The Social Entrepreneur: Erika Brodnock

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Erika-1Karisma Kidz, 34, runs an award-winning tech company that develops emotional intelligence in children.

Karisma has developed an app that helps to foster emotional intelligence in children aged three to eight. Employing superhero characters, the app aids the development of the necessary skills for them to live happy, successful lives.

I’m a mum of five with children ranging from seven to 17. All my children had low levels of emotional intelligence when they were young: they’d be distracted in class and disruptive and after going on a personal journey with my own health, I started to learn about emotional freedom techniques and practiced them with my children. I saw a massive shift. I went from being called into school to them winning scholarships. With 30 kids in the average class, it’s hard for teachers to cater to the individual. That’s when I decided to devise my own parenting programme. I saw the need for a middle ground to aid parents whose children weren’t nuisances to society but still had behaviours that needed addressing. Making an app was a logistical decision as it was the easiest way to reach more families. Not only do the activities on the app (which include cooking, painting and storytelling) help children’s development, there are superhero characters to illustrate certain lessons – such as a caterpillar who is jealous of the other butterflies because she can’t turn into one as she never learns from her mistakes. Our strategy is B2B – we work with TELCOs, device manufacturers and broadcasted brands offering them the ability to reach children by preloading our app to their products. We’re currently preloaded to just over two million devices.

Sheer determination is what’s got me to where I am. I incorporated the company back in April 2012 and began liaising with China to make the superhero toys. I consulted a good toy guide clinic where a child psychologist evaluated them to advise on how best to enter the market. She gave me great feedback and the toys tested so well that she invested some money into the business and we went on Dragon’s Den with our ideas in 2013. Even though Peter Jones loved it, Deborah Meaden hated the idea and insisted that parents should handle their children’s issues instead of toys or an app.

Despite feeling quite down after that experience, I picked myself up and within two months, we were one of only 10 companies to secure investment from Telefonica’s accelerator programme Wayra, which funds social enterprises. It’s taken a few years but now people are listening when I speak. Sky News has embraced me as one of their regular parenting experts to speak on issues of parenting and child confidence.

One thing I’ve learned about business is that everything takes twice as long and costs at least a third more than you think it will. I also had issues finding decent developers. Everyone imagines being an entrepreneur as a straight line from point A to B. It’s more like an unraveled ball of string going up and around!

I’d love for Karisma Kids to expand globally. While I was in the US, I won Intel’s Global Business competition so there’s definitely opportunity. Our mission is to ensure that every child, no matter their start in life, gets an equal opportunity at success and building the skills they need to be effective learners. Don’t let colour, creed, upbringing or background dictate who you are or what you can do. Be clear on what you want and why you want it and put all your energy into that. If I can do that as a single mother at 16, so can you.

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