Read the inspiring story, told by the founder of Relax Kids…
The Accidental Author – how Relax Kids began…
When I was choosing my options at school, I had no idea I would be an author. Being an author sounded so important and clever yet romantic and a distant dream that so few can claim. I wasn’t even particularly good at English, although I had a deep interest in drama and storytelling.
After graduating with a BA in Performing Arts and later training in Mime, I stumbled into a clowning career. I was even invited to perform at HRH Prince of Wales 50th Birthday at Buckingham Palace, as well as a cluster of celebrity parties who were enamoured by my storytelling rather than buffoonery style.
Over the 13 years of party entertaining, I noticed a change in children’s behaviour. I noticed how they were becoming more and more hyperactive, less able to listen and sit still and concentrate on my (hopefully wonderful) show.
Having been introduced to meditation and yoga when I was 12 by my mother, I felt that meditation techniques would help children focus and concentrate and started using a few of these techniques in my shows. When I was a child I was laughed at for meditating and years later a few laughed at my idea of meditation for children.
At that time, at the end of the 90s, meditation was relatively unheard of. Parents were scared that it might be spiritual or associated with the occult, so I had to find a way to introduce these amazingly simple techniques to children in a way that parents would find acceptable.
Having loved fairy tales (I wrote and directed a pantomime each year, using one of my favourite fairy tales, for 15 years), I had the thought to combine fairy stories and relaxation exercises. Children would imagine they were Jack climbing the beanstalk and floating in the clouds or Sleeping Beauty lying still on a feather bed. Once I had the idea I wrote the meditations very quickly. They seemed to flow beautifully once I was in a relaxed space.
I was so lucky that O-Books were interested in my book and actually wanted me to submit two books. I was informed that it would be a year until the books were out. I felt so impatient as I felt children needed something now and a year seemed too far off. At the time, my mother gave me an early inheritance to put a deposit down on a flat in London. I informed her I was going to use the money to make relaxation CDs for children. I intended to make audio copies of the book even though I had no idea what it would entail.
A few months later, I had a small range of products & the first of their kind in the UK. I gave the brand a name Relax Kids (says what it does on the tin) and initially gave products away to friends and family. I took them to my children’s parties and talked to parents about them, encouraging them to trial them. The word started to spread as parents were having great results and so were telling other parents and even taking them into school and telling teachers. I did try some costly advertising including one directory that was over a thousand pounds and brought no return.
To promote the brand, I went to Mind Body Spirit and Education conferences and tried to talk at as many conferences as I could. In 2005, I went on Dragons Den with the products. Although the Dragons didn’t see how Relax Kids was a viable business, two of them asked to use the CDs with their own children. Television exposure helped raise the profile almost overnight and orders went up considerably. Being featured in local and national press helped raise public awareness.
All the major bookshops were interested in the products, but it was too niche and they didn’t know where to position them. I stopped pursuing the big shops and worked directly with my customers.
Intense meetings with buyers gave me a headache while I enjoyed customer interaction and feedback. This was so much more important to me than being in a big shop. I also focused on getting some distributors who would promote and sell the products at exhibitions and in catalogues. I worked alongside O-Books and took support from their fantastic distribution and marketing network.
Alongside the products, I created Relax Kids classes for children, and then a training course to teach adults to run their own business teaching classes and selling the products, so making a profit. This was a great way to help promote the products. I created training for schools and bundle deals of products so encouraging teachers to use Relax Kids in their school. The growth was slow and steady and as I needed it, I took on more staff, allowing me to do what I did best (create and teach).
In 2013, (10 years after publishing the first two books) I was approached by the Dutch publisher who had my books. They wanted me to write a third book. I accepted the challenge in an instant and within a month, the book was written. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to offer the book to O-Books and then got inspired to write four more. All five books will be published this year and I am currently working on another four, including one about my dog, Ronnie Barker (The Tail of Ronnie Barker). I tend to do projects together as I get easily bored and need the variety. It can get confusing and difficult to co-ordinate and manage, but keeps my interest and passion alive.
17 years ago, I had no idea my simple idea would be taken on by so many families and schools. I did not realise that I was creating a brand at the time. It has been backbreaking and heartbreaking at times. I have made many mistakes, but I feel so grateful that I have had this experience and I am so grateful to John Hunt and O-Books for giving me this opportunity. I am proud to say that I was at the beginning of the mindfulness revolution & I was around before many others at a time where people laughed at the idea of meditation for children.