When I first read about Environmental Scientist turned Entrepreneur Penny Bauder, and how she built her exciting and forward-thinking company Green Kid Crafts, I couldn’t wait to connect to find out more.
In this “Women Like You” interview , she shares what motivated her to build her successful enterprise, she started out in her garage. Penny’s journey shows how you can create an inspiring, global success, combining passion with action-taking and positive contribution.
Green Kid Crafts has become a leader in the subscription industry, with over 1 million packages shipped worldwide. Packages filled with fun, educational and eco-friendly activities that encourage kids to think about and take a leadership role in sustainability!
Penny, thank you for taking part in the “Women Like You” series, and sharing your inspiring story. Please introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Penny. I live in a house on a hill in the suburbs of San Diego with my husband and two kids. I can often be found with paint under my fingernails, scribbling madly in a notebook, working in our urban farm, or teaching the neighborhood kids how to make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar.
Motivated by a passion to raise a generation of environmental leaders, in 2010 I founded Green Kid Crafts, a children’s media company that provides kids around the world with convenient and sustainable STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) activities.
We are absolutely mesmerized by what you do and the contribution your business makes as a green company, to the children of today and for raising great leaders of the future. Tell us how you got into this line of work?
I spent most of my childhood in the woods next to my house, and this contributed to a lifelong love of the natural world. In college I was drawn to the natural sciences and I eventually graduated with B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science. I went on to become an Environmental Scientist and Park Ranger, working in wild areas all over the United States. I eventually settling down in Alaska for 10 years.
In 2008 I had my first child and, like many new mothers, re-evaluated my career and my goals for the future. With a view to inspire kids to become environmental leaders, I came up with and launched Green Kid Crafts.
We often get so caught up with busy lives, we forget to recognise our talents. What would you say are the key qualities that have led to your success in business?
Most of my friends would agree I’m a creative, introverted risk-taker.
Being creative definitely helps with product design. Although, creativity isn’t just about coming up with ideas but also being able to adapt to new circumstances, navigate uncertainty and find solutions as problems arise.
I do thrive off risks and instead of seeing obstacles, I view them as stepping stones to success. As an entrepreneur, I channel this trait in a healthy and productive way.
My leadership style is influenced by my introversion and ability to empathize, collaborate, listen, reflect and think strategically. I believe leadership is less about position and more about innovation, creativity and relationships.
You shared what motivated you to start up Green Kid Crafts, and we are curious to know more about how the idea came about.
I wanted to help solve the “creativity crisis” facing our nation’s youth; to foster future environmental advocates; to help families spend quality, unplugged time together, learning about themselves and the world around them.
As an environmental scientist and mum, I saw a need for a convenient solution for families to be together more, enjoying screen-free, nature-based STEAM activities that foster children creativity and confidence. I knew the importance of using safe materials and was passionate about inspiring the next generation of creative leaders, and creating a model company for environmental sustainability and corporate citizenship.
Can you describe a day in the life of Penny Bauder?
My best days include routine and self-care. My morning routine involves a trail run in nature, meditation and journaling. After this, I spend time on my CEO duties, designing new monthly science and art kits, managing my team, and marketing and PR tasks.
My nightly routine includes a sit-down dinner with my family, one-on-one time with each of my kids, painting and reading. I also make sure to spend quality time with friends.
Practicing self-care wasn’t learned overnight. It takes discipline to prioritize my physical, emotional and mental needs. Self-care is a skill and, by definition, it is something that we can continue to improve!
As a pro-active wife, mother-of-two, entrepreneur and everything else that life has to offer, have you found the secret to creating the right balance?
I find the concept of balance unachievable and it can set you up for failure. Instead of balance, we should seek work-life harmony, where career, family and play blend together. For me it is about integrating these three aspects, which all form part of who I am.
I practice work-life harmony by making deliberate choices about what I want in life, on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. Instead of letting life happen, I am conscious of how I spend my time.
I have a road map of what is important to me and I commit to following that path. I also have a strong support network that I depend upon in good times and bad, and keeps me centered.
Many of our readers are just starting out or thinking of starting their own business. What advice would you give them?
Starting a company is hard, growing and running one is harder. Doing this day in and day out can be draining.
“Most people only celebrate big wins but I encourage celebrating the small ones too.”
In the past, when we hit our revenue and subscriber goals, I just moved on to the next target. Now I know that celebrating achievements and taking time to reflect back on them motivates and inspires our team, thus leading to more success.
Recognizing even the smallest victories boosts morale, validates you are on the right path and motivates you to keep going. So, rejoice over your first customer or transaction, figuring out a new technique, or learning a new software program. Reveling in the small wins will bring more joy into your life and business, hence increase productivity.
“Successful entrepreneurs know that success requires taking action. “
I like to tell inspiring entrepreneurs to stop talking and planning, and take action. Don’t talk about what needs to get done – get out there and start doing it.
While it is true that effective planning is important, too much planning can also lead to paralysis. So, go ahead and publish your website, start a podcast and launch your new product. You can start gathering data and tweak things as you go along.
Was there a key turning point to your business, that made it such a success story?
The turning point was making an intention to work a 25-hour week. I decided to make my business serve my life, rather than the other way around.
The biggest challenge was juggling parenting and entrepreneurship. Something had to give during a 60-hour work week, only a few months after giving birth to my second child. There had to be another way to live happily with myself, be the mother I wanted to be and run a successful company.
I started implementing changes, like scheduling my time in 15-minute increments, intentionally accepting imperfections, and hiring extra help. I brought joy and play back into my life and all of this reflected positively in my work. That’s when my business really began to grow exponentially.
What lessons has your journey taught you?
I learned early on that perfection is unattainable. I am intentional about not being a perfectionist because you can waste a lot of time trying to make everything perfect, when “good enough” will work just fine.
“Running a company has taught me to be okay with imperfection.”
I’ve also learned to be okay with being uncomfortable. Most of the things I do, from speaking at conferences, to mentoring other woman founders, to traveling internationally, to leading team meetings, make me very uncomfortable. But I do them because I believe being uncomfortable is a requirement for growth.
Is there a quote, book or other resource that motivates you or has played a significant part?
I enjoy a good podcast and my favorite is “How I Built This with Guy Raz”. It’s entertaining, and accessible. It has taught me about the inner workings of businesses, big and small.
I’m also a huge reader and I average a few books a week. I’m currently reading “The Moment of Lift”, Melinda Gates. I love her message about lifting up women everywhere. Her narrative is empowering.
I have a favorite quote too by Maya Angelou, about success:
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
I regularly work on self-love and I truly love what I do. Knowing that through Green Kid Crafts we have the power to positively influence a generation of children is a dream come true.
The latter part about “liking how you do it” keeps me in check. If I’m not acting with integrity and taking the high road in my business decisions, I won’t like how I manage my company.
This quote reminds me of keeping Green Kid Crafts aligned with the values by which it was founded: to strive for sustainability and positive change by fostering the next generation of environmental stewards, engaging kids with nature in creative ways, and giving back in any way we can.
Thank you Penny for encouraging us all to succeed with passion, action and contribution.