When I first meet Lily on a Thursday morning over coffee at Flowerland, I think she’s pretty exuberant and confident and she has an accent. As an Australian who is yet to explore much of the United States, I’m not certain which part of the US she’s from. Anyway we get to talking and she has a way about her that makes me feel comfortable, like she is leading and I can sit back and relax and heed her advice. I’m glad about that because I’m looking for creative leaders, who could possibly have answers to some of my questions. As we talk it becomes apparent that her natural leadership is a quality that led to the successful creation of her business, Curiosity Pack, which she started in 2015 when one of her children was just three and the second was a newborn. Impressively, much of the crowdfunding work that Lily did to kickstart her business took place while baby number two was asleep in the Ergo.
I can’t help but wonder, if she can do it perhaps other moms, myself included can to. She seamlessly transitioned from working as a year one and kindergarten teacher to developing curriculum and then to running a business. Of the transition she says; I wanted to really change the way kids experience learning. After being a teacher there are many ways that kids are taught to learn that are not very fun. And though the teachers really try to make things joyful and fun and awesome, sometimes its just the structure in the system that makes it really hard. So rather than try to change things up in the system, I thought at least if kids have an experience at home with a parent; their kids most important teacher, they could experience learning in a very different way and just be empowered to love learning. So she changed career by having a warm hearted, genuine will to improve the way children learn. It’s exciting to realise that the motivation for her career change came from her authentic self as this is achievable for all of us.
It’s a brave leap that she took from feeling passionate about her cause, to physically creating prototypes, crowdfunding, marketing and selling her product. She doesn't appear to be fearful, quite the opposite in fact and at first I think perhaps she’s just got something superhuman going on. Then she let’s me in on her inside info; It definitely felt scary. One thing about having kids was that I wanted to teach them about things that felt scary. Things definitely feel scary but I'm just like this is what i want to do. Listening to her talking, I realise, as a mother I too want to be a great roll model to my little girl and teach her these valuable lessons in bravery and fearlessness. I realise that Lily isn’t superhuman, she is in fact very, very human. She is inspired to have courage so that her children will also have courage and pursue their passions. And to me that feels pretty honest and attainable.
Her business started with $8000 USD worth of crowdfunding to create that first Curiosity Pack. One thing I notice about the initial process is that much of the ideas generation, the creative development and the planning was done when her firstborn was around two and she was pregnant with her second child. She realised that the actioning of tasks was going to be made possible during nap time and in the evening provided that a template was already in place for the budget, design, marketing, production and suppliers etc. As you and I know, life with kids is hectic and it can be challenging to focus on anything other than their worlds so this wisdom to make planning a priority is a key takeaway for me.
With a great designer for a best friend and a network of teachers and families to sample the prototype, Lily used the resources and community around her to create and ship the first 200 products. Coming up to three years later and Lily says of those early days; The kickstarter was cool because there was a lot of momentum. They (the pledgers) gave the money and I promised the reward so I had to make them. Being accountable gave her momentum to get her business off the ground. I think even with the risk involved, just getting the work or the product out there and in front of people is essential. Then you’re part of something, making a contribution and you’re standing up and saying “I’m good enough and I can do this”.
Flash forward to now and she says it’s more about finding the right people for the products. Word of mouth and marketing seem to have become a focal point. It really is kind of word of mouth. I definitely experiment. It’s been a big experiment into what people are interested in and then having an email list and a blog. I think that’s a big part of growing my network, just having a blog. Where I’ll share articles or other people will share posts that I've written and then that gets people subscribing to my newsletter or saying what are the products here and clicking on this tab. And it’s also really fun writing blogs that are about learning. So marketing is one focal point but the main drive for Lily stays constant, her love of teaching. Years later, it’s the passion that keeps the fire for her business burning. In her own words, success continues to be defined by; Having kids that are excited to use my products. And for families, I want to make parent's jobs easier.
From where I’m standing Lily looks pretty successful, I would certainly model some of my own small business aspirations on her experience. She’s taken nap time and created a very meaningful enterprise for families to connect and grow to love learning. And the best part, everyday she is working at something she is passionate about. And isn’t that the dream?