She’s Mom, Incorporated: Moorea Malatt, Genius: A Baby Academy

Moorea Malatt is the Founder and Creative Director of Genius: A Baby Academy, an early education program geared toward newborn to 4-year-old children with classes in world language, sign language, gym and sensory exploration. Also a life coach, a parent coach, and a published singer/songwriter, Moorea founded Genius out of her home when her daughter, Iris, was just 22 months old. A few months later, she landed a prime storefront location in Seattle, Washington. Though Genius’ curriculum is currently only offered in Seattle, Moorea is planning to release online workshops for purchase by Fall, 2013.  

Moorea is also a parent coach in the areas of potty, early potty, gentle discipline and sleep challenges over at Savvy Parenting Support

MomIncorporated: What inspired you to start Genius: A Baby Academy?
 I knew I wanted to reach out to families somehow to let them know that many babies are longing for more sensory stimulation. I was familiar with the concept that if babies hear different languages before age one, they have set the neural pathways for learning languages easily as an older child or as an adult. For me, learning languages, including ASL, is the way to bring around world peace.  I imagined creating this classroom that was all about celebrating diversity and supporting all parents.

The classes I had taken my daughter to didn’t feel like they were providing a sense of community. The curriculums felt too “one-size-fits all”, sometimes the classes had too many kids, and nothing was seemed geared toward parents’ desires and anxieties. So, at Genius, we create time and comfortable space for chatting with friends and feeding baby.  We also offer prenatal workshops, lactation support and essential parenting workshops like Potty Savvy, Beginning Gentle Discipline and Back to Work Breastfeeding.  We really want to feel like a community center.

MomIncorporated: How did you take the business from idea to up-and-running business?
Moorea: I had been teaching a world music and sign language class for tots in my home once a week and when the word Genius came to me, it suddenly exploded, all coming together in my head and then the idea would not leave me alone.

It took me 5 months of very hard work to create the business plan, secure the capital, land my dream space for the classroom, hire my teacher, advertise and then write all of the curriculum for the first quarter. I did it all out of a home office until March of 2012 when we entered the space. I already had a home office because I had a part time parent coaching practice. I knew how to operate a word-of-mouth business but I really didn’t know anything about having a real storefront!

MomIncorporated: You offer an extensive scholarship program. Why is supporting the community important to you?
Moorea: I could never imagine having a school without a scholarship program.  Without one, we are only serving families who can afford to prioritize early education and the cycle institutionalized racism and classism and of familial lack of education continues. Some families are also less likely to join classes because of feeling different in some way and we strive for our scholarship program to grant those with language barriers, people of color, families with one working parent, LGBT families, and single parents to access the early education and parent education that we provide.

Recently more people have found out about our scholarship program and we have met every request but it is becoming more of a challenge to meet that need. I have been scrambling just to keep a new business afloat but having a scholarship program presents even more of a financial challenge- and yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Talking to our scholarship families about the great time they are having and hearing the thank- you’s is really amazing. Some families take videos of class and send them home to family in places like Malaysia!

MomIncorporated: How have you managed to juggle starting and running a business while also caring for your daughter?
Moorea: Not easily and with a lot of guilt! I have had to reconcile the fact that I am the type person who has constant ideas and wants to build community with my other desire to just be 100% there for my kid and never turn on a computer. Most of the time I feel like I am failing at one thing or another and I rest assured that many other working moms I know often feel the same way. I just hope that Iris learns that mom was giving to the community, loving other children, and flexing her creativity.

I’ve also had a lot of help. I make a practice of leaving my phone alone and doing whatever my daughter wants to do for one or two hours every day, no matter how busy I am. And I’m trying really hard to figure out how to be done with work at 5.

Moorea with her daughter, Iris, and partner, Karolyn.

MomIncorporated: What kind of support do you have – both for your family and for your business?
I have a very supportive working partner who is able to hold our household finances down and help me with some evening or weekend times I have to work.  I’ve had a series of wonderful babysitters, and my daughter has also been able to attend classes at Genius, including our morning toddler preschool. We don’t have family around locally, but I have moral support from both parents and in-laws and I did use a loan (with interest!) from a family trust to fund the very first part of the start up costs. I have hired teachers, I have a web dude, I have a business coach and a therapist!

MomIncorporated: What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
Moorea: At some point within the first year, everything was a challenge. Finding the best employees and managing them in a way that is clear was a challenge. Panicking about money every mid-quarter and doubting my ability were challenges. Making the website work properly was a challenge, feeling burnt out at times, not having enough time in the day or the week are huge.  Ultimately, I just keep reaching out for more help: I read business books, follow female business gurus, seek out business coaching, reach out to friends who have small businesses and try to learn from their mistakes, try to listen to my accountant, and even ask friends to do a bit of marketing!

Basically I try to see every mistake as a necessary growth opportunity.  Then I read the Genius mission statement or watch our promotional videos and I cry remembering that it isn’t about me and I just take one day at a time.

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