Heleen was a pastor for 11 years but decided to start her own home-based kids crafting business and she’s never turned back.
Now, she has more freedom, more time with her kids and lives the creative life she’s always dreamed of!
If you’ve ever considered starting a home-based kids crafting club (or just need a dose of creative inspiration), this interview is a must-watch.
You can watch the video interview or read the written version below.
Here are the highlights of what Heleen and I chatted about:
Heleen: Hello, my name is Heleen Walker, I am 43 years old and live in Witbank, South Africa. I have 3 beautiful daughters and I have the privilege to work with one of them.
Christelle: What did you do before starting your kids crafting business?
Heleen: I use to be a pastor for 11 years. I'm a counsellor, I have engaged and worked with children but not on the level that I do now, this is way more fun.
Christelle: Your mom played a big role in your life and always cultivated creativity at home. Did you come from a background of being creative and did you have experience working with kids before starting your kids crafting club?
Heleen: I come from a creative background. Both of my parents are very creative, especially my mother. About 3 years ago she had a stroke so unfortunately she's not able to do anything anymore, but she taught me so much about being creative.
I remember as a little girl whenever she baked something she would call me and demonstrate. She taught me how to do cake decorating. It was wonderful to have that as a child growing up and having the privilege to being exposed to creativity like that.
Christelle: What are the main challenges you faced before starting your club?
Heleen: I'm going to be very honest and say my biggest problem was my own mind.
I kept on thinking 'what if I can't do it?', 'what if people are not interested?', 'what if the market is flooded with these kind of things?', 'what if?', 'what if?', 'what if?'...
In the end I just realized God gave me this talent, he's blessed me with everything on the inside. I've been surrounded by this my whole life not realizing what I really have.
What kept me up at night was simple little things. They were nitty gritty lies actually, because I KNOW I can do this. So many people said to me, 'you can do this.' I just had to take that leap of faith and believe for myself, 'I CAN DO THIS.'
I always tell my kids, when you need to present a speech, remember that people never know what's written on your paper. Only you know. And I had to keep that in mind and remind myself whenever someone walks into that door, they don't know what they're going to receive.
So if you make a mistake: JUST WING IT! Just go with it. Forget about the rules and just have fun!
Kids pick up on your positivity and enthusiasm. So be prepared, of course, but have fun.
Christelle: Any external challenges you faced before starting your club?
Heleen: I would say the external factors where funding and finding the right place [studio] to just get started. But to start from home is a wonderful idea.
Christelle: What is your favorite part of running your own business?
Heleen: I can be my own boss. I don't have someone looking over my shoulder telling me 'this is due in ten minutes' or 'you cannot take a lunch break' or 'you cannot attend your child's activity at school'.
Being my own boss gives me the freedom to determine my own week. It's challenging as well, because what you put in is what you get out. So if you're lazy the end results will prove it. If you are committed, dedicated and hardworking, you CAN do this!
Christelle: Why did you decide on a kids crafting club?
Heleen: Through my Mother-in-law. She saw Christelle and Stefanie on TV and she phoned me and she said 'you have to see this'. I came over and she sat me down and I had a look. I looked at these people and I thought to myself 'wow'. The stuff that they were doing. I thought I could do this as well. This is what inspires me, this is what moves me. They looked so enthusiastic and full of energy and it's contagious. I watched a little bit further.
In the end I decided YES. This is it! This is what I've been waiting for!
At last someone took the initiative to start up something that we can engage in, that shows us there is a possibility, there is opportunity for you to build your own business.
I came in contact with them and they quickly helped me with a wonderful business plan. They explained exactly step by step how this will work and took me through the process. There's never been one day that I tried to get in contact with them that they haven't come back to me. So hats off to them.
The other great thing is the lesson plans. Each and every lesson is endorsed by Occupational Therapists so that just puts you a cut above the rest. We can present something to our Creative Crafters or our Little Adventurers and the mommies can know that while their kids are being messy, creative and having fun they are actually learning very valuable skills. Things like problem solving, time management and fine motor skills. We also go outside and blow bubbles for them, they jump up and down and chase the bubbles, so gross motor skills are also developed. All of these things happen without them realizing they are actually learning something.
One of the best things, especially for the older kids, is STEAM which is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths incorporated in the lessons. It's just amazing! At the end of the class when we show them the results they are amazed and the parents are super impressed!
Christelle: What inspired you to start your own club?
Heleen: I think looking back at what my mom did, the only thing we have today is the stuff she made, the embroidery, the recipes, the small little things. That made me think, if I don't do something with my talents I'm not going to have something for my children to look back on.
We never know what's going to happen tomorrow. Let's make the best of today.
Christelle: Let's be honest, our jobs are awesome! Not many other jobs out there would allow you to paint and create and build cool stuff with your kids! It's a great opportunity to bond, be creative together, develop entrepreneurial thinking in your kids, build their confidence and help them grow.
How do you involve your daughter in your business?
Heleen: I have the privilege of having my oldest daughter Cheraldine, she's 23, who is working with me full time at this stage. I also have my other two daugters, Charmoné, she's 15 and still at school and Chedone, she's an AuPair in town.
They help me from time to time for instance if it's school holiday. My youngest helps us with the filming and taking photographs. Over the school holidays we are quite busy and then I need the extra help. Also when we do birthday parties over a weekend if Chedone and Charmoné are available they will also jump in and help. So they are also part of the business but more behind the scenes.
Christelle: Let's get Cheraldine on set. How has working with your mom and running a kids crafting club influenced your life?
Cheraldine: Well, I'm very shy and quiet and withdrawn and since starting working with my mom it has really changed my life in so many ways. I love being able to work with my mom and being creative. This has become my platform to take those first few scary steps out of my comfort zone into the big world and engaging with people and children.
It has also taught me to be less scared to get my hands dirty. Also seeing the excitement on the kids faces and how much fun they're having is really amazing. Lastly, I absolutely LOVE being the photographer and capturing the amazing, wonderful (and sometimes laughable) moments. Being able to change and impact the people and children's lives we get to meet is a great experience.
Christelle: What does a typical week look like for you?
Heleen: A typical week for us, despite the Mom stuff I do like taking my child back and forth from school and cooking, we are pretty busy.
Our weekly class schedule is as follows:
Thursdays, we decided, because we are own boss, to take the day off. We have to have a day where we can just regroup and get our bearings together.
It's a little break in the week just to do something that we like to do, relax, read a book, have coffee with friends.
Engaging in these classes can be hectic as well, there's a lot of work that goes into prepping for classes and doing the examples.
It's important to have one day a week just for yourself.
Fridays and Saturdays are kept open for birthday parties or events.
Christelle: What extra special touches do you add in your classes to engage little ones? Please tell us about Max and Molly.
Heleen: I've created these two puppets. I got the idea from Stefanie and Christelle. They created these characters, mascots for the different age groups. Molly is for the Little Adventurers, the younger group and Max is for the Creative Crafters, the older kids.
I've designed my own puppets and we started using them in class. The puppets are a huge hit! Whenever we walked into class the kids (especially the little boys!) will run over to us and ask 'Where's Molly? Where's Molly?' and we realized that it's a very valuable asset to the class.
We have a little girl in our studio class that doesn't always want to engage. Then we'll just get Molly, because she is SO attached to Molly! She believes that Molly watches her draw and paint and she engages with Molly and that gives her so much self-esteem. Because Molly is there to boost her.
The little ones absolutely love it! They're also part of the online videos that we do. They have become part of our family.
For the eager beaver early arrivers who show up to class 20 minutes early we've created some crafts and activities that they can engage with on their own to keep them busy and stimulate their brain and hand activity. [Heleen demonstrates how the activities work on the video].
Christelle: What has your biggest challenge been?
Heleen: The biggest challenge I faced was getting the word out there. To be visible and to be known by the community takes a lot of hard work. Thankfully we have social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, I made use of that. I still remember for my very first class, someone phoned me and said 'I saw your ad on Facebook' and then I realized Facebook is going to be a big help.
You have to be consistent in adding your class times and advertisements. I believe what sells our business is the lovely pictures that we take. We have to take a lot of pictures.
What Mom does not like to see her child's face laughing and engaging with dirty little hands on Facebook? Everybody goes gaga over that, liking it and sharing it.
So in the beginning the biggest challenge was getting the word out there and finding the right means of telling people 'This is the place you really want to be.'
Christelle: What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own home based kids crafting club?
Heleen: The advice I want to give you today is JUST DO IT! Just start right away. Don't wait. Don't listen to too many people around you, especially the ones who discourage you and give you the comments like 'Um, no...' and 'Ya, but...' - forget that. Focus on the people who believe in you.
Surround yourself with people that encourage you.
Start doing it right away. Take that leap of faith and just go for it. Tomorrow is not promised. None of us know where we will find ourselves tomorrow and you don't want to be in a place where you have regrets. Each day that goes by, while you have this burning desire in your heart, that you believe you have to do this, is a day wasted. Don't waste another day. Believe in yourself because so many people around you believe in YOU and I'm sure you're going to be a huge success the moment you start.
You just have to put yourself out there. Invite your friends and their kids. Start at home, in your living room, wherever you have the space. Don't let that be a factor for you not to start and have the success you've always dreamed of.
I read a quote one day that said
"If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."
If you start doing what you love, you're never going to work. You're going to have fun, you're going to enjoy it. To see the gratitude on the faces in front of you is so rewarding. At the end of the day you're going to leave there and ask yourself 'why didn't I do that last year?'
So without any further ado, get started, get involved, contact Stefanie and Christelle, they've got the know-how. Just get started. I believe in you!
Do you feel inspired by Heleen’s story? I’d love to hear from you!
Tell me in the comments below.
Until next time,