Interview: Janine Halloran, Encourage Play

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Janine Halloran, Founder, Encourage Play

When Janine Halloran, Founder, Encourage Play, an activities based educational company that provides learning social skills through play. She was talking with a colleague about extending the activities they were doing in their social groups, her AHA moment came.  They had a handout for parents but realized they could do so much more than that. I thought “I could give parents tool to help their kids work on social skills at home.”

What is your product and what are the benefits?

The focus of Encourage Play is helping kids learn social skills through play. We have several resources available, including a monthly subscription kit designed to make it easier for parents to help their child work on the skills they need to make connections. Each month, the kit has a different social focus. Some examples of our themes include picking up on clues, problem solving and managing feelings. In each kit there are 2 ready to go play date activities. These are designed to be used as part of a structured playdate with 2 kids. Each and every activity is kid tested. For families, we include an activity designed to practice each particular skill.

Target Audience + How to Reach them:

I have two main target audiences:

Parents of elementary school age kids, particularly those kids who are struggling with social skills, and School Counselors.

I blog 3x a week and share on my various social media accounts. I belong to a few different blogger communities. I’ve also done some advertising and I’m reaching out to others and making connections. Finding my audience has been a little hard for me to do.

Greatest Success:

Writing a book – I’ve sold some copies and it’s helping people! And I never thought I would actually do it!

Biggest Challenge:

My natural introvert nature. I don’t always want to put myself out there, but if I want to be successful, I need to get comfortable promoting my products and my business.

Overcoming the Challenge:

I have a goal each week of reaching out to someone new to talk about my products. It’s a work in progress.

When you imagine success, what does it look like?

Success for me would be to have Encourage Play as my full time job, where I can stay home and be around for my kids, yet still be able to help other kids, families and teachers with the knowledge and training I’ve received through my years as a counselor.

What steps are you taking to achieve your goals?

I’m going to continue to reach out, make connections, share my blog and my products with others. I set up daily, weekly and monthly goals to help me stay focused.

What PR + Marketing activities have you done and what were the results?

I’ve done advertising in print magazines, online on particular websites, advertising through social media (Pinterest, Facebook & Twitter). I’ve also done Google ads. I think the most successful ones were when I placed ads on websites in my niche or related to my niche. That sent good, reliable traffic to my site and generated a few sales.

As an entrepreneur, how do you decide what to do yourself and what to hire someone to do?

I do almost everything for my business. My husband is my silent co-founder, so he takes care of the back end website issues. For instance, he suggested a pop up for people to subscribe to my newsletter. He set it all up for me. If I have any problems with coding issues or need suggestions for a good app or service, my husband has the answers. My sister is also a graphic designer, so sometimes I ask for her help too.

I do all the writing for the website. In terms of products, I decide what will be in each play kit and subscription box, write it all up, source all the materials, package everything and mail it myself.

How do you manage family and business?

Ha! I’m working on this 🙂 It’s hard because a business can easily take over your life. I try to get up early to get writing done before my kids get up. And I do work after they go to bed. I take pictures during the day and I try to do that on the days they’re both in school. Some of my blog posts are activities I’m doing with my kids, so in a way it’s a blend of family time and work for the business. I try to make sure I have time every day with the kids when I’m not on my computer or phone and I’m just focused on them. I have to get better about stopping work at a certain point of the evening and shutting it off, so I can spend some quality time with my husband as well.

What advice do you have to fellow mom entrepreneurs?

Make a business plan! I waited several months to do it, and once I did, I felt much clearer on my goals and objectives. Mine has evolved over the last several months, and each time I’ve updated/modified it, I find myself more organized and focused.

What have you learned about yourself being an entrepreneur?

Being able to find balance is very important. I tend to jump in with both feet and try to do everything all at the same time, but then get burned out and overwhelmed. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to take a break. If I’m kind to myself and relax, I’ll get more accomplished later and feel better overall.

If you could wave a magic wand and be given anything to help your business right now, what would it be?

A virtual assistant to help me with the tasks that are valuable but take up a lot of time, like social media, sharing and even just getting blog posts and pictures for the blog pretty and ready to post. Oh, and a professional photographer.

What is your favorite go-to resource, tool, book, app and why?

byregina.com – an awesome resource for entrepreneurs and bloggers. When I found her business plan template and template for the ideal reader, and actually did it, my focus improved immediately. I love her whole site. Every time I visit, I get super inspired. Plus she has fabulous hair 🙂

What is your favorite indulgence?

I love a good wine. And nutella.

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