About Mel Sauders
Bio: MEL SAUDER, the founder, President and Board Chairman of MVP Kids, has been an accomplished senior executive for more than thirty years in a wide range of industries and organizations ranging in size from start-up to pre-IPO to Fortune 200. Graduating from The Ohio State University with majors in business, accounting and marketing, Mel’s career originated in the public accounting field, culminating as a named partner in a regional CPA firm. He served in corporate financial capacities as chief financial officer, treasurer, corporate controller and division controller in organizations ranging from regional manufacturer to nationwide technology developer/manufacturer to pharmaceutical distributor. His leadership experience includes nearly three decades serving in roles as chairman, chief executive officer, president and division general manager in organizations ranging from start-up paint technology to AmeriSource Health VP/Division Manager to Fuji Photo Film where he served as the President of a U.S. Fuji Photo Film subsidiary. Mel has more than twenty-five years of success in organizations focusing on consumer products and new ideas, including as CEO leading the launching of disruptive innovations in two different industries (photo and paint). Mel has been involved in the creation, production, marketing and distribution of children’s books and media in three companies over a decade of his business career. Mel was President of Enhance Products, a distribution/rack jobbing company marketing value-oriented books and media for all ages, selling family products from Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hallmark and the like. Enhance Products averaged more than $450 annual sales per square foot across a broad range of independent and mass market retail stores, including Acme Grocery, Click Superstores and Buehler Foods in the East/Midwest and Drug Emporium nationwide (industry averages less than $250). Mel served as President of Futech Interactive Publishing and Media, an interactive kids’ book publishing company with special trademarked interactivity technologies. As President, he partnered with Futech’s CEO to lead a global merger of six independent publishing and toy companies. Futech brought their first interactive books to market through the Internet, Walden Books and Borders Books. Mel also led Futech licensing relationships with Disney, NASCAR, Marvel, Warner Brothers, WCW and CTW. Best-selling children’s author Joy Berry recruited Mel to create a publishing and media company, Gold Star Publishing and Media, devoted to updating and marketing her 1980’s self-help books and related media for kids of all ages. Joy is the world’s pioneer in self-help children’s books, boasting sales of more than 85 million books. Mel helped Joy update and re-launch her books, build her Web-based Superstar Kids’ Club and develop partnerships for her games, audio and video products. Mel created the infrastructure and distribution network, launching in Walden and Border Books. He negotiated new licensing agreements with Scholastic and Grolier and delivered $3.1M in investment capital to her enterprise. MVP Kids Media is the culmination of Mel’s lifetime professional mission, to provide tools for parents to raise great kids. He founded MVP Kids to provide entertaining resources for parents, encouraging them to make their own decisions for what is best for their children and to become actively involved in their lives as mentors to prepare them for the rest of their lives
Alan: My guest today is Mel Sauder. He’s the president of MVP kids. Mel, welcome to today’s show.
Mel Sauder: Thank you Alan, thank you for having me
Alan: So Mel, for the listener here, we’re going to delve into the MVP kids and what the mission is. But before that, I want to talk a little bit on your background. How did you start out in your career and get let’s start from college. And you know how you rolled from school into the positions that you held.
Mel Sauder: I graduated from Ohio State in accounting and marketing and business, I started my career as a CPA, and a regional firm in Ohio. And then I became a partner in a firm in Ohio, as a CPA firm, where I was recruited to get CFO of a local manufacturing company. When the when the President retired, they asked me they take over for a while, and we were successful. So I ended up becoming president of that company. And we and we did a couple of numbers by the fortune 200 companies and amerisource health and Fujifilm and I was general managers, division managers for those companies that are president of a Fuji company. And then I became an entrepreneur because I have a mission. I married into a couple of teenagers had a third child have a bunch of grandkids and I just my mission is to just support parents and captivating kids with products and entertainment that inspire character.
Alan: You know, it’s a it’s a, it’s a pretty diverse background and one that going from a CPA to an entrepreneur, I can appreciate, as that’s a lot of my field too. But when we move into the MVP kids right now, you did not found it, but you stepped in and assumed the role of President. Well, first of all, how old was the company when you joined it?
Mel Sauder: Actually Alan, I did found it
Alan: Ok thank you. Okay, I’m going to roll that up. But because that was a piece that I has asked Aaron, thank you. I’m going to ask the question again. Okay. So So, yeah, Mel, with your diverse background and coming out of industry, being an entrepreneur and then finally going into a philanthropic role of where you rest today. Of MVP kids, can you walk me through, how did it come about? In terms of you, assuming this role?
Mel Sauder: Sure. I started this mission started almost 30 years ago, I left Fuji and I had a third child and then marrying into teenagers. I realize I didn’t have a lot of resources to be a good parent. So I this is my fourth company on Yes, on this trip of a mission starting with rack jobbing and toys and games, I worked with an author, who was the inventor of self help books for kids took a break and was involved with a paint company actually like Starbucksing of paint called microclimate did that for almost a dozen years. And then in 2015, after that opportunity ended, I ended up going back to my real mission is and that is inspiring kids.
Alan: So when you look at the inspiration for children, is there a certain criteria that you’re working with certain type of child or is it just any child,
we’re really not working with kids. We want to inspire kids with our entertainer or captivate kids with our entertainment, but our real goal is to provide resources to any type of parent here. So our MVP kids are 16 kids that are very diverse, so that every child will see themselves regardless of their background or anything. And we just tried to provide resources. We have currently eight different books series and two more coming. We’re getting into television, we provide curriculum for schools, so we want to captivate the kids with entertainment, we really want to also provide resources for caregivers for teachers and counselors or coaches. So we just want to provide resources just to grow up real MVPs.
Alan: Can you tell us a little bit about your curriculum development?
Mel Sauder: Sure, we’ve started with we started with instilling social emotional learning. See also that’s our first curriculum. We’re in preschools, early learners were in quite a few in the Miami, Florida and different Florida school districts were in quite a few headstart programs on the east coast. And it’s just really starting with early learners, preschool aged kids, and just instilling in exploring themselves and caring for others and some very SEL is based on the castle program. So it’s very we follow a certain curriculum guideline on what we do for instill. So works in public schools, private schools, we’ve developed our own homeschool program, so parents can use it at home. And we have English and Spanish. So we just tried to make it so all children can use it
Alan: when you measure your community, the primary use is to the public schools, private schools or in home use.
Mel Sauder: Yes, Yes, that’s correct. It really is focused a lot on our puppet usage. So I have a couple of Puppets in the background here. But puppet play is an important part of kids being able to tell their teachers or their parents, what they’re thinking rather, they’re a little bit intimidated when they say it directly, but when they can say it through puppet play, that allows the communication be better.
Alan: It’s interesting. It’s, I have seen other business models, we using the puppets. And similarly thing on curriculum, how is COVID in this pandemic last year affected what you do, since a lot of stuff moved over to zoom
Mel Sauder: I was affected a lot, because basically, starting March of last year, the budgets for all the public schools, not just being closed and doing it through zoom and doing it through home video. But their budgets also were focused on COVID related issues with dealing with technology so that they could do online school with once they go back to school buying new desks so they can be six feet apart, or their budgets have not been on curriculum as much as they were in the past.
Alan: So what stage is your company right now? And when you look at Are you a very early stage? Are you in growth or maturing? Where are we at?
Mel Sauder: We are we had our best quarter in the second quarter of this last year, we actually broke even this last quarter in the second quarter.
Mel Sauder: We have a very significant promotion starting in July of 2022. With a national company, that unfortunately, it’s confidential. I can’t share who it is. But it’ll reach 20 million homes. So we’re in the current process of preparing for very significant growth in 2022.
Alan: Just curious, the puppets, I do you sell the puppets with the curriculum or are they used for just videoing?
Mell Sauder: Oh, we do the puppets for their in our curriculum, both our school curriculum and our home curriculum. We also sell them individually online at our MVP kids.com website, we are actually creating new puppets because we have a fabulous team that we’re starting MVP kids.TV in 2022. And our first show will be a puppet show. It’s along the line of a Henson type puppet show with our kids involved. My first our first episodes will be about handling bullying. So it’s pretty fabulous. Our writer is John Sempere, who is responsible for a lot of Marvel stuff, a lot of Henson, he worked with the Star Wars people he’s worked with. He’s a tremendous animator in Hollywood. So he’s running our show. And then we have a five time Emmy Award winner the supporting him in the production and operations part of the of the company.
Alan: So how does a person reach you for more information if they want to sign up for getting some of the programs with their classroom or even at home.
So they can go on our website at MVP kids.com or they can email me at m.sauders, SAUDER at MVP kids.com
Alan: Mel it’s been a pleasure It’s been a pleasure to have you today. And we’ll have that contact information and our transcript for the listeners of the program.
Mel Sauder: Thank you Alan
Alan: Thanks for being with us on American Dreams and join us next week right here on this station.
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