The DaVinci Experience
Judy Crosby, a certified teacher who has taught at kindergarten through college levels, is the director and founder of The DaVinci Experience, a science and arts enrichment program for children she began in 1999. The DaVinci Experience operates summer day camps, after-school programs and outreach programs throughout southern Maine. The co-ed summer day camps for children ages 4-13 years old are located in Falmouth, Freeport, Yarmouth, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Brunswick. The program received a Maine Technology Institute grant to develop science kits with a technology component. These educational kits are marketed at the camp stores, Rainbow Toys in Falmouth, The Children’s Museum of Maine Explore Store in Portland and on the website www.DaVinciExperience.com.
What were your most important needs in getting started?
Information on how to run a business. My background was in education, not business. I knew how to be a good teacher and camp director but to keep all the books and do all the financial planning and marketing. My best resources were SCORE and my SCORE advisers. I took the workshops. Knowing the legal aspects and regulations. I also took a (12-week) New Ventures workshop with Women, Work and Community. The help I received there was invaluable.
What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
My mother instilled in all four of us the sure knowledge that we could do whatever we wanted if we worked hard enough at it. She instilled confidence and a work ethic. My grandfather also had many small businesses and an optimistic outlook on life. You really have to be an optimist to succeed as an entrepreneur.
What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
One advantage is that women, and I know I’m generalizing a little bit here, tend to be better listeners and have a more collaborative management style. In my business of running summer camps and dealing with (administrators, teachers, counselors, volunteers and campers) at all different age levels, you really have to listen to all the stakeholders.
I really don’t think there are any disadvantages, except maybe women aren’t taken as seriously sometimes.
What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
Listen to your customers and your employees and act on their advice and let them know that you acted on their advice. If you don’t act on their advice, let them know why and let them know that you appreciate their input.
Get expert help when it’s needed. When you first start out you’re careful to watch the bottom line and any expenses, but if you’re going to expand to the next level, you should get expert help. I eventually hired a bookkeeper I hired a professional graphic designer to design my brochures, which really highlight all the arts and science programs we offer much better than the old black and white brochures I used make on my own, print out and photocopy. And, when I wanted to offer online registrations for busy parents, that was way beyond my knowledge of HTML, so I hired a website designer. Now most of our registrations come in online. There’s so much good local talent in Maine to take advantage of.