Double-digit growth not a fairy tale for Mother Goose Time

INTERLOCHEN – Twenty years ago, Claudia Delp and Kathy Dally spent several late nights at a dining room table after their families went to bed and started a company.

Today, their products reach more than 40,000 children each month.

Mother Goose Time is a preschool curriculum used by childcare providers, preschool teachers, and parents and grandparents alike. Each month, from a facility in Interlochen, packets of theme-based activities for children ages 2 1/2 to 5 are sent around the country and beyond.

The two women still head the company that has experienced double-digit growth every year it's been in business, and '06 marked its 20th. For the last several years, the company has posted an annual revenue increase between 12 and 15 percent, Delp said.

But it was back in 1986 when Delp and Dally felt the frustrations of parents and childcare providers who wanted more learning opportunities for young children. Childcare services and preschool programs weren't what they are today, explained Delp, and she and Dally wanted to offer these providers more tools for age-appropriate educational activities. Often, childcare providers didn't know how to incorporate more learning into their programs, Delp said, and those who did, didn't have time to plan daily activities and shop for materials.

Now, Mother Goose Time lands on the doorstep every month, just like a magazine subscription. The packet arrives with a month's worth of activities for as many children as is needed. It's a year-round program, but customers can choose from a variety of subscription options. (See for specific pricing.)

Prior to launching the business, Delp had been the director of the Interlochen Public Library. Dally was running a preschool and was instrumental with the early days of the local Head Start program. The Mother Goose Time curriculum fulfills guidelines outlined by federally-sponsored Head Start, and reflects the content guidelines described by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Word of mouth got the company its first customers locally and they've been growing the direct mail business ever since. They built a facility on three acres on U.S. 31 in 1995 and have added on twice, including a just finished 4,000 square-foot warehouse. The company employs 25 people full-time, mostly in its production area. They have their own print shop and do as much as they can in-house.

Ironically, most of their customer base is outside of this area, Delp said, but retired teacher Janie Tavener is one local customer happy to spread the word. She taught kindergarten for 32 years in Traverse City and left teaching to take care of her grandchildren.

"It's a wonderful program," said Tavener. "It's everything you need to do a preschool program" for academic, social, physical, and creative development. "Coming from a teacher background, it's developmentally appropriate and so comprehensive," she said. BN