17. Weatherhead 100
Bright Ideas Press LLC
Year founded: 2003
Sales growth: 184.54%
Co-Founder and President: Nancy McGraw
Bright Ideas Press publishes Simple Solutions, providing lifetime mastery through educational materials for K-8 classrooms.
As an elementary school teacher trying to find new ways to help her students remember what they learned, Nancy McGraw tried a different approach. Her approach happened to work and the results she saw were so great she decided to write her approach out for every grade level in her school.
Eventually, she got another teacher outside of her own school to try it as well. The school’s test scores improved dramatically and other teachers and principals in the area started asking if the approach was available.
That’s how Bright Ideas Press LLC, the publisher of Simple Solutions, a series of educational books for K-8 grade levels and subjects, came to fruition.
“It began with a passion for making a difference in the lives of children and still today it’s our company’s goal to try to help students feel confident and successful,” says McGraw, co-founder and president of Bright Ideas Press. “We try to get our books into the hands of as many students as we can across the country.”
In the company’s founding days, that task was easier said than done. A fellow teacher, Kim Dambrogio, who is co-founder and vice president of Bright Ideas Press, agreed to help McGraw publish the original book, but traditional publishers gave them a tough time. So the pair decided to publish the book themselves.
While the company is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2013, its growth to this point has been primarily word-of-mouth and the use of free trials.
“We give away free trials and people see that it improves their scores, and they buy it and they tell other people,” McGraw says. “That’s how we’ve grown as big as we are. It’s just word of mouth endorsements from other people and letting people try it for a year to see that what we are saying is the truth.”
The company’s growth has also been aided by the addition of employees who share McGraw’s and Dambrogio’s passion for education. However, that success has been accompanied by growing pains.
“We started as a home-based business and up until a year and a half ago, that’s exactly what we were,” Dambrogio says. “At that time we had nine people.”
In February 2011, the company moved into a commercial space and now employs 20 people.
“A lot of things have had to change,” she says. “It’s been a lot of human-resource type things such as employee handbooks and policies. That was a good transition for us and we had to shift our thinking and so did our staff. That was one of the most difficult things that we’ve faced so far.”
That challenge was enhanced by the fact that neither McGraw nor Dambrogio had a background in business.
“The larger you get the more important knowing things about business and marketing and things like that become,” McGraw says. “We had to learn on the fly.”
Despite any challenges or shortcomings the co-founders had to overcome, Bright Ideas Press has seen steady growth over its 10 years. It has moved from one math book product line to publishing several areas of study and is gearing up for the future.
“Across the country there is a very big shift in education right now toward something called the common core state standards,” Dambrogio says. “Right now, 46 states have adopted the same set of standards for curriculum in math and language arts. That’s a first for this country.
The company is in the process of coming out with a whole new line of math books to meet these standards and is looking to revise and rewrite its English series according to those standards as well. In addition, the company is looking to move away from print books to focus more on digital content.
“Schools and parents are asking for it, so that’s the direction we are going to be moving in,” she says.
The company’s current direction and growth has meant a lot to its co-founders.
“For me it means that the dream that I had initially of trying to help children be successful has multiplied exponentially,” McGraw says. “Hundreds of thousands of students are using our products each year. So it’s been great seeing the dream explode.”
How to reach: Bright Ideas Press LLC, (877) 382-7537 or www.simplesolutions.org