Anne Armstrong is a Nashville, Tennessee-based full time teacher, full time mom – and now an entrepreneur as well. She wanted to find a way to spend more quality time with her three year old. Once her work day was wrapped up, simply having dinner with her child and getting them ready for bed wasn’t enough for meaningful, creative and imaginative time together. With budget in mind for working parents like her, she created My Gnome on the Roam. It’s a collection of toys and tools designed to help families bring more adventure into their lives; to explore, create and connect together.
Armstrong’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
My Gnome on the Roam kit is more than just a toy and a book gift. It was designed to provide tools and inspiration for busy families to explore, create and connect. The kit includes a copy of the My Gnome on the Roam Award Winning Story Book, an adventure journal filled with blank pages, a colorless ready-to-be-painted gnome and a magical pen. After reading the story book, families are encouraged to take their gnome out to explore the world beyond their own picket fence, to record their story and to share it with the broader community via My Gnome on the Roam’s app and social sites. My Gnome on the Roam’s mission is to help families build creative adventures and fun memories in as little as 30 minutes a week.
I wanted to create a way for my son and I to spend quality time together in the little pockets of time that were available and for little cost. I am a teacher so time and money were both challenges. I realized as I was working on the products that there are lots of families just like us.
The idea for My Gnome on the Roam was actually born from a dream and and my adorable 3 year old kid. At the end of my days in the classroom, between preparing dinner, bath and a little time to read, there was simply not enough time for quality time (adventures, creativity and imagination). I wanted to create a way to incorporate little pieces of fun and magic into our little pockets of time. I used the many years of dreaming and teaching and lots of ideas from friends and family to create lots of little ideas for adventures- the app and products are the result.
Life is a string of moments that rise above the rest; a series of memories, of every day moments that are somehow a little extra special. Some of them are happy accidents, but there are others you can create. Our products offer toys and tools to build moments that matter. My goal is to create a business that helps families create their own magic by providing ideas and giving them the tools to create their own adventures. I think there is a myth that the family with the most money is the most happy, or the family with the most time. Or that adventures require both. Success for My Gnome on the Roam is when families realize that small amounts of time can equal big adventures and meaningful memories. And that connection, not time or money, are what truly makes a happy family/happy kid.
Our biggest success to date is our recommendations from Dr. Shefali Tsabery (author of Conscious Parenting and Oprah’s parenting expert) and Dan Heath (author of The Power Of Moments and Made to Stick) are the thing that makes us most proud. The wisdom they’ve shared in their books have given us such insight and their endorsements tell us that our products are offering the connection and quality we hope to share. We’ve won Family App of the Year, Creative Toy of the Year along with other awards, which tells us that customers love what we’re creating. Honestly, every time a family shares their adventure with us, it feels like a giant success.
As a lifelong educator, inventing was not familiar territory for me. But I always taught my students that, “If you can imagine it, you can create it.” So I decided I’d better step up as an example. While the book came relatively easily, finding the exact right Gnome and all the other details took about one and a half years. We did lots of fun market research by taking our ideas to booths at festivals and fairs to get feedback from kids and families. As a teacher for my entire career, marketing and sales aren’t my strong suit. My attitude is just ask. The worst they can say is no. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
There have been so many positive influencers who have impacted my growth. People I’ve met at trade shows, online, and in real life. Perhaps the person who has had the greatest impact, however, is someone I never met, but who felt like a member of the family: Mr. Rogers. He was such an integral part of my childhood along with so many other children. He wasn’t trying to sell anything…he just wanted people to understand that they are special, just the way they are. And that there is only one you. And that there is wonder and magic just around the corner and within every day. I hope we can share that kind of impact; that happy families are simply the ones that connect, create and explore together. Families that DIT (do it together).