Jen Bilik here, founder—and for the first time, no longer owner!—of Knock Knock. I’m delighted to share that the Who’s There Group—Knock Knock and Em & Friends—has been sold to Union Square & Co., the publishing arm of Barnes & Noble. Graduations and farewells are always bittersweet, but I’m grateful we’ve been able to take this necessary step toward ensuring the legacy potential of these two amazing brands.
For many—our team most of all—hearing this news is like learning the family home has been sold. By necessity, though, entrepreneurial companies go through phases. Some stay independent for fifty rather than twenty years while others pass into family or employee hands, but most either sell or close down. If you want your company to outlive you, at some point it has to pass into the kind of ownership that has a larger degree of perpetuity.
I started Knock Knock on a bit of a whim, twenty years ago. TWENTY! In 2002, gift and specialty product didn’t have much of a point of view, and I thought there might be enough people out there to appreciate a bit of cheek and some multisyllabic words. But it turned out there were more than enough: in twenty years, we created 3,000 products, tallied gross revenue of $200 million, and sold into 20,000 stores in the U.S. and 50 countries internationally. We brought humor and irreverence to uptight offices and offered gifts that made their givers witty. We said what people were actually thinking and poked fun at ourselves so others could do the same. We put editorial content onto non-book formats and product content into books. We saw the advent of online shopping and social media. And we learned enough along the way to populate a thousand MBAs.
Knock Knock and Em & Friends will now charge into the future led by Union Square’s publisher and CCO Emily Meehan along with our longtime president, Jim Papscoe, and publisher, Craig Hetzer—supported by the same incredible team that’s brought us to this very point. There are so many things I’m grateful for, not least of which is the kindred retailers and customers who’ve made everything possible. There’s no doubt I have a tear in my eye today, but I couldn’t be more excited or proud.