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10 Questions with EQtainment CEO Sofia Dickens

Inquiring future business owners want to know: How do you make the leap from a secure paid job to starting your own business?

When I launched EQtainment I was already taking a break from TV hosting to be with my kids, so for me it was less about a financial loss and more about the risk of putting my ideas out there for the market to judge. It was scary, and there was a chance it could fail, but I believed in my products and my vision. I heavily weighed the pros and cons, the best and worst case scenarios and knew if I didn’t bring my idea to market I would forever regret it. This was one of my biggest motivators.

How much money should someone have saved before starting their own business?

It depends on your cost of living, whether you're the sole income earner in your home, and the type of business you’re launching. Rule of thumb is that you want to have about 6-12 months of personal cash runway. If you're selling information or a service, the startup costs are typically less. When manufacturing goods, you need to take into account designing, prototyping, testing, and the cost of inventory before you get a retail order, in which case you may need to bring in some seed capital from friends and family. One of my favorite and inspiring mentors, Timothy Ferriss, started his company BrainQUIKEN with only $5000.

I knew from the beginning this would be a marathon, not a sprint. Every day, I face a fresh set of challenges, but my vision for improving emotional intelligence on a global scale keeps me pressing on.

How long did it take for you to be profitable?

On the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded in September 2014, EQtainment just launched 5 products for practicing social skills and better behavior this month in all 1800 Target stores. We are investing heavily in building an operation, future product development, and market activation for retail.

Was there a moment when you wanted to give up but pushed on through anyway?

I knew from the beginning this would be a marathon, not a sprint. Every day, I face a fresh set of challenges, but my vision for improving emotional intelligence on a global scale keeps me pressing on. I believe equipping parents with fun tools for practicing social skills and better behavior is the key to fighting what President Obama called the greatest issue of our time, social class inequality. And on days when I spend my time putting out menial fires, I get energized by the thought that my favorite green-hooded monkey, "Q," and emotional intelligence education can help others.

At what point did you consider yourself successful?

Success means something different for everyone. I define success as making a meaningful contribution to the world - for me, I am working daily on raising great kids. Success for EQtainment would be building a community of a million parents and making our fun tools and resources available and affordable globally.

How do you balance your work/home life, or is there even such a thing?

My family is my number one priority, so in order to make more room for work, I am learning how to say "no" to unnecessary distractions. I am currently reading a Greg McKeown's fantastic book "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," that echoes my goal of not stretching myself too thin with to-do's.

What was the best advice you ever received? Worst advice?

Some of my best advice comes from my entrepreneur and business-owner husband who asks me daily, "what problem are you trying to solve?" Once you can answer why there's a need for your business in the marketplace, everything else comes into focus.

Advice I chose not to take? Avoiding taking in capital and growing EQtainment slowly and organically. I knew speed to market was very important for my concept, and that capital is the fuel that accelerates growth. I believe EQ is going to dramatically change the way parents parent and teachers teach and I want to be on the front of this tidal wave in parenting and education.

It takes a village for any mom, but for a mom starting her own business, it must take a huge village. So who are your go-to people/services?

I’m extremely lucky to have parents who happily help with my children when I need to travel for a few days for work meetings. I also invest in creative services – TIDY (similar to an Uber, but for cleaning) and Foodstirs – a delivery service that provides cooking and baking kits for the entire family.

What do you do to unwind and recharge?

Anything physical! I love playing tag and going on bike rides with my kids. We even do workouts together with weights and jump ropes - I love getting the whole family moving and sharing some lighthearted fun. That's where I get the extra energy to conquer my busy day.

Finally, take me through a day in your life.

One of the beauties of homeschooling my three kids is that we can curate our own curriculum and control our own schedule. We get a lot of amazing family time in the mornings and after school-work is done, we can explore all the topics that are of special interest to the kids. Mid-day, I work and take phone calls while the kids play, and then we're off to Chinese class or sport activities. We love reading chapter books in bed at night, and they lead to a whole host of memorable conversations that keep us up way too late. Once the kids' lights are out, I spend time with my husband and cram in a few more hours of work until midnight.

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