The Inspiration for Narwhal

Did you know Narwhal and the growth mindset story was created after filming for Shark Tank? Callie and Kelly took an introspective look at how to turn challenges into opportunity and growth. Narwhal was born out of a need to let the world know that you can overcome anything, and we invite you to read more about Narwhal’s conception.

The inspiration and intention for Narwhal comes from our journey as educators on the path to building the business of Slumberkins. We actually wrote the story for this arctic unicorn-of-the-sea while we were on the flight back from filming our Shark Tank episode in September, 2017. If you haven’t seen it, the spoiler is that we did not hook an investor. We both felt defeated by the process but equally grateful for the opportunity we were given. Everyone tends to think - and we were subject to this too - that once you air on Shark Tank, no matter what the outcome, life will be great and your business will grow very easily, like you’ve received a golden ticket in entrepreneurship.

On our flight home, in a moment of emotional reflection on the entire journey of Slumberkins to that point, the idea for writing a Sleepytime Rhyme about the mindset that is the key to any growth or success came to us: Growth Mindset. It’s a big buzzword in the world of education and is now being taught in classrooms worldwide. The very basic summary of the entire concept is: the ability to think of challenges as opportunities to grow.

Many times on this journey as accidental entrepreneurs, negative self-talk and thoughts have attempted to derail our mission. Thoughts like: Why are we even doing this? Our lives were so much easier as educators. What are we doing? How are we going to figure this out? We have no idea what we are doing. We’re not business people. I can’t do this.

Many people assume that growing Slumberkins has been easy. Success or appearing on Shark Tank from the outside looks shiny and pretty. It's serendipitous that we landed on Growth Mindset during that flight home, since we had no idea that in the coming weeks, every single one of us behind the scenes would be tested and we would find out if we were able to sink or swim as a result of airing on the show.

We have discovered over and over again, no one is going to do it for us - and if we want to be successful, we must be lifelong learners, with the ability to adapt to these new waters that we find ourselves swimming through every day. The perfect illustration that summarizes the characteristics of Growth Mindset is The Iceberg Illusion which we used as a visual in our classrooms when we would teach about the concepts of Growth Mindset. Whatever the goal is, in order to achieve success, the mindset we must have is that there will always be an opportunity to learn and improve.

The Iceberg Illusion

We are often asked, “Did you WIN Shark Tank?” We always answer with a “YES!”, followed by an explanation of what that ‘win’ looks like for us. The entire process made us better business owners. It also gave us the opportunity to tell our story and talk about our mission to provide parents with a resource that enables them to be in the driver’s seat of their child’s social-emotional learning.

For a tiny Pacific Northwest business based in Vancouver, Washington, all of the attributes in The Iceberg Illusion were tested and felt by our entire team. Every day (in just the two week window that we found out we’d be airing) each of us were pushed beyond our skill sets and personal limits. Without hard work, dedication, perseverance, failure, and learning from the entire experience, Slumberkins would not be where it is today. There were moments where we weren't sure we would survive getting through the next wave of barriers. Things like...

...competing with the iPhone X for air freight space before the holiday season (Who would have thought that would be a thing we would have to worry about in our entire lives? - not us!)...

...taking on the cost of that air freight space, and determining if we could even do it...

.. figuring out how to ship orders that would arrive in time for the holidays...

...being able to keep up internally with social media and customer service…

…etc, etc, etc...

Problem-solving became the everyday norm for our team and very quickly we came back to Growth Mindset that enabled us to swim, while there were countless times it felt like we were sinking.

These attributes and skills we still use every day and are what we strive to enable parents to teach their children through the use of our Sleepytime Rhyme for Narwhal. In today’s age of increasingly demanding curriculum in schools, as educators, we consistently see students struggling to keep up and let negative self-talk rule their thoughts and mindset in the classrooms and playgrounds. We are firm believers that in order for children to handle the demands and pace of the academic environment, they must first learn to acknowledge their social-emotional state and learn coping and problem-solving strategies in order to be successful.

Thank you for following along on this journey with us. We are forever grateful. In our next blog post, we’ll talk more about Growth Mindset in children and how to use Narwhal as a resource when talking about this important life skill. Until then, we encourage you to think of a couple things you have felt you can not do, reframe that negative self-talk into “I can” statements, start a plan to help problem-solve the immediate barriers, and just see what happens!

Much Love,

Callie + Kelly


  • McKennna

    I think I need a Narwhal for myself 😆 I think the growth mindset is such a crucial lesson I want my little to know and understand , because especially as a parent I feel like we forget to see challenges as opportunities and the iceberg illusion such truth ! It’s hard work and the values that we learn through it are so worth it!

  • Kaylan Sampson

    This is so awesome! My daughter loves narwhal’s❤️ It’s fun to see animals she likes getting attention (peacock’s are her other favorite animal).

  • Allie Dillon

    As a graduate student in outdoor education, I was learning how to teach children about actual growth in the outdoors while focusing on internal growth, as well. I’m now getting to apply my knowledge and teachings to raising my 6-month-old, as I learn to grow, adapt, and change, myself.

  • Bailey Phillips

    Love this so much!

  • Alli

    This is such an important message! Thank you for sharing 💕

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