KinderCone to be known as the company that introduced America to the tradition of celebrating the first day of school. For so many people, education is the foundation for what they are able to achieve in life. We should take every opportunity to recognize and celebrate the role that our teachers and schools play in the lives and future of our children.
Mark your calendars now to attend the 6th Annual M2Moms-The Marketing To Moms Conference to see who will be the 2010 Full Circle award winner! Visit our site for more information, www.m2moms.com.