By Emily Harrison Weir
Few children get to travel the world. But a business built by 1995 Mount Holyoke College alumna Amy Norman brings the world to them.
Every month, subscribers to her company, Little Passports, receive a package in the mail that’s full of fun activities and information about the world.
“We focus on things kids are excited about—sports, food, and holidays such as Japan’s Children’s Day, for example—and highlight what’s fun and exciting about each culture,” says Norman. “We’re teaching children not to be afraid of differences, but to get enthusiastic about them.”
Little Passports aims to accomplish what geography lessons rarely can—“to spark a lifelong love of learning about the world,” according to Norman. Her own fascination with the world started as a child, when her family moved from England to the United States. Later, she reveled in the global community at Mount Holyoke.
“There were so many women from all over the world, and the diversity of their experiences stuck with me even after college,” she says. “That was one of the forces that drove me to launch Little Passports.”
Sparking kids’ curiosity about the world.
Newcomers to Little Passports’ World Edition, aimed at six- to ten-year-olds, receive an introductory package containing a play passport, stickers, photos, a map, and a welcome letter from “pen pals” Sam and Sofia, who send them monthly letters about adventures visiting countries from Australia to Turkey.
For example, Sam and Sofia discover sushi in Japan and ride a camel by the Egyptian pyramids. Participants receive both physical items, such as a sushi-shaped eraser, and access to online games. Everything is tied to a monthly theme.
An Early Explorers subscription is targeted to ages three to five, and the USA Edition is meant for seven- through twelve-year-olds.
Norman’s own children, boys six and nine, are unofficial product testers. Recently, they tried a product about volcanos that is part of the company’s planned expansion into science-based products. She believes that kids love to touch and build things even in this digital age, although she admits that it takes a strong product to lure children away from the Internet.
“Our products do have an online component, but it’s the physical presence that kids love,” she says. “It sparks their imagination, and it’s great for parents too, since we’re not excited about our kids being on an iPad all day long.”
Building a business.
Her products are for youngsters, but being a start-up entrepreneur is anything but child’s play. Norman and Little Passports’ cofounder and co-CEO Stella Ma have built a business that has shipped more than one million packages to children since its 2009 founding. Last year, Inc. recognized it as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
Norman says she was always “a strong woman with leadership tendencies.” She recalls, “When I started Little Passports, I had never developed a children’s product and had no specific marketing background. I was an English major and economics minor, but I was able to build a successful brand because I was taught how to think analytically at Mount Holyoke.”
Being an entrepreneur takes a great deal of courage, she adds, “but Mount Holyoke creates a supportive and empowering environment that tells women we can change the world.”
Change your world. Start here.