wanted to be online, but the timing was
off and our licensed partners were not
going to give us Internet rights.”
But it was shortly thereafter that
Balaban teamed with his three partners
to create the Baby Genius brand. “There
was a void in the market,” he says. “There
was no brand in kids’ music besides Dis-
ney — just a lot of random stuff out there.
We came up with Baby Genius as a line
of CDs to become a musical guide for kids
and their parents. We wanted to help
parents take an active role in their kids’
development. As we said in our original
slogan: ‘Music makes a difference.’”
No type of music was off limits —
“lullabies, sing-alongs, classical, you name
Larry Balaban Chief Creative Of;cer, co-founder and creator, Baby Genius, San Diego
it,” Balaban contends. The company took
the products directly to specialty retailers.
“We went to big kids stores at the time,
like Noodle Kanoodle and Zany Brainy,”
he says. “And the CDs got a good re-
At about the same time, Balaban re-
calls, Baby Einstein began having success
in the video space (“It was VHS before it
was DVDs,” he says), so the Baby Genius
brand expanded into video. “The key
was finding fun, simple things to make it
fun for the kids to sing along, be silly and
build confidence. Everything we do to this
day ties back to the musical influence.”
Born: November 13, 1963
Hometown: Dresher, Pa.
Resides: San Diego
Family: Wife, Heather; daughters,
Frankie, 11, and Taylor, 3; and
another on the way
De;ning Moments: “The greatest days of
my life were when my children were born.
I also recently found out I’m having a son.
Being able to help kids is an amazing thing.
We get so many letters telling us how we’ve
touched so many people’s lives with this
content. Early childhood is such a critical
time, and we try to make it a little easier.
Knowing it helps, getting those letters,
talking to moms about amazing experiences
— it’s the best reminder that when you
can do well by doing good, that’s the best
success of all.”
Between 1998 and 2005, the success
of Baby Genius drove the original parent company to go public and become a
major distribution company for its own
content, as well as third-party content.
The Weinstein Co. eventually became a
majority shareholder in that original company, before — in 2006 — Balaban and
his partners bought back the Baby Genius
brand assets and several other prominent
brands, leading to the formation of Pacific
Entertainment (which went public, itself,
By that time, Baby Genius had
exploded out of the music and video
markets and into books, toys and other
hard goods. This led to the company’s
vast expansion in retail. Baby Genius
products now sell in most major retailers,
including: Wal-Mart, Target, Shopko,
Toys”R”Us, Babies”R”Us, K-mart, Best
Buy, Costco and online at Amazon.com.
The company also created a series of
characters recognizable to most anyone
who’s had a baby in the past 15 years:
Oboe the Monkey, Tempo the Tiger,
DJ the Dinosaur, Vinko the Bear and
Frankie the Elephant, among others.
“They’re great characters, all with musical
messages,” Balaban says. “They pop up
throughout all of the videos and are very
The company has also spent time cre-
ating co-branding partnerships through-
out the years. “San Diego is a great loca-
tion for this, obviously,” he contends.
“We’ve partnered with the San Diego
Zoo and the Safari Park for three amazing
videos. We also did a great underwater
adventures video with the Aquarium of
the Pacific in Long Beach (Calif.).”
He also points to product promotions
the company has done with businesses like
Wendy’s, Taco Bell and Huggies. “We had
a 37-month run with Taco Bell, selling 28
different books to children at their restau-
rants,” Balaban says.
But how does a product that’s had
such incredible retail success from a grass-roots beginning continue to push the envelope? That’s easy — by being creative