MEET TAMARA VUKUSIC
Tamara Vukusic is an all-Canadian mom-on-a-mission having called the prairies, the nation’s capital, the high arctic and the west coast home.
She worked in the world of journalism and media relations for more than a decade. Her most memorable career experience was working as the Director of External Relations for the 2002 Arctic Winter Games co-hosted by Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nuuk, Greenland. This is also where she met her playful husband and busted her fantastic dog – Gromit – out of dog jail.
As a volunteer, Tamara has chaired committees in the Community Living movement, with the United Way and for Humane Societies across Canada. She has volunteered as a fire fighter and hockey coach.
Tamara is a graduate of Carleton University’s Journalism Program. She also holds an honours degree in political science.
There has been no greater fodder for creating or making sense of the world than in her current role as mother of four and six year-old boys and wife to a kid-at-heart husband. And don’t forget Gromit-the-dog!
They live in Kamloops, B.C.
TAMARA IS ONLINE AT:
CHATTING WITH TAMARA
What was/is your dream or goal?
I was curious. We were having a blast using playful, ‘out-there’, imagination-bolstering questions around our dinner table. Our kids begged for them. Our friends asked us to fork over some questions. I had just turned 40 (somehow that’s relevant) and I was curious to see if they could be useful to other families. And, admittedly, I wanted to see if I could actually finish something. For me being a mom involves a great deal of being in the moment but rarely having the satisfaction of completion.
And man-o-man it feels sooooo good!
What did/do you find most difficult about getting started?
Watching so many young kids around me play on iPhones piqued my interest in creating an app. It was a bit of a counter-movement to be truthful. I liked the idea of using the technology to bolster the imagination of kids and connect them to their families. It goes against the stereotype of handheld devices: I like that.
The question was how do I create an app when I only just learned how to download the darn things on my new iPhone. In comes Crystal (see below).
What have you done/are you doing to work towards this goal?
I have created a product called Spark Story Starters which is the debut product of Spark Your Imagination. The guiding principle of Spark Your Imagination is to nurture creativity in kids and promote family unity.
Spark Story Starters is a deck of cards and and Spark! is an app – Spark! for iPhone/Spark! HD for iPad/iPod (these are the same products in different formats – the app title was abbreviated in the interest of cramming a brand into that tiny space they give you for your app on an iPhone).
I have also created an app called KidCart that mimics what I have done for years when I give my kids a clipboard with some items to find in the grocery store. The catch is that on the iPhone they get illustrations as a visual cue and the list can be translated into French or Spanish (if chosen).
What have you found most rewarding about going after your dream?
I love that my kids see me working on something that is somewhat of a mystery to them. As an at-home mom for the past seven years, I have become predictable through the eyes of my kids (okay, so 6 a.m. front yard picnics during the first snowfall aren’t exactly predictable..). But now I am carving out a space for myself and, although my kids contribute to my creativity, I am the one who owns it. They have come to respect my space and my business. They also seem to appreciate that we have created something that is being enjoyed beyond their own family. I think they feel good about that. And I feel good about that too. So, you see, there are a whole lot of good feelings happening around our house (most days anyway).
Do you feel the process of going after your goals has changed you? In what ways?
The process has absolutely changed me.
I have confirmed that I am capable of finishing something. As a parent I’ve worked hard to be in the moment. Maybe I’ve worked too hard at this because there has been a lot more ‘being’ than ‘doing’ around my house (at least by me). I haven’t actually finished much in the past seven years. It feels so good to be able to hold something up in my hand that I started… and finished.
I am learning to be unapologetic about asking for creative time – from my husband, my kids and my friends. The more I do it, the easier it gets.
What have you learned/accomplished so far during this process?
Wow, I’ve learned a lot when I stop to think about it. I’ve learned…
- that some of the zany things we’ve been doing as a family are of interest and value to other families (gotta love validation)
- that social media marketing is a big world that can be tackled in small bites (this is coming from the ‘stickie note queen’)
- that you have to ask for help – no one has all of the answers and there are people out there – like Crystal – who have answers and/or know people who have answers
- that creating a new product and an app doesn’t make me more interesting but it does give me some new things to talk about
- that my kids can learn from the process too. As an example, Spark! has been downloaded in 36 countries. Every morning I check my itunes account to find out where Spark! is being used. Then I run to the map with my kids and we find that country on the map. It boggles our minds that the questions we use around our kitchen table are being used in Saudi Arabia, Poland and Brazil!
What piece(s) of advice would you give to people who are working
towards a goal similar to yours?
You can learn anything. Self-teaching is admirable but it can take a lifetime (or at the very least a great deal of time). Figure out what you do best and find other people to help you navigate the rest. It’s far easier to learn from another person than to rely solely on trial and error.
Having said that, trial and error is absolutely necessary. Don’t be hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Move on and consider the time, money or energy you spent on your mistake as ‘life tuition fees’.
Were Crystal and/or Jared helpful to you in some way, and if so how did Crystal and/or Jared help you to get closer to your goal?
Crystal is a star. She has a battery of skills gathered from her many professional and personal experiences. If that weren’t enough, she has a rolodex (okay, this is the stickie note queen way to say… database? – I’m pretty sure the high tech savvy Crystal doesn’t own a rolodex) full of people who she has worked with and holds in high regard. She has the ability to match you with the right person to realize most any dream – illustrators, developers, programmers, writers.
When you are with Crystal your dream is the absolute most important thing to her in that moment. Her interest in helping others to realize their dream is genuine.
And, in your moment of glory when you realize your dream, Crystal lets the victory be your own.
Would you recommend Crystal and/or Jared’s coaching, service or workshop to others? If yes, what would you tell them?
The first time I met Crystal she was speaking in front of a room of 100 people at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I liked her immediately. She is genuine, approachable and has a great deal of information and insight to share. And, this isn’t stuff from a book. She has lived it and learned from it.
Why does this make a difference?
Because she has been in your shoes. She remembers what it was like to start at the beginning and to work through it – piece by strategic piece – to the realization of a dream.
The product has received rave reviews from kids, parents and grandparents. Interest is quickly spreading to include teachers, counsellors, drama & art programs and speech therapists. If you can think of someone who might be able to use the cards, please spread the word. I’m always happy to send some free sample questions or a promo code for the download of the app.
The Spark Story Starter cards can be purchased from my web site – www.sparkstorystarters.com – or from one of 20 retailers across BC (listed on my web site). The cost per deck is $11.99 (free shipping).
The app version for iPhone is called Spark! ($.99) and for iPad/iPod is called Spark! HD ($1.99) and can be found on the App Store or on iTunes. A version for android phones is also available for $1.99.
KidCart has been created for the iPhone and can be purchased for $1.99.
The Spark! app (for iPhone) hit the #2 best-selling educational app spot on the App Store twice since its release at the end of January 2011.
Spark! now lives in 36 countries.
Spark Story Starters have been featured on Global TV BC, Global TV Calgary, CTV News, CBC Daybreak South, CBC-BC radio regional news, CFJC-TV (Kamloops), The Kamloops Daily News, The Vancouver Sun and on national on-line parenting magazines savvymom.ca and yoyomama.ca. All of these clips can be viewed on my facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/sparkyourimagination.
I took 2nd place in the Kamloops Fast Pitch Business Competition. The audience was four guest judges (including Dianne Buckner from Dragon’s Den) and a live studio audience of 300. You can check out the YouTube clip here.
The cards were created and printed in B.C. as were the apps (all B.C. talent).