Company: CPJ2 LLC/EDmarket
Title: President/Chair of the Board
Years in the education business: 22 years (15 years in school supplies, 5 years in furniture, 2 years in product development and manufacturing)
When was your company founded and how ? After serving as Chief Marketing Officer for Virco, Inc, I had the opportunity to start a product development and manufacturing company with some former colleagues. During our years of experience creating new products and building brands, we found a gap in the market. Many companies have the brand strength and recognition to launch complimentary product lines, but they don’t have the internal expertise or manufacturing resources. Our company specializes in developing products for brand owners and manufacturing them as OEM suppliers.
What makes your company unique? Most product development companies will help you create the product and even help you source a supplier. Many manufacturing companies are only interested in selling you products they currently make and their minimum orders for OEM are way too big an investment for brands testing and launching into a new space. Our model allows brands to invest less, while still getting an OEM solution.
What do you like best about the educational products industry? Easy answer: my colleagues in the market. There are truly a lot of people in this industry who really think about the kids first. When many in the industry are focused on delivering the best for our children, it raises the bar for everyone.
What are you most proud of? I’ll take this as a business question. Otherwise I can spend several hours telling you how wonderful my family is. For business, it’s surviving. We launched in the midst of COVID and have endured endless challenges. The fact that we’re still here makes me very proud.
How had EDmarket helped your business? It’s the connections. I have met more colleagues through EDmarket than I ever would have on my own. From thought partners to customers, the associations I have made through EDmarket are the only reason I am still in the industry.
How has the pandemic changed the educational marketplace? We haven’t even begun to understand the implications of this pandemic. On the surface, it has changed forever the way educational institutes will operate. It’s brought technological advances at an accelerated rate, and at the same time, highlighted the massive inequities in resources across the country. We have also learned that school is more than just about learning subjects. It’s where our kids learn to be functional members of society, to interact, and to develop personal relationships. It will be interesting to see how this generation of learners uses the experience to change our world.
How has your company adapted? Because we develop products, we’ve been busy bringing new solutions to address the unique challenges of the pandemic to the market. You won’t ever see our name on a product, but there are many new solutions out there that we make for others.
What do you see as the most important role EDmarket can play in the market? There are many things our market needs, like information, research, and advocacy, that individual companies are not necessarily capable of addressing. EDmarket allows us to bond together to accomplish things none of us could complete alone.
I’d like to see EDmarket help all of us by providing insights from our collective experience that demonstrate the direction of the market.
What are your top goals to accomplish as Chair of the Board? EDmarket has undergone so many changes over the past two years. The staff has done an amazing job guiding the organization through difficult times and helping us define the path forward. This year is when “the rubber hits the road” as we begin to implement the vision for the future. My goal is to nurture these ideas so they have a strong foundation to flourish in the future.
What would you like to see EDmarket champion? EDmarket sits in the unique position of being able to provide key insights into our industry without the inherent conflicts of interest that we as individual companies face. I’d like to see EDmarket help all of us by providing insights from our collective experience that demonstrate the direction of the market.
How can the membership assist you in reaching these goals? It’s all about participation. I’d challenge everyone to make a commitment to get involved with the association. When building a community, we have to remember that it’s the community that does the building. It doesn’t work if everyone is simply an observer.
What one piece of advice would you give others in our industry? I’m going to sound like a broken record here but get involved. Volunteer. The connections you make, the lessons you learn, and the relationships you build will more than payback the investment in time and energy you expend.