How Cindra McCoy tackles the extreme work-life balance of being a woman in STEM during COVID-19
I think the “Light at the End of the Tunnel” is the re-organization of people’s priorities. Being forced to spend more time at home with family or focusing on the things that make you happy has a silver lining that we can and maybe should embrace. We have seen so many instances of kindness in this trying time and those things are contagious too!
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindra McCoy.
Cindra McCoy is an art teacher and small business owner who recently founded Guide Dots — an online company that offers a subscription-based art curriculum that teaches children to draw. After years of educating and engaging students at her art school in South Carolina, McCoy wanted to find a way to bring creativity and confidence into the homes of students across the country. This idea kept her up at night and in Q4 of 2019, she made that dream a reality.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Art has always been my passion, but I learned early in my career that I did not need to be making the art to be inspired and to inspire others. I opened a brick-and-mortar art school to fulfill that need in my community, and the experience awakened an entrepreneurial spirit that I did not know existed. Soon, the momentum I felt for bringing art education to children could no longer be contained in my small town, so Guide Dots was born.
With art taking a backseat in so many schools, creative kids often need to look beyond the classroom to get their art fix, and with busy extracurricular and work schedules, that isn’t always easy for families to achieve. I just knew I had to find a way to infuse art education directly into the home environment.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
COVID-19 has caused an absolutely unprecedented crisis across the globe, and for us at Guide Dots, this event completely altered our roll out of our new business. We had been pounding the pavement, getting the word out that we offer valuable in-home art education for children. Once stay-at-home orders started coming down, however, families started seeking out ways to occupy their children, but also educating them directly from their homes. Filling this need has been a catalyst for our business as we’ve worked to adjust our shipping processes to meet the demand.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Because Guide Dots sends art supplies in addition to providing an online curriculum, our focus has been getting our starter kits out directly upon the order in an effort to bring families a quick source of relief during school closures. I believe our kits not only give parents a much-needed break but also consistently delivers a creative outlet that can build confidence in children during an uncertain time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Businesses are a lot like babies; it takes a tribe to help them grow. I launched Guide Dots while pregnant with my second child, so I was very aware that to succeed, I could not go it alone. I am very lucky that one of my adult students, Barbara La Barbera, showed an intense passion for my idea. She quickly became my confidant, helping me flesh out the design and business model, and now she’s joined the business as my partner as we continue to grow.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
As I mentioned, I started Guide Dots right about the same time I conceived my second child, so Guide Dots has been growing right alongside my mama's belly. I am now 39 weeks pregnant, ready to pop, and running two businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The balance of managing the businesses, entertaining my 2-yr old with no formal childcare and the anxiety of being hospitalized for the birth during the pandemic has certainly upset the balance of my home and work life.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Just as many artists delve into their artwork in times of trouble, I have found Guide Dots to be a source of focus for me. When I am feeling anxious about my own family-related challenges, I redirect that energy into things I can control. Right now, that means continuing to brainstorm ways in which my businesses can help other families ride out this storm.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
Guide Dots is still a new business so I think the biggest challenge for me is getting the word out amid the onslaught of critical news and information that’s pouring out about the pandemic. We feel like our kits and curriculum have a role to play in alleviating family stress right now, but breaking through the noise is not easy.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Social media has been a major player for us even before the pandemic, but we’ve been increasing our efforts in that arena. Additionally, we began offering free live art lessons to give people a chance to experience our value proposition in real-time.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Compartmentalization is key for me. My goal is to carve out certain times of the day to address each of my priorities. Whether it be the next hour will be spent playing with my daughter or the next 20 minutes will be focused on Guide Dots promotions, these dedicated timeslots allow me to focus and stay on track.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
First is the mindset. I think as a mom, a wife, and an entrepreneur you have to keep a positive mindset that not only can you tackle any trial ahead but that you are going to plow right through it. Whatever you can do to keep a positive mindset is of utmost importance right now. For me, those things might be getting outside with my daughter, working on Guide Dots, or channeling my own artwork.
Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I think the “Light at the End of the Tunnel” is the re-organization of people’s priorities. Being forced to spend more time at home with family or focusing on the things that make you happy has a silver lining that we can and maybe should embrace. We have seen so many instances of kindness in this trying time and those things are contagious too! In fact at Guide Dots one of our daily sayings right now is creativity is contagious! Really focusing on those things is what will bring us all together in the end.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves. I think many parents are putting a lot of pressure to be mom, teacher, wife, career-woman, etc and all with a pandemic in the mix! For example, the pressure to homeschool is high right now and although important, education can be really fun and engaging for kids. At Guide Dots, children are learning focus, problem-solving, gaining confidence and creativity all being disguised as a fun art activity. Find quality resources and let them help you in this time of need.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Lately my favorite quote has been “Mistakes will be made, but inaction will not be one of them.” For me it more pertains to business. I am a big believer in not becoming paralysed by fear. I think you must move forward, do your best, and if you do that others will notice your passion and be attracted to that, even if mistakes are made along the way.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow us at @guidedots on facebook or @guidedotart on Instagram. Our website is www.Guide-Dots.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About the author:
Penny is an environmental scientist-turned-entrepreneur. She’s worked as a climate scientist, an environmental planner, and a wilderness park ranger. Motivated by a passion to raise a generation of environmental leaders, in 2010 Penny founded Green Kid Crafts, a children’s media company that provides kids around the world with convenient and eco-friendly STEAM activities. Today, it’s become a leader in the subscription industry, with over 1 million packages shipped worldwide that have exposed a generation to think about and take a leadership role in sustainability. Penny, her husband Jeff, and her children Rowan and Declan live together in San Diego, California. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science. Penny has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, management, strategy and finance. She’s a seasoned leader, an inspiring speaker, an encouraging business mentor, and a creative writer. You can learn more about Green Kid Crafts at https://www.greenkidcrafts.com/ and follow Penny’s stories and updates at https://www.instagram.com/greenkidcrafts/ and https://twitter.com/bauderpenny.