Reach out to others and build a village. Life is a team sport!
Kimberly Birbrower founded Big Picture Educational Consulting to get all the stakeholders in the educational space talking about — and watching — movies. As former classroom educators with extensive experience and contacts in nonprofit work, educational administration, and media literacy, Big Picture Ed increases the reach and impact of issue-driven films, television projects, and documentaries by creating custom-designed campaigns and collateral materials that always put the film at the forefront. Prior to founding Big Picture Ed, Kim was the first Director of Education at Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. There, she was responsible for the conception, development, implementation, and assessment of the Foundation’s global educational outreach programs, including online exhibits, workshops and training guides, and classroom videos and materials. Kim also served as the national Assistant Director of Educational Policy and Programs at the Anti-Defamation League, writing and adapting material to align with national standards, current pedagogic initiatives, and international needs. Kim has her permanent teaching certification from New York State, and prior to her position at the ADL taught in both public and private schools throughout New York City. She is a graduate of Boston University and New York University, and studied at Columbia University and Oxford University. In 1999, Kim received an Advanced Placement teaching grant from the Mellon Foundation, and was honored with the Anne Frank Center’s Spirit of Anne Frank Award in 2000.
Where did the idea for Big Picture Educational Consulting come from?
I started out as a classroom educator and school administrator and poured everything I had into my job. But after 6 years working as a teacher, I came to a crossroads. I was about to get married and start a family, and I felt myself burning out. I couldn’t imagine 25 more years of teaching, and yet, I identified as a teacher, and loved my work. I came to the realization that some people are lifelong teachers, and others, lifelong educators – and I was the latter. I transitioned out of the classroom and began working in nonprofits. The last nonprofit I worked at was a film archive – I was the first Director of Education there, and was responsible for envisioning and designing their entire educational platform. But, after almost 10 years of nonprofit educational leadership roles, I again found myself at a crossroads. I had a young child and a big commute. I was unable to find a position that was commensurate with my level of experience that would allow me flextime, working from home, or the freedom work around my child’s schedule. I looked at my experience – teaching, administration, nonprofit work, and lastly, a submersive experience developing educational materials, programs, and assessments for film content – and I came up with the idea for the business I now have.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Each day is slightly different, but the time blocks are usually the same. I wake up at 5am to journal, do mindset work, review my calendar and emails, and prepare for my day. At 6:30 I transition into “mom mode,” and I get the kids out of the house and off to school. I get back from drop off at 9am and 9-4 are my most productive hours. This is when I do all my strategic work, the work around building the business, as well as client work and the bulk of my writing. At 4pm I transition back to mom mode – doing homework, dinner, and bedtime. Around 8:30 I check back in to answer any pressing emails, and do any writing that needs to get done before the next business day. I use a few things to stay productive. Podcasts keep me inspired, and I’m an active member of a few entrepreneurial networks. I use technology (Asana, Voxer, Focus At Will, Focus Mate) and strategies like time blocking and the pommadoro method to stay focused. I have a accountability partner/ business bestie that I meet with via Zoom weekly. And I try to work with grace!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a firm believer in research and crowd sourcing, so when I come up with an idea the first thing I do is research anything and everything I can find that is related. Usually I get more inspiration and ideas that way and soon I’m off and running!
What’s one trend that excites you?
I feel like the women’s empowerment movement (#metoo #timesup) is long overdue. I feel that women in the workplace are becoming stronger, more confident, and in turn, more successful. Working, being successful, and being a mom are no longer considered mutually exclusive, and showing up with all of those hats visible to your clients is no longer frowned upon. I started my business because I wanted to feel less fragmented and more integrated with my life as a single mom and my career life, and over the past years I’ve seen that wish become closer and closer to reality. I think the trend is continuing in that direction and it makes me really happy!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I find that working with someone else – even if you’re a solopreneur – is incredibly helpful. So I love working with virtual partners when I’m alone in the office. I also think time blocking helps a lot – and day theming. I have a running “parking lot” of things I need to do on my desk at all times, so if something pops into my head, I can park it on that list and come back to it later, to assign it to a time or day. And lastly, I think the most impactful strategy I use is my morning practice – journaling and taking a few hours in the very early morning to myself helps to set the tone for the rest of the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You don’t have to be perfect all the time and you don’t have to be Wonder Woman. Reach out to others and build a village. Life is a team sport!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Putting my kids first is putting me first.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Clean out your inbox! I try to keep my inbox to less than 100 total and never more than 10 unread.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Working with a mastermind. I joined a professionally facilitated mastermind group last year and I participated for a full 6 months. Working with those women, and the coach, and showing up every week was transformative for me – for the way I viewed my company, myself, and my future.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An online, local bartering marketplace for moms (trading professional services, childcare, cleaning, driving/carpool, etc)
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent $100 on a sitter last week and it was fantastic! I got a few extra hours of work in, and snuck out for a glass of wine with a friend. As a single mom of 3, that felt like the ultimate luxury!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I’ve been working with FocusMate.com and it is brilliant! It’s an online “study buddy” website where you sign up for a work session and you’re matched with someone from the community. You meet, set goals, and work together for 50 minutes on video chat. At the end of the session you check back in on your goals. It’s so amazing how that little thing – having a person working with you, visible, on your computer screen – and stating your intention out loud – can increase productivity.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson and I’ve found it to be really inspirational for my approach to my work. It reminds us all of the potential and excellence within us.
What is your favorite quote?
The most important thing to remember is this:
To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become. -W. E. B. Du Bois
• Connecting with a community or network – even when you are a solorpeneur – is key to productivity.
• Routines such as a daily mindset practice keep your mind clear for creativity and efficiency.
• One of the greatest benefits of the entrepreneurial life is the ability to integrate your personal and professional goals to create a whole-life flow.
• Remove as much clutter as you can from your brain – clean your inbox, write down your interrupting thoughts – so that you can focus on your task at hand.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.