Updated: Jan 25
Christina Collura is a mum of two, Educator, Entrepreneur, and the Founder of Creative Beginnings, a company that creates educational products for children.
When Christina's son Luca was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3, she decided to create a wooden name puzzle for him, which had indented spaces and a chalkboard base to allow him to successfully print his name. After 4 weeks Christina noticed amazing results in her son's development and decided to bring the same concept into her kindergarten classroom.
As an Entrepreneur, Christina is a strong advocate for helping kids with special needs, including those with all other needs and abilities.
Hello Christina. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date?
Christina: I am a single mother of two boys. One is 12 and the other is 8 (diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder). I grew up playing high level of sports, including Varsity soccer both provincially and for York University. I was also a member of the CFL Toronto Argonauts Cheerleading Squad in which I loved interacting with members of the general public. I graduated with a degree in Kinesiology, Sports Administration and Education. I have been teaching for 17 years in elementary and have spent most of my years in Kindergarten (which I plan on retiring in). I was nominated for MOMPRENEUR OF THE YEAR in 2019 and 2016 and have thoroughly enjoyed combining both my passion for teaching with my entrepreneurial journey.
Why did you choose teaching as a profession?
Christina: I always wanted to work with children! I knew the impact I could have and it was always my desire to make a difference in my students' lives. As a child, I can remember playing school with my brother and siblings Everyone always told me I had a "knack" with children. When it came time to really buckle down and focus on what I wanted to do, it seemed like an easy decision.
I loved the energy and feeling of making a difference in the lives of children I meet and that is what fuels my soul.
To this day, after 17 years of teaching, I continue to have the same mentality of making a difference. To think it brought me into my entrepreneurial journey is even more amazing!
Please give us an overview of your entrepreneurial journey to date?
Christina: Creative Beginning began in 2013 as simple home based business making personalized baby gifts. Ironically, it was right after my second son was born and when I noticed some challenges with him as he grew (specifically fine motor), I knew I needed to use my avenue and platform to help him.
Luca was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3 and I created a wooden name puzzle for him with indented spaces and a chalkboard base to allow him to successfully print his name. The combination of identification of his letters and name, plus the printing component, allowed him to be successful in 4 weeks! I brought the same concept into my kindergarten classroom and saw the same success. Applied the concept to a full alphabet and number puzzle and the rest is history! The true success of Creative Beginning began and we have been on a whirlwind ever since!
I continue to use this platform to advocate for children of special needs and all other needs and abilities! The fact is that every child is an individual in itself and its up to us to teach them the way they NEED to be taught. “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn” (Dr. Ivar Lovaas).
I hope that our puzzles provide, not only an avenue to teach and adapt to many learning styles, but also to provide a means to bridge the gap between learning literacy, numeracy skills and early learning, through our youngest learners of all needs and abilities!
What are the key challenges you have faced in your career, and as an entrepreneur? Additionally, how did you navigate these challenges?
Christina: As an entrepreneur, my biggest challenge was just finding the right avenues to network and reach out to people. I literally jumped into this adventure with my eyes closed, with no real understanding of how and where to go. To navigate this challenge I simply reached out to those in the industry, chatted with people on Linkedin, across many social media platforms. I wasn't afraid to just speak out and talk to people. So ultimately, the challenge I faced, turned into the biggest thing that helped me grow my business to where it is today. I continue to do the same thing that was the biggest challenge - network...network...network!
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Christina: I've been following Sarah Jordan, the CEO of mastermind toys, for a long time now. Her impact on both women in business and the toy industry is astonishing and inspiring! I look forward to chatting with her one day about her journey as a business leader. I have also been following my fellow small business owner "Erica Rankin" who is the owner of Bro Dough. She reminds me so much of myself and the growth and time it takes to get where you need to. She shares similar stories, struggles and challenges that I do and its nice to know that we are not alone in our business journey.
What advice do your have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to launch/grow their business?
Christina: Just jump right in and go for it! The hardest thing is getting started! But the best thing about all of this is looking back and realizing that right now someone is saying "why didn't I think of that?". Also, remember to never be afraid of two things:
1. There will be some people who will say "NO" and won't see your vision. However, these are the same people that will likely ask themselves why they didn't jump on the opportunity when they had the chance, down the road.
2. Reach out and ask questions. The only way to learn about your industry is to reach out to those already in it. Most that I have chatted with have provided valuable advice that have lead me to where I am today. Without their amazing advice and guidance and support, who knows what would have happened.
Thank you Christina for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you all the best?
Christina: Thank you so much!