Female Disruptors: Amy Norman is shaking up how children learn

“You need at least a year of savings. This of course is linked to making success the long game — but knowing that you have enough money to get you through the tough times is critical to riding out the start-up journey.”

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“You need at least a year of savings. This of course is linked to making success the long game — but knowing that you have enough money to get you through the tough times is critical to riding out the start-up journey.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Norman, the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Little Passports, a children’s brand helping families raise curious, open-minded children through fun, hands-on products and content. Amy has a deep passion for raising a generation of children who are curious about the world around them. She grew up moving every three years from England to the US and went on to study Spanish and International Studies at The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Idid not start my career with a plan to make products for kids! I started my career in finance and strategy, working for companies like McKinsey and KPMG. I met my co-founder, Stella Ma, while we were both working at eBay.

We immediately became close friends and bonded over our desire to do something big — we knew we wanted to build a mission-driven company with a big vision that tied into our passions.

Growing up, I moved a lot between the U.S. and England, meaning I was exposed to different cultures throughout my childhood. I think that really helped form me into the person I am. Stella grew up in a Chinese-American household in a diverse community. We have built Little Passports with the mission of raising a generation of globally conscious kids. It’s been almost nine years now, and we’re most proud of being able to spark curiosity about other cultures in the minds of millions of kids.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Parents want to shop on the internet — with ToysRUs going under, increasingly, retail for this industry is moving online, but finding great stuff for your kids that you know they’ll love and learn from is tough. We’ve created characters that kids love and products that spark curiosity and foster empathy. Our subscriptions make learning fun, so kids love them and parents and grandparents feel great about them. Meanwhile, we have a super curated direct-to-consumer online experience that makes shopping simple.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?

Probably my co-founder, Co-CEO and business partner, Stella Ma, has been my biggest influence. She’s an amazing compliment to me in many ways. For example, she’s a self-identified introvert, while I’m an unabashed extrovert. Stella has written about about how she turns her introvert traits into superpowers — and I honestly learn so much from watching her handle the team.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t think it’s going to be an overnight success. I think there’s this great myth that anyone with a good idea can immediately hit the stratosphere, but getting a company off the ground takes a lot longer than you think it will. You have to believe and persevere, even when it’s a long slog. My biggest advice for new founders is to make sure you have enough financial reserves to support yourself.

You need at least a year of savings. This of course is linked to making success the long game — but knowing that you have enough money to get you through the tough times is critical to riding out the start-up journey.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, build it. Before I started Little Passports with Stella, I was a banker in Latin American — I really admired the people I worked with and liked the work but it was all-consuming. I met bankers who told me they saw their kids on the weekend, and that wasn’t going to work for me. We’ve built a company where everyone has an opportunity to make an impact. It’s exciting, but also flexible — so everyone who works with us can balance their time at work with their time at home. We built the company we wanted to work for and the product we wanted for our kids. I can’t think of anything more exciting or fulfilling.

How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re building the next great children’s brand. The Little Passports offices are decorated with letters, postcards, pictures and packages sent to their virtual penpals Sam and Sofia — we’re taking them on tons of new adventures, including dolls, games and more. We are approaching ten years! Sometimes it seems like we just started out yesterday — until we look around and see how far we’ve come.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It’s more important than ever to teach kids about global citizenship and to build bridges early between cultures. And yet, geography is often very low on the list of priorities in schools. My movement would teach geography, create a love of travel, learning, and a much bigger reservoir of empathy for an entire generation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Forbes column is here. My Twitter handle is here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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