Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Steines.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey is a celebration of the importance and power of kindness, compassion, and making others smile. Ten years ago, my life forever changed when I adopted a tiny 3-lb. mixed breed dog that I named Norbert. He would ultimately come to show me, as well as his nearly two million highly-engaged social media followers, that you don’t have to be big to make a BIG difference in the world. It is because of Norbert that I started a publishing & education company, created award-winning books, became a philanthropist, met my future husband, moved to L.A., and became a mother. It is because of Norbert and our volunteer work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that I have had the honor of bringing cheer to many in need.
It began in 2009 when Norbert was four months old. I fell in love with a tiny brown dog I saw on PetFinder.com. I had always wanted a dog, and something just told me this was my dog. He needed a special kind of home due to his tiny size, and fortunately, he became mine.
I noticed he had a gift for making people smile just by being himself. One day, when Norbert was still a puppy, we went into an eyeglass store in Boston. The woman working at the store saw Norbert and said he would make a wonderful therapy dog.
At the time, I didn’t know what a therapy dog was or did. After some research, I learned that therapy animals are trained and registered to provide love and comfort to people in need at places like hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and more.
I trained Norbert myself and at age one, he passed the tests to become a registered therapy dog. We currently volunteer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and by special request.
Early on, my brother, Jeff Freyermuth, suggested I start a Facebook page for Norbert. The followers of his Facebook page, NorbertDog, grew in ways I could not have imagined. Norbert now also has an Instagram page, @NorbertTheDog, and a Twitter account, @NorbertDog.
I had a lifelong dream to write a children’s book with my mother, Dr. Virginia Freyermuth, as the Illustrator. Norbert’s story of becoming a therapy dog and finding his special gift was perfect to translate into a beautiful keepsake picture book. My mother and I formed a publishing & education company, Polly Parker Press, and we created our first picture book, Norbert: What Can Little Me Do? It won nine prestigious book awards, sold out, and became the first in a series.
My mother and I also created Norbert Plush Toys that quickly sold out. And best of all, we have donated thousands of books, toys and money to philanthropic organizations. Because of Norbert’s growing notoriety, we were invited as guests on a television show in Los Angeles. So Norbert and I flew from Boston to California. Mark Steines was the co-host of the show. We felt an immediate connection, and I eventually ended up moving to Los Angeles where we were married and a year later welcomed our daughter, Parker Rose, into the world.
Our fourth Norbert book features gorgeous photographs taken by my husband, Mark, who is a gifted and fabulous photographer. Norbert’s Amazon best-selling photo book, Norbert’s Little Lessons for a BIG Life, published by Simon & Schuster, is filled with adorable imagery and inspiration. It is available at select book stores and on Amazon. Norbert also now has a 2020 Wall Calendar that is available on Amazon.
Everyone who helps Norbert spread smiles is part of the Norberthood – a group of nearly two million people and growing. The world needs more smiles, so we spread smiles together.
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?
Thank goodness I believe in lifelong learning, because I’ve needed to learn many new things along the way: how to care for a tiny dog, how to create meaningful and engaging social media sites, how to build websites, how to be an entrepreneur, how to form a publishing company and publish books, how to fulfill orders worldwide, how to manufacture plush toys, how to do pet therapy work, how to give interviews on national TV and other media, and how to engage in philanthropic work, to name a few. So it has all been a huge learning curve, but a highly rewarding one.
There was one particularly challenging moment when Norbert was bullied by someone on his social media site by calling him ugly. I was shocked and saddened by it and decided to use it as an opportunity for Norbert to speak out against bullying. How could someone think it’s OK to bully a tiny, innocent 3 lb. dog? Kindness is cool, not bullying. The positive response to that post by thousands of Norbert followers touched my heart.
Please tell us more about your work. What should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My mother and I are co-owners of Polly Parker Press, LLC, a kind-hearted independent publisher and education company dedicated to work that is inspiring, uplifting, and beautiful. We strive to promote kindness, caring and compassion through our publications, products, presentations, appearances, social media and philanthropic endeavors. We believe such pursuits have the capacity to transform lives.
As a mother-daughter team, we closely collaborate on all facets of the creative, educational, and publishing process with an eye for what is nurturing, delightful, and affirming. Representing 40 distinguished years in the fields of art and education, over 30 combined years of entrepreneurship, and over 15 years of marketing expertise, together we uniquely positioned ourselves to share our skills, passions and experience for the greater good while encouraging others to do the same.
In the corporate space, we have worked with national brands such as Target, Netflix, The NFL Experience, The Walt Disney Company, Pottery Barn Teen, iTunes, Hilton Hotels, Natural Balance, PetSmart, Waymo and more.
I am proud to be a mother & daughter company and proud of the work we continually do to uplift and help others.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Success to me is using your own unique gifts to make the world a better place. When we can make someone near or far smile, it’s a good day.
- Website: www.Norberthood.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/norbertthedog/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NorbertDog/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/NorbertDog
Photos by Mark Steines