Kickstart-Her: Barbara Movius, Founder of Hello Sweet Potato

banana pancakes

I was in my late 60’s and a grandparent when I retired from my job in an academic setting. Until then, I never thought twice about how to fill up time.

My first vocation was as an artist, but I’ve always been an artisan as well—a maker of things. From early on, it has always been a pleasure to work with my hands—and I learned how to weave, bind books, gild, make tassels (don’t ask), sew, cook and garden. For example, I planted an herb garden, laying out the brick paths myself. Weeding was never a chore, in fact I looked forward to it, and my harvest was used all year to season our meals.

When I was working full time I had less time to cook, but still made it a priority to find what was locally available and fresh, now influenced by the Food Movement.

We have a history of diabetes in my family so I did my best to stay away from “sweets” and tried hard to make sure meals were not only well balanced, but also appealing to my kids’ taste buds.

As a grandmother, watching my grown up children juggling with raising families, working, and sorting out food issues with their kids, I could see what they were dealing with. It was frustrating to be living away from them and unsure how to help.

My transition from my professional life to retirement never quite happened. I felt the need to continue work as an artisan. Not long after retiring I started a small one-person company, producing my own designs.

One day I made play food out of leftover felt scraps for my grandchildren to play with. They had a great time; tapping into their own creativity and learning a lot by bringing curiosity, love of invention and imagination to their play, things I could identify with. All kids have these gifts; they are just waiting for a chance to use them.

There it was: the connection! I could play a more active role in meeting the challenges family’s face today regarding healthy eating habits and use my skills as an artisan.

Initially I created the Hello Sweet Potato games and stories with my grandchildren in mind because they were growing up in an increasingly busy world—both for themselves and their parents—who were trying to make sure their kids were getting the best start. I wrote about things I saw on visits when we went to the neighborhood playground, gym class, or picked up dinner…ordinary things that meant a lot to me.

I suddenly realized Hello Sweet Potato games could help other parents educate their children by tying in real-life experiences like food shopping and meal making, creating opportunities for imaginative play and a great starting point for teaching healthy activities for healthy living. Having beautifully designed things around to hold and play with couldn’t hurt, so I collaborated with other artists and photographers to add variety, different perspectives and strengths to build what became Hello Sweet Potato.

Hello Sweet Potato kits are game changers for the way kids think about food. From my own experience, I felt that providing tools to work on attitudes, associations and familiarity with desirable food and getting kids to eat healthy is better done at a young age, potentially avoiding later health problems.

I decided to launch Hello Sweet Potato in the world through Kickstarter and go straight to young parents.

WHO KNEW? It hasn’t always been an easy or straight path, but there is a lot of satisfaction in setting goals, meeting your own challenges and seeing them through as best you can at any time of life.

Looking back, I can say that I feel fortunate that I was able to follow my early training as an artist, using what’s available today through technology, and access something that is both personal and gratifying.

Fostering values about home life and the role of good nutrition has always been a personal belief and the way I raised my kids. I believe it’s not only important, but necessary, to share.

Hopefully producing Hello Sweet Potato activity kits will become the next part of my story.

About the Author

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With an illustration degree from FIT in New York and a BA from Brooklyn College, Barbara Movius started in the fashion industry. Early success as an artist showcased in an American crafts gallery and an NEA grant; skills polished up at Moore College of Art, Rutgers graduate program in Art History, Columbia University's Arts Administration program.Following a stint at the New Museum, Barbara coordinated Museum Mile Festivals in NY, was director of a regional museum and then a statewide program for visual artists of Very Special Arts New Jersey. After a decade working at Harvard University, Barbara returned full time to hands-on making things and started Material Matters LLC to produce her own designs.

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