April Whitlock was part of the very first professional meeting Jen and I had when we first started Charlotte Smarty Pants back in 2007. To me, that holds a very special honor. April is a Smarty Mompreneur to the core – we’ve followed her journey from Lending Tree to Mom Corps, to Carolina Pad and now her latest baby, Fundanoodle. April is seriously the most popular gal I know in this city – when there is ever a question “do you know so-and-so?”, April is the first person we’re all connected to. Call it six degrees of separation from April Whitlock!
April makes balancing work and home life seem easy and natural – sure would love for her to share her secrets, because lately, I’m one hot mess! I adore this woman and am proud to introduce her as this week’s Smarty Mom!
Let’s get cozy with April Whitlock!
April’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Camden (11), Carson (8 ½) & Cailin (3)
Married to: Thomas, Lucky #13 on April 7th!
Years in Charlotte: 15
Hood: Dilworth (currently in Madison Park since August due to a renovation)
Hometown: Concord, NC (close enough to be considered native Charlottean in my book!)
Occupation: CEO & Majority Owner, Fundanoodle
You are a seasoned Mompreneur! What tips do you have for other women thinking of starting their own business?
1) Forget 5 year plans, think and execute in 90-day increments. Plan to pivot – all businesses change and evolve so have a 5-year vision but work a 90 day plan.
2) Always to take the meeting. Personal networking opens a lot of doors, so dedicating an hour or so a week to one-on-one coffee meetings or lunches is a great investment.
3) Recognize and embrace where you are in your personal season. There will be times when owning your business will give you the flexibility to volunteer more, be with your kids more etc. and times when it will be more demanding than any job you’ve ever had.
Fundanoodle started in 2008 when local pediatric occupational therapists Michelle Yoder (www.touchstonekids.com) and Amy Bumgarner approached Carolina Pad with the idea of developing products surrounding the way that handwriting and motor skill development was taught in their practice. Over the next five years, the program evolved into an early education product line for children ages 3 – 6 years old that combines the best of motor-sensory development and early learning foundations that lay the building blocks for school success.
What fears did you have leaving your corporate job and starting your own biz from it?
I ran the Fundanoodle product line under the Carolina Pad umbrella form 2011-2013. It was very obvious fairly early that there was something special with the products, but that a mass merchant business model was never going to work. When given the opportunity to spin-off the business as my own, I had to overcome two major fears: 1) How did I think I could make it successful when Carolina Pad did not? and 2) Did I believe enough in this product and, almost more importantly, in myself to take this leap of faith?
To overcome both of these fears, I networked like crazy with people in the early education space and I participated in Queen City Forward’s social entrepreneur accelerator program. Every one of these interactions gave me more confidence that the product was amazing and that I could do this.
Tell us where can we buy Fundanoodle products?
Several of the activity books are available at Toys R Us and products are locally available at Brilliant Sky in Blakeney. The easiest way to buy is at www.fundanoodle.com where we offer free shipping everyday!
Tell us about the Fundanoodle camps. How do we sign up?
We are excited to offer our camps for the second year in a row. There are two camps – “Play the ‘Write’ Way” and “I Can Write Cursive Book Camp.” Both camps will be from 9-noon Monday – Friday the week of August 4th and August 11th at Myers Park Presbyterian Church Outreach Center. The camps focus on fine and gross motor skill development, hand strength, grip and letter formation, in addition to a lot of fun movement activities and education engagement. And, they are a great way to start transitioning students back to the “school mindset” at the end of the summer. Registration is available on a first-come-first-serve basis at www.fundanoodle.com/fundanoodle-camps. (Psst . . .there may just be a Smarty Steal discount available through CSP! Check the 2014 Smarty Camp Guide!)
Moving on to the mom stuff…how has your business rubbed off on your children?
My middle child, Carson, now has a “Product Notebook” where she keeps ideas and sketches of new products she wants to develop one day. My favorite is her “SB Ball” that can turn from a soccer ball to a basketball (and back) with a push of a button. I love that she’s already thinking like an entrepreneur and wanting to solve her own frustrations by creating a new product.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family in the spring?
Anything outside! Charlotte has so many great parks so we love walking to Latta Park or spending time at Freedom Park. Our new favorite is to hop on the train and head uptown to Romare Bearden Park. And we are excited to go see the Charlotte Knights uptown!
What is the last meal you cooked?
I literally laughed out loud at this question. Recipe? Don’t judge, but cooking (at least in the traditional sense) isn’t high on the priority list. I’m a master of the microwave and toaster oven, and make a mean quesadilla.
Recently – “What Alice Forgot” By: Liane Moriarty; Of all time – “Gone with the Wind”
Behavioral trait you hope your children don’t inherit from you …
Until my 30’s, I spent way too much time caring what other people thought about me – how I dressed and looked, where I worked, where I lived, what kind of car I drove. I hope that all three of my girls can find that confidence of self much earlier in their lives and just do what makes them happy!
The phrase you’ve said to your kids more than any other at home is…
Having three children with three phonetically similar names means I’m saying “Ca . . .Ca . . . Ca. . . .” all the trying to remember which one I’m calling! It’s a running joke now.
Favorite kids movie?
Frozen – I have three girls so any story that promotes sister love as the true love has me at the opening credits.
Favorite kids app?
Fundanoodle’s “ABC’s and 123’s”! It’s a free download to test and then $1.99 purchase to unlock all of the uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers 1-20. It’s a fabulous way to start introducing letter formation since our friend Max the Monkey is instructing with our “zip, zoom and buzz” active words! Give a stylus to your child and it’s great handwriting practice too!
Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
“When I’m a mom, I’m never doing to do _______ (fill in the blank with any issue that has currently made them mad at me)!”
I just smile and chuckle and say “Can you say that again so I can record it and put on my Dropbox for future reference?”
Facebook. I’m an addict, I’ll admit (and that’s the first step, right?). But I love reading blogs and news articles and keeping up with old and new friends.
Enjoy Fundanoodle’s Product Lookbook:
I Can Pound!
Children can exercise their creativity and have fun as their improve hand stability, paper stabilization and eye-hand coordination. With Fundanoodle’s free letter and number pounding pages, children can also work on letter and number formation. Replacement pages are also available for free download!
I Can Build Uppercase!
Children improve gross and fine motor skills with this kit including the I Can Write Uppercase! writing tablet, magnetic letter pieces, magnetic dry erase board and gross motor cards. The magnets are shaped like the straight and curved lines used to write letters, allowing children to practice letter formation in a fun, new way! (This kit is also available in lowercase.)
Colorful cards promote gross motor development, alphabet recognition and lettering practice. Each card has an uppercase letter on one side and a corresponding animal and gross motor activity on the other. (This kit is also available in lowercase.)
I Can Write Lowercase!
Exercises in this tablet build eye-hand coordination, pencil control and fine motor skills essential for writing. Easy-to-use stop and go ruled lines provides visual cues, helping children align letters and stay within writing boundaries. (Other activity books include Uppercase, Cursive, Math, Stories and Fun Activities!)