Divorce leads woman to her dream

Published 10:21 pm Monday, November 24, 2008

Sharon Rollins always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur.

She grew up aspiring to start and run her own business.

What she did not know is that one of her most difficult life experiences would become the impetus for her making that dream come to life.

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In 2004, Rollins and her then-husband filed for divorce.

It took three years before the divorce was finalized.

During that time, Rollins’ son, Brandon, was just beginning elementary school.

“All of these things were going on,” Rollins said. “It was hurting me, and I know it was hurting (Brandon).”

Rollins did not want her son’s self-esteem or abilities to be diminished during his parents’ turbulent divorce.

She began thinking about ways she could encourage him.

“It was really about the love of my child and not wanting this to be a difficult situation for him,” she said. “I wanted to know my son would not be damaged.”

She came up with “Skiddo.”

Rollins wanted to make being smart a cool thing for a child.

She felt that by positively reinforcing good academics, children like Brandon could focus their energies on successful study habits and behaviors, and away from negative influences in their lives.

She developed a character, Skiddo (a baby goat) as the Smart Kid. Skiddo was to be a tangible thing for children to have and hold for times when parents could not be there.

Rollins saw where her lifelong ambition was finally going to come to fruition.

“My head was swimming with ideas,” she said. “It was like, if I don’t do this, I’m going to scream. I was going to take my dream and make it a reality.”

Once her divorce was final, Rollins went to work.

After searching the Internet, she contacted a graphic design artist and independent vendors to make Skiddo come to life as a plush toy, pajama sets and bed linens (or the Sweet Dreams for a Smart Kid set).

“I felt like it would subliminally give kids that message, that positive reinforcement they need,” she said.

And Brandon, who was the inspiration for the Smart Kid, is now quality control. He helps his mom pick out what he likes and doesn’t like and what he thinks kids would gravitate toward.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” said Brandon, who just made the honor roll at Northern Shores Elementary. “It’s helping kids with their self-esteem and confidence.”

After a little more than a year, Rollins has completed her inventory, launched the Be Smart Kids Web site and secured her first market space with The Velveteen Rabbit in Chesapeake selling the line.

“It has been a wonderful process,” Rollins said. “It’s the best experience of my life. I loved it. It’s the start of something I can see can go so big. It will connect people who care and concern for their children. Even though our situation was a little traumatic, it’s not just for kids of divorce; it’s a great message for every kid.”

As for the future, Rollins said she will continue working on the line and adding to it as she can.

“I’m always writing ideas in my notebook,” she said. “But I’m a one-woman shop right now, and I work full-time and, of course, I’m a mom. So, that comes first.”

For more information on the Be Smart Kids products, visit www.besmartkid.com.