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Small Business Startup Lesson: The Street That Almost Never Was


Sesame Street...never heard of it. An unlikely response but almost a reality when Sesame Street was launched back in late 1960's. The show's pre-launch was unsuccessful and a change was needed or Sesame Street was history before it even aired.

It's hard to believe the show almost never made it given the incredible 37-year history of the program. Sesame Street has always been dedicated to enriching the educational lives of children through programming and other media avenues. As stated by the organization's website, their mission is "to create innovative, engaging content that maximizes the educational power of all media to help children reach their highest potential." This inspiring mission was almost unattainable back in the sixties.

Pre-Screening Disaster

In the beginning, the folks at the Sesame Workshop saw the potential of how T.V. could help educate kids. They had a firm belief on utilizing research to best determine how the television could benefit children. Working with scientists, the show was conceived with a research foundation to produce educational shows that would hold the attention span of a young child and aid in the retention of learned materials.

Several 30-minute shows were produced and shown to a select audience of children before the actual airing. The research results return from the pre-screening revealed that the program didn't hold children's attention. This was a disaster. What was wrong?

Startup Success...The Muppets

Originally, psychologists believed that the program shouldn't mix fantasy with reality so all scenes were of the Muppets alone or human characters interacting among themselves. The people of Sesame Street weren't interesting to children and they tuned out many of these adult scenes. The Muppets were the draw. To hold the show's format, the change was made to include the Muppets interacting with the humans on Sesame Street. This one vital change made the difference between a flop and the successful first airing of Sesame Street.

Many successful business and products were like Sesame Street during their introduction, just requiring the right changes for success. The key moral for all business start-ups is to listen to the marketplace and make the necessary changes to succeed.

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