SCV startup Your Village offers online parenting tips

Astronaut Shanelle Lim, left, medical officer Katie Luo, Kyle Jurkowski, and alien Kelly Fink, right, help Lim spot "moonrocks" in the grass during a moonwalk simulation at Rancho Pico Junior High's space simulator on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

As she pursued her master’s degree in psychology five years ago, Erin Royer-Asrilant knew she wanted to help provide parents with tools to do the best possible job raising their children, but found the prospect of one-on-one counselling too limiting.

That was the genesis of Your Village, which offers parenting coaching and advice through online courses and a weekly podcast.

With help from the Santa Clarita Business Incubator, the idea came to fruition in March of 2016, when the first classes went live and Royer-Asrilant posted her first podcast.

“Parents have a combination of over-expectations about their kids’ emotional state and under-expectations in terms of what kids are capable of doing for themselves and at what ages,” she said. “Then, as the child reaches middle school age, whatever wasn’t working up to that point comes to a head.”

“I wanted to reach more parents than was possible one-to-one, and I also saw how difficult it can be for parents to get to local parenting classes. They were always at dinner time, and I realized that if they were online, that would free parents from that scheduling pressure.”

The podcast, Parenting Beyond Discipline, now has 66 episodes online, has 8,000 listeners and is sponsored by Kind Bars and Rxbars Kids, a protein bar.

“I started the podcast by addressing a single topic, then taking questions. I’ve now got two months of questions scheduled out.”

Podcast topics include tantrum prevention and tips, sibling fights and toddler naps, how to support and build kids’ self-esteem, setting boundaries with respect, and tips to raising healthy eaters.

The business model allows subscribers to buy a single class or buy recurring one-month or three-month subscriptions. Right now we have 120 members, mostly in the United States, though we also have members in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and one in the Philippines.

Members can also “Ask Erin,” which lets them ask me a question via email that I will answer within 48 hours.

Next up will be classes on how to develop early reading and writing skills and early math skills in ways that are fun, which means no flashcards.

The online classes are about 40 minutes long on average. They’re set up to be listened to all at once, or as a series of chapters. There are handouts that can be printed. For example, the class on potty training has a handout that includes a shopping list.

Starting out, the biggest struggle was building trust, Royer-Asrilant said. “It’s not like I run a restaurant and if the food sucks, people just won’t come back. I’m dealing with how people raise their children, so it’s critical that I know what I’m talking about and care about it.”

“When I first started working out of the business incubator, I was building classes, getting our web site launched, figuring out how the classes should be structured.”

The business incubator was helpful in a couple of ways as the company was getting off the ground.

“First by providing validation of my concept, simply by the fact that they chose my business” to be part of the incubator, she said. ”It helped confirm to me that this was an idea worth pursuing, one that people would pay for.”

Second, the incubator provided a community. “It gave me access to other entrepreneurs. Alex Bozman, founder of Nuhubit Software Studios, another startup at the incubator, was a huge help. We just clicked, so when one of us had solved a problem, we could share that insight.”

She said the Small Business Development Center has also been helpful with insights and advice.

This year, Royer-Asrilant is the first company to graduate from the incubator. For now, she’s moved Your Village back to her house. “I was doing a lot of recording with the podcast, and that can be difficult with other people around,” she said.

She has one part-time employee who edits and helps produce the podcast, and expects to hire an assistant soon. “I’m looking for someone who can run an office and has a background in childhood development. My goal in the next year is to be set up in an office with two or three employees.”

She is also about to outsource the company’s  marketing efforts, which she recognizes is a tradeoff. She’s balancing the cost of hiring help with the need to take advantage of more expertise than she possesses. “I don’t like coming up against the limits of my knowledge, but I recognize that there are things I don’t know.”

She and her husband and three kids, an eight year old and six-year-old twins, moved to Santa Clarita three and a half years ago from Encino. “The oldest was about to start kindergarten, and we looked for a place with good schools and a good place to raise a family, and this is it,” she said.

“I love when I hear back from a parent who tells me something they’ve gained from one of my classes has worked. That’s why I started this business. Parents want to protect their kids and prepare them for the world and get them to where they’re independent and still have a good relationship with them.”

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