Callie Christensen and Kelly Oriard are best friends who redefine the concept of shared lives. Their paths have been entwined since high school; the sister-like duo went to college together, played sports together, pursued Master’s degrees together, created Slumberkins together, and even answered this Q&A as a pair. Slumberkins products are thoughtfully designed to promote self-esteem and social-emotional skills. Each ultra-soft, snuggly creature comes with a themed book designed to help kids navigate challenges in life. The mom entrepreneurs behind Slumberkins are super passionate about helping kids and parents embrace positive life skills in a fun and meaningful way. Read on to see why these BFFs are a force to be reckoned with.
Munchkin: Tell us what Slumberkins is all about.
Slumberkins: We’re a children’s educational brand co-founded by a family therapist and an educator working to promote positive social-emotional life skills in an approachable way. Through a variety of interactive channels, our characters are brought to life as teaching devices, while brand products are the tools that create comfort and support learning. Our company strives to enrich lives by bringing children and their caregivers together to create a deeper bond between the two. In essence, Slumberkins are cuddly creatures with intention.
MCK: Love that! When did you start your company?
SK: November 2015.
MCK: What was your inspiration for starting your business?
SK: We started Slumberkins while on maternity leave together in 2015 from our careers in education. What started as a craft project for our boys (born just two months apart!) quickly turned into something we realized could actually help parents teach the social-emotional skills we had been promoting every day in schools. We knew we could infuse our educator backgrounds and create a more meaningful children’s product unlike anything on the market. By infusing each Slumberkin with therapeutic techniques and skill-building exercises, we launched the brand with a mission to help children and parents everywhere.
MCK: What has been your biggest struggle so far as a business owner?
SK: As educators navigating the world of business, every day is a learning opportunity. We call ourselves accidental entrepreneurs because we both had planned to work in schools for our entire careers. Learning the basics of business, like accounting and finance, while simultaneously growing a brand at this rapid pace has definitely been challenging. While we are always up for a challenge, that has been the less fun and inspirational side of running our business.
MCK: What is your biggest win or most successful moment so far?
SK: We had the opportunity to take Slumberkins on Shark Tank in the Fall of 2017. It was an amazing experience that made us better entrepreneurs because it made us focus on the basics of the business while determining a bigger mission for our brand – to really impact social-emotional learning for the next generation through our products.
MCK: Did motherhood change the way you run your business, or was it the reason you started Slumberkins?
SK: Slumberkins would not exist if we weren’t mothers. It makes it that much more special for us that our boys, Owen and Aidan (who are also now best friends), are the reason we started this whole venture. Each one of our characters is inspired by our own children or students we worked with in the past. When we develop new Slumberkins, it’s always the skill or intention behind the creature that drives what it will be. This is what fuels the passion behind the brand and makes it so meaningful when we hear how much parents love the Sleepytime Rhymes and how much children love snuggling Slumberkins.
MCK: Tell us a little bit about your families.
SK: We tend to stay busy around here! We have six children between our two families. Callie has four (Logan, 8, Henry, 6, Owen, 3, and Cora, 1.) Kelly has Aidan, 2, and Oliver, 1. We are constantly balancing busy mom life while growing Slumberkins. We often call Slumberkins our shared child!
MCK: We can imagine. What has been the most rewarding part of becoming a mom?
SK: We can both agree that the most rewarding part of being a mom is the love you get to share on such a deep level with your child. We felt that previously in small doses as educators, but to know and understand the importance of the role is unimaginable until you’re a mom yourself.
MCK: What is your biggest challenge as moms?
SK: Definitely trying to keep up with the work-life balance. Slumberkins is our baby too, and at times it can seem like a colicky baby. We have to make sure we spend intentional time with our own children and put limits on how much business we bring home. It can be all-consuming, but as mothers, we know our most important time spent is with our children and being able to give them our full attention when we are around them.
MCK: What is the best advice you can give to other mothers who want to become entrepreneurs but haven’t yet found the courage to do so?
SK: Find your tribe. No one can do it alone. We now have 7 amazing women who live and breathe building the Slumberkins brand with us. Don’t ever be afraid or too proud to ask for help. Slumberkins exists because of our team. Without them, we would not be where we are today.
MCK: Anything else you’d like to tell our community?
SK: We are so grateful to have such an amazing customer base of mostly fellow moms who share our vision and mission. We work to empower parents to guide their children’s social-emotional development. Many of our loyal customers found us when we were still hand-making Slumberkins out of our craft rooms, and we are thankful to have such an amazing community of parents who are engaged in all aspects of their children’s growth.
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