Saturday, June 20, 2009

How ChinaSprout Got Its Start and Blossomed

ChinaSprout launched officially on June 19, 1999. The story of our origins are humble. It began as nothing more than conversations between mothers on a playground — with many mothers asking me for advice about how to teach their children about Chinese culture and me looking for a way to fill their void.

A few weeks before our launch, I was told about the FCC of Greater New York’s annual “Chinese Culture Day”. I had been preparing to launch the ChinaSprout website and thought that this event would be a good opportunity to to promote the company. We rushed to prepare the website to go live and then, armed with fliers, books, crafts, and Chinese dresses for girls, I headed to Chinese Culture Day on June 19.

I will never forget that beautiful, sunny day in Terrytown, New York. Although I had prepared for the event, I was completely surprised at the outcome. There were so many families with Chinese girls. Even though I had met some adoptive families in my neighborhood, I had not expected to see so many adoptive families at this event. There were quite a few Chinese product vendors, as well. However, ChinaSprout was the only vendor with a diverse display of books, dresses, and crafts. People were very excited to see these products and were even happier to find that we offered a greater selection on-line. Some of these families helped to spread the word about ChinaSprout by posting messages about us on Internet list serves. Their generous word-of-mouth helped to launch ChinaSprout and to this day, word-of-mouth contributes greatly to our growth.

A few days after June 19, 1999, ChinaSprout began accepting on-line orders. Ten years have passed and I could not have imagined on that evening, when I packed up from Chinese Culture Days, that ChinaSprout would be where it is today. We have grown from attending our first small, local event to achieving international sales. We are now selling products not only to families with children from China, but also to anyone who with an interest in Chinese culture. We have grown to serve schools across the United States that teach Chinese as a foreign language. Although I had been promoting Chinese language products to public schools since early 2000, I never expected that Chinese would become such a popular subject. It is now the second post popular foreign language among public and private K-12 schools.

As ChinaSprout has grown, we have continued to expand our customer reach from selling products on-line to incorporating traditional channels with our print catalogs and promotions and appearing at nationwide events and conferences all year round. Our products are not only imported from China, as I did in the first two years, but we now carry products from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S. More importantly, we also produce and manufacture our own products. Today, I can proudly say that ChinaSprout provides the largest and best collection of Chinese culture and educational products on the Internet. Of course, this would not have been possible without your involvement and continuous support. I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for all your feedback, suggestions, and business.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we will be offering many exciting programs and promotions over the coming year. It is our way of saying “thank you” and celebrating what we have done together. We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring!