The working dads who let their kids call the shots at work

Ant Erwin and Craig Spencer involved their kids in their new business. And they believe other working dads can learn from their experience.

 

Ant Erwin and Craig Spencer are working dads. They also just launched a new business. Everplay is a magnetic play space designed to fuel kids creativity and imaginations. They reckon it’s a winner because their own kids have been involved in the development from the start. And they are convinced that other businesses and other working dads will flourish if they learn from their children and bring their dad skills to work.

They told us their story:

Inspiration, motivation and purpose

Covid-19 has allowed people across the planet to take a look at themselves and reflect on what gives them inspiration, motivation, and purpose.

For working dads such as ourselves, a lot of this reflection came from working closely alongside our little ones. The mass working from home experiment saw us transition from water-cooler chatter with co-workers to play-time breaks with our kids. It’s hard to imagine going back to that old life now. What’s perhaps been most surprising, is realising just how much our kids influence our working lives.

We recently launched our modular play space, Everplay, on Kickstarter, and raised over £350k in the first 45 minutes! (£730k+ in total). It was a fantastic achievement, but, frankly, we absolutely would not have gotten that far without our kids (ranging from age 4 to 8-year-old twins). We’ve even given them official job titles on our Kickstarter page to validate this – they’re our Heads of Fun & Creativity.

Contribution

This isn’t just a sales gimmick or attempt at PR either – it’s a fair reflection on the contribution to the company, as they were fully involved from day one. In the early days of Everplay, we showed them the 3D rendered concepts and simply asked “What would you do with this?” We immediately received a flood of wonderful ideas that outmatched all of the intense brainstorming we’d done by that point.

“I can make a hospital and nurse all my soft toys in it”. Or, “I could create my own office just like the one you go in to, and make security badges with numbers on them and the iPad could be the scanning machine, so my brother Lewie can’t come in if he doesn’t have a badge”.

“I can make a window shutter from a triangle so no one can see in and it’s my own little secret space”.

We quickly realised that our hard-earned ideas didn’t have a patch on their unique brains.

Learning from your children

You’re likely skeptical about applying this method to other businesses. After all, our product is built for children, so it makes sense that they input on the ideas – right? Well, we sincerely believe that there’s a lot that working dads and business leaders of all industries can learn from their children, particularly when designing products and concepts.

The main advantage that children have is the fact they’re free from shackles society places on our thinking – that we all learn as we experience life. They have little preconceptions about how something should work, or the limits to what it can do. They simply see a problem or opportunity, and explore, discover and experiment to find a solution – not bound or clouded by how they think something should be.

These principles are exactly the same as those in Eric Ries’ influential book The Lean Startup: Don’t go straight into a solution – play and experiment with the problem first. Many entrepreneurs go straight into a technical solution and get so excited that they forget what they’re trying to solve in the first place.

Children also engage with play in a healthy way, which we, sadly, lose track of as we get older and gain responsibilities. No matter what age you are, play has been proven to enhance creativity and emotional growth, two factors that are absolutely essential to aspiring business owners, and beyond. We built this thinking directly into the design of Everplay, allowing children the ability to make a space of their own and to satisfy their creative urges.

Dad skills

It’s also important to acknowledge that there’s a hell of a lot that being a dad gives you in the workplace, and vice-versa. Many talk about the need to separate their two identities into work/life balance, but we think that Covid has helped people everywhere realise that by embracing our skills on one side of the balance, we can become stronger on the other. For example, maybe you need to spend some time persuading your child to eat their vegetables, or do their chores. Those same persuasion skills could be adapted and applied in new ways when presenting a new idea to your boss, or persuading a client. It may sound trivial, but the two are connected – and by seeing them as such, we can take some of the strain off ourselves and become stronger as both a dad and an employee.

Overall, it’s vital that we all take time to reflect the ways in which our kids inspire us – in their own unique ways. And by not forgetting the child in all of us, we can fulfil our creative and emotional ambitions in our adult lives.

Craig Spencer

Ant Erwin





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