I’m a mommy of two children, Tiaan (6) and Alexis (4). I developed the Oh So Exciting Activity box when my son was born due to a personal need. I’m currently working three mornings a week as a Remedial Therapist specializing in the foundation phase. I have a passion for early childhood development as well as addressing learning difficulties in the foundation phase.
Background in terms of how the programme started:
I bought and borrowed a few additional books that specifically focused on child development and stimulation. As a remedial teacher I know the importance of play to form a good foundation for school. So every day I made sure I did a few exercises to ensure that Tiaan reaches his milestones.
During maternity leave it was such a wonderful time to be at home and to play with Tiaan. We joined one of the mother and baby workshops which was great fun and he had the opportunity to be part of a social group.
Unfortunately I had to go back to work a month earlier and that is when all my concerns started.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to send him to a day mother, nursery school or keep him at home with a nanny. After doing a lot of research in a short period of time, visiting a few day mothers, going to a few schools and contacting a nanny placement agency, I decided to get a nanny that was fully trained in baby care and stimulation. I was so excited as I knew Tiaan would be safe at home and be taken care of by someone trained in stimulating a baby, something that is very important to me.
It came as a big disappointment when I realised she wasn’t given age appropriate activities but only basic information in terms of stimulating a baby. I knew it would be impossible to expect her to read all the books and come up with suitable activities every week as I did. As a Registered Counsellor in Community Mental Health I did a weekly stimulation programme at a nursery school as part of my training. This motivated me to do a lot of reading and research to come up with suitable activities that the nanny could do with Tiaan. I then decided to compile a morning programme that she had to do every day which meant repetition, repetition, repetition which is important for learning. I also added daily activity cards, which are quick and easy to follow, that I could do with Tiaan in the afternoon as I only work half-day.
Every three months I changed it to make it more age appropriate and as Tiaan grew up I made a few changes. This has really worked well for me and that is why I have decided to make this available to other parents who are also concerned about their child’s development, especially if they are staying at home with a caregiver or if they want to do something extra with their child in the afternoon. Most of the activities require some equipment that can either be bought or some of them made from recycled material.
- What were you doing before you started this business?
I was working as a Nursery school teacher at Orban school for three years, teaching the 2 to 3 year olds (7:00-13:30). In the afternoons I presented Audiblox lessons (foundational skills aimed at preventing learning difficulties) at the primary school to generate an extra income (13:30-15:00). I also au-paired (15:30-17:30) for a family working with a child with learning difficulties. I then taught the Bridge 3 classroom at a Glenoaks Remedial School and offered remedial lessons in the afternoon.
- What prompted you to start your business?
When I fell pregnant with Tiaan my husband and I decided that it would be a good idea to only work in the mornings to be available in afternoons once going back after maternity leave. After a personal need of putting activities together for my son who stayed with a nanny and friends wanting the ideas I decided to put the ideas together as a proper programme and to sell it and in return make an extra income without working in the afternoons.
- Is your business full time or part time and why?
Business is part time as I’m a registered Counsellor specializing in Learner support (remedial therapist). Learning difficulties is also one of my passions and therefor involved part time.
- How do you juggle the responsibilities of being a mom with your work?
I try and do most admin during night time when they are asleep. I dedicate most of the afternoon time to them. Sometimes it is difficult as I have to attend to some clients in the afternoon.
- Do you have a business plan? If so, can you share a bit about your strategy to make it successful?
Not really. Think I need one to make it a more successful business.
- How do you get clients/ market yourself?
I have a few baby clinics around Johannesburg promoting and selling my boxes. Also have an OT running the impact learning courses in Jhb, Durban and Cape Town who is also promoting and selling. Facebook, Mamahood and Parenting Hub have also been helpful. Word of mouth also goes a long way.
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Competing with all the similar products on the market and getting the product out there. As a one man band marketing can be costly.
- Did you need a lot of money to start off?
It was very costly for me to start as I paid a professional designer to draw the pictures and put all the booklets together. Creating a website and flyers all added up. I used some savings to get started. The biggest cost for me was the actual printing of the boxes, flyers, posters and booklets. I got financial support from my family and paid them back as I started selling the boxes. After I paid them I kept the rest of the money aside to pay for the next printing job. I started making money with the second lot of boxes. My golden rule was to only spend money once I could buy a next “lot” of boxes.
And how long was it before you made a profit?
I made some profit within 3 months, however now only after 3 years I’m really making profit contributing to luxuries around the house.
- The focus is on quality interaction with your child and not time spent reading and planning relevant activities. Many books and other programmes offer great activities but seem to be very time consuming as one needs to read all the information and then decide which activities to do when. The developer of the activity box has read and researched many books to compile all the activities which leaves the user of the box to only read the manual which will not take longer than a half an hour to ensure a basic understanding of the programme and can then immediately start with the activities. References are given for in-depth explanations.
- It offers basic information on the importance of child development without using unknown terminology.
- Activities are given in an easy understandable manner and therefor suitable for nannies and caregivers.
- Activities are planned for each day.
- It includes a morning and afternoon programme.
- Most of the equipment needed can be made from recycled material.
The Growing Child Publication included (sample attached to email), offers information on all aspects of raising a child.
- It also includes a comprehensive, easy to use developmental checklist