Published on January 22nd, 2014 | by Kelly Rose Bradford0
Lone Parents Mean Business: Erika Brodnock from Karisma Kidz
Mum of five Erika Brodnock separated in 2008, and after suffering bipolar disorder, began a ‘journey of self discovery’ which led her to founding her hugely successful business Karisma Kidz, an online resource for parents and children. She shares her story with us.
What career were you in at the time if your separation?
I had just returned from maternity leave and was working at Croydon Council in Children and Young peoples services as the communications manager
What made you decide to take start your own business?
After the birth of my fifth child and the breakdown of my relationship I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. At this point I was told I would need to take medication everyday for the rest of my life. My children were hugely affected by my illness and their behaviour deteriorated. The more I saw the effect my illness was having on them, the more determined I became to conquer it so I embarked on a journey of self discovery. I trained in a variety of none traditional disciplines that help people overcome emotional disorders. I used these techniques to manage my own moods and emotions and to reconnect with my children. Upon teaching the tools and techniques to my own children and seeing their behaviour and results at school improve, I realised I could turn my experience into something worthwhile, that would help others, and it was then that I came up with the concept of Karisma Kidz.
How do you juggle working with parenting?
My children range in age from age 6 to 16 so they’re all in school which has freed up my time to a certain degree. The eldest two are quite independent now and very supportive of my business. All of my children have helped me develop the Karisma Kidz characters and also took to the streets with me to gather market research before I embarked on my new business idea so it really is a team effort. The eldest two are pretty savvy on social media too which is an added bonus!
What is the key to keeping the balance right?
To be committed to you business you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. As the owner of the business I can work around the kids activities to a level and also from home from time to time but I do work most evenings into the small hours. I think this is a common situation with business owners across the board but particularly mothers who run their own businesses. It’s the price you pay for having a career and also being a mother.
Do you have any help?
I’m very fortunate to have an amazing au-pair who helps me with the school drop off and pick up. This means that I can travel to central London and do a full days work. My friends and family are also on hand to help so I have a good support network.
What is/what has been the biggest challenge for you as a single parent businesswoman?
As a lone parent with custody of my children I’m ultimately responsible for their welfare. As the CEO of Karisma Kidz I’m also ultimately responsible for the success of my business, however, I do have a fantastic team of business partners to lighten the load. I have to make judgment calls in particular situations about whether I put an important business meeting before taking my children to an event or class and it can be tricky. I have to beg for a fair few favours. There is a lot of responsibility on my shoulders but I know that creating a successful and profitable business will benefit my children as well as millions of other children around the world too. This is my ultimate aim.
What advice would you give other lone parents who want to start their own business?
This advice applies to anyone starting their own business but is particularly relevant to lone parents who may have financial constraints. Cash is King. Invest your money wisely and seek investment from third parties that can really enhance your business not just through finance but also through connections and marketing/PR opportunities. Karisma Kidz is part of the Wayra UnLtd family, the Government and Telefónica-backed London Academy which supports social venture start-ups. They’ve helped me fine tune my business and marketing plan for other investor meetings, introduced me to mentors in the children’s entertainment industry and provided me with key media contacts. It would have been hard to achieve these goals alone.
What is your biggest fear as a lone parent?
One of my biggest fears is that the time I spend away from my children to grow the business will affect them negatively later in life. It’s a constant judgment call on how I juggle my priorities and who I ask to replace me when I can’t be in two places at once.
How do you think lone parents are generally perceived by society?
Families are so diverse in structure these days that I don’t think there’s much of a stigma attached to it. Mostly, I get positive comments about my ability to look after five children and run a business which is very flattering!
Have you ever experienced any negativity as a single mum?
I have had the occasional negative comments about being a single mum, however I tend to use this as a source to draw further drive and determination to make myself and my children successful rather the statistics some people expect us to be! There is actually probably a level of sympathy for lone parents. Families with both a mother and father will appreciate the struggles that lone parents have financially and also in terms of energy levels.
Is it harder for lone parents to be self employed/entrepreneurs?
There is no doubt that a dual income can help financially with the set up of a business but it depends on where that income comes from. For some, it will be their spouse who provides the top up, for others it may be their extended family. The other important factor is support. For some they will seek the advice of their spouse and for others it may be their family or friends. As a lone parent you’re the master of your own destiny and this can sometimes make things more straight forward. However, I think that everyone’s different. I have definitely benefited for working since my children were all in school. Achieving my goals career wise gives me a sense of independence and makes me a better mother when the kids are at home.
Do you think there should be more help for single parents?
I think there should be more help and support for single parents. Unfortunately, the way things are in the UK at the moment, often single parents with more than two children are better off on benefits than they are working due to childcare costs. I think this needs to be looked at so that we can ensure the next generation are always modeling a great work ethic. I always say children learn best through modeling so it’s important that all parents have the opportunity to be the adults we would most want our children to become.
It would be a fantastic idea to set up networks of single parents that club together to provide childcare, peer support and accountability for each other to ensure that their children are always cared for and parents are able to work. Perhaps that will be my next venture!
Are you a one off among your family/social circle, or do you have lots of lone parent contacts/support network?
Not at all – I know a number of working, ambitious single parents.
How do you split childcare/access etc with your children’s dad? Was this easy to arrange?
We have the traditional every other weekend arrangement and I can also call upon my ex to collect from school or attend events as required. This had it’s teething problems initially, particularly when feelings were still raw, however this has since settled and we’re into a good routine that works well.
Tell us more about your business?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of Karisma Kidz. My background as a leading parenting coach, specialising in child confidence and happiness and the fact I’m also a mum to five children was the best preparation for creating something that helps children to identify and manage their moods. I’ve taken the lessons I’ve learnt from my own experiences, from being a parent and the key principles from my coaching and created an online tool that provides parents with the basic building blocks for creating cheerful, confident and creative children. The Karisma Kidz game and app centres around a ‘Karisma Kid’ avatar and ‘BloomaBear’ pet who explore the many intriguing areas of Moodville. Through online and offline activities, children are encouraged to play their way to emotional literacy and utilise tools and techniques that will nurture their mental health and promote resilience throughout their lives. Our game has recently been preloaded on the children’s tablet, Kurio.
We also sell a range of Karisma Kid dolls. These are the only ones on the market to include a feature that allows parents to record positive messages that their child can listen to whenever they need to. They also come with 10 pre-recorded positive statements and a pre-recorded story about how the character has overcome a challenging situation using the magical powers of their mind.