Between Classes with Maria Vogelei

Maria has had the entrepreneurial bug since day one–she didn’t just make a lemonade stand as a kid, she sold lemonade door-to-door. Here, she talks about creating a space that encourages children to discover their passions through play, and how even 3-year-olds can offer sage advice.

Tell us in a couple words what motivated you to start your business?

My daughters, Collins (3) and Ella (1), are the inspiration for my business (and everything else I do!)

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How do children benefit from your classes?

Our mission at Nook is to bring learning back to play. And so we work with our instructors to create classes that are play-based and that emphasize individual discovery and exploration.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your job?

My vision was to create a play space that was less about overstimulation and more about learning through play. Most play spaces are the same–parents watch from the sidelines as their children jump up and down in a plastic bounce house. It seems that play has become more about tiring children out, as opposed to giving them an opportunity to explore and discover. So what has been most fulfilling is seeing the vision come to life. In our play space and in our classes, I see parents and caregivers fully engaged with their children in building forts, playing "kitchen," creating art, dancing, tinkering, and participating in science experiments.

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What is the biggest challenge in your opinion when running your own business?

As a solo business owner, I've had to wear many hats—hats that I thought I'd never wear, hats that I'm still trying my best to fit into.

What was your favorite thing to do as a child?

I loved drawing. I'd spend hours sketching all the Disney characters. My first career ambition was to make animated movies. And I was also very entrepreneurial as a child... I didn't just have lemonade stand—I did door-to-door lemonade sales.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

To keep my children young forever.

Share your personal motto or best piece of advice you received in life?

"You just have to be brave," my daughter will say, whenever I tell her I'm afraid of something.

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What about your childhood motivated you to stay involved in your passion?

I was always certain of two things as a child: 1. that my parents loved me no matter what, and 2. that they were the hardest working people in the world. That unwavering love and example of hard work has allowed me to pursue my dreams.

Dream job if you weren't running Nook?

I would be a travel writer, and I would focus on off-the-beaten path travel with kids. Our first stop would be Nepal. (I say this and yet we have trouble making it to church)

What hobbies do you have?

It's difficult to maintain hobbies when you're a business owner, wife, and mom of two, but when I do have the time I like to bake, practice yoga, and brainstorm new businesses!

The darndest thing a kid ever said to you?

(shouting) "MOM, you said I could pee in the pool, right?"

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Favorite spots in your neighborhood?

Orange Theory for a challenging workout. Chaia for farm-to-table tacos. Ice Cream Jubilee for mint chocolate chip. The Arboretum for a unique outdoor activity with kids.

Best advice for someone just starting out in the children's education space?

Sign up for and take as many kids classes as you can. Go through the entire process from registration to attendance. Take notes of what you liked, didn't like, can do better. You are your best customer.

Between ClassesBen Green