by Tina Manzer
George Papp, founder and owner of Montreal, Canada-based Beaver Books, admits that his favorite product is “our newest one at the time.” Since the publishing firm works on new products every day and introduces between five and eight new lines every year, there’s a lot for him to choose from: 500 SKUs over the past 13 years. “We offer a wide range of children’s books and products designed to stimulate active learning, inspire creativity, and educate children between the ages of 6 months to 8 years,” is the company description in a nutshell.
He created it from the ground up in response to a need among teachers and parents for affordable workbooks. Many Beaver Books retail for less than $5, although the company does publish premium products that sell for close to $25.
“We wanted to make it easier on their pocketbooks. Delivering quality publications at accessible prices evolved into a company philosophy that applies today to all our products,” says George.
Workbooks were the company’s first products; the content resulted from a collaboration with a teacher friend. Since then, educational activity books, reading books, bilingual books and children’s novelty books have been added to the lineup. For its imprints PAPP Puzzles and PAPP Leisure, the company creates and markets a variety of puzzle books, calendars, and coloring books.
The titles in its Original Workbook Series remain bestsellers. They reinforce skills in math, spelling, phonics and more, and include titles for kindergarten through 4th grade. They’ve become favorites among homeschooling parents.
“Thank you, Beaver Books for making your books affordable!” says a testimonial from a homeschooling mom. “I can’t download and print quality pages like this for the same price! Other workbooks have only one work-page per lesson, but your series allows my children to become adept at a skill before moving on.”
The website of Rainbow Resource Center offers these tips for using them: “Beaver Books’ pages are black and white, with charmingly illustrated critters kids can color. They can tear out a perforated page to complete, or keep the book whole and work on through. Put a page into a plastic sleeve and let multiple kids use a dry-erase marker to practice. Add one of these pages to any math or phonics program for additional practice, and to add some variety to the children’s day. Let them use crayons or colored pencils to liven up practice time.”
George attributes the books’ success to “their creative formats packed with playful illustrations and fun activities. They encourage a child’s natural curiosity and help educate through repetition and practice. Above all, they are fun and rewarding. They give children a sense of accomplishment.”
A passion for publishing
After studying philosophy in college, George joined the family business “My father was an immigrant entrepreneur who built a successful business in the fashion industry here in Montreal,” he told me. “He instilled in me at a young age the value of hard work and the need to find something that I was passionate about.”
His first love turned out to be building businesses. Before he started Beaver Books, George worked at various startups in both the hospitality and publishing industries. “As my interest in publishing grew, I felt the need to start my own company and Beaver Books was born. When my own children came along and I saw the positive effect the books had on them, I knew I had found my true passion.”
Over the years the company’s workforce has grown to 14. “We have a dedicated internal staff of editors, writers and designers, but we also work with a network of external resources including teachers, illustrators and researchers, depending on the needs of the project,” George says. The design work takes place at the 4,000-square-foot headquarters and showroom in Montreal; the books are printed in the U.S. and overseas.
In Canada, they’re sold direct to consumers except in Quebec, where a local distributor sells French versions of the company’s titles. For the U.S. market, George is currently looking for reliable wholesale and distribution partners. “Beaver Books have been available in the U.S. for 12 years, but not consistently,” he says.
While the majority of sales are in North America, its business is growing internationally, particularly in Latin America. Books have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, in addition to French, Polish and Italian. George and his team exhibit at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Guadalajara International Book Fair. In the U.S., the company has exhibited at BookExpo in the past and “Toy Fair has become very important for us.”
George works hard to make sure all Beaver Books’ titles are retail friendly. “They’re produced in standard trim sizes so they’re easy to merchandise in most fixtures. We also offer many of our titles in pre-packed counter displays. Making sure that they are visible in a store simply helps sell them – we spend a lot of time making sure our covers are appealing to children.”