A Short History of a Small Company
by Bonnie and Roger Neugebauer
Exchange is all about community. In over three decades, Exchange has grown from a shoe-string start-up to an international force by building on our belief in the importance of community.
In 1973, we decided to follow our dream and open a child care center. Roger jumped into an early childhood master's degree program at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts; but as he pursued his studies he found that while there was a wealth of curriculum resources for teachers, there was a dearth of resources on the business aspects of operating a center.
To fill this gap, Roger recruited 100 child care directors from around the United States and Canada to complete questionnaires on specific center management topics. The responses were compiled by Roger into eight page reports, which were returned to the 100 directors, and used by Roger to supplement his course work.
Many directors recommended that the reports be disseminated widely on a subscription basis. A test mailing to 7,000 centers in eight states yielded a 12% paid return, and the decision was made to proceed with launching Child Care Information Exchange as a magazine.
In April 1978, the first issue was mailed to 1,500 charter subscribers. The first issue was organized by Roger in his office in a converted basement coal bin, typed by Bonnie on an IBM Selectric typewriter, and formatted using a bare lightbulb. Once the magazine was printed at a local copy shop, we invited all our friends over for a labeling and postage-affixing party.
When we decided to launch the magazine, we had a vision - a vision that the real experts in child care management are the experienced directors, who against all odds manage to craft thriving environments for children, and that all children would benefit if we connected directors and empowered them to share their great ideas. We were determined to build a community of caring directors.
This vision struck a responsive chord and the subscription base for Exchange steadily grew. Within eight years, over 10,000 directors had subscribed to Exchange. Within another eight years, another 10,000 subscribers had been brought on board, and today we are fast closing in on the 30,000 subscriber mark.
Not only did the Exchange subscriber base grow during the mid-1980s, but so did our company. Many new directions were explored -- some of which were more successful than others. Some highlights:
In 1983, we hired our first full time employee, Sandy Brown. Being ahead of the times, Bonnie, Roger, Sandy, and all future Exchange employees tele-commuted, working out of their homes.
Also in 1983, we featured our first cover director, Kelly Brewer from Issaquah, Washington. This tradition has continued for over two decades with over 150 early childhood leaders from around the world appearing on Exchange covers.
Beginnings, a magazine for teachers in child care centers, was launched later in 1983 and had good response with over 6,000 subscribers coming on board in the first 18 months. However, a 1985 cash flow projection indicated that the new magazine was not growing fast enough to sustain itself in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it was decided to convert Beginnings from a magazine format into a curriculum training insert in the center of Exchange magazine.
In January of 1987, we published our first full-color cover featuring Rita McCormick from the Georgia-Livonia Day Care Center in Brooklyn, New York. This set the stage for the cover of our March 1988 issue, where we celebrated our tenth anniversary with a full color montage of our first 60 covers. Also in 1987, we decided to increase our efforts to build a community of center directors by launching Directors' Network. The Network offered members an array of benefits, including management retreats (in places such as Honolulu, New Orleans, and Philadelphia), the Exchange of management tools, and access to consultants. While this initiative was well-received by members, it too did not grow fast enough to provide the resources to keep it going. In 1991, the Directors' Network was discontinued. Years later, in 2004, the management retreats were re-invented with the initiation of the Exchange Leadership Institute.
Our move into the world of book publishing got off to a great start with the 1988 unveiling of Jim Greenman's Caring Spaces, Learning Places: Children's Environments That Work. For over two decades this book has continued to be a hot-seller for Exchange.
From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Exchange evolved from a print-based organization serving the national early childhood community to a technology-based enterprise serving the worldwide early childhood community.
But this transformation did not come easily. Throughout the 1990s, much of our attention was diverted to the dot.com phenomena. Partnerships were explored with a number of Internet-based start-ups, but in the end we decided to move to the next level on our own.
In 1997, it was time to go global. The igniting incident occurred at a pub in Sydney, Australia, where we were conversing with Carmel and Rodney Kenner of The Book Garden publishing company. We started musing on the idea of bringing together the global early childhood community at a conference. To this end, we announced the first ever World Forum on Early Care and Education in Honolulu, Hawaii, in April 1999.
Once again we were fortunate in sensing that early childhood professionals from around the world had a wealth of experience and were eager to reach out, share, and grow as a community.
The 1999 World Forum brought together 525 early childhood leaders from 35 nations. The caring community that quickly developed led many attendees to refer to this as a "life-changing experience." Momentum gained from this successful start was maintained with World Forums held in Singapore in 2000; Athens in 2001; Auckland in 2002; and Acapulco in 2003.
After the 2003 World Forum, changes were announced. First, the World Forum was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization, the World Forum Foundation. In addition, the World Forum moved to a biennial format with smaller, more interactive, regional Working Forums focusing on a single topic, held in the off-years. The first Working Forum was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland in November 2004 and the next World Forum was set for Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in May 2005.
Subsequently, biennial World Forums were held in Montreal, Kuala Lumpur, Belfast, and once again in Honolulu, Hawaii. Working Forums on Nature, Men, Multi-Site Organizations, Teacher Educators, Peace, and Global Leaders have been held in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Nebraska City, Nebraska; Lihue, Hawaii; Auckland, New Zealand; Reggio Emilia, Italy; Budapest, Hungary; and Manizales, Colombia.
As the World Forum evolved, it has developed from the "new kid on the block" to an accepted member of the global early childhood community. In 2009, it was selected to be a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and in 2010 it was voted a full membership in the Consultative Group on Early Child Development.
Exchange recognized early on that it needed to establish a strong presence in the digital world, and made these moves:
- 1999: Our website www.ChildCareExchange.com was unveiled.
- 2000: Past articles became available for purchase online.
- 2001: ExchangeEveryDay, our daily online newsbrief, was launched.
- 2002: We begin offering advertisers value-added online ads.
- 2003: We started the Exchange Writing Mentor project, providing online support for new writers.
- 2005: We introduced the first of our online products, Out of the Box Training Kits.
- 2006: Subscribership to ExchangeEveryDay surpassed 50,000.
- 2008: Learning Moments – video clips of real classroom scenarios unveiled.
- 2009: VOICES: Insights from the Field announced, including video interviews with early childhood experts.
- 2010: Exchange Essentials, digital collections of classic Exchange articles, launched.
- 2011: ExchangeEveryDay subscriptions top 90,000.
With these developments, Exchange has established a solid presence in both the clicks and the bricks worlds. For the foreseeable future, Exchange will continue to make available high-quality print products – magazines, books, and training materials – for the field, while expanding its digital offerings. And, in coming years, as its digital library expands, Exchange will become a key supplier of resources for early childhood professionals worldwide.