Deborah Castillero is the founder of Tipitom, a bilingual app teaching children Spanish and English. Check out more about Tipitom on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
How did growing up as a bilingual child help to inspire this business?
When I was 7 years old, my mom sent me to Panama to spend the summer with my abuela. After three months of an immersive experience, I came back speaking Spanish fluently. After multiple summer trips there, I fell in love with the culture. This essentially set the stage for what would become my lifelong interest and commitment to work in the Hispanic market. After 14 years in the entertainment industry, I longed for a professional experience with a social impact in scope. I was granted the honor of working for VME Media, public television en español. In my role as director of special projects, I conducted extensive research about the growth of English language learners and how access to high quality learning experiences early is critical to future academic success. As a result of being bilingual and multicultural, I bring a unique set of experiences and insights to my company that help us develop highly needed products that are authentic and relatable.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in creating this app?
Funding, funding, funding. Only 7% of all female founders receive funding from the startup investor circle and less than 1% goes to people of color. Those are huge barriers to overcome. Fortunately for me, one of my colleagues from LEAP Global Partners decided to make an early investment which allowed me to build my second app.
How were you able to set yourself apart to attract the attention of big players like Facebook and Care Bears to come alongside you?
I believe that since our product offering and unique value proposition are unique, these large companies have been willing to hear our story. With our collective track record of success and our expertise in multicultural, bilingual education, technology development and branding, our partners see real potential in what we’re building. We’ve also just signed a deal with Fingerprint Play; they curate all the kid content for the Samsung Kids Play app.
What is one tip you can share with other moms looking to start a business but struggle with balancing all the other commitments in their lives?
I think it’s hard to do multiple things well, so I would say pick your path carefully and focus your energy on doing that one thing well. Read the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Think small, test, and iterate. Repeat.
What is the most important thing you hope your son learns from watching your journey?
My son opted out of going to college to start his own business. Never in a million years did I think we’d be living parallel lives as entrepreneurs. Not only am I his mom, but also his advisor. What he has learned from my entrepreneurial journey is that as the CEO of your own company, you need to lead but also be coachable; you must be disciplined in all aspects of your life to become a successful trep; you can’t do this alone, so having a great team and advisors is critical to your growth; there will be early successes and lots of failures, so grit and tenacity are critical; it will be harder than anything you’ve done before.