The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.
Starter Series interview with Shabnam Rezaei, Co-Founder & President at Big Bad Boo Studios & Oznoz.com.
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
Oznoz is a platform like Netflix, where kids can watch cartoons in many languages. We have shows like Sesame Street, Bob The Builder, Babar, Barney, Franklin, Ruby Gloom, Angelina Ballerina and much more in Chinese, French, Spanish, German, English, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Japanese, and others. Oznoz has over 250 shows in 10 languages and we are continuously adding to our vast library of animation, live-action, and non-dialogue shows. Shows can we watched online and also on any mobile device (iPad, iPhone, Android) via the Oznoz app. My daughter and I download to the iPad and then stream it up on Apple TV. She is trilingual and loves to watch Thomas & Friends in German and Elmo’s World in Persian.
We first got into animation a few years after 9/11. I was feeling very frustrated, being Iranian and getting mixed, often incorrect perceptions of Iran from people I would encounter every day. So we started Big Bad Boo Studios to make cartoons to teach kids about different cultures. Our first cartoon was called Babak & Friends—A First Norooz which is about the Persian New Year, celebrating the coming of spring. After that, we decided to take a global approach to the problem of immigrants not having culturally relevant content, and we produced Mixed Nutz. This is a multicultural show about five kids from Iran, Cuba, Korea, India and Austria and their daily adventures. The show still airs on certain PBS channels and has been broadcast worldwide. After Mixed Nutz, we produced 1001 Nights, which has been our hit property, now broadcasting in over 80 countries on channels like Teletoon, Discovery, CBC, Disney and others. While producing shows, we realized there was a gap in the market for bilingual content for kids, so we launched Oznoz. Oznoz also has a shop where parents can get great bilingual books and DVDs.
What do your kids think about your job?
My daughter Aliana is three and she is our number one fan. She is probably the # 1 customer on Oznoz, watching shows in German and Persian. She loves Babak & Friends, Freddy’s Freunde and Our Home. We test the shows and the interface on her all the time, so officially she is the head of Research & Development. She also loves to mimic the Oznoz opening, which is a sigh and a bell ring. So she will sit at the breakfast table and say “I am Oznoz” and sigh and then go “ding.” Aliana also heavily influences our productions, like our new preschool show Lili & Lola which is about two sisters (five and three) living in a big city. I am sure when she turns nine, she will no longer think what we do is cool.
Tell us about a total mom+ biz fail?
It’s a real challenge every day to come to work and then to go home. Both of these things require 100% attention and so by definition, one is always lacking and I feel badly about it. The only thing I can do to make myself feel better is think about my own mom. She was an OB-GYN and would often be gone at all hours of the night to deliver babies at the hospital. She worked very hard and very long hours and I still adore and respect her. I think she set a great example for me to have a good work ethic and strong convictions and if I can do the same for my daughter, then I have achieved something good. I have to say though, she is growing up super fast and I don’t like it one bit.
Share with us a total win (brag away!)
Because we cater to bilingual families who are so obsessed with their children speaking a second or third language, we have a very active and vocal customer base. We often hear from moms and dads who love Oznoz and tell us how big an impact it has on them. One Persian-speaking mom told me that her daughter refused to call her “Maman” (and would call her Mommy) until she watched Babak & Friends in Persian. She heard Babak say Maman and now, it was normal or even cool, so she did it too. It made us and our Mom cry to hear this.
A lot of our shows are older shows from when the parents were growing up in their respective countries or they are shows from local broadcasters like Al Jazeera Children’s, or NHK Tokyo so parents love that nostalgic or home factor. Oznoz allows the kids to grow up as if they were at home, with their ears hearing their non-dominant language more frequently than they otherwise would, which makes for an organic and natural way of learning the language.
What's your relationship with Mamalode?
I was introduced to Mamalode by a friend and I just love what you are doing with it. The brand is so beautiful and clean and the conversations are so smart and unique. I think it’s a great community and I hope to become part of it.