Woodstock council member Wendy Piersall sells children’s activity book company to Miami-based publisher

‘It was like sending a child off to college,’ she says

Following a pandemic-induced spike in interest in children’s activities books, Woodstock City Council member Wendy Piersall sold her label Woo! Jr. Kids Activities to a Miami-based publisher last month and has taken a new job with the company, Mango Publishing Group.

Piersall still will oversee the Woo! Jr. Kids Activities brand she created in 2008 while also taking the title of Mango’s director of business development. That job will entail licensing new products and developing new partnerships for Mango, she and the publisher said.

The plans for the Woo! Jr. label are to produce six to 12 new books a year, according to a news release from Mango, which started in 2014 and was joined in 2015 by FranklinCovey, which is associated with the bestselling title “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

Mango focuses on nonfiction publishing and Piersall said she has been impressed by its focus on offering content from a diverse set of authors and titles that have helped to destigmatize discussing mental health issues and treatments, especially for people in specific circumstances.

As an example, Piersall pointed to Mango’s title tailored to pregnant Black women, “Oh Sis, You’re Pregnant!” by Shanicia Boswell, as an example of the kind of work she is proud to be linked with through her new position.

“Their staff is incredibly diverse. Their books are incredibly diverse. They are definitely targeting issues that not a lot of other publishers are targeting. They have a lot of mental health books, a lot of books by Black authors,” Piersall said in an interview.

Pulling the trigger on selling Woo! Jr. was difficult for Piersall, but through negotiations with Mango, she found the right price for the children’s activity books business. The sector has been booming since COVID-19 made headlines last year, the councilwoman said. She and the company declined to disclose the sale price.

“It was like sending a child off to college. It was very important, but I think honestly, it was more important for me to be able to go in a new direction,” Piersall said.

She is looking forward to working to connect Mango with “mindfulness entertainment for adults” content, she said, an area she became familiar with through publishing coloring books for adults through a publisher separate from Woo! Jr several years ago.

She said the success of that project, along with the pandemic, have highlighted to her “what an amazingly awful mental health care system we have in this country.”

“It was interesting how many people with PTSD were writing me and thanking me for the help that [adult coloring book] content gave them,” Piersall said.

At its peak, Woo! Jr. had three employees and 12 contractors, Piersall said, and those working with her now are shifting their roles and continuing work with Mango.

Piersall has been a widely read and profitable blogger, and also ran a website as part of the Woo! Jr. business that averaged 3.5 million users over the past 12 months, Mango said.

As part of her new role, Piersall will help brainstorm ideas to pique interest in Mango content outside of traditional book formats while also working to get the most out of assets the company already holds and could be marketed differently, she said.

“Our missions and values are very similar – we both put a premium on education, diversity and activism,” Mango founder and CEO Chris McKenney said in a company news release. “As we started to work together, it became clear that Wendy’s [search engine optimization] experience would enhance our predictive analytics. We’re thrilled that Wendy will be Mango’s first director of business development, where she will impact the entire Mango group. She’ll also be able to help our team with other evolving publisher partnerships and acquisitions.”

The Woo! Jr. label, which has 19 titles that have sold 400,000 copies, will become a part of Mango’s children’s imprint, called DragonFruit, according to the Mango news release.

“I’m excited that Woo! Jr. and DragonFruit will work together to continue sparking children’s creativity and encouraging their development in a myriad of ways,” Mango’s Director of Global Editions and Juvenile Publishing M.J. Fievre said in the release. “Together, we’re building for the future – we’re capitalizing on our knowledge of analytics and innovation to break down barriers and ensure diverse and inclusive literature is accessible for young readers everywhere.”

Piersall said most Mango employees work from home and she intends to remain in Woodstock, where she said she and her family have “deep roots.”

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.