In any normal year, parents have the challenging task of keeping their children active, engaged, and creative. It’s safe to say 2020 has taken them above & beyond that challenge, though that’s exactly where Carmen Kaethler, founder of Macaroni Kid Winnipeg, shines!
I was lucky enough to chat with Carmen about the ups, downs, and everything in between of the past 10 months including how she’s keeping Winnipeg’s Halloween spirit alive, despite the challenges of the season.
First things first, congratulations on being nominated for the Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards! What was your reaction upon finding out?
Thank you. I was definitely surprised and very honoured that someone would think so highly of me to submit my name for nomination.
One of your main projects is Macaroni Kid Winnipeg; where did the initial idea come from?
When I had my first daughter seven years ago, I was constantly looking for things to do with her. Events, activities, crafts, and family-friendly ideas around Winnipeg.
I figured a lot of other busy parents were doing that as well, so I decided to start up a Macaroni Kid here in Winnipeg to be able to help them. Since I was already doing the research and planning, why not share it with others?
Since so many of the events that you normally promote are outside of the home, how did you pivot that when everyone was told to stay home back in March?
This year has been an interesting one, that is for sure. While we were all at home in March, April and May, I focused a lot of my energy on sharing ideas of things families could do at home. I would do weekly Facebook lives on crafts you could do with your kids and posted printables for scavenger hunts you could do in your backyard.
When the restrictions lifted more in June, the girls and I hit the road to explore Winnipeg & surrounding areas on day trips. I document a lot of these on my platforms like trips to the different swinging bridges, mural tours around Winnipeg, and a lot of stops at roadside attractions. While we miss the events, there are still a lot of things to do in our city for families; things that you can do while maintaining social distance from others. It’s been a lot of fun being a tourist in our own city.
What were the biggest challenges for you and your own family throughout this past summer?
Honestly, the challenges felt harder in the spring while I was juggling my daughter’s virtual schooling, work, and everything else. Compared to that, the summer was actually nice as we got to slow down. I missed the festivals and events we usually attend, but not having them let us explore more of Manitoba on day trips. There was still the stress of maintaining safe distances and not opening our bubble, but overall the summer was a nice break.
You’re currently working on something called “Boo Baskets”; what inspired these? How does someone get “Boo’d”?
I had heard of Boo Baskets for a few years now, but with all the other events going on at Halloween, I hadn’t thought to do anything with it until this year. Another mom that runs a Macaroni Kid edition in another city mentioned the idea of doing it on a large scale with the help of other local businesses and I loved the idea. Luckily Winnipeg is amazing and it wasn’t hard to find 10 local businesses that wanted to help spread some Halloween cheer to 100 families and encourage others to do their own ‘booing’.
To “Boo” someone, you basically just create a treat basket/bag of Halloween goodies (Halloween crafts, activities, chips, chocolates, cookies, candies) and leave it on a friend’s doorstep for them to find. I have printables with instructions you can get off of my website Winnipeg.macaronikid.com that you can include in the basket/bag for the recipient to know what it is.
When it comes to your relationship with so many local businesses, what are some deciding factors when teaming up? Is it connected to your website’s “Mom Boss Marketplace”?
Winnipeg has a lot of amazing local businesses and I’m very lucky that many of them see the value in me & what I do. I usually work with businesses that also see the value in promoting family fun activities. I enjoy helping those businesses reach more families and, in exchange, they help me be able to do things like the Boo Baskets, as well as other events like Mess Fest and my annual Pumpkin Hunt, which both had to be cancelled for 2020.
As a resource about all things related to families in Winnipeg, things like my Mom Boss Marketplace and other guides in the past have helped families find local businesses they could support while getting the things they need for their homes and lives.
Do you have any advice for other parents as these trying times continue?
At the sake of being cliché, “Just Breathe”. I think we all need to give ourselves some grace right now. We have been given a lot of things to juggle, more so than normal and it is hard. People are constantly telling us what is right and wrong, and implying we are bad parents if we don’t agree with them. Over the last six months, it hasn’t gotten easier. I know I am tired of being tired, but I’m trying to be less hard on myself. I am trying to take on less commitments as I never know when the next change/restriction/etc. will happen, so if I have less that needs to pivot when change happens, the easier it will hopefully be.