Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Wylie.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was raised on a farm in Western Pennsylvania and came up with the idea of Bloomers as I was raising my own children and trying to get them to eat their vegetables.
I spent the better part of my childhood playing in the woods, fields, and gardens of our family farm, before the advent of computers, smartphones, or cable TV. Growing up in this environment I learned to value the many benefits and wonders of nature. Even when I was alone, I was never lonely. All the plants and farm animals were my friends.
I was the first in my family to attend college in a self-ascribed fortunate series of events stemming from my local 4-H club. I then went on to pursue a degree in Agriculture from Penn State University and a graduate degree in Economics from Georgetown University on a full fellowship.
When my kids were young, I made up little garden characters I called the “Bloomers” who lived in a mythical place called Bloomers Island, where they would grow their own food and eat only vegetables. When my children would visit our family farm they would look for the Bloomers while digging up potatoes and laughing with delight in discovery. Naturally, they always ate the vegetables they harvested.
On a chilly Earth Day in 2011 I launched my company, Bloomers Island. My mission was to teach and inspire young children about the magical world of gardening. My dream was to make a difference in this world by encouraging young children to be healthier by eating their vegetables. Sounds simple, but if you’re a parent, you know how challenging that can be.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Constantly running out of money. Raising (asking people for) money. Learning as I went. Becoming adept at skill sets I didn’t have such as marketing and sales. Looooong hours. Doing everything myself. Working outside my comfort zone again and again. Countless no’s and various creative forms of rejection. Even when I was achieving successes along the way, I felt a lot of stress. Since I have a licensing business model, I had to convince people that the Bloomers brand was worth investing in even when I was just starting and my brand awareness was minimal. Dealing with schools was slow and bureaucratic. I felt bad for the teachers who never had enough time and budget it seemed. The technology we used kept shifting. Did I mention long hours?
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Bloomers Island – what should we know?
Bloomers wanted to meet children were they were so we started with an online game and a school gardening program and curriculum. What I learned from working with thousands of children in our school program is that nearly all the children who grew a vegetable would eat it. We also learned a few more things: it had to be fun for kids or they wouldn’t do it, easy for grownups or they wouldn’t do it, and what I called, mysterious so they would want to do it! How did we accomplish that? We used the mystery of Bloomers Island and the characters that lived there.
After first being introduced in schools, “Bloomers” now has its own consumer products division, including fun and easy seed starters, colorful growing kits and many other ideas in the works such as plush dolls and garden gnomes. Products are now being sold nationwide from thousands of retailers such as Nordstrom to Target. They can also be purchased online at BloomersIsland.com.
One of my original goals was to publish children’s books on how to garden because I knew that I could reach more parents and teachers that way. Through my determination to find a publisher or even an agent, I experienced much rejection and even insults. I did find a publisher. Actually, they found me. And over the last year I’ve had a wonderful time researching and writing the first five books that have already been illustrated and I have developed the stories for four more.
My first of a series of nine books, “Bloomers Island, The Great Garden Party,” is coming out on January 16th through Rodale Kids Imprint and distributed by Macmillan Publishers. My goal is to sell 10,001 books. In April, the next two books will hit the bookstores, “Rosey Posey, and the Perfectly Pink Radish”, and “Pete Moss and the Super Strong Spinach”, all created and co-authored by me!
We are now working with an animation production company to bring a Bloomers Island animated television show and augmented reality game to life. We are actively looking for more licensees for healthy food, housewares and apparel.
I think the fact that we started in schools sets us apart from others because we have worked with thousands of children on the West Coast, East Coast and even South America for six years. It was like the ultimate market focus group. We know what the kids liked, didn’t like, what engaged them, what lost them, what the grownups wanted, what was compelling, what worked and much more. My characters are not vegetables! That was important for me because I didn’t want the kids to think they were eating their friends!
I want to be known as the number healthy lifestyle brand for children. Everything we do is authentic to the brand and it is important to me that nothing be gratuitous. As an example, I’m not interested in doing Bloomers tee shirts. I want to do gardening aprons as our line of clothing.
What has made me the most proud, is when I saw the difference Bloomers made with children who never ate a vegetable. I’ve had teachers insist that a particular child would not eat the vegetable they grew and then surprise everyone by eating it, and even liking it! We’ve had parents hug us and thank us for being the ones who got their child to eat a tomato. These occurrences happened over and over and it showed me that what I was doing could make a difference.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Without a doubt, perseverance. I have had to find a way to just keep going even when I was tired and broke and thought that no one cared. (And then of course, one child would always prove me wrong.) I also love to learn. It is my favorite quality and throughout my journey I have had the opportunity to learn many, many different things. These have ranged from foreign languages when I received a government grant from the country of Chile to expand our school program there, to computer languages when I had to learn programming to work on our website. I am also creative and I have had multiple areas of the business to apply my creativity from writing the children’s books, to writing 0ur curriculum, to designing our products. Our VeggiePOPS! have been awarded patents in many countries. Developing and bringing to life the Bloomers characters has been rewarding and great fun.
- VeggiePOPS! seed starters – $3.99 per pop.
- LolliPOTS! growing kits – $12.99 includes everything you need to grow a vegetable
- The Great Garden Party book – $17.99 for the hardback version.
- Bloomers Schoolyard program – $59.00 for a class of 30
- Address: 1644 Electric Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
- Website: www.BloomersIsland.com
- Phone: 323-855-6756
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: bloomersisland
- Facebook: /bloomersisland
- Twitter: @bloomersisland
- Other: Pinterest: bloomersisland; YouTube: bloomersisland
Cynthia Wylie, Dennis Kamoen