1. Cheryl, what were you doing just before lockdown?
The week before lockdown I was busy working with my team of professional ballet teachers to film all of our syllabus and lessons so that we could quickly and smoothly transition to an online offer. I was also hosting Zoom training meetings with my team who had never used Zoom before! The teamwork amidst the calm panic was amazing.
My pre-school ballet business had been thriving, we had our best financial year yet and had just sold out 6 theatre shows in one weekend! I also had a network of gymnastics clubs running across primary schools in my local town, which was growing.
2. What did you start up during lockdown?
Initially, I created an online membership and course for my ballet business. I learnt so much about how to create online offers, which was exciting.
Quite a bit later, around October time I created and launched BizKidz®️ & Teenpreneur®️ Academy, for kids 7-17 yrs. This is currently a 3 month programme, taking the kids step by step from ideas phase to launching their first business.
Next to launch is my BizKidz Community Membership, this is only £5.99 pm, and is a low-cost, high value membership that I’m excited to offer to kids from 1st February. It will come with a monthly Zoom call to receive mentoring from me (for anyone who needs it, there’ll be a Q&A Session) but it’ll also enable the kids to network and support each other when we use the breakout rooms (the kids love these)! I have guest expert training lined up too, so that the kids can receive industry specific training such as PR, Marketing, Product Photography etc.
3. What was the motivation for starting up your new business? How did it come about?
My daughter Issy is a bright kid but has consistently missed her milestones at school which has knocked her confidence.
When she was expected to learn from home in the first lockdown she really struggled without the 1-2-1 support from her teachers and was avoiding her work. I wasn’t really helping the situation, as I often didn’t really understand the methods that were being taught either – this was frustrating!
When Issy asked me to help her to start a business selling slime, I secretly rolled my eyes and thought ‘slime – really’ but I could see the opportunity for her to be actively learning so with my guidance, Issy created Sassy Slimes, which has been a huge success and Issy has learnt so much more than I’d ever imagined possible! Issy’s friends started to ask if I could help them to start businesses and from there BizKidz Academy began!
4. What have the biggest challenges been with your new business?
Becoming comfortable with being visible as ‘me’ rather than my ballet or gymnastics business. I’ve stepped out as Cheryl Dodd, Business Mentor. I’ve owned or managed businesses for over 22 yrs, so I have a lot to offer these kids, but this took courage for me personally as I’ve always stayed out of the limelight while running my businesses, behind the great brands and teams that I had developed!
I plan on qualifying as a certified ACTP ICF Coach this year too, again for my own personal assurance!
Another challenge was learning ALL of the technology! I had a vision of a whole kids community with supportive vibes and lots of chat amongst the kids. I wanted it to feel friendly and sociable, not enforced learning at all. I wanted the kids to be able to dip in and out of the content that I provide for them easily and whenever suited them, so I also wanted an App. Creating this online, meant I needed to get the right platform and then learn how to use it!
5. What are the things that have helped you the most on your new business journey so far?
Believing in the benefits of what I am offering for both the kids and their parents really helps. I’ve been there with Issy, and it’s a lovely 1-2-1 time to spend together working on their dreams. And, I know that these kids can succeed, and I can help them.
Online Community really helps. I’m in a few business memberships and those can really help if you get stuck with something or need advice. They are also great for keeping yourself accountable and moving forward fast.
Being back in Lockdown has certainly helped my last intake of BizKidz because we are all right back where we were in March, but with less enthusiasm for the home-schooling, so a project like starting a business is far more appealing to mums like me (and our kids)!
I think what has helped me the most is that this business has been born organically, from my personal experience. This makes it natural and easy for me to speak with the parents who enrol their kids. We experience the same struggles with home schooling and like the opportunity to spend time working with our kids as they lead their learning as they prepare to start their dream business!
6. What are the things you’re enjoying most about your new business?
Without a doubt, the results the kids are having!
It’s a huge privilege to be on this journey with them, I get to experience them sharing their fears and actively overcoming them, sometimes as we talk over Zoom I get to see the change in their body language and how they speak.
It’s super cute to watch the friendships develop, when they show support for each other within the community area and on our Zoom calls. They even start to collaborate and network, just like us adults in business do!
I love their enthusiasm as they make progress each week, but most of all when they make their first sale, and then the next one! It’s like magic as they realise that they have done it! They have achieved that goal, and for some kids last term this happened before their BizKidz Academy had finished. This then gave the rest of the kids in the academy a little boost too, belief that they too can do this!
7. What are your next steps for your business?
I feel passionately that I’d like this academy to be fully inclusive, which means those kids who can’t afford to join, need the same opportunity to join.
I know, without doubt that I would have been one of those kids who couldn’t have done the course and I would have benefited from the academy.
I’m looking at various options at the moment, I could possibly raise funds to sponsor these kids, and am also exploring other options like running a Not For Profit arm of BizKidz or maybe having people nominating kids for sponsorship.
8. Did starting up BizKidz change you or your vision of your future work life?
Yes, my vision has grown and I now see the possibility that BizKidz could impact kids across the world. It feels amazing to be helping so many kids and their families. I’ve had enquiries from the USA and Australia. I’m excited for the future.
9. How are you finding work in this lockdown compared to the last? What are the biggest challenges?
Work is busy, but engaging our kids to complete the work set by their schools is proving to be more challenging than last time, I think partly because schools are more ready to set the work just like a normal school day … except there is nothing ‘normal’ about it when you are at home!
In the first lockdown, I learnt that by encouraging my daughter Issy to lead her own learning (through her business project) she was empowered and motivated to learn every day. I’ll be working with Issy on her next business idea, and will be talking with my son, who has little interest in business, to learn more about what he might be interested in, to create a project or some learning that suits his interests.
Another thing that worked for me in the last lockdown was to get organised with my time/schedule. I started working earlier so that I could finish earlier. I let the kids have some control around their schedule. They asked to start their school work later, at 10 am, because that suited them better. They then worked without me until I was available later in the day. We have been working out a new routine for us again… In all honesty, this week’s been difficult but next week will get easier, I’m sure.
I’ll be honest, I’m worried about my son Ethan, he’s in Y9, he’s going through so much change anyway as a teenager, with a generally low mood and energy. He is now trying to adapt to Lockdown and I’m worried it is weighing him down. He is really struggling to find motivation for anything, let alone to work to his strict school home-learning timetable. I am concerned for his mental and general health and wellbeing, and I’m sure this is common across many families, kids and adults!
As parents it’s hard, we need to work out ‘do we or don’t we’ insist that the work is completed? What consequences are fair? What impact might it have on our relationships with our kids? How are they feeling? How do our partners feel?
I find my husband and I are needing to discuss and agree all of this before deciding what to do. Yet finding time out of earshot of the kids is a challenge in itself!
I think it’s difficult when your kids don’t want to comply and do their school work. There are many reasons – boredom, lack of motivation – but also Ethan feels like it’s unfair as “everyone is *not* doing it.” I’m sure many are, but the live lesson attendance has been very low.
I’ve had mixed emotions. Initially my husband was putting the pressure on to get strict with the school work. Of course this didn’t work; our son just stopped doing any work for a day or two! Today was a better day, I think the promise of Xbox time over the weekend has helped.
My number one top tip for anyone struggling, as I have been, would be to consider how you are going to handle home-schooling to best suit you and your kids. Listen to your kids and understand how they are feeling. If they are resisting their school work, consider alternative learning opportunities as I did with Issy. This situation is not normal, and many of us, including our kids, are struggling.
10. From your experience, what would your top tips for someone thinking about pivoting or starting up a new business?
Think about what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. If you can find an idea for a business to launch online, even better! My BizKidz have set up all sorts of businesses, selling online during Lockdown and many of them are making money too.
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