As a child, my mother would take me to what we colloquially referred to as “the teachers’ store” on at least a yearly basis. My sister and I never protested this errand. We would happily hop in the car for the drive into town to help her pick out her supplies.

Launching Success is brimming with creative ideas for teachers, parents and kids alike. Photo credit: Janine Johnson.

My mother is a retired elementary educator. She taught mostly third and fourth grade during her career. From my perspective, she was awesome at her job. But even an unbiased critic could ascertain, as evidenced by those many trips to “the teachers’ store,” that my mother willingly put extra time and money from her own pocket into her students’ learning experience. She liked offering the kids more, everything from science experiments, seasonal projects and cooking in the classroom to eye-catching bulletin-boards, prizes for “the treasure box” and arts and crafts materials. “The teachers’ store” offered her convenience and inspiration. It was not simply a store, it was a treasure trove of ideas.

We are so fortunate to have a place like this in Bellingham, brimming with learning games, workbooks, toys and supplies. It’s called Launching Success and it’s an idea factory.

Launching Success isn’t just for teachers, however. This store is for moms, dads, caregivers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters – anyone who helps foster kids’ imaginations and/or learning experience, or simply loves to spoil them with super-cool gifts.

Launching Success carries a huge selection of carefully curated classroom materials and kids toys. Photo credit: Janine Johnson.

It’s not uncommon for first-time shoppers to find themselves surprised at Launching Success’ breadth. They often exclaim, “How did I not know this place was here?” The vast building is a neat array of aisles, each with shelves full of teaching supplies and quality toys … so many fantastic toys.

Launching Success is a successful, highly-regarded stalwart among Whatcom County educators and community members – and was recently bestowed the honor of “2017 Small Business of the Year” by the Bellingham/ Whatcom Chamber of Commerce.

“It was humbling and amazing to win and be recognized by our community,” says Jen Zimmermann, co-owner of Launching Success. She and her business partner, Kristen Krumdiack, work very hard to keep their retail space vibrant, inviting and current, and their business thriving. Jen emphasizes that they did not get into small business to be recognized; they own and operate Launching Success because they believe strongly in providing resources for the children and educators of Whatcom County. And while they do not subsist on acknowledgements and praise, it always feels good when your hard work is noticed.

Jen first heard about the award nomination at a “business after business” event early this past fall. She was approached by Guy Occhiogrosso, president and CEO of the Bellingham Whatcom Chamber of Commerce. When asked if Launching Success would accept the nomination, her immediate response was an emphatic, “Well of course we will!” It was an exciting prospect for Launching Success and an honor and surprise to be considered for the award.

Jen Zimmermann, co-owner of Launching Success, is humbly honored by their Best Small Business win. Photo credit: Janine Johnson.

The selection process was thorough and included peer interviews and even a short video produced by Veritas Media Productions. The part that resonated the most with Jen were the Chamber of Commerce subcommittee interviews. Three people, peers from the business community and fellow members of the Bellingham/ Whatcom Chamber of Commerce, spent hours at the store asking questions, taking copious notes and exploring the space. It was during that step of the process that Jen realized the extent to which the Chamber of Commerce not only recognized Launching Successes’ work, but aimed to truly understand their mission as a local business and communicate it to the community at large.

On the night of the awards dinner, Jen did not consider Launching Success a shoe-in for the trophy. Each of the nominated businesses were vastly different and wholly deserving of the honor. She did note, however, that Launching Success was the sole retail business, which conjured up a bit more pride. She appreciated that her peers saw real value in their brick-and-mortar enterprise.

While winning the designation of “Small Business of the Year” is a humbling honor, the best rewards for Jen and Kristen are the returning customers. For teachers seeking a creative jumpstart, parents searching for a fun, rainy day activity or kids looking for something new and exciting, Launching Success is the place to go. Our community has long valued this phenomenal store and now they have the official recognition to prove it.

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