Pointers from the House that Beanbags Built

September 2001
by Judith Appelbaum

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Open the latest issue of National Geographic World–thekids’ magazine from the National Geographic Society–and you’ll find a page that features the Klutz logo and shows kids how to do things–shrink and hike the solar system, make a paper airplane, get parents off your back about a messy room, etc. Monthly pages created by the California publisher, which started running this year, raise Klutz-consciousness among the magazine’s 900,000 subscribers.

They also reflect an emphasis on books as avenues to activity that has always characterized Klutz. The house got its start in 1977 in Palo Alto when John Cassidy and two of his friends from Stanford University decided to sell sidewalk juggling lessons for beginners, along with a set of bean bags. As “The Klutz Story” tells it (see www.klutz.com),“a week’s efforts earned the group $35. ‘It was then we realized the sky was the limit.’ ”

To extend their reach skyward, or at least beyond the local sidewalks, Cassidy and his partners figured they needed a book. With start-up capital of $3,000 to $5,000, Cassidy recalls, they produced 3,000 copies of Juggling for the CompleteKlutz, along with 9,000 accompanying beanbags. Then the three waited to see whether they’d created a huge hit or a total flop. “It took us a few years,” Cassidy says, “to confront the fact that it was neither.”

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