Charyl Pitts-Howard has always had a passion for education, a flair for the arts and a belief that all children have the potential for greatness. Throughout her career, she has combined these beliefs to help children achieve and succeed. Her experiences range from teaching in one of New York City’s toughest schools to developing a curriculum that provides parents with the skills to help their children recover after experiencing mental health issues. She also produced cultural works that were exhibited at New York City’s Schaumburg and Lincoln Center Libraries that taught parents and children how to connect through the traditions of storytelling, song and dance.
The perfect platform
It was while studying an MSc in Occupational Therapy at LSBU that Charyl turned for help in turning her idea for a sensory play platform into reality. As the founder of WUNDERkIND Sensory, a digital-based sensory play platform that provides new parents with the tools they need to naturally enhance their baby’s development, it’s an idea she developed to help her own baby. “As an occupational therapist and new mum, I wanted to give my baby the best start possible,” she says. “I knew how babies benefit from sensory play, so I created a sensory play programme for my own baby. It proved a hit with other new parents, and so I used the concepts I learned on my degree to create WUNDERkIND Sensory.”
Encouraged by this early reaction from other parents, Charyl started her own business and turned to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at LSBU to help commercialise her idea.
Helping those new to the world of business
“The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute is an excellent resource for start-ups and those with an entrepreneurial spirit,” explains Charyl. “The business workshops held at the Clarence Centre are like an A to Z for those new to the world of business.” The Institute quickly recognised the commercial potential of Charyl’s product, as well as her own entrepreneurial drive, and so she was accepted onto one of LSBU’s accelerator programmes. This programme gave Charyl access to mentoring and advice from investors, business experts and successful entrepreneurs, and helped her to refine her ideas.
Making it happen
Whilst on the programme, Charyl entered WUNDERkIND Sensory into LSBU’s Make It Happen competition, and was delighted to win the Idea category at the awards ceremony. “Entering the competition just seemed to be the natural next step for me,” she says. “It was an extremely validating experience and gave me even more confidence in the business potential of WUNDERkIND.”
The prize money of £1,000 was spent creating a prototype of her product, which gave her something tangible to present to the public and find out what it is they really wanted from WUNDERkIND Sensory before tweaking the product accordingly until it perfectly matches the customers’ needs.
Continuing working – and learning – to get it right
Charyl is continuing this refinement activity and says the process of learning applies to both herself and her innovative product. “The business is ever changing, it keeps me on my toes, requires me to wear many hats and sees me call on my creativity in many different ways. This can obviously be very challenging but is also very gratifying. Running a business is a constant education and I have simply not stopped learning. This is a good thing, as being a life learner makes me very happy. A childhood mentor of mine used to say to me: ‘The day you decide to stop learning is the day you should stop altogether.’ So I suppose this concept has been ingrained into my being,” she says.
In terms of improving her product, Charyl has recently returned from the USA, where WUNDERkIND produced a workshop for the New York City Board of Education in preparation for trialling her sensory programme in one of their independent pre-school chains. “We’re planning to position WUNDERkIND for franchise opportunities in order to fortify our foundations for healthy growth and longevity,” she reveals. “The future is definitely bright, and LSBU has played a big part in helping me to achieve all that I have done so far. I really am looking forward to the next steps in driving WUNDERkIND forward, knowing I have had, and continue to have, the support of the university behind me. I think that it is a unique environment to support budding entrepreneurs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together in the future.”