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SUBJECT: CONDOMINIUMS (90%); RESIDENTIAL CONDOMINIUMS (90%); RESIDENTIAL CO-OWNERSHIP (89%); REAL ESTATE (78%); HINDUS & HINDUISM (72%); REAL ESTATE AGENTS (68%); WEALTHY PEOPLE (60%)
COMPANY: VIACOM INC (50%); JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP (50%)
TICKER: VIA (NYSE) (50%); JBLU (NASDAQ) (50%)
INDUSTRY: NAICS515210 CABLE & OTHER SUBSCRIPTION PROGRAMMING (50%); NAICS512110 MOTION PICTURE & VIDEO PRODUCTION (50%)
GEOGRAPHIC: NEW YORK, NY, USA (79%) NEW YORK, USA (92%); CALIFORNIA, USA (91%) UNITED STATES (92%)
LOAD-DATE: February 17, 2008
GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: HELLO?: The Plaza isn't really this dark. It only seems this way to the half-dozen or so full-time residents of its new apartments.(PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB BENNETT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
ILLUSTRATION BY THE NEW YORK TIMES)(pg. ST.1)
2BR, PARK VU: Betty Farago, above at left, and her daughter, Kathy Ruland, hope their new neighbors at the Plaza will share their interests. Bernard and Joan Spain, left, who also live there, have held three cocktail parties for people who live nearby.(PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARILYNN K. YEE/THE NEW YORK TIMES)(pg. ST7)
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
1065 of 1231 DOCUMENTS
The New York Times
February 17, 2008 Sunday
Late Edition - Final
The Power of Whimsy
BYLINE: By PHYLLIS KORKKI
SECTION: Section BU; Column 0; Money and Business/Financial Desk; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1995 words
SANDRA BOYNTON'S studio, in a converted barn next to her Connecticut home, bears the milestones of her singular career: a long rack of greeting cards featuring quirkily drawn animals; a room full of small, sturdy children's books, with names like ''Snuggle Puppy!'' and ''Barnyard Dance!''; and, upstairs, where she does much of her work, old-time radios and jukeboxes representing her more recent foray into music CDs for children.
Ms. Boynton's CDs have garnered three gold records and one Grammy nomination. These accomplishments, on top of the hundreds of millions of cards and tens of millions of books she has sold, are all the happy -- and profitable -- results of an unconventional approach to business.
As an entrepreneur, Ms. Boynton maintains a firm grasp on market realities and her finances, but she says she has succeeded by refusing to make money her main objective. Instead, she says, she has focused on the creative process, her artistic autonomy, her relationships and how she uses her time.
''I don't do things differently to be different; I do what works for me,'' she says. ''To me, the commodity that we consistently overvalue is money, and what we undervalue is our precious and irreplaceable time. Though, of course, to the extent that money can save you time or make it easier to accomplish things, it's a wonderful thing.''
While Ms. Boynton may make all of this sound relatively straightforward, she has overcome hurdles in three industries that have routinely tripped up or roundly laid low legions of would-be entrepreneurs.
MS. BOYNTON, 54, describes what she calls an ''absurdly happy childhood'' in Philadelphia. The third of four daughters, she attended Germantown Friends, a K-12 Quaker school famed for its arts education and interdisciplinary teaching. Her father, Robert Boynton, was an English teacher at the school. ''The best English teacher I ever had,'' she says.
She was fascinated by business at an early age and remembers selling pretty yellow flowers door to door for a dime when she was 8. Later, she discovered that they were weeds, but she still had takers. ''I always liked selling things,'' she says. ''It gives you a sense of self-sufficiency.''
When Ms. Boynton was 14, a local newspaper printed drawings from an exhibit of her school artwork. She used the $40 she earned from her first published work to invest in two shares of AT&T -- though she mistakenly thought she was buying shares of I.B.M. She still has the stock but has no clue how much it is worth.
Stocks held a special glamour for her: Her grandfather worked at a silver company, rising from the mailroom to the vice president's perch. ''Family legend has it that the company offered penny-a-share stock to employees, and he bought as much as he could afford,'' she says. ''And he became a wealthy man. That stock eventually put most of his 17 grandchildren through college.''
In addition to her investing activity, she developed a strong interest in art, music, literature and writing -- all of which were central to the Friends curriculum. The school was so stimulating, academically and artistically, she says, that her first year at Yale was a disappointment.
At Yale, she majored in English, became involved in drama courses and productions and met her future husband, Jamie McEwan, in an acting class. She also worked on her drawing. Ever the entrepreneur, she started illustrating gift enclosure cards that were precursors of her animal-populated greeting cards.
In 1974, Ms. Boynton met Phil Friedmann, a partner in Recycled Paper Greetings, a greeting card company based in Chicago, at a stationery trade show. After Mr. Friedmann and his business partner, Mike Keiser, saw Ms. Boynton's work, they asked her to start making cards for their company.
They wanted to pay her a flat rate. Though she was only 21 and unknown, Ms. Boynton, who had learned a lesson or two from her father's other careers as a writer and publisher, demanded royalties.
''We quickly relented,'' Mr. Keiser recalls of the royalty negotiations. It was a shrewd move on his part, too. He says that over about a decade -- from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s -- revenue at Recycled Paper went from $1 million to $100 million, largely because of the popularity of Boynton cards. Ms. Boynton has made 4,000 different cards for Recycled Paper, including the still popular ''Hippo Birdies 2 Ewes'' birthday card.
By Mr. Keiser's rough estimate, Ms. Boynton has sold around a half-billion cards, which, he says, makes her one of the best-selling card creators of all time.
Her cards have become such a part of the mainstream that it is easy to forget how radical they were when they were introduced. Dominated by powerhouses like Hallmark and American Greetings, the card industry in the 1970s relied on flowery, color-saturated art and equally flowery prose, written in flourishes and curlicues.
Ms. Boynton's cards, on the other hand, were populated with cats, cows, hippos, ducks, sheep, dragons and various other beasts, humanized through the placement of a dot for a pupil, or a single, expressive arc for an eyelid or mouth. She was also among the first greeting card artists to use white backgrounds.
Her cards were thoughtful, wry and whimsical. While the sentiments may have been unconventional, they resonated with the public.
''Things are getting worse,'' said one card that featured a bewildered hippo. On the inside it said ''please send chocolate.''
Whimsy, it turns out, had been undervalued. And the big card companies eventually took some of their artistic cues from her.
''It's a lot easier to start in this business today than it was when Sandra Boynton got started,'' Patti Stracher, manager of the National Stationery Show, the country's biggest annual greeting card showcase. ''She fueled a trend in what were then called alternative greeting cards. Alternative cards helped people communicate about topics that were really hard to address or that you could poke fun at.''
AFTER the cards came the books. Continuing with the chocolate theme, in 1982 Ms. Boynton published a general market book titled ''Chocolate: the Consuming Passion'' that became a best seller. Its publisher, the Workman Publishing Company, went on to print some of her children's board books -- small books with thick, boardlike pages, with 5 to 10 rhythmic words per page.
The books feature some of the same furry and feathery characters that her cards do, presenting a world that her editor of 27 years, Suzanne Rafer, calls ''safe, unexpected and pleasurable'' for children.
The most popular board book by Workman, ''Barnyard Dance!'' (''Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Bow to the horse if you know how.'') was published in 1993 and has 2.3 million copies in print.
Wendy Rhein of Atlanta has been reading Ms. Boynton's books to her son, Nathan, 2 1/2, since he was born. ''The drawings are entertaining,'' she said, ''and there's a lyricism and rhyming that goes on that's very singsong, and they're fun for me to read to him.''
Succeeding in the children's book market is hard and becoming more so, said Michael K. Norris, senior analyst at Simba Information, a market research firm. Technology is luring children away from books, and only a small percentage of children's books wind up on families' shelves.
''The market favors authors who have built up their brands over time,'' Mr. Norris says. He says she also has an edge because ''she knows exactly who her audience is and knows how to reach them.''
FROM books, Ms. Boynton decided to extend her rhythmic sensibility into song. She says she was helped along by ''dumb luck.''
When she was working on the album ''Philadelphia Chickens'' in 2001, for instance, she told Mike Ford, her songwriting partner, that Meryl Streep (a fellow Yale alumna and a friend) was the only person who could do justice to the song ''Nobody Understands Me.''
The very next day, Ms. Streep happened to stop by her studio. She recorded the song and then suggested that the actor Kevin Kline might want to record one, too. He sang ''Busybusybusy.'' Another friend of Ms. Boynton's, Laura Linney, sang for the album, and Ms. Linney helped arrange for Eric Stoltz to put in an appearance.
Buoyed by her Hollywood supporters, Ms. Boynton approached some of the biggest names in the music industry -- including Alison Krauss, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors -- to contribute to her next album, ''Dog Train.'' From there, she was able to persuade some of her music idols -- including Neil Sedaka, B. B. King, Steve Lawrence and Davy Jones -- to sing on her most recent effort, called ''Blue Moo: 17 Jukebox Hits From Way Back Never.''
It was lucky, Ms. Boynton says, that many managers of the big musical acts were men in their 30s who had young children who loved her books. And there was another stroke of luck: she decided to use her longtime publisher, Workman, to package her CDs inside of books instead of selling them in music stores. In retrospect, that alternative form of distribution was a stroke of genius, because it came just as the music business seemed to be imploding.
Ms. Boynton's studio is not far from the farmhouse that she and her husband, Mr. McEwan -- also a children's book author -- bought 28 years ago. In addition to creating greeting cards and children's books, the couple also raised four children there, now ages 18 to 28.
The studio and her five-bedroom home, built in 1728, sit on 100 acres of rolling northwestern Connecticut countryside -- evidence of a life that is comfortable, but not lavish.
When she is working on her music, Ms. Boynton drives five miles across winding rural roads to Mr. Ford, her songwriting partner, who also works out of a studio next to his house. The two sit side by side in leather chairs in front of an electronic keyboard and a computer loaded with music software, working to find the right sounds for her lyrics.
One three-minute song, from writing to final recording, can take a month to complete. She and Mr. Ford put in 14-hour days when they are in the thick of a project. ''You have to enjoy the process of making it happen,'' she says.
BECAUSE she has made so much money from her cards and books, Ms. Boynton says, she doesn't need to rely on her CD business for income. Although the CDs make money for her publisher, she says they don't make money for her. Essentially, she views them as ''loss leaders'' -- products that are valuable not because they are profitable but because they help her maintain contact with her audience.
That philosophy helped persuade the blues singer B. B. King to record ''One Shoe Blues'' on her most recent CD. The song is a soulful lament that captures a toddler's anguish about not being able to find a missing shoe when Mama is ready to go.
''At the level of detail I think is necessary to make them what they are, they simply can't pay for themselves,'' Ms. Boynton says of the CDs. ''In purely business terms, it's an irrational enterprise. And it's also the best work I do.''
Ms. Boynton doesn't have an agent. She has just one employee: her assistant, Kathleen Sherrill. There is no Inc. or LLC after her name. She prefers to be an unincorporated business with an orbit of ''licensees,'' for lack of a better word, around her.
Whenever she has made products like stuffed animals, mugs, jewelry, sheets or towels, she has maintained control over the finished product so it doesn't stray from her vision -- or saturate the market.
''Theoretically, I could choose to trade artistic autonomy and pride in my work for increased income -- say, by broadly licensing my characters to be used for television,'' she says. But that would be foolish, she says.
''I love what I do, I love the people I work with, I care very much about the value of the work I create, and I don't need more money than I have. This is not revolutionary philosophy. It's just common sense.''
SUBJECT: CHILDREN (89%); PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS (85%); CHILDREN'S LITERATURE (77%); ENTREPRENEURSHIP (73%); MUSIC (71%); ART & ARTISTS (62%); ENTERTAINMENT & ARTS AWARDS (55%); PUBLISHING (72%)
GEOGRAPHIC: PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA (68%) PENNSYLVANIA, USA (79%) UNITED STATES (79%)
LOAD-DATE: February 17, 2008
CORRECTION-DATE: February 24, 2008
CORRECTION: An article last Sunday about Sandra Boynton, the children's book author and greeting card creator, quoted incorrectly the final part of a passage from her book ''Barnyard Dance!'' It is ''Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how,'' not ''Bow to the horse if you know how.''
GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Sandra Boynton in her Connecticut studio, which she shares with some of her quirky characters. (PHOTOGRAPH BY PHIL MANSFIELD FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)
Mike Ford and Ms. Boynton are songwriting partners. One of their three-minute songs can take a month to complete. (PHOTOGRAPH BY PHIL MANSFIELD FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)
''Blue Moo'' combines a book and CD. Ms. Boynton decided to sell her music this way instead of through music stores. (PHOTOGRAPH BY TONY CENICOLA/THE NEW YORK TIMES)
DRAWING: Cards by Ms. Boynton helped Recycled Paper Greetings vastly increase its revenue. CHART: LITTLE BOOKS BY THE MILLIONS: Sandra Boynton has written and illustrated more than 40 children's books. These are some of her most popular. (Sources: Simon & Schuster
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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