For people who may not be familiar with you, can you tell us a little bit about who you are?
From foxes and yetis, to bigfoot and sloths, our Slumberkins cuddly creatures and board books are an approachable resource for parents and teachers. Bundled together, each creature and Sleepytime Rhyme uses whimsical and interactive touch, sight and sound to teach one of the following positive skills: relaxation, self-esteem, coping with change, mindfulness and conflict/resolution.
Our Sleepytime Rhymes (available online and as coveted board books) are co-written by us, Callie and Kelly, the founders of Slumberkins. Each rhyme uses concepts taken directly from our unique educational and therapeutic backgrounds. The rhymes are intentionally designed to teach skill-building routines using a variety of techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and positive affirmations. Slumberkins creatures and board books can be purchased bundled together as an interactive toolkit, or separately, based on your child’s needs and the desired experience.
How did your partnership begin?
We’ve been best friends since high school, and have traveled through so many of life’s seasons side-by-side. From playing Division One college sports, traveling through Europe, to getting our masters degrees and working in schools to starting families, we’ve done a lot together. And because we do so much together…it only made sense to start a business together, too!
Tell me more about the rhymes and how these are used.
Each Sleepytime Rhyme promotes a specific life skill using sight, touch and sound. They are intentionally written using rhymes, so that concepts can be easily recalled. The color palette is also designed to be relaxing and calming, and there are points of interaction and touch that are embedded into the story for use while reading. These interactions allow the reader and the child to connect and build a feeling of safety and security, while focusing on a specific skill. The skills we teach through our Slumberkins include relaxation, self-esteem, mindfulness, coping with change and conflict resolution.
What are your future goals for the company? What would success for this product look like?
Our mission is for Slumberkins to be a household name of beloved characters that promote positive life skills in the next generation and beyond, one cuddle at a time. We will definitely be expanding our product line to reach a wider age range and provide new and creative tools for parents to guide their child’s development. We also hope to establish a presence on Amazon very soon, as well as select retailers nationwide.
You had the opportunity to be a guest on Shark Tank? How was that experience?
Following our appearance on the show, our hearts are filled with so much gratitude and humility from the huge amount of support we received from friends, family and our community. Since dreaming up the idea for our company almost 2 years ago, we have learned that everything happens for a reason—from ending upon maternity leave at the same, to getting the opportunity to appear on the show. This experience was the best thing that could have happened to our business. It pushed us as founders. It encouraged us to set the bar higher in every aspect of business.
While on the show, we found that some of the sharks were so focused on the plush toy aspect of our brand that they skipped over something very important—Slumberkins and the accompanying Sleepytime Rhymes are a contemporary interactive tool for parents, caregivers and teachers. A few of the Sharks were focused more on the profitability of the company rather than our goal to expand our brand to be more accessible to a wider range of customers.
Our Slumberkins creatures are so much more than a plush toy. The true heart and intention of our brand lies in our Sleepytime Rhymes board books, which provide parents with tools to help teach positive life skills in the home. As an educator and therapist, we wouldn’t have been interested in a business that didn’t infuse what we are passionate about—supporting the social emotional learning of children.
The feedback from the Sharks was incredibly valuable and we can’t even begin to express how much we appreciate their business expertise. In the days after filming we realized something BIG. We need to follow our hearts and stay true to the vision of our company (mission over profit). That’s why we set out to grow Slumberkins to a recognized household name of beloved characters, that both teach children important life skills and serve as an interactive tool for parents. We are so grateful we had the chance to stand in front of the Sharks, and to have made it out even stronger and more impassioned than before.
Keep Oregon Well is a coming out movement for people with lived experience of mental and behavioral health struggles. What moved you personally to lean into this work and subject matter?
Almost two years ago, we were on maternity leave together. During this time we were looking for a snuggly children’s product that was superior quality, yet with a contemporary feel and purpose. Nothing like that existed. It was a true ‘ah-ha’ moment when we dreamt up Slumberkins and realized that we could use our training and backgrounds to develop something unprecedented. Our brand would create creatures that were not only snuggly, but that would also help children learn important life skills while giving parents tools to navigate childhood development.
I (Kelly) got my first job out of graduate school with Trillium Family Services as a Prevention Specialist at Faubion, a Title 1 School in Portland, OR. There, through my experience and interactions while working with families and children, I really saw the need for something like Slumberkins. Creating these creatures was my way of giving parents a tool that would be incredibly useful in some of the interventions we had discussed in our sessions. This tool was a non-threatening, interactive, and fun way to start working with a child on skills. It also promotes family bonding that will help empower kids to be more successful in their social and academic lives.
I (Callie) also have a passion for working in therapeutic settings. My first job out of graduate school for Special Education was at a therapeutic day treatment school. I love that each of our creatures has a unique story inspired by real life and family experiences. It reinforces that everyone experiences struggles throughout our life and that we all need various tools to support us through those times. What better way to get through some of these rough times, than with a snuggle?
How can people get involved?
Currently, Slumberkins and the accompanying board books are exclusively available on our website www.slumberkins.com. We’re also very active in giving back to charitable organizations, in service to our main goal: mission over profit. So we’re always looking for partnership opportunities within the community. Follow along on social media (@slumberkins) to see what’s up next in this exciting journey!
Behind every labor of love lives a big vision. In the end, what do you hope the creation of Slumberkins accomplishes?
Parents have told us that they initially buy Slumberkins because they are so cute, soft and unique. However, they fall in LOVE with Slumberkins when they realize the cuddly creatures and accompanying Sleepytime Rhymes serve as an intentional tool for promoting positive life skills in children. We have so many testimonials from parents and educators who say that children have benefited from the interactive routines and positive affirmations that go hand-in-hand with our Slumberkins products. We often hear that there is no educational tool like this on the market that taps into real life experience from on-trend contemporary moms AND a master’s level teacher and therapist.
We’re always looking at ways to leverage the brand to provide more educational tools that open positive conversations to bring parents, teachers and children together for face-to-face interactions. Always focusing on mission over profit, our ultimate goal is for the brand to become an influential household name of beloved creatures that transcend technology to bring people together to connect in the physical world.
Anything else you would like our readers and followers to know about this project?
Head to www.slumberkins.com to learn more and follow along with our exciting journey @slumberkins and #slumberkinsonamission. We’re sure there will be even more surprises along the way…