Saturday, January 2, 2010

We Welcome Jennifer Magee and Express Yourself Baby!

The story of how I met Jennifer Magee ranks right up there as another one of those fateful moments where all of the stars have aligned to make it so. I really did not feel like making the trip to Sam's Club that day, but I knew I had to because I had a large order of burritos to make for a party I was catering the following weekend. So, as my beloved Gram used to say, I gave myself "a lick and a promise" (i.e., wash face, slap on a little deo for the b.o. and GO!) and was, reluctantly, on my way. As I walked in and headed straight for the aisle I needed, I noticed a gal with her two daughters. They were carrying American Girl dolls and I could not pass up the opportunity to say hello and tell her about Carry-Her, made by another of our fabulous WI's. Here I am looking half a hot mess, saying "hi, are those American Girl dolls? Well, I just want to let you know about a website I collaborate on for women inventors where you can find the greatest doll carrier for them...."

To my surprise, Jennifer was very excited as I told her about Womentorz because as it turned out, she too was an inventor and had been looking for just such a platform to get the word out about her product for teaching kids sign language! To top it off, we're practically neighbors! We both started digging for something to write with to exchange information - all I could find was a broken crayon...umm and then we remembered our Blackberrys :). Jennifer and I both agree our paths were meant to cross that day and Melinda and I are so proud to welcome her as our newest member here! Add Image

1. We love your story Jen. Can you tell us what the inspiration was for creating these DVD’s?

I started teaching my daughters sign language around 3-4 months of age. I was having positive results with teaching them and communicating with them at an early age. I wanted to share my knowledge of sign language with other parents and teachers. So I came up with the idea of creating DVDs based on communication and self-expression introducing basic sign language to young children.

Besides my children, my friend Gina has been one of my inspirations from the start. We have had a special bond since childhood and she is the reason I learned sign language in the first place. When I was 7 years old living in Philadelphia Gina who is deaf, moved into the neighborhood and I wanted to learn how to communicate with her. When Gina’s parents found out she was deaf, they moved to a new house to be closer to their relatives for support. One day Gina was riding her bike, along with some other kids who lived on our street. As she was riding she had stopped suddenly not knowing there was someone riding close behind. I kept yelling out to her to ride faster or to move out of the way but she did not respond. She continued to ride toward her house. As I followed behind her I was becoming angry because I thought she was ignoring me. I would soon discover that Gina is profoundly deaf. As we approached her house, Gina’s mother, who is hearing, was standing there and she explained to me that Gina was deaf and they use sign language to communicate with one another. From that day on, I was determined to learn how to communicate with her and other Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals as well. Today with the support of my friend Gina, I am creating a series of DVDs as well as many other educational products to share with other hearing children and families so they can do the same.

2. How do you find balance in your daily life as a mom and an inventor/entrepreneur?

As a mom and an inventor/entrepreneur creating balance in my daily life I find to be one of my biggest challenges. I am continually striving to attain the best way to achieve balance in all aspects of my life. One technique I use is to write down my long-term and short-term goals on a daily basis. I also create schedules to follow which include dividing my time between work, my family and myself. I do not always follow it exactly because as you know things “come up” but I do my best to deal with any obstacles and try to get back on track to achieving my balance and goals.

My daughters are 7, 4 and 2 years old. I constantly remind myself that they will not be little for long and to be patient with my expectations for my business. Spending time with my children is a high priority and having my own business allows me to take the time to spend with them at home, in school and during activities. As we grow together I will continue to find the best ways to balance my life.

3. Tell us a little bit about the translating work you do and how it relates to Express Yourself Baby.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Drexel University and later attained another degree in Interpreter Education. I always wanted to have my own business and decided to combine the two to form Express Yourself Baby. I believe an essential part of creating DVDs that teach a language is to use the language and continue to improve your skills. Translating keeps me involved within the deaf community and helps build my language skills. Developing my skills helps me to continue to promote valuable educational products. As a translator you act as a liaison between the hearing and deaf individual and our sign language DVDs have the same purpose, in a sense, they promote communication between individuals.

4. What is the biggest challenge you faced in the process of making your vision a reality?

The biggest challenge I continue to face during this process as I mentioned before is finding more time to focus on the business. I have so many ideas to put into Express Yourself Baby but dividing my time among my family and business is always a challenge. I came to the realization that it is going to take a little longer to have a full line of products. My family is my biggest support system and again spending time with them is my number one priority. I keep telling myself to focus on the journey, not the destination. My family and I are on this wonderful journey together. It does not matter how long it takes!

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.
-- Frank Lloyd Wright

5. Who can benefit most from this incredible learning tool?

All children can benefit from this incredible learning tool. There are so many ways hearing children can benefit from learning sign language. Firstly it can improve communication. Children can communicate their thoughts and feelings before they mastered verbal skills. It also has been shown to help build vocabulary at a younger age. Today American Sign Language (ASL) is being used in early literacy programs as a tool for letter recognition, sight words and basic vocabulary. Ask yourself this, do hearing children benefit from learning a “foreign” language? ASL, much like Spanish and French is a second language and is being used in schools and at home. One of the most beautiful outcomes is when communication barriers are broken down between Deaf and Hearing individuals. Sign language comes naturally to infants and children and it is fun for all ages!

6. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

My husband and I have been to a few exciting places over the years but there are many places I would still like to visit throughout Europe, Australia and Bermuda to name a few. My first choice, however would be to go to Greece. From everything thing I have read or seen Greece is a country that has so much to offer like history, beautiful landscapes, countless islands, sandy beaches, crystal blue waters and of course delicious cuisine.

7. Tell us something we might be surprised to know about you.

I am 5 feet and a 1/2-inch tall and can hit a golf ball 200 yards! I haven’t golfed in about 6 years, because I have been busy with my children. But I enjoy the game and any sport for that matter. Someday I plan to get back on the course for tee time.
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