By: Christine Vickers
For Manlius resident, Karyn Burns her foray into the world of children’s goods(think pictures, placements, playing cards) began with personal creations she made for her three young sons, Jack, Charlie and Rory. Burns is a Vermont native and wanted to create a drawing for her first born that would commemorate her love for her home state. Thus, the ABC’s of Vermont became her first creation. For her second child, she created the ABC’s of The 1000 Islands as the family enjoyed summers there. When she was expecting her third child, she decided to create The ABC’s of Syracuse University, she and her son’s father are both alumni. As Burns reflects, this is where the idea of transferring this hobby into a business began. “Friends would come visit to meet the baby and would ask me, where can I get that?”
A few years later, Burns found herself in the throes of a divorce and was looking forward to utilizing any free time in productive activities. “I am very project oriented and thought this will be good for me and my mind. When you go through tough times you want to have an emotional outlet.” She started to consider selling her drawings and created monthly goals for herself, the first being to get her product into five stores.
A fondness for Martha’s Vineyard led to her next goal and also served as the catalyst for launching her business. “I decided to create an ABC prototype for Martha’s Vineyard. I went out there and ended up securing it to be sold in a few shops, to include The Black Dog. (The iconic store and symbol of Martha’s Vineyard) When The Black Dog came up suddenly it was official. I was doing orders, W 9s and taxes!” From there, Burns started to secure some collegiate licenses a process she describes as a long but well worth it. It was at this point, as she looked at her incoming orders that she realized that there was a demand and a niche for this product.
Burns achieved all this while working at her full-time job as a lobbyist. She is currently vice president of communications & government relations at The Manufacturing Association of Central New York. She says that her two worlds have meshed over the years, and some of her clients have produced her products, and some are vendors.
Burns outlined her process of creating a new product in the following way, “First we decide a location or an educational program to feature. In the past, I might have then developed an outline myself, but now we have flipped the process. We have high customer engagement where we use social media tools to gather input on our designs.” Burns laughed as she recalled putting together the ABC’s of Boston, “I have never seen such passion for an area as the Boston folks. We put it out there on Facebook and were flooded with a response of ideas.“
The actual design process also includes copyrighting and licensing. From there they create a prototype and shop it around to get feedback. Those changes are then made, resulting in the final prototype.
Burns confided that among her proudest moments as the founder of the company, was to see her products listed on the in Bed, Bath and Beyond and Buy, Buy Baby web sites. She also notes that they are in Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. “These inclusions are taking my business to the next level, and it is amazing to see.”
Burn’s advice to other women in Upstate New York who might want to translate a talent or aspect of their personality into a business? “Tap into the amazing resources of other women in this region who have built successful companies. They want to see us succeed. And find your friends… find those friends that want to help you and help them back!”
These days’ Burns is most excited about how her business continues to evolve. Karyn is in the process of rolling out exciting new products in the educational solutions’ arena. Such timely collaborations include the ABC’s of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and ABC’s of Financial Literacy. As with some of her other lines products include poster memory matching card games, placements, etc. Early feedback as revealed that these visual tools are helpful in classrooms, providing solutions to educational needs.
As a creative, high-energy mom and business owner Burns derives enjoyment in juggling it all. She takes a retreat at her refurbished Manlius farmhouse with her boys and fiancée.
“When you come to a city-like Syracuse, the world is your oyster, and the existing camaraderie is something to cherish. My business began by pulling me through some pretty dark times, but I’m incredibly proud of the journey that led me here.”
View the complete whimsical collection of Karyn Burn’s ABC’s at