Throughout the year, we are highlighting notable women in our community. We want to spotlight those who are shaping where we live and giving back to our neighborhood. Do you know someone you think we should feature? Let us know in the comments!
We can all agree that the kickoff of this new school year looks different for parents and kids alike. Luckily, our Notable Women for the month of September Holly Johnson and Liz Seegers, the duo behind the beloved Jolly Lollies, saw the opportunity to expand their children-focused business and open a new distance learning program, The Mothership, in the heart of Chantilly. This month, we sat down with Liz & Holly to hear all about how they are bringing their brand of creativity to children in new and inventive ways.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how the Jolly Lollies came to be.
We met in 2011 at a training we were doing with Music Together of Charlotte. We became instant friends and one day over coffee we discovered that we’d both been writing music for children. We shared our songs and began to collaborate. The Jolly Lollies have had so many amazing opportunities making music together. We have traveled all over the east coast from NYC to Charleston, SC. Our band consists of two of our best friends Jason Atkins (Greazy Keys who plays all around Charlotte and is well known for being the Checkers organist) and Eric Lovell (of Gigi Dover and The Big Love). We are so lucky to work with not only amazing musicians but salt-of-the-earth humans.
Creativity is the cornerstone of your business. Why are music, movement, and art such important tools for young children?
We believe creativity should be the vehicle of education for children of all ages. Our main focus has been with preschool-age children, but with this new venture at The Mothership facilitating online learning, we are seeing how music, movement, and art are foundational for all students. When we give our children the space to learn creatively and think outside the box, we see not only the students enjoy learning, but also the impact it has on their social and emotional development. Supporting the whole child is at the foundation of The Jolly Lollies core values and we believe providing a creative learning environment does that beautifully.
How can interested parents and kids experience the Jolly Lollies?
The Jolly Lollies have been doing lots of Facebook live and Zoom concerts lately. It’s been really fun to see how we can translate our musical experience to this new age of screens. We have also offered some distanced outdoor concerts. We have two albums out: Wishin’ Vol 1 and Wishin’ Vol 2. You can find our music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube, and we are played regularly on Kids Place Live Sirius XM.
What inspired you to start The Mothership?
Both of us are parents of amazing kiddos and, from our experience, we felt like Charlotte needed a space to bring caregivers together to create community and to connect with their child. We also wanted to tap into other small business owners who are incredible teaching artists as well and collaborate with them. The Mothership launched in the fall of 2019 and we offered music, sensory art, yoga, tumble, bilingual art, and story time. With the outbreak of Covid-19, we put our heads together to figure out how to best serve our community of families during this time period. That’s when we decided to turn The Mothership into a distant learning facility. As you can imagine, the response was overwhelming.
What makes The Mothership so unique?
Our mission at The Mothership is two-fold. We want to provide a space for children of all ages to express themselves creatively, and find joy and freedom in the arts as a vehicle for all learning. From a larger perspective, our focus is teaching a practice of mindfulness. We believe strongly that our culture would benefit greatly from a slower pace of living, and we think it is imperative to bring that awareness to our children. In 2018, we developed a curriculum called Musical Mindfulness, that incorporates play and song, and teaches breathing techniques, yoga sequences, and kindness activities. Our hope is to support our local community and the family unit in creating a more wholehearted society.
What is the best part of your job?
We have so much fun with any project we have created together. We make sure to keep things light, support each other, and laugh constantly. We also work with the most amazing humans. Our team at The Mothership reflects all of our core business values, and they go above and beyond with our students and families. One of the most incredible aspects of our job is that we get to interact with the coolest families in Charlotte. It has been magical to see and receive feedback on how our time at The Mothership has impacted family life at home in such a beautiful way. In the short time that we’ve been operating our distance learning program, we’ve heard over and over again how happy and engaged children are at home versus the experience parents had in the spring when the pandemic began. To know first hand the impact we are having, literally means the world to us.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced creating a new business model on such a short timeline?
(Insert belly laughs here) We joked in late July (which was about week 3 of planning and creating the Distant Learning program at The Mothership) that we packed half a year or more of work into 3 weeks. Thank the heavens we have a secret ingredient (a third “off the scenes” partner) that jumped in when we started to tackle this adventure. Ashley McGrath of Atlanta, GA is our artistic director, brand manager, and budget queen. The three of us stayed up past midnight many evenings working together virtually and stressing over every single detail. We wanted to make certain that what we were offering was the same quality that we have always strived for. Add in the elements of concern surrounding the pandemic, and we had quite the undertaking. With the three of us putting our heads together and literally round tabling every aspect of this program we felt fabulous when we hit the “send” button out to our interested families.
What is next for you?
As always our plan remains to continue to support the families of Charlotte in whatever way feels most important and needed. This newest adventure has been absolutely incredible, but we realize when the pandemic ends so does this program. It’s been such an interesting journey and ironically has caused much self reflection for The Jolly Lollies and The Mothership. What we’ve come to realize is that had we not been “forced” to change we likely wouldn’t have jumped all in. Now that we have jumped, landed on both feet, and started to soar we have no plan of stopping. The picture isn’t crystal clear yet but we have creative momentum going and are starting to construct the idea of opening a school for younger children in the fall of 2021.
As small business owners, what is one piece of advice or lesson you have learned that you can share with other female entrepreneurs in our communities?
Pay attention to your dreams and dream BIG. Work with people that you love and that build you up. Let go of those that do not. Pay attention to when it’s time for action and when it’s time for contemplating. When an idea is right, it will flow. If it’s not flowing, it’s not the right idea or not the right time. Never say never.