Follow your child’s pathway by taking an active interest in what they would like to do rather than to impose your beliefs on what you feel they should become. When I was a child many of the parents in my play group wanted their kids to become doctors or lawyers irrespective of what the children themselves wanted. Those of us whose parents allowed freedom in play and an opportunity to be creative became entrepreneurs.
I had the pleasure to interview Kojenwa Moitt, CEO at Zebra Public Relations LLC. Kojenwa began working as an actor in the film and television industry while living in Toronto after completing a B.A in History and French Literature from the University of Toronto. Her foray into the world of drama coupled with her background in visual arts from the Art Gallery of Ontario precipitated a demand for her involvement in helping to direct large scale productions such as Toronto Fashion Week as well as to launch PR events designated for the Toronto International Film Festival and Fashion Week Brooklyn to name a few. Additionally having been trained in broadcast media and contemporary dance, Kojenwa quickly found a network of corporate, fashion, and arts & entertainment connections in Paris, New York, Stockholm and Toronto where she currently spends the majority of her time. Her subsequent completion of a one year international MBA at Hult International Business School in Boston created a fortuitous opening for travel to international markets such as Shanghai and Thailand as well as an opportunity to provide consulting services to corporate executives and publicly traded companies through strategic marketing initiatives by specializing in brand development, marketing and public relations. Through her innate understanding of interpersonal relations and with intense focus on politics and media, she has established proficiency in helping clients to reach their superstar status and business goals, by developing and launching new products, changing consumer perceptions, or making inroads into new industries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was extremely fortunate to have been born in Toronto and began traveling at the age of two to Senegal and Paris with my parents on account of my father who was searching through the archives of the enslaved children, many of whom had been brought over the the french colonies. I was so immersed in the french culture that I returned to Canada a year later where I was placed in an all french school. The teachers were strict but we still had great fun playing and making up all sorts of stories in the schoolyard with kids from every different background imaginable. I still have a picture of my baby doll tied to my back as I had seen the Senegalese women do from the earliest years I can remember. I still live for Paris.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I had been working as a film and TV actress for several years in Toronto when it occurred to me that I had no control over how I could be cast. I would go in for roles like the girlfriend with the attitude or the hooker or the crackhead and became inspired to work on the opposite side of the lens where it seemed to me, I could have more autonomy and make more money. I began to work with productions like TIFF and Toronto Fashion Week. Working to piece together whole events inspired me to take things further my sharpening my skills in New York, a place that I knew innately would push my creative boundaries. I packed a single bag and left my parents house in Toronto telling them I would be back in a week. I don’t like long goodbyes. A week quickly turned into a year which turned into twelve. I was lucky at the onset to crash with a friend who had an apartment and a full year scholarship to NYU. We cooked, played music, wrote and discussed politics pontificating about how we would change the world while our intense sticks burned.
I didn’t have any legal papers at the time. I worked at Puff Daddy’s restaurant on 23rd and 6th as a server to make money, but became more interested with who was dining there. I had moved out of my girlfriends house in Harlem and took a bedroom in Washington Heights for $500 a month while the entire family slept in the living room. I ate leftovers from the restaurant. I was a bad server and when I got fired after two months, I began showing apartments for real estate brokers to make extra money. We closed a lot of deals that way and pretty soon I was managing the moving company — an offshoot from the real estate firm. I met my best friends during that time. I didn’t have my green card and the work of running up and down the island of Manhattan to get into buildings became monotonous. I was starting to fall out of love with the head broker who gave me my start in real estate after falling into disagreement. I left for lunch that day and stumbled in to the Hilton at 57th. They were having an MBA fair. In that exact moment I decided I would pursue an MBA at Hult and the rest is history! I left my MBA in 2008 while the economy was in a severe economic downward spiral. No one could get a job and even my friends at Harvard had their offer letters rescinded. It didn’t take me long to decide to go into business right away.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I work across different timezones, so getting back to pending emails in the morning through to the evening is a pretty regular event. I’m generally editing content, managing how my clients websites look, how their video content looks or how their viewership numbers are faring. I analyze engagement and give clients the best advice as to how to proceed in gaining more visibility. Often I am getting on calls with reporters who need me to provide them with sources for their articles. I match my clients to the right reporters or producers in helping them become more known. I love entrepreneurs. I exist to make their dreams an absolute reality. Some days, I make house calls or visit with prospects who wish to retain my firm. It is fun meeting people in every industry imaginable and pushes me to learn more about where people are coming from.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I see in my daughters eyes the pain she feels when I am not engaged with her. When she is repeatedly calling my name, I need to check in. Children don’t want to compete with your cell phone and your computer. It isn’t fair to them. I make it a point to complete the majority of my work assignments before I spend time with her.
I see parents buying things for their kids in lieu of spending time and others filling their kids itinerary with one event every night of the week ushered by the proverbial nanny. Kids just need your love and attention to build that confidence muscle. It is very sad to me to meet people who have never had that connection they have craved from their parent. It is one of the areas leading to depression and other forms of mental illness today.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
I want to show my little one that she can always count on me. If I have promised to deliver on a bouncy castle playdate, I have to deliver on that. I took her to a little school fair the other day. There was a bouncy castle there, some face painting, some cotton candy. She began to twirl from happiness. It’s the look on her little face that I live for. I want her to learn what it is to keep your word. I want her to remember what happiness feels like. That anchor feels so good. At the same time, I know that she will remember these moments as I did when I was a child. It doesn’t take much. Anyone who has the guts to have a baby has the responsibility to shape its future.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
• I am the publicist to a well known Psychologist in Canada. His name is Dr. Ganz Ferrance. According to his research, even 20 minutes of pure one on one bonding is sufficient to help your little one’s brain to recognize that authentic familial connection. Even on my business days, I am able to spare 20 minutes to have a quiet bath time, or make dinner, or make art or to just play. Each of these moments require zero cell phone interference. We’ve gotten so obsessed with our communications that we can’t seem to go 20 minutes without looking at the phone. It’s a sickness that is ruining the quality of our connections.
• For busy executives, sometime a sacrifice plan must be put in place where you have a concentrated period of time when you aren’t available but once that period is over, you return to becoming present again. I am producing a film and it required me to go to Cannes for the Film Festival. I knew I would be away for seven days and I began the process by vetting for a nanny on CanadianNanny.com. Once I found the right care provider, I was able to integrate her into the pick up and drop off schedule around daycare. I knew during down time, my parents would also be available to support by making dinner and play. All caregivers work in concert and have access to my calendar while I am away. This cuts down on my toxic stress buildup. When there is a break I can FaceTime to reassure my little one that I will be returning in one piece. Now, I know I can leave comfortably for a trip on the opposite side of the planet knowing that I will return with my whole self. It really does take a village!
• I have noticed among toddlers and primary aged children that they become irritable when they have watched too much television and it is incumbent on the parent to design a curriculum for days in which the children are at home so that we do not leave all the parenting to school systems or to Youtube. With the increase of problematic messaging in advertisements on the formative brain or hoaxes such as the Momo challenge, it has become clear that we need to have the computer or the television in common spaces so that we can observe what our children are taking in.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
1. Treat time with your kids like any other work commitment. I’m talking about blocking your calendar so that you can see it clearly marked in your day. For instance, I have begun to view Saturday morning dance class as a relaxing event for us to enjoy. Similarly, Sundays are for us to do whatever it is that comes to mind.
2. Think 20–40. If you have to split time between work commitments and being a parent, give 20 minutes of your time without cellphone or computer interference to your child for every hour or so while in they are in your care in case you need to pop off for a call or an after work commitment.
3. Do not leave kids to their own devices. The studies are showing that more screen time is leading to depression. This is because kids are not experiencing authentic connections as we are designed to do as social beings. Rather, what we are experiencing are quick connections in responding to stimulus such as likes, shares or reactions, which then govern how we feel about ourselves. Particularly for toddlers moving into adolescence, curtailing screen time to one hour per day is sufficient. Also put the computer or gaming device in a common area so that you don’t leave them open to predators lurking online to babysit.
4. Set the boundaries at work for vacation and down time. Leave extra time in your work plan for deadlines and think about your workload in terms of hours. Let your work mates and managers know that you need to set the rules for your personal time. So many work cultures out there will take advantage of those who cannot speak up so its better to say that evening and Sundays are off limits for you. Let people know that from 7pm onward, you do not have the capacity to tend to emails, text messages and phone calls. Be clear that you also have expectations that your family life balance will be honored and this is time for dinner and homework so that you have apologize in advance for not being available during certain times. This way, they know what they are getting into by working with you. The same goes for vacation time. They will become grateful when and where you make an exception rather than to expect it while you are feeling resentful.
5. Express gratitude daily. Think to yourself that you are thankful to be a busy executive because it affords you the privilege of looking after your children. Be thankful that you are driven enough to manage your workflow in a disciplined manner so that time spent with your child is sacred. Your children know when they feel like they are a burden and will react accordingly. If I have set a date with my daughter to visit the museum followed by lunch, it is something I can honor happily and from a place of peace rather than from a place of hurriedness.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
A good parent is kind and comforting but acts forcefully when clear boundaries need to be set. It isn’t a good idea to be a push over and neither is it one to be too strict. Children need to be able to freely express what is in their heart and mind and we must remember that they are closest to source energy, so it is important to also see things from their perspective. The best advice I can give is to remember what it is like to be a child so that you can observe how they are internalizing their world. Kids will have your back at the exact moment you have theirs.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Follow your child’s pathway by taking an active interest in what they would like to do rather than to impose your beliefs on what you feel they should become. When I was a child many of the parents in my play group wanted their kids to become doctors or lawyers irrespective of what the children themselves wanted. Those of us whose parents allowed freedom in play and an opportunity to be creative became entrepreneurs. I studied art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, experimented with acting classes and trained as a mediator and arbitrator. One summer I got the opportunity to impact the lives of at-risk teens on lock down to inspire them to make better life choices. Once my parents observed that I took a keen interest in leadership, they had no choice but to jump on board with my trajectory. I am surrounded by many friends and clients alike who have become prominent in their respected fields. I have asked my child what is interesting to her and currently it is dance, so we enjoy a class every weekend.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
For me success is achieved when a good family and a good business is in harmony. A good business is one that is profitable and in which the entrepreneur is earning a sizable pay for the work he or she has completed, while a good family is one in which there is support for each member financially, emotionally, spiritually and otherwise.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I have been listening to a lot of Abraham Hicks on being a great parent. She was the force behind the Secret and I believe in taking a natural approach to parenting which is more geared towards becoming a steward to adulthood for your child. I believe there is a clearway to be when raising children. that is, that we can aspire to be even, fair handed and positive in our outlook so that we can empower these little beings to have the confidence and love they need to grow and to thrive. I love the community at www.twelvetwelve.tv helping me to build daily habits in meditating to remain positive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson comes from one of my great mentors, Colin Sprake at Make Your Mark.
He reminded me in his last event that your influences are deeply connected to your thoughts which then govern your actions and lastly determines what results you are getting.
This simple equation can be applied to all areas of life, and especially as it pertains to business and family.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am so lucky to be living the life of my dreams. Every day, I get to work with entrepreneurs from different industries and backgrounds who are doing a ton of social good serving others. Our team works tirelessly to give people a bigger platform to share what they are doing to inspire love. From consulting firms that serve as business accelerators to psychologists and economists working to enhance mental wellness and financial literacy and artists creating images of what we are going through I know that my legacy will leave an impact on the globe. Today I am a producer for a film company called IDA Films where we tackle social justice issues and help people to see themselves through the eyes of Others.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.