Jessica Kent and Caroline Coquet-Smith are the Founders of the GROW Journal. Inner West Mums Caroline and Jess, met when their children attended preschool and they bonded over navigating parenthood and their shared love for good food and coffee. With Caroline’s design background and Jess’s psychology background they decided to join forces and create the GROW Journal. GROW Journal is a guided journal that aims to build four powerful skills in children aged 5 -12: gratitude, resilience, optimism and well-being, so that they can thrive.
Read Jess and Caroline’s story and get their top tips on juggling mum life!
Tell us a little about yourselves
Jess: My family and I have lived in the Inner West since our son was 14 months old. We came from the Sutherland Shire in South Sydney and moved away from lots of friends and family so we weren’t sure whether we would stay. As it turned out, we absolutely love living here – the amazing community, lots of families, great parks, great schools, great food, and we love being so close to the city.
My great loves are spending time with my family, preferably out in nature or eating great food, yoga (I’ve recently had lots of fun trying out Barre), and really good coffee! I’m always learning new things, about parenting or health or most recently with starting and running a business!
Caroline: When I moved back from overseas with my family a few years back, we were unsure of where to live, and decided to try the Inner West. Fast forward a few years and we’re still here and absolutely loving our little village (it takes a village to raise kids), the eclectic and interesting people and delicious food always just around the corner – whilst being only 15 mins away from the CBD. I’ve always been creative, so I’m usually dragging my kids to art galleries and hanging out at Reverse Garbage – so much treasure there! My biggest loves in life are family, being creative, trying new food and being active. For me, happiness is a perfect cappuccino, a freshly sharpened pencil and an inspiring yoga class.
How did you meet & what did you do prior to starting the GROW Journal?
Jess: We met back in 2013 when our boys were at preschool together. As well as having kids at similar ages and sharing a love of all things wholefood, we would share our experiences as we tried to figure out this parenting thing. Back then we both still thought there was a way to ‘figure it out’!
I studied Psychology and Commerce at University, and my early career was in HR for big corporates, so this has been an unexpected and wonderful tangent to find myself on! I certainly never thought I’d have my own business. But I can see now that it’s a much more natural fit for me. I absolutely love it.
Caroline: When we first met, I was the Art Director of National Geographic Kids Australia – which was so much fun and where I realised how much I loved designing for kids. Prior to that role, I spent my career Art Directing on kids, women’s and lifestyle magazines in the UK.
What inspired you to set up the GROW Journal & how did you come up with the concept?
Jess: I think all parents can agree that accompanying the overwhelming love for your child, comes an intense desire for them to enjoy life and thrive. And often I didn’t think I knew how to do that. I’ve since learned how much our intuition serves us and allows us to be the perfect parents for our own kids.
But alongside this has been the learning and information I’ve always sought; as I navigated my children’s developmental changes, or behaviours that I didn’t understand. I have always done my best to figure out how I can support my kids and what they need from my husband and I as parents. Within all this, I figured out that qualities like empathy, resilience and optimism can be learned.
As Caroline and I shared our parenting journeys over the years we would talk a lot about our experiences with teaching these life skills to our kids. Then, as my youngest was heading off to preschool and I was starting to think about my next steps, Caroline had the brilliant idea of combining her design background and my psychology background to create a business to help other kids. So we got together and created GROW Journal – a guided journal that builds gratitude, resilience, optimism and well-being (what we call the GROW Superpowers!) in kids aged 5-12 years old.
Caroline: I’d worked in kids publishing for a few years, loved it and understood how kids brains worked when reading and doing activities. I was also passionate about how to raise my kids – it’s harder than it looks! It was an eye-opener for me when I realised that you can teach kids empathy and growth mindset (who would have known? I certainly didn’t!). I got to discussing these concepts with Jess, and we decided with her psychology background and my design background we could combine forces and launch a business to help kids.
What do you believe is the key to a successful partnership in Business?
Jess: I’d say that trust, a shared vision, similar priorities and values, and different but complimentary strengths make for successful business partnerships. We definitely have all of these, as well as a strong friendship, which makes the whole thing a lot of fun! Fun and laughter is so important to have alongside all the challenges that come along with building and running a business. I also think that our friendship brings this amazing extra level of support. I’ll be forever grateful that Caroline suggested starting this business venture!
Caroline: Jess was already an amazing person and an incredible friend. I think she’s taught me a lot about respect and kindness, which I think are the building blocks for a good partnership.
How do you juggle motherhood and starting your own business?
Jess: For me it’s a combination of being organised and flexible, and I’d say that comes from the two cornerstones I use to navigate life in general. One is continually ask the question ‘how can I make this easier for myself’, and the second is to make taking care of myself a priority. The more organised I am the easier everything is for me.
A few years ago I heard about the concept of using a juggling ball analogy in relation to ‘mum life’. The concept is that we are all constantly juggling multiple balls, and we need to work out which ones are the ‘glass balls’ and which ones are the ‘bouncy balls’. The glass balls are the ones that will break if we drop them, the really important things (e.g kids and family) so we need to make sure we keep them in the air. The bouncy balls are the ones that will bounce back, so we can let these go when something has to give (e.g a social commitment when we are exhausted because we had a much bigger week than anticipated).
Caroline: We’ve had some funny moments launching this business whilst juggling motherhood. We’ve got an unofficial third member of the business who has been in every GROW Journal meeting since the start – Charlotte – Jess’ three year old daughter. She’s our CCO (Chief Child Officer)! It’s not been easy because we’re both doing the juggle but we’ll be helping each other out too, with school pick ups etc. Being super organised, communicating and managing expectations is the key to keeping my husband and kids sane.
Seven reasons why kids & their parents will love the GROW Journal:
Favourite places in the Inner West?
Jess: We love the Bay Run – great for walks, runs, bike rides, and parks with all-important coffee stops along the way. We love Penny Fours for their out-of-this-world croissants, and La Disfida for the best pizza. Hillview Markets on Saturday morning have beautiful produce and offer free coffee! I could also spend hours in Unique Wholefoods.
Caroline: Dan at Carousel makes the best iced coffees in the summer. Sharon Kwan Kitchen, in Petersham, does amazing Malaysian Chinese food – it’s a little known gem. I get my me-time on a Sunday morning at Marrickville markets. Riding down to Jubilee Park, grabbing a Messina and lunch at the fish markets makes for a perfect Inner West day.
What/who inspires you?
Jess: So many people! To narrow it down, lately it’s been Brene Brown and Lorraine Murphy. I’ll read/listen to anything by Brene Brown, I think her work is wonderful! Lorraine is an entrepreneur and business coach and provides a tonne of helpful insights and life hacks on her podcast, the ‘Lorraine Murphy show’. The content she puts out is a great mix of personal and business development. I’ve also just started reading ‘Chillpreneur’ by Denise Duffield-Thomas.
Caroline: I did cry the first time I heard Kamala Harris give a speech, what an inspiring, eloquent and energetic role model she is. I listen to a lot of criminal podcasts (so 2019 according to my younger sister). This year I’m going to listen to a lot more business related podcasts, starting with James Wedmore and Jay Shetty. I’m more of a fiction girl, so it’s a big step to turn to non- fiction – I’ve just ordered Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Verne Harnish) and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
For information on the GROW Journal and to get yours, visit www.thegrowjournal.com.