As these elements were part of the Business Plan required to develop this project, there's no reason not to share them to help us to get acquainted (or rather for you to get acquainted with us!). We rarely wake up in the morning with the idea of the century: it's often the result of reflection, the combination of personal desires and abilities.
After 10 years importing and exporting lingerie and representing brands in Europe and at international shows, I felt that it was time to do something else. I also spent 10 years abroad on various Caribbean islands, which brought about existential questions and an open-mindedness which we rarely have when we stay in the same place all our life: meeting people, experiencing different cultures and ways of life. In short, questions like: what do we really need? What is important and superfluous in life? Etc., etc.
Since I didn't have PhD in psychology, I tried to answer these questions alone - which was easy enough after 7 years of medical battles before becoming a father.
Of course, my child became all-important! My presence at his side, trying to provide everything I could for his development: that's what drove me (and still drives me ...). His mother and I tried to be there for him as much as possible, but it was soon time to start thinking about his schooling. The traditional ""system"" did not seem to follow our values and what we'd fought for until then. As an ""alternative"" teacher already, my wife and I had come across the Montessori educational approach, among others, on the internet and having met people involved in it. And it immediately seemed the best fit and the most natural choice for us: just like that, we found the right path.
Back to France after a decade of being an expat to sign up our adorable monster very lively little one to attend a Montessori school for the first time. My wife, who wanted to go back to teaching, decided to take advantage of this ""renaissance"" to train as a Montessori educator at the ISMM. I found myself in the world of Maria Montessori's educational approach on a daily basis, without being trained myself, and that's when it struck me.
With my experience in distribution, importing and trading, I saw that the French market had no presence in terms of Montessori products: they had to be ordered from abroad, which took time and cost more, and there wasn't always clear information about the products. I noticed that this is a glaring (and disappointing) absence for individuals who want to find out more about this educational approach, for small associations which set up Montessori workshops because of their faith in this educational approach and for schools and professionals implementing this educational approach.
So I decided to combine my personal interest and my professional experience to share this educational approach with as many people as possible and to support the schools and educators, who already have an important role, to stop them from having to get involved with imports/exports too. I did some research and found that there were only 3 approved manufacturers (including one in Japan - too far away), so in fact there were only 2: Nienhuis and Gonzagarredi.
Certainly, there is a whole host of other suppliers which try to copy the materials. However, they only copy as best they can and are only trying to make money, without sharing any ideology or actively contacting approved institutions, educators or associations. They ride on the back of a fashionable pseudo-educational approach (which is, however, a hundred years old!) and don't contribute anything to the Montessori educational approach or to those who practise it. Their prices are much lower - that's a fact, but it's understandable in view of the difference in quality, with splintering wood and very light coats of glue and paintwork creating equipment which overall is unattractive and certainly not long-lasting.
They are mere copies which don't respect Maria Montessori's own research work at all - the work which she carefully documented with the AMI, the association which she also founded to this end: to protect her work, her research and all the little details which ensure that the materials fulfil their educational purpose - or not! The prices of Nienhuis' equipment include royalties, paid to the AMI, Maria Montessori's association, to support it as it promotes and develops her educational approach around the world.
These mere copies are therefore the opposite of the Montessori educational approach and the values which we want to pass on to children.
As far as I was concerned, there was no alternative: I had to work with approved suppliers with the best equipment, who had worked alongside Maria Montessori since the beginning to bring her educational approach to life. So the decision was made: Nienhuis and Gonzagarredi. Of course, they were pleased to have finally found support in France. And just like that - all over again
Why Montessori Spirit? Simply because we want to adopt the spirit of this educational approach, because we want to share Maria Montessori's pioneering spirit with you through materials and because we're not motivated by making money but by an immersive concept - in which we are fully immersed ;-)
Montessori Spirit's aim is to support the development of the Montessori educational approach through the distribution of Nienhuis' AMI-approved products and the necessary, complementary equipment and supplies for your school, your association or simply for you as a parent. Apart from this invaluable material support and quite unlike a simple sales approach, we particularly want:
Choosing this path won't make us millionaires - but that's not our goal; otherwise, we would have continued selling lingerie ;-) We try to be competitive and constructive, with a long-term vision. Our prices are 15% lower on average than supplier prices, with free shipping (conditions apply) and we haven't invested in oversized premises or chosen a Porsche as a company car. It's a dream to be able to work by doing something we believe in and to be able to share that is amazing.
Montessori Spirit has also led to the opening of a Montessori school!
We also have practical experience in the educational approach, as you do; we know what we're talking about and we're aware of what we can offer you - this isn't your average business relationship ;-)
Our school in Bergerac has two classrooms for 3-6 year olds and 6-12 year olds with 45 children and 4 AMI educators.
As of 2018, we're working on another project to continue the development of this school and to further support children.
Montessori Spirit was created in 2012 and now has several years of experience.
Today, it has become the biggest European distributor of Nienhuis' products and approved Montessori materials and it continues to develop and support the tremendous growth of this educational approach around the world.
We offer you an average discount of 15% on Nienhuis' prices, almost 20% with free shipping, and we're a real co-operative, offering you an ever-increasing number of services.
In 2018, our site is translated into several languages, we offer new payment methods and we deliver worldwide, providing nearly 4000 products.
I hope that you've enjoyed this honest presentation and that our desire to work closely with you is clear.
Please feel free to share your comments about the site or anything else and feel free to let us know about your news or your needs.
Ludovic Nittel, founder and manager of Montessori Spirit