In Conversation with Kimberly Walker of Parenting Unlimited
Describe your business in a few words?
I am a pediatric sleep consultant and help parents teach their infants and toddlers to sleep. I also teach potty training.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
After graduate school, I was working as a therapist at a counseling center, but I also worked overnights with newborns so parents could get some sleep. I realized what these families really needed was to teach their children to sleep. Soon, I had more families than I could handle and my sleep services took on a life on their own.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on children and families from Columbia University. Since I was very young, I always worked with children. When I was in high school, I was the neighborhood babysitter. In college, I babysat and was a mother’s helper. Afterwards, I taught preschool and started working overnights to take care of newborn twins of exhausted parents. Once I moved to NYC for graduate school, I continued to provide night support for newborns until helping families get sleep eventually became my business.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No, I thought I wanted to be a therapist in private practice.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Since I didn’t really plan to start my own business, I did not have a marketing plan. I have a lot of pediatricians that refer me to their patients, but other than that, the majority of my work is from client referrals. Due to the intimacy of the work and going into people’s homes, I think word of mouth is the best marketing I can have.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I made mistakes in the beginning not paying attention to the business side of things. I was always so focused on the families that I did not really view it as a “business.” I learned it IS my business and I need to pay attention to everything!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
When I started this career, sleep consultants were a fairly new phenomenon. I am proud that now, almost 20 years later, I have worked with everyone from celebrities to pediatricians to literally, thousands of families who needed sleep! I am most proud that I can help families. My clients are very gracious and appreciative. When I hear, “You gave me my sanity back,” or “I finally feel like a real person again,” it makes everything about my job worth it. I sometimes work with parents that are really on the brink. They are struggling personally, their relationship is struggling, their child is struggling– with some support and guidance, things can get back on track. I feel blessed and grateful I can help bring more peace and stability to their home.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Over the years, I have had a few partners that help with overnights. I have an amazing person working with me right now. One of my go-to interview questions is to ask, “How would you handle it if a family is unhappy with your work?”
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have been impacted by COVID-19 because it is no longer as safe for me to go into people’s homes. I have been fortunate to continue to provide phone services and recently, I have started to do limited in-person work. Of course, taking all precautions- providing negative COVID test, wearing a mask etc. A lot of families really need someone in person to help with support and guidance and COVID-19 has, of course, made that aspect of my job more difficult.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I hope to be able to help more families get sleep! I also plan to launch a “sleep product” in the near future! Stay tuned!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lessons I have learned are about patience and priorities. There has been a lot of waiting… waiting for my friends and family with COVID to recover, waiting to see, visit and hug my friends and family, waiting in lines, waiting for the world to be different… a lot of waiting requires a lot of patience. However, the priority is that everyone is safe and stays healthy. So for me, I have learned when I focus on my priorities, it makes patience come eaiser.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I have stayed grounded by focusing on what is most important and trying not to “sweat the small stuff.” Staying connected with friends and family on calls and/or facetime and zoom and visiting with people (socially distancing) outside has helped my sanity. It has also been great that I have been able to work from home and help clients via phone consults. And, of course, Netflix!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I definitely believe in work life balance. When you have your own business, you are never “off.” I work and answer calls and texts on holidays, during vacations, even if I am sick. If parents are working with me and have questions, I do everything I can to be there to answer them. To manage my work/life balance I only work with a certain number of families at one time. My biggest tip is to know your limitations and set boundaries for yourself.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I think they would be surprised to learn that after college I worked in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill. I worked at the United States Senate as an administrative clerk assistant for one of the committees.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
3. Sleep! I actually do practice what I preach. Both adults and children need sleep to be at their best and be healthy. Even when I work overnights, I make sure to get enough sleep.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means autonomy, flexibility and a lot of hard work. I never in a million years thought I would have my own successful business. Of course, as with any job, there are always pros and cons. But, I truly feel eternally blessed that I can work from home and have flexibility in my life all while feeling like I am helping people.