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sowing seeds

Robert Berna ’94 (international studies) was born in New York City and raised in Maryland. He returned to New York in 1997, working within the marketing division of New Line Cinema, and then transitioned to a career in advertising after receiving dual MBA degrees from Columbia Business School and the University of California at Berkeley. Berna and his wife, Alison Qualta Berna, met Apple Seeds co-founders Craig and Alison Schlanger in a neighborhood Music Together class.
How did Dickinson prepare you for your current career/endeavor?
We all know that Dickinson provides an extremely well-rounded education, so coming out of there with such a well-balanced liberal-arts foundation really does set one up for a variety of career options. Dickinson encourages students to explore many fields and topics, which has served me well having now worked in a several different industries. This drive and confidence to explore new territories helped me jump into my current business, Apple Seeds, an all-in-one play space for families with kids newborn to 5 years old.
“The true moment when I knew we were onto something great was when we opened for business on March 1, 2007. We had a line of clients wrapped halfway around the block waiting to get into our facility for the first time.”
What was the moment when you knew you had a good idea, which led you to pursue your current career/endeavor?
When my twin daughters were about a year old, my wife and I met another couple with twin boys that were the same age. Noting the collective lack of quality kids’ activities in our neighborhood in Manhattan, we quickly recognized the need for such a business and decided to launch Apple Seeds together. The true moment when I knew we were onto something great was when we opened for business on March 1, 2007. We had a line of clients wrapped halfway around the block waiting to get into our facility.
What inspires you?
My three kids. Every single day. They were the original inspiration for creating Apple Seeds, and they continue to provide us with amazing feedback (even though they have all aged out by now!)
What advice would you offer to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?
Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Most people don’t get that many opportunities to launch a business or to join an entrepreneurial effort, so when the opportunity presents itself, you should jump at it. The second piece of advice I would share is that you have to be patient when building a business. A lot of people have the expectation that they can build something, and then sell it and retire after just a few years. That does happen occasionally, but generally it takes some time to build up a quality business, and there is always a learning curve involved when creating something new.
What’s next for you?
Apple Seeds has been around for nine years, but we just recently started franchising our highly popular music program, Songs for Seeds. Since the franchise world is an entirely new landscape for us, this has been like launching a new startup all over again. We’re off to a great start, having already awarded 10 Songs for Seeds franchises across the U.S. in just a few months.


Tell your friends - songs for seeds is in Westchester!

The same songs for seeds class you love in Manhattan is now in Scarsdale! Classes are held at Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-El.

Click here for our class schedule https://songsforseeds.com/scarsdale

You can also book the song for seeds Scarsdale band for birthday parties and events.

For more information about songs for seeds in Scarsdale and to try a FREE class contact: dana@songsforseeds.com


WOOHOO! The Birthday Department welcomes Jade and Nolen!

Introducing our NEW birthday management team - Jade Brennan (Birthday Manager/Office Administrator) and Nolen Borne (Birthday Coordinator/Front Desk Associate).

Jade comes to apple seeds with a lot of event experience, a love of children, and a very sweet personality. Having only been with us for a couple of weeks, she is already taking great strides in the Birthday Department. Jade is a wonderful person and ready to help you plan the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! Jade is the mother of a 1 year old girl named Naomi who is already a big songs for seeds fan! 

Nolen is no stranger to apple seeds and was just crowned our February Employee of the Month. Having recently taken on the position of Birthday Coordinator, Nolen will work side by side with Jade to plan your next party, while also serving as a Front Desk Associate. 

We are excited to welcome Jade to apple seeds and Nolen to the Birthday Team!

To book a ROCKIN' birthday party at apple seeds, visit our website at www.appleseedsplay.com


ATBF Family Fun Day at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus

The Alan T Brown Foundation (ATBF) has served the spinal cord community for over 28 years and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis. ATBF provides information, resource referrals and peer support to paralyzed individuals and their families. ATBF strives to assist individuals in achieving the highest personal level of independence, sustaining a healthy lifestyle, managing daily and chronic health issues, and adjusting to their new life after paralysis.

This year, the Alan T Brown Foundation will be holding its Annual Family Fun Day at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus at the Barclays Center on Sunday, February 28th. This event will benefit the Foundation’s extensive outreach initiatives and the programs they support at hospitals and rehabilitation centers in the Tri-State area. Please click here to purchase your tickets or make your donation to this very worthy cause.


have you heard about my super cool business partner?

by Allison Schlanger

For anyone who reads this blog you know that my business partner Alison has done some pretty incredible things in the past few years.

In 2012 she did 15 yoga classes in 1 week.
In 2013 she completed a Half Ironman.
In 2014 she helped guide a blind athlete from the South Rim to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and back again -- nonstop.

This year she helped guide that same blind athlete from the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu -- nonstop.
The Grand Canyon and the Inca Trail had never been done by a blind athlete before, so not only were these challenges awe-inspiring, they also were history making.

What is this all about?

At first it was about turning 40 and challenging herself physically. The yoga classes, the Half Ironman…

But at the Half Ironman Alison met a guy named Dan Berlin.

Over the course of 20 years, Dan lost his sight to a rare eye disorder called cone rod dystrophy.

Alison was incredibly inspired that Dan focused on his ability to run, bike and swim and not his sight disability. Dan and Alison became fast friends. After the Half Ironman, Alison, Dan and Dan’s running guide (and Alison’s friend), Charles Scott, and Charles’ friend, Brad Graff, decided to do another fitness challenge together. That was the Grand Canyon.

After the Grand Canyon they decided to make things official.

First Alison, Dan, Charles and Brad created Team See Possibilities. Then they created a formula of 3 criteria that all future adventures had to meet.

Find X endurance challenge that a blind athlete has never accomplished
Set it in Y iconic location
Do it for Z charitable cause

They even got a sponsor – Intrepid Travel (check out their web site for immersive adventurous trips for normal folk) and they were off.

Anyone who reads about these adventures immediately can see that they are athletically amazing – mind blowing. But taking on these challenges is no longer about just daring and testing herself physically. Team See Possibilities has come to encompass everything Alison cares deeply about.

Alison loves children. Hers of course -- wholly and unconditionally. She is an incredible and devoted mother. But she lights up when she sees any child.

Alison loves travel. She loves seeing new places, meeting new people and diving into new cultures.

You can name any town in any country in the world and Alison can come up with someone she knows that lives there.

Alison loves helping people. She raises money for multiple causes at once and when she is not raising money she is finding ways to give back through time and effort.

Alison loves exercise. Any kind at all…but in particular yoga and in more recent years running.

When Alison left her job at UNICEF to start apple seeds (with me!) she knew it was right for her family but she did not want to completely lose her access to international travel or meeting and helping children of the world. For each of these adventures Alison has been worried about the time she has to take away from her kids to appropriately train. Getting her body and mind ready for these challenges takes real effort and time. She runs, she cross trains, she spins and she does yoga. That means missing school drop off, pick up or after school activities, at times, to exercise. It also means motivating to get out of bed and out of the house to go on group runs on Sunday mornings.

But today I saw it all come together for Alison.

Today, I sat in an audience of 5th and 6th graders. Two of the 5th graders were Alison’s daughters, Maddie and Sydney. I was at their school to see an assembly about adventure and possibilities. Alison and her Team See Possibilities teammate, Charles, led it. Alison and Charles were there to show the kids that by focusing on his abilities, not his disability, Dan, is showing each of us how to overcome the limits we often place on ourselves. But this assembly was not just about Dan. It was about all of us…with an emphasis on those 5th and 6th grade kids and what they can set their minds to accomplish.

Alison spoke about how she set goals of physical challenges (to encompass in her love of exercise). She showed gorgeous, sweeping pictures of the Grand Canyon and Macchu Picchu (to encompass her love of travel and this world we live in). She spoke about working with UNICEF to meet blind children in Lima and provide them with both inspiration, and a role model in Dan, and musical instruments sorely needed for their school (encompassing her need to connect with and help children). But the best part of the assembly was seeing that her deep, unconditional love for her children was reflecting right back at her as her daughters sat in the audience beaming at their role model for possibilities…their mom.