Keep your brain healthy, productive, creative, and efficient by taking 5-10 minute breaks every hour.”
Fireborn Institute is a non-profit that provides parents with practical and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children in school. Through our lectures, podcasts & handouts, we coach parents on topics such as helping with homework or conquering a messy backpack. Our ultimate goal is to help parents help their kids thrive at school.
Katherine had a hard time in school because she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD till her junior year of high school. What made her successful during this time was the support system she had around her. After college, she worked as a teacher, and saw that parents wanted to help their kids at home, but didn’t know what to do. She started the Fireborn Institute to give parents ideas on how to help because success at school is enhanced at home.
She is also the host of The Happy Student, a podcast for parents on promoting happy academic and social lives. The show provides practical strategies on a variety of topics based on Fireborn’s 4 pillars.
Where did the idea for Fireborn Institute come from?
As a student, I was smart, but learning took me a lot of time. Thankfully I had supportive parents who knew what to do to help me succeed academically. When I became a teacher, parents would come and ask what they could do to help their kids with a variety of things, such as the need to be perfect that was causing anxiety or trouble focusing. Parents wanted to know what they could do to help because they didn’t have the necessary training. This trend continued when I worked as an Executive Functions Coach. Parents wanted to help their kids develop strong executive functions (which are your ability to organize, plan, manage time, stop doing fun things and start doing things like homework…), but they would go to lectures and the lectures would be totally theoretical – not helpful at all! So I started Fireborn in order to give parents really practical strategies so that they ccan support their kids at school.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m an afternoon/evening person. So mornings are tough. So I love the flexibility that running my own company provides. In the mornings I like to do non-Fireborn related stuff, like workout, go grocery shopping, walk my dog, and any other errands that just need doing. Around 11 am I am ready to get down to business. And no day really has the same work in it ever. As an entrepreneur with only a handful of people working for me, I do just about everything. And stuff pops up all the time. Those pop ups can really derail a day if I let them.
Therefore, to make sure I’m productive and get the most important stuff done, I really plan my day well. The first thing I do is write in my planner everything I want to get done. Then I label what needs to get done that day. Then I decide when I’ll work on each piece. And if something pops up, I reorganize my list.
How do you bring ideas to life?
If it’s a small idea, I’ll usually just talk to my husband about it and make it happen on my own. If it’s a bigger idea, I’ll run it by my dad, who is a successful entrepreneur and a member of my board of directors. If he likes it (and so far he has liked everything), I’ll bring it to the Board and then we’ll discuss the best way to achieve our new goal. These days that often means hiring someone with expertise in that area.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m loving these anti-mom shaming posts that I see a lot of these days. People have intense thoughts on how parents should parent (me included). And sometimes what comes with that is judgment. I try to stay away from that. Everyone’s doing the best they can. I like to be supportive and help parents. I never want to shame them. And I think the world will be a nicer place to live if we reduce the mom-shaming. So I love seeing more and more families talking about reducing the mom-shaming.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I take breaks. Breaks are super important for your brain – they help you be more productive and creative. According to neuropsychologists, “powering through” isn’t actually a thing. Your brain needs a break, like meditation or walking your dog (not screen time). After an hour of working on something, you need to give your brain that break, so I do!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do yoga and meditate! I was so stressed out as a younger person. So stressed that when something major happened (like my boss yelled at me), I wouldn’t be able to think clearly and I would just freeze and not say anything. I felt like an idiot. Now when stressful situations happen, I’m calmer and I completely thank yoga and meditation for that.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It’s okay to be a Yankees and a Patriots fan. I’m from Connecticut. Most of my friends are Yankees/Jets fans, but my family is from Boston, so they are Red Sox/Patriots fans. When I was 10 my sister told me I didn’t have to like every team just because Dad did, so I decided to be a Yankees fan. But I’m still a Patriots fan and I think that’s okay because the Red Sox are a Boston team (and I am not from Boston), but the Patriots are New England and Connecticut is part of New England. Most people just think I’m a winner picker… I also went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has a really great basketball team, so I guess maybe I am a winner picker… Oh well.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I do things that make me uncomfortable just about every day. I reach out to people I don’t know to ask for favors and advice. I also talk in front of large groups of parents. I’m naturally an introvert, so those things are scary for me. But it’s so good for your brain (yes! I’m obsessed with brain health!). It keeps it nimble! It’s also good for the growth of your company and your own brand and self-image. I grow and improve as an entrepreneur and person every time I do those scary things.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Hiring people who are experts to do their job well. When I started Fireborn, I thought, I use social media, I can just do the social media for Fireborn. WRONG. Two years in, I have hired a woman who works for Fireborn for 15 hours a week and she does a way better job than I ever did. Our social media has way more of a following now and I have free time to do the stuff that I’m actually good at.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I thought that parents would be willing to pay for the services Fireborn provides, but people mostly expect parenting workshops to be free. I found that out within a few months of officially launching Fireborn. So we had to completely rethink our revenue structure because I don’t want Fireborn to rely completely on donations (we are a nonprofit). We are working on developing a few apps for which we will charge a small fee and we are working to grow our podcast so that we can get some advertisers. And we hired a Director of Development to work on fundraising in the meantime!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Non-tech savvy people need someone to teach them how to use their cell phones. I worked with my grandma to teach her how to text. It’s important for everyone to be technology literate. I think someone who can explain technology to older people and help them stay connected with their families through that technology would be a big hit.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The Amazon Echo. Alexa is fantastic – she makes sure I’m prepared for the weather, she plays my podcasts while I’m making breakfast, and she can handle so many different timers at once so she ensures I don’t overcook anything while I’m also making sure I only work for a maximum of 1 hour at a time (to keep that brain healthy!).
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
PicMonkey. I use it to create graphics for my podcast episodes as well as flyers. As someone who is not artistically inclined, it’s a great website that helps me make things look good in a short amount of time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. This book makes negotiating simple and collaborative. I have used these techniques in my personal and professional life. When I got married, I was able to negotiate with one of our vendors to reduce the price by half and maintain a positive relationship with him!
What is your favorite quote?
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeed” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. That was the quote in my high school year book and I continue to live by it to this day.
• Keep your brain healthy, productive, creative, and efficient by taking 5-10 minute breaks every hour.
• If you can afford it, hire experts to do it (delegate!) and save yourself for the work you are best cut out for!
• Start meditating if you want to be that calm, cool, collected person in an argument.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.