Faces of CoWork Me l Ben and David on their new and exciting start up – Toolbox Education!

by | Aug 22, 2022 | News

 

For entrepreneurs Ben and David, understanding our emotions is very important, especially for teenagers coping with the many adversities of life.

In this Faces of CoWork Me feature, we speak with founders of Toolbox Education, an organisation that gives young students the tools to help manage anxious thoughts and regulate uncomfortable emotions through engaging, relatable content and workshops. 

Toolbox education / Faces of CoWork Me

1) What is Toolbox education?

Toolbox Education takes the tools a person would learn with a psychologist and teaches these tools to school students before they encounter adversity.

We do this by running short, interactive workshops that teach Year 5-12 students tools from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), in a way teenagers can relate to.

The tools help students manage anxious thoughts and regulate uncomfortable emotions.

 

2) How did this idea come about? What was your background before launching your own business?

So, David and I are part of a running group that would meet every Thursday morning. While we were running, we got chatting about lockdowns and how much of an impact it would be having on teenagers especially – next thing we’re launching a business together!

David, a clinical psychologist, and I have been designing and running educational programs for 10 years. We blended our experience to make psychological concepts and tools as relatable as possible for teenagers.

 

3) Who is your target audience, has this evolved over time?

We run workshops for Years 5-12, as well as staff and parents.
We originally only worked with Year 7-9, but started to see the need at younger age groups, as well as VCE cohorts. 

4) Why is it important for children to talk about / understand their emotions? How do you give kids the tools to do this during your sessions?

I believe that without understanding our emotions, we can bottle them up and fail to release them in healthy ways. The same thing happens with anxious thoughts that we all encounter.

We use metaphors and ideas students can relate to, like the idea that your mind is a bit like a mobile phone that has notifications popping up all the time (our thoughts). We also incorporate activities that ensure students interact with the content and share relatable scenarios. This helps them gain a better understanding about what they’re feeling and/or thinking.

 

5) What are your biggest takeaways from these sessions as a facilitator?

One of our biggest takeaways is that – Students want to talk about what’s going on with them, they just need content and facilitators that relate to them. We’ve also observed that the current way our system is set up to support young people doesn’t adequately equip them with tools to deal with inevitable adversity and challenges. Lastly, we learned that the importance of preventative mental health tools is for everyone. Everyone experiences different challenges in their lives, not just people who seek out support and intervention.

 

6) How do you differentiate yourself from similar businesses / services?

There are some fantastic services out there in the mental health and wellbeing space for schools. Some focus on splitting up gendered cohorts, some focus on lived-experience testimonials, others on specific techniques like mindfulness.

Our approach differs in a few ways:

  1. Our presenters relate to students: all presenters are uni students who have recently finished high school and understand the challenges faced by teenagers
  2. Our workshops are evidence-based, drawing on psychological tools
  3. We provide a set of follow up activities to ensure the students are using the tools long after the presenters leave
  4. Our workshops are short and sharp, fitting into a school lesson rather than spanning across an entire day.
7) What does it take to be successful in your line of work?

Schools are difficult places to sell into, given budget and time pressures placed on teachers and senior leaders. It’s important to build meaningful relationships and show tangible impact to schools.

 

8) What are you most proud of in your business?

We’re really proud that we’ve been able to execute an idea we had and bring it to fruition. We’ve gained great traction, with over 40 schools already using Toolbox’s programs. We’re also incredibly proud of the team we’ve built, with a team of 13 already delivering the workshops to schools meaning we’ve been able to scale quickly.

 

9) What have been your main challenges as business owners?

One of the main challenges we’ve faced is coming up with new content and product offerings whilst continuing to run the business. It’s difficult to put ego aside and develop new content, knowing that the first few times it may not land with the audience the way you may have intended.

We’ve been lucky to have really strong partnerships with a few local schools who have brought us in to trial new content before scaling it up and out to other schools.

 

10) What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give other startups wanting to launch a business?

Do your due diligence first on whether there is a clear market need before diving in.

There are plenty of great ideas out there, but the most important thing is whether you have a clear understanding of whether people would purchase your product/service, and whether there is a need for it. If you’re able to position your offering as something that your buyer needs, rather than something which is nice to have, you’re onto something.

The other piece of advice is to keep trying. Startups and businesses that succeed aren’t necessarily the ones with the best ideas but the ones who persist and work through challenges. We often say that it’s a ‘time-based game’ – if you’re willing to stick it out for long enough through the early days, success should come.

 

11) Is there a particular person / company you look upto? Why?

We’ve been really fortunate to have close relationships and history with 2 businesses in a similar space, Elevate Education and Elephant Ed.

Elevate provides study skills seminars to schools across the world and have a great business model that has scaled really effectively. Elephant Ed provides sex education workshops and the co-founders are 2 of our mates, and have been great role models for us in terms of their persistence and execution.

We’ve been really fortunate to have close relationships and history with 2 businesses in a similar space, Elevate Education and Elephant Ed.

Elevate provides study skills seminars to schools across the world and have a great business model that has scaled really effectively. Elephant Ed provides sex education workshops and the co-founders are 2 of our mates, and have been great role models for us in terms of their persistence and execution.

 

12) What’s something exciting happening with Toolbox Education right now?

We’re super excited – we’ve recently partnered with Ardoch Education Charity which funds our work in low socio-economic areas that otherwise might not have access to the program. We’re also beginning to scope out plans to bring on our first full-time hire, focusing on client relationships.

 

13) How has Cowork Me supported your professional journey?

Launching our business during lockdown in 2021 was challenging, not least because we were working from home. Working at CoWork Me has given us a space to grow our business in a productive way.

We’ve got ample space to train our presenters and a dedicated place to come to every day and work on what we need to. It also put a lot of our challenges into perspective. Getting to know other businesses working alongside us and hearing about their different challenges and how they’ve overcome these obstacles has given us more motivation to continue on our journey.

 

Author: Dinesh Aras
Author: Dinesh Aras