Penelope got to try out audio stories from Sparkle Stories and we both fell in love with the experience. If you are on the MBL email newsletter list, you heard about it first and got a great special deal just for newsletter readers. :)
I love talking to mom entrepreneurs and finding out how one idea can turn into an entire company and how they balance work and motherhood, and I was thrilled to get to chat with Lisabeth co-founder of Sparkle Stories and get to know her better.
Here is what we chatted about:
MBL: To start, can you tell me how you came up with the idea for Sparkle Stories?
SS: Sparkle began in a divine-flash-of-inspiration. I was online looking for high quality audio stories for my boys. I was searching for a regular source of original material that I could trust would be age-appropriate and high-quality, but also fun and inspiring. And I was coming up short. I saw that other parents were having the same experience.
And then I thought of my husband David, who has this incredible gift for spinning stories. You can give him a story-starter, say three things, like “a pink wool hat,” “a mysterious love letter” and “the queen’s handmaiden,” and he can weave the most mesmerizing story, instantly. And, on top of that, he never seems to run out of ideas. Ever.
And then I had the thought: what if I could tap the source that is my unstoppable story-spinning husband, and turn it into a business? What if I could add my playwriting training and my producer sensibilities into the mix? It was one of those whole-body-goosebump moments.
About six months later we got started.
MBL: How old are your children? How do you manage work/life balance being a mom and an entrepreneur?
SS: We have two boys, ages 7 and 10. They’re growing up with Sparkle, at least for the last 2 years — and even before, as they prompted the years of bedtime stories that came before Sparkle’s launch. And they get to be involved in Sparkle’s weekly production. In truth, they are an essential part of the business. Almost all of the stories pass through the boys first — as David gives a first-telling of each story to them, usually in the evening before bed. And if our 7 year old sits at rapt attention, and if our 10 year old sighs and says “That was a good story,” then David knows he’s got great material.
They also get to listen during editing, they sometimes even record! And they enjoy the final product, too (and love to point out how it changed from the first version they heard at bedtime). So work goes on with and around them, all the time.
And for balancing work and mothering: since they are school age, I often work while they are in school. And I’m with them when they are not. Which means I often work after I kiss them goodnight.
And now, with summer, we’re working on a daily rhythm where they occupy themselves for 2 hours a day, so that we can have dedicated work time. And then David and I switch off who is the summertime parent (and gets to take boys to the lake) and who is in the Sparkle office. We love both — play time and work time — so it’s a win-win for all.
Of course, when you own your own business, and you wear multiple hats (marketing, customer service, editor, and producer, in my case), there always seems to be way too much to do. And so when it’s time to take the kids for a hike, I think “I can’t possibly go for a hike now! I have to do X and Y and Z!” So I often have to take a deep breath, and remind myself that “there’s plenty of time for everything”, and “the important things always get done”.
MBL: Do you have any tips for moms whose kids are obsessed with TV and how to transition them from less screen time and more audio stories?
I would say first: “Audio stories can be just as engaging as television. If not more so.”
People sometimes think that audio stories won’t be able to engage their kids as well as the stimulation of television and other “screen” experiences. But in reality, children can relax and engage more deeply with audio stories. Because their imaginations come alive when they hear a story through audio-only.
What we find — and what I have heard over-and-over from subscribers — is that after television time, their kids are cranky, agitated, worked-up, out-of-sorts, and the list goes on. But after listening to stories, their kids sigh, smile, sit dreamily, prance off to play, can’t wait to draw. And that is because they had a deep experience of imagination, inspired by the words of the story.
My best suggestion — if a family really wants to make a shift away from television — would be to try a screen-free weekend, say a long weekend, like three to four days. Do a little planning beforehand — using the suggestions and resources you can find online (Just google “screen free ideas”). For example, if your children are used to watching several hours of TV at a certain time, then be prepared with an alternative, say a selection of audio stories, and/or a game or activity they can play after. Adding in some extra family-connect time is particularly good during “screen free” times.
And then hold your own inner clarity around your plan. You’ll find that the more ease and clarity you have about the “screen free” experiment, the shorter-lived the fussing and resisting from the children.
Important note: You don’t have to go in with the idea that you’re trying to prove that “TV is bad” – because that won’t hold you (because TV can be really fun). Remember that you’re experimenting to find the most nourishing, engaging activities for your children.
And then you can do your own evaluation: What are your children like after several days of no screen time? Compare how they behave after audio stories to how they are after watching television.
And then, likely you’ll find it easy to choose audio stories over television or other screen time, because you’ll know the difference for your children.
Thanks so much, Lisabeth! I look forward to listening to more stories with my daughter and making memories. MBL readers, please check out Sparkle Stories Facebook page and keep up with this wonderful business.
Sparkle Stories is giving away FOUR 3-month subscriptions to all six stories!!! To enter please visit their website and take a look around and then comment below telling me you did.
For an additional entry, subscribe to my YouTube channel and leave a comment telling me so.
Giveaway will run until August 15th and a winner will be randomly selected via random.org.