An Interview with Entrepreneur Ann McKitrick, founder of Nurtured Noggins
Meet Ann McKitrick, the founder of Nurtured Noggins, a comprehensive resource for parents and host of Parenting in the First 3 Years Podcast. A frequent conference speaker, she’s a parenting coach and early childhood specialist with 30 years of experience in higher education. Ann also provides online professional development for thousands of childcare professionals each year through her online business, Texas Child Care Training. Ann resides near Houston, Texas, where she’s a happy empty-nester, Camp Gladiator enthusiast, Mom, and Mimi, and leads women’s personal growth groups.
In your own words, can you tell us about how you got to where you are today?
When I was 7 years old my mother took her first job ever, becoming the first director of a child care program at our church. I spent my summers there, “helping” the teachers in the classrooms. I loved watching children and poring over files in the director’s office, reading how parents described their children and comparing this to what I observed. (This was before privacy laws were widespread!) I pursued a degree in Education and a graduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies, eventually teaching (at the same college) the very child development courses my mother had taken to prepare for her job. She and I shared a deep love and understanding of children and I’m honored to carry on her legacy.
I’ve always worked with families ~ as a teacher and director of university-based child development programs that provide care for student families, as a children’s pastor, and as an adjunct professor in early childhood education. Ten years ago, I resigned from my position at the university to venture out on my own, creating online training for early childhood educators.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned many new skills – how to create a website, write and produce online courses, digital marketing, and how to successfully manage a business. After establishing my first business, Texas Child Care Training, my daughter and I founded Nurtured Noggins, a parent education blog which blossomed into a podcast called Parenting in the First 3 Years, parent coaching, and online courses. I’m a frequent conference speaker and currently do parent education programs for NASA and Head Start.
My next goal is to bring parent education and support to corporations, helping them support employees as they navigate the balance of work and family.
When did you know it was time to become a full-time entrepreneur?
I was working at a place where there was very little to no room for advancement and honestly, I didn’t feel valued by my managers. In early childhood, there are limited avenues for increasing your income. Becoming an entrepreneur has allowed me to use my creativity and innovation to think outside the box and dream beyond these limitations.
I waited until our last kid graduated from college, and then I went out on my own, launching Texas Child Care Training, which provides online training courses for childcare professionals. I wrote the courses, learned how to create a website and develop online courses, and now sell thousands of courses each year.
What are your top 3 mobile apps that help you stay organized and on the top of your game?
Each day I utilize the apps for the software I use: Active Campaign, Stripe, and Kajabi. Google Calendar keeps my days organized.
How do you boost your self-esteem in moments of doubt?
I’ve learned that there are definitive ebbs and flows with entrepreneurship. The feeling of wanting to throw in the towel is a sign that I need a break, to get a fresh perspective. The fact that my passion and enthusiasm ALWAYS return is my indicator that I’m on the right path, that I’m following my calling, and that God is not finished with me yet.
I created a peer mastermind group over 10 years ago and we meet monthly over dinner to share and encourage each other. We also do a retreat each January to set goals, make a vision board, and intentionally plan and pray for each other. If you lined up my vision boards from the last 10 years, you would see an amazing story! Creating a vision that is aligned with your purpose and passion is unstoppable. This is what I teach others to do in the MOMentum program.
What routines do you follow each day?
Every night I set the timer on our dishwasher and coffee maker so that when I get up at 5:30, my mug is warm and the coffee is brewed! I begin my day early with candlelight, coffee, prayer, reading, and lots of thinking. I get my most creative ideas in the wee hours of the morning.
Then I begin my work-at-home day, producing my podcast, Parenting in the First 3 Years, coaching parents, training teachers, creating educational content for parents, and currently, developing my new MOMentum Group Coaching program for women. I wrap up the day with exercise, either a Camp Gladiator HIIT workout at the park or a hot yoga class, followed by dinner and catch-up conversation and connection with my husband. Then there’s the NYT daily crossword and Wordle before nodding off.
How do you prioritize self-care and well-being while managing the demands of your business?
There are things I do for my well-being that contribute greatly to my ability to remain creative and focused, and they’ve all stemmed from paying close attention to my personal rhythms. I’ve determined that these are the “musts” for me: sleep, which means I have to avoid the things that disrupt it – wine at night (sad), dessert at dinner (even sadder). I have to exercise hard each day and I prefer to do it at the end of my work day. Nothing shakes off a computer stupor like a good, sweaty workout with friends! And since I work alone from home, if I don’t set aside some time each week for lunch with a good friend, I feel the walls close in and I start sinking.
What advice would you give your younger self when starting this journey?
Start earlier! I remember taking my kids to indoor play spaces full of climbing, plastic tubes, and slides. I’d sit there watching and dream of a machine, something like a “pipeline pig”, that would crawl through the maze and sanitize the inside of those tubes and slides. Because anyone who hangs around little kids knows they’re always leaking fluids from one end or the other! I designed it in my mind but never went any further with it.
I had so many ideas like this that I never moved on because I felt I simply didn’t have the bandwidth (or money) while raising 3 kids. If I’d had an older woman come alongside to coach me on small things I could be doing along the way to set myself up to take off later, I’d be in a totally different place today. That’s why I’ve created MOMentum, a coaching community for moms, to help them identify and work towards their dreams and passions even as they do the time-consuming, amazing work of raising children.
How do you leverage technology and innovation (like AI) to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving business landscape?
I’m always on an uphill climb learning new things. And I love the feeling of accomplishment when I figure something out. Understanding technology doesn’t come naturally, so it takes me a minute. I’ve begun using AI to help with content creation and love it. I am committed to learning and spend time weekly deepening my understanding through reading and webinars. I’m currently working towards becoming a certified Canfield Success Trainer and look forward to incorporating these amazing success principles into my presentations and parenting programs. Parenting and success go hand in hand.
What advice would you give to a new business owner?
Narrow your focus, finish one thing before beginning another, celebrate small wins, and ask, ask, ask for what you need.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment and why?
I have two things – one is I’m proud of the organic SEO I’ve built with both of my businesses. I often ask other people to Google “how to play with your 0-3-month-old” or “activities for 6-9 month-olds” on their phone and Nurtured Noggins is at the top of the list. I’ve never paid a dime for that!
The second thing is this. This week a mom told me that I had said something to her years ago that shaped her thinking about children. We were at a restaurant together and I had commented about a child who was standing at the counter, waiting for someone to notice him but didn’t know to speak up. He was just quietly standing there. I said something like, “I just hate it when people don’t see children. That kid is standing there wanting to order and being totally ignored. Why is that?” She said that comment made her pay closer attention to children everywhere and she, in turn, taught her own kids to do the same. Now young adults, her kids are sensitive to and kind to the children in their lives.
That’s my biggest accomplishment and the goal for all my endeavors, to help others be kind and respectful to all children. I believe this happens when we understand their development, which affects why they do what they do and how and why we, as adults, respond the way we do. And how to lean towards compassion for ourselves and our children through this understanding.
How do you set your business apart from others in your industry?
I speak and draw from my own life experiences. For over 40 years I have taught hundreds, maybe even thousands, of children, parents, and teachers in early childhood programs and university settings. I’ve parented my own children, fostered five babies, and learned so much along the way about myself as a parent. Living and understanding all the stages of development of my own parenting and children sets me apart from others who simply haven’t lived quite as long! I love sharing my life learning with others and I feel they benefit from all of my experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto that inspires you?
“Keep that sense of humor. It’s critical.”
A quote from an old movie, Mr. Mom, that my husband and I have said to each other from the time our kids were really small, through the challenging adolescent years, and even now. It’s relevant because the underlying message is to unclench your jaw and not be so caught up in the tension of the moment that you lose sight of what’s important. And that is to express love to your kid with a smile and shrug that says, “We’ll get through this together, don’t fret.” Even when it feels like you might not.
Ann McKitrick, MS
Early Childhood Specialist & Parenting Coach
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Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?