WHO ARE YOU?
Anna Peterson Macsalka
WHAT did you do ?
I created a screen-free mindfulness device for kids that plays nine guided meditations at the press of a button. It addresses nine key elements to a child's wellbeing; empathy, gratitude, sleep, relaxation, stillness, breath, warmth (healing), creativity (focus), and feelings.
HOW did you do it?
Pure grit and determination. I decided if I could help one kid sleep better or have just a tinge less anxiety, it was worth it. I slowly started to investigate how a product is made and began to record some meditations on my own. The first prototypes were laughably primitive because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I bootstrapped the company myself and have worn many hats, but also enlisted the work of extremely talented designers, engineers, and friends to fill in the gaps that I couldn't fill myself.
WHY are you innovating with this product or service?
With what started as night terrors at six years old eventually turned into immense and chronic anxiety so much so that I couldn’t be away from my parents after the sun would set. It was paralyzing. I remember my dad staying up with me for hours trying to calm me by chatting nonchalantly about anything and everything just to draw my attention away from the panic. He used to joke that he had bored me to sleep for most of my childhood.
My parents eventually found a clinical psychologist that taught me mindfulness meditation and I was a new kid. I went to summer camps and sleepovers without the blink of an eye. As long as I could close my eyes, breath, and practice my routined mental sequence I was golden. Just before my 17th birthday, I was a nationally ranked equestrian until a fluke accident during a warm-up class left me in the hospital with a severe concussion and fractures in my spine and rips. Life came to a halt.
Everything seemed hard and so I turned back to meditation and mindfulness to help me through the depression and anxiety that resurfaced during this time. I quite riding horses, reformed my life, and went to college two years later to begin a new chapter and promptly met my now husband, Joey, who was and always will be one of my biggest cheerleaders. We had our first baby in 2015 followed by our second in 2017. After I had my first child, I was consumed with fear that she would suffer from anxiety as I had. I wanted a product that would give her autonomy over her own wellbeing without the use of a screen. When I couldn’t find one, Zenimal was born.
WHEN did you start your company?
I started slowly growing the idea after my first child for born in 2015, but didn't really have the tools to move quickly. In May of 2018, my perfectly healthy dad, whom I talked to every day for my entire life, was hospitalized. Here was the man who helped me through every problem I ever had and I couldn’t help him for a single moment. I started to play the meditations I had recorded and to my surprise it calmed him and the energy in the hospital room among the nurses and doctors improved. It dawned on me that this wasn’t just for kids, it was for every human. He unexpectedly passed away the next day.
And at that moment, I promised myself that I would perpetuate his goodness to the masses. Each meditation on the Zenimal ends with “don’t forget you’re a good kid” which is something my dad told me incessantly for 36 years. In December of that same year, I had clear designs and a plan to execute them. By spring, the girl that was afraid of sleeping over at her best friend’s house when she was 10 was on a plane by herself to China to source materials and tour factories. The first shipment of Zenimals arrived in December of 2019. I was thrilled.
WHERE are you from?
I grew up in Colorado with two brothers and a sister. I was the middle child. I now live in Los Angeles with my husband, two kiddos, and our senior rescue pup, Tuna.
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