Insights into Value Creation and Achieving Optimum Exits
This Edition's Topic
A Brief Interview with Mary Curry, President and Founder of MANGO Math Group
When you log into the MANGO Math website you see their mission right up front: Make Math Fun! They create engaging hands-on games and activities that are loved by students and teachers alike. MANGO Math’s products help kids practice math in ways they enjoy and the lessons are easy for teachers, after school programs, and home schoolers to implement.
Mary Curry, the founder and current president, started her working career as a teacher. She eventually moved to curriculum development and from there the idea for MANGO Math was hatched. She started the company early in the last recession and formally launched in 09. We talked to Mary about how the current crisis has impacted her business and her clients, and we also got her insights into what it was like to start up during a recession.
What was happening at MANGO Math prior to the pandemic?
Heading Into The Busy Season
The biggest time for sales of MANGO Math is early summer. This is when all of the summer programs are gearing up for the season. Mary was just starting her big marketing and sales activities which included attendance at several conferences. She was also lining up a new sales rep and preparing to order supplies to fulfill all of the anticipated orders. She was expecting sales as big or bigger than in previous summers.
How have you been impacted by the current crisis and what changes have you made?
Step 1: Goodwill
The shutdown of group education had a big impact on Mary and MANGO Math. Their games are geared toward in person activities which were no longer happening, and the summer season was shot. Her first move was to reach out to her customers and network to help as much as possible. She provided online training and quickly spun up “The Amazing Math Race”.
Step 2: Pivot to Virtual
Although sales are starting to pick up again, it was clear that a pivot is in order to accommodate sustained longer-term sales and to meet the needs of her customers. Mary had to figure out how to accomplish the MANGO Math mission and leverage what they already have, which is proven curriculum in the form of games, that can be leveraged in a distributed manner by students and teachers. That meant adapting all of the products to online visual versions. This is an enormous task but is well underway. They are providing this at no cost to current customers and will begin offering it to others immediately after.
Step 3: Step Back and Look At The Big Picture
It has become quite clear that there are many children that are missing out on learning opportunities. Despite the fact that laptops have been given out and internet access is provided at no cost, there are still far too many children doing homework via cell phone and they have no access to large screens, printers, or other peripherals. MANGO Math is stepping back and devising ways to engage students, regardless of the technical tools on hand, so that they can get back into the math game.
You started MANGO Math during the last recession.
Why did you go forward then and what lessons did you learn that you are applying to the current situation?
Passion for the Mission, Find the “Yes” Customer, Build a Support Group
Mary had been working as a curriculum writer for another company and decided to follow her passion and venture out on her own. Interestingly, her husband was doing the same thing in parallel. It was a bit scary, but they felt it was time to invest in themselves.
Early in her journey Mary was told that “no one is going to buy your product because of the recession”. She kept going forward and, not long after that, a test client told her that they loved the product and wanted to buy a complete set. And they paid up front! This funding not only provided validation and motivation, but the cash to manufacture the products and get them to market.
Early on and over the years Mary has build a solid network of partners and specialists to lend support and round out her business. She has talked to lots of people and has not hesitated to ask for help. This included her own children who tested out the product themselves over the years.
Mary noted that while MANGO Math got off to a slow start due to the recession, she actually believes it was better in her case. It gave her time to learn the basics of being an entrepreneur and a business owner, she was able to trial many different go to market strategies, and she was able to get the fundamentals of the business up and running while finding her niche.
Her advice to other is to talk to a lot of people, build relationships that could turn into funding (i.e. customers that will pay up front), find good partners to balance the economics, leverage specialists to fill in the gaps (i.e. bookkeeping, website, etc.), to not hesitate to ask your network to help.