Sylmarie Sasso Trowbridge and Noriko Svenson are running a virtual Newcomer’s Club, a free community website (www.princetonkids.org) aimed at busy moms of young children like themselves, Even though a mother may have lived in the Princeton area for a long time, she is a newcomer to being a mother of her youngest child here, and she may be eager to know what’s out there for that age.
And unlike any get-rich-quick web entrepreneurs, Trowbridge and Svenson, are taking the long view about making their enterprise profitable. They rejected the “hard sell” sites like urbanbaby.com, which bombard the subscriber with commercial messages and are content to let their site evolve naturally, with viral marketing. “We never considered another approach,” says Trowbridge. “Our purpose is NOT to have a commercial feel. Our appeal is that we are NOT sending constant E-mails. Slowly but surely, people have been signing up for our weekly events E-mail. Sometimes our pick-of-the-week is all mothers want to see.”
Currently successful “mommy sites” are in big cities. “There aren’t as many things out there for smaller towns, and that is why it is needed, especially in transient towns like Princeton. We have a widely diverse group of people who live in this town.”
They are not making money yet, though they solicit advertisements, yet the pair is very practical. After all, they met while earning their MBAs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School. Trowbridge, for instance, acknowledges that new enterprises are supposed to have a complete business plan, but she also knows that the such plans often don’t pan out. “Things never work out according to your intention,” she says. “It was important for us to throw it out there and see if it stuck. We are keeping our eyes and ears open, and we do see other opportunities down the road.”
For instance, they will partner with Whole Foods to offer cooking classes for young children, twice monthly, starting in October.
Trowbridge grew up in Newburgh, New York, where her father was a Secret Service agent and then opened a chain of service businesses. After graduating in 1992 from the State University of New York at Albany, she was a buyer at Macy’s for five years. After earning an MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School, where she met Svenson, she opened a retail shop in Charlottesville and worked in a bookstore. Mark Trowbridge, her husband, sells equity research for Manhattan-based Majestic Research, and they have two children under three years old.
Svenson, the daughter of a Japanese doctor, had been in the publishing business. Her husband, Erik, works at ZS Associates on College Road, and they have three children under age five.
The partners are in the fortunate position of not needing to make a profit by a specific time, and Trowbridge says they are able, therefore, to avoid the hubris that sometimes accompanies entrepreneurial ventures. “Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily listen to their customer; they throw a ton of money and time at it, and essentially make themselves a job and it doesn’t work. We would rather take the baby steps. We want to become a force in the community.”
Princeton Kids LLC, Box 1392, Princeton 08542; 917-386-5880. Sylmarie Trowbridge, partner. Home page: www.princetonkids.org.