- Anna and Courtney discuss the Zenimal and how the product idea came about through a story of loss and hope.
- Courtney talks about the impact Zenimal had with her two younger toddlers during her battle with stomach cancer.
- We discover the 9 meditations on the Zenimal and how each was crafted.
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Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night and build healthy sleep habits for Life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. Hey, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of the Kids sleep show. I am excited to be joined by the founder of one of my favorite all time products, the zoo animal. So I want to take a minute to introduce Anna mix selca to the show. She was a guest probably a couple years ago now. So I’m excited to have her back to learn all about this amazing product to teach you and introduce you to her and talk to you about how this product could also change your life. So Anna, welcome back. It’s so nice to see you.
It’s so so good to be back. Courtney and I we were just talking like you have been with me since the very beginning which feels like yesterday and 100 years ago. But I’m so I just like anytime I get to connect with you, you’ve always been my my biggest cheerleader and so grateful to be to be here and chatting again.
Hey, thank you. So for those people that are not familiar with zoo animal, what is it? If you’re watching this on video, I have the turtles here. But if you’re just listening to the podcast, you’re not going to see these amazing little products. So take a minute and talk about this animal how it all started.
Yeah, so I guess going back to like, why why I did the company in the first places. I suffered immensely from really severe anxiety and panic attacks at a really early age that originated really from night terrors. So I go to sleep fine. And then I’d wake up in this like crazy panic, with sometimes even vomit. Like it was just it was so ingrained, and it lived so deeply in my body. And then I really struggled and I would start to get really afraid just to go to sleep at night, you know, wondering if it was gonna happen. And it usually did. And it was it was awful. And I think, you know, it was at that stage, you know, it was like in the 80s no one was really talking about it, there was no Google of like, what is going on with my kid? Why is she freaking out at night, you know, it was like, so my parents really were at a loss for a little bit of time. And my dad would just sit with me for hours and hours and hours trying to get me to calm down, you know, just talking about nothing basically trying to bore me to sleep. And it was exhausting. It was exhausting. For me, it was exhausting for them. And finally, they found I grew up in a really small mountain town, but there was a clinical psychologist there, Dr. Tina Fleshman. And they started to take me there to you know, figure me out. And she decided to teach me how to just control my breath, relax my body, and then visualize my happiest place. And that took say, you know, several, probably several months of really getting it ingrained and, and fine tuning what worked for me, and figuring out my my happy place and really getting really detailed and granular with it. And to the point where then I could do it on a daily basis by myself. But it reversed the course of, of the path that I was I was headed down and and and it made me you know, be able to go to sleepovers, you know, anytime I’d feel that little anxiety bubble, you know, come up in my throat, I would just close my eyes and go through this, this process. And it was incredible. And I felt so lucky that I was, you know that my parents, you know, had the resources to do that for me time and finances because that’s it’s often you know, such such a burden. But I was very, very lucky. And it did change the course of my life. And then in 2015, I was lucky enough to welcome my own daughter into the world. And you know, any parents out there know that, you know, that’s a huge moment where you feel an immense amount of responsibility and fear a little bit. And so I wondered like, what if she has this sort of same thing that I had? And so I started to look around, like, what am I? What solutions am I going to give her? Is she gonna have to go to therapy and feel a little different from other kids and feel a little bit broken? Or is there something else and everything that I found really required some sort of app or, you know, some sort of device that had a screen. And I just knew from my own reaction when I pick up one of these devices, I don’t feel calm. And I don’t I don’t really feel like going to sleep and and and resting. And so I thought if there was just you know, this sort of standalone, its own thing that would give kids autonomy where they could just literally press a button, and it would guide them through a meditation and they could learn and they had control over it and they didn’t have to ask for anything. They didn’t have to, you know, go anywhere to learn this as it is something that could always be with them. And I really wanted that to exist. And so you know, at the time I was I was a voiceover artist and part time Pilates instructor I really had no business starting a business so it was little clunky in the beginning trying to figure out how to manage it and, and what I wanted it to be and how you know how on earth I was gonna get this, get this made. And then in 2018, I had, you know, really started to develop some of the meditations. And I had started to form the company. And then I got a phone call that my dad who was my very, very best friend, I talked to him sometimes multiple times a day, but at least once a day, and he had been really suddenly hospitalized with meningitis, and was in the ICU, and I flew home and you know, walking into that, that room, it’s the very worst day of my life, and, and for sure, having the awareness that that 1000s of people walk into those same rooms every single day was not unique. But this felt really unique to me. And I looked at my stepmom, and I was like I am, I am helpless. I don’t know what to do. Like, my dad always was the solution finder in my life. And I would go to Him with all of my problems. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t like, this was my time to help him. I couldn’t do it. And so she said, you know, he really likes the meditations, you started recording presentable when you just start playing some of them and see, and he was in and out of consciousness, and I just pressed play and held his hand and breathed and the nurses and the doctors that would come in and out, we’re taking these big, beautiful breaths with us. And it was this, probably over an hour that I have with him where, you know, his heart rate came down, and we were able to, you know, talk to him and have that really beautiful moment. It was like, Oh, wow, like I really started this company for children. But it’s kind of for everyone, you know, I think we all really can benefit from the sun. Certainly seeing you know, the reaction and the from the the caregivers to like, compassion fatigue is a thing. And it’s it’s really hard, especially in an ICU to to acknowledge that that is that person’s or that families or who you know, that group’s worst day, because that’s, that’s exhausting. And so giving them those opportunities to to take care of themselves, and to take those deep breaths was like, Oh, wow, this is so much bigger than I really thought. And we ended up losing my dad the next day. And it was a shock. It was like, I think you’re really so I always say this, like, I was just really surprised my own heart and stop, I really thought that it would. And you know, aside from losing my children, it was like, that was huge. And it’s incredible, like how resilient humans are. But like, it was a big blow to my system. And but at that moment, I just knew I was like, I’m going to take this, and I’m not going to waste whatever time I have left here, I’m not going to waste it. And so I think by like that was in May, by December, I had all of the drawings done, I had all of the files developed by that the four months later, I was in China touring factories, and you know, I wanted to make sure that this device was as safe and and, and the best thing that I could possibly produce. And I really haven’t stopped running since then six months after that I had 5000 Animals show up at my door. So this was December of 2019. And it was like, Oh my gosh, what like this is crazy. And, and so I you know, I kind of, you know, took my time as far as you know, really like launching the product, but then turned on advertising March 1 of 2020, which is the kind of raises time and like, very quickly, you know, like you and I met just shortly after that. And it was it kind of took off. And it was incredible. And I’ve learned an amazing amount. But I guess going back to like what the heck is this thing? So it’s a little standalone device. It’s it’s actually nice, like, Why do I not have one? This is
so basic, you’re so you’re so lovely. So it’s just a it’s a standalone, it’s just a completely screen free device. There’s no Bluetooth, there’s no Wi Fi. It plays nine guided meditations from everything from sleep, which is obviously like always the fan favorite and gratitude, empathy, restoration inspiration, which is really great for focus and creativity. And then just a simple breath meditation. So you just want like a quick three minute like just cooldown. That’s a really really nice one and stillness in there. I mean they all kind of like the idea of doing the nine was that it was sort of the the umbrella of mindfulness and sort of the the categories that it can benefit and there’s volume up and down. There’s also asleep sound function so when the device is powered on it will play either real axing music, while ocean waves are white noise, which is kind of nice when you’re traveling, so you don’t have to bring both machines. All of the meditations are loaded on a microSD card that can be swapped out. For new meditations, we have 11 cards at this point in time and always developing new ones, we have a new one coming down the road here pretty soon, and I’m really excited about and it’s rechargeable, the battery life lasts about seven hours. And then it’s about an hour and a half to charge, there’s an earphone jack and a speaker. So very basic, but it’s great for different things, so many things. It’s, it’s great for different environments. So my kids have one in their classroom, we have sold to several hospitals, and they typically will use the earphone functionality just so it just creates a nice environment where you don’t, don’t feel like other people are listening to what you’re experiencing, which is kind of cool. But the speakers great. So if kids share a room or whatever, they can be listening to the to the same thing at the same time and the silicone covers of food grade silicone, so it can literally be be chewed on in a safe and it can also be taken off and thrown in the dishwasher. So sanitizer bubble, and I have two kids, I have a six and eight year old. So I do I do know that everything seems to get some sort of grime on it. So it was important for me to to make it clean and bold. But that’s that’s essentially the basis of, of the why and the how and the what and I don’t know if I missed anything, but that that is that is sort of minimal.
And it is the most amazing product. And I found it, I ended up on accident. You know, it was one of those, I was going through my own personal issues with having, you know, rare stomach cancer, my son was similar age to your kids. And we would find him sleeping on the stairs because he was afraid I was gonna die. So if you wanted to hear my voice, and I’m like, how do you tell a four year old or a five year old that Mommy’s not gonna die, she had her stomach removed, she had a double mastectomy, but she’s okay. And there’s no cancer, you can’t teach that to a kid. He just knows that mommy’s sick, right? And you came into my life at that time, because I needed something to help calm my kids down at bedtime because they were starting to get that anxiety. Now my daughter was younger, she was only two. But Max was like four turning five when I found you. He was just about to turn five. And it’s heartbreaking. Heron you know. And I think one of the things I mentioned you which I didn’t understand until we met for the first time on the last time we did a recording was at the end of each meditation, you said something that still sticks with me today. And every night I now say it to my kids. So thank you is your don’t forget, you’re a good kid. And I mentioned that to you the last time we spoke. And you told me that that was what your dad said to you every night, which I didn’t know at the time. It was just at the end of every meditation. And I’m like, I love that like your kid. Yeah. Know that. Right? Do they feel that? That like, yeah, I just know that. And I would like, tell me that story. I was like, Oh my gosh, like, that’s my favorite part of the meditation. And I didn’t even know the meeting at the time. You know? Yeah.
Yeah. Thank you for that. Thank you for bringing that up. Because it is. That was a big portion of my dad’s legacy that I wanted to pass on. And I and I do get some pushback on it. Because I think a lack of understanding of what I am saying in that in that sentence is it’s not the good. That’s the opposite of bad. It’s not like, Oh, you’re okay, right now, it’s like, no, no, no, you’re always good. You’re always enough and like, you are seen and you are loved, and no matter what, and that was, I mean, I can’t even like I don’t know that my dad or we ever had a conversation where he didn’t say Don’t forget, you’re a good kid at the end of it. I mean, it’d be multiple times a day, sometimes when we were kids and walking out of the ICU room, that final time, it was the last thing he said to me. And I was 36. So it was like it never it never stopped. And I think even you know, parents listening to that, it’s like, you’re good kid too. You know, and I think I’m actually tempted because I have gotten some some pushback for it. Because I think it is not always, you know, readily understood, because I think we do sort of live in this world of opposites of like, you’re either it’s black or white, you know, and it’s not a it’s not a it’s not an like an always always thing and so, you know, it was really funny because with my grand with with my with with my kids, so my dad’s grandkids he started saying Don’t forget, you’re a great kid. And he would joke he’s like your mom’s a good kid. But you’re a great kid. Yeah, so funny. So funny. But I liked him to just to say like, you’re right, like, you’re just great. You’re beautiful and you are perfect. And just the way you are and I don’t care what the thoughts you have, and I don’t care the things you do and I don’t care that you drew on the wall with permanent marker like you’re, you’re lovely. And I think that was that was just missing. So thank you for bringing that up it it’s such an important element to what I’m doing
is just and I apologize, I’m just kind of close. The window. It’s quite windy here in Philly today. But the products themselves right like every night we go to bed now and have since the day this little guy came into our life. And my kids call it ablutions which was the term my husband started using instead of meditation, my Google that one time, it does mean something similar. So I kind of laugh because now we just call them ablutions. Where am I ablutions? Every night when my kids go to bed, we do our ablutions. And for a while, we would lay with them, right? There were years where I was recovering, and my husband or I would do bedtime, and we played it. Now, during the pandemic, my daughter started to sleep in my son’s room with him. And they’re just buddies like, so he has a trundle bed, she sleeps on that he sleeps on his bottom part of his bunk bed, and we do the ablutions. And every night, they fall asleep, I hear in his voice every night, folks. Voice on the turtle, and we play sleep or something else. And there’s times where like, sometimes, you know, when we live in a very fast paced world, and my kids are busy, and sometimes, you know, they get a little out of line with certain things. And I’m like, we need gratitude, immediately sit down. We’ll play the gratitude meditation. And we can say, well, there are children that are hungry, you know, like, I go off on a tangent. That’s something that I’m like, you need your expectations. And I pulled my son away from kickball one night last summer. And he’s running across the yard. Now he has seven at the time going. Use your breath. Oh, because he was learning to use his breath to control his emotions? Most likely.
Yeah, yes. Yes. Yeah, it’s just
teaching our kids that they have this ability. Like so many toddlers I work with in the sleep consulting, right in the work I do at Tiny transitions. The zoo animal is the number one product that I recommend for toddlers age two and up, right. And you might have a really young age, and I’m like, You know what, when you have a two year old, who is used to something to go to sleep, right, and parents hire me, and they’re like, there’s all this stuff going on. They’re just doing it together. And it’s something that even if a child is still in a crib, or if they’re in a toddler bed, like you can put it on, and it brings this immediate, like, what was a stage seven, down to like a two. And like, I mean, and it’s just so cool to see. And you know, and you don’t always see those reviews, if you will, because they’re coming to me, but it’s like to see the impact that a product like this has on a two year old. And on a 12 year old, right and on me as an adult, like I have the adult one I have some of the different cards and you know, depending on my day, like I’ll put this on to and my husband and I do it in our own room. Like it has just brought I’m not somebody who can meditate. I am not a meditator, I can’t sit and find one with yourself. Like that’s just not I can’t like my mind is like squirrel, you got stuff to do get the newsletter. cookies or something, right. So very much like a squirrel brain. And I’m trying but I’m not there yet. I’ll say like, the short tidbits of meditation that I get from this is amazing one, it gives you a chance to connect with your kids. I do it with my Yeah. So it’s 10 minutes of me connecting with them. Myself, sometimes my husband might fall asleep doing them and I’m like, Why didn’t you wake me up? Yeah, you know, so he come in at like nine and he’s like, Yo, yeah. Like, alright, but it’s just you’re so relaxed that you just fall asleep. And that’s the point. It just brings peace. You know, my nephew struggled a little bit with anxiety. And he stayed over last night. And he was like, trying to watch something at two in the morning. And he’s got his device and he’s like, meditations and he’s like bumbling around on his phone. And I’m like, What are you doing? You’re like, 11 Here’s the turtle. Here’s like, and you’re good, buddy. The doors open. I’m right here. I rubbed his back kind of like your dad used to do you know, because I’m like, away. Yeah. And send them on. And he’s like, I’m like, it’s alright. But, you know, it’s like these kids overstimulated these days. Yeah, the animal will and has been for years now like a staple. And I, I just want people to understand, like, there’s many benefits to something like this. You know, it’s different types of meditations. The fact that you can use it at different ages, a two year old if they do have it near them can chew on it, they’re not going to die. It’s food grade silicone or, like anything amazing. Like, it’s safe. And I think that was so important. You even mentioned earlier in your design most like I think the portability of a product that doesn’t include the screens like my phone doesn’t come upstairs. I don’t want my phone upstairs. I answer my phone if you are dying for the cops, because that’s the only way you’re gonna get me is the first day I’ve worn this in like three months. I’m like, I don’t want you to I don’t want to know that. You texted me. Yeah, my old crappy red rose gold watch on now and that’s what I wear. Yeah. Like it’s so connect. Everything is so connected. Like, yeah, like take a deep breath and decompress. And animal has done that. You know, I mean, people find it Right, like so. I know that there’s a lot coming down the docket with zoo animal, they can order them on the website, right? Yes, yes. Get them on Amazon because I have people. I just shipped the first one over to the Netherlands actually, oh my gosh, that’s amazing. So my business coaching program, she was like, Can you please everyone all panels? I ordered it and then I shipped it over to the Netherlands. So you’ve made it into the Netherlands, but anxiety? And she’s like, I don’t know what to do I need this product. Yeah, yeah, send it to her. And so it’s really cool. But like, how do they find you? Like, what? What are some of the things that you guys are working on? You mentioned some new cards, we have like a bunch. Like it’s like Anna’s? Oh, yes. Yeah, there used to Anna. So you know, there’s a million cards and like, last you like talk about the product and what you do with them.
Yeah, so we do sell them on our website, which is great. So all of our products are available on our website. And we actually have several products that we’re going to start carrying from other companies as well that sort of tie in to to our mission, which is really exciting. So that the probably the next month or two, we’ll start having those those available. But for sure, Amazon, you can actually buy both devices, either the teen adult or the kids on Amazon there, it’s only available in the teal, and the blue. So like I said, all of the products are available on our on our website. But we did want to give people the option. You know, it’s I get it as a mom, like, it’s hard to steer clear of Amazon, I feel like any of us love that gives you like it leaves once a week show up at my door. And as I make it, I make an effort to not shop there. Yeah, it’s like it’s just sometimes you do and and it’s great. Like if somebody can just throw in your cart and it’s it comes it’s great shipping and all of the things so I understand I do understand the appeal of so that’s why we did it and and then we do have a really I can’t quite talk about it yet. But a really exciting partnership with a with a big box retailer coming up, at the end of summer that I’m over the moon and cannot believe it’s even real, I was shocked when they reached out it was like, oh, what I thought it was a joke. So that that it will be happening again. And then we do have all new products coming which will probably will not be available for the next nine months, I guess. And that will be a game changer for sure and give a lot more capabilities to the device. So stay tuned for that. Because that is like it’s finally now that sort of I have a product, you know that that I know fits into the market, I can finally develop the one that I’ve always dreamed of. And so thrilled to be doing that. And so I’m back in product development, which I love and but on all social media accounts, we’re at the zoo animal. And then you can always reach us to Hello at Zoo animals.com. If you have any questions or comments or concerns or anything, we try to be try to be you know, as connected as possible with people, I think that’s something that I’ve, you know, really realized is starting this this business and sort of going through this pandemic and really having all this mental health awareness is like what has happened? Yeah, we can like point fingers at these devices. We can point fingers at social media. But why why? Why is it as this becomes, you know, this, this source of sort of entropy for society. And I think a really big part of it honestly, is like, we all feel a little untethered. And you know, I think they’re, you know, this is this is a little controversial, maybe, but like, we have tossed out religion from a big portion of sectors of life, from from government, from schools from from everything. And while I think that there are hugely positive ramifications to that, you know, as far as, you know, being able to value other religions and things like that, and, you know, the power struggle, all of the things right, like getting political here, but what has sort of happened with that, as we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. And so there’s this lack of sort of connection that we have with other human beings or this feeling that there is something bigger than outside than yourself, right. And it’s not, it doesn’t have to be a god, it doesn’t have to be anything, it can be family, it can be community, it can be, you know, whatever it is that we’ve lost our sort of our touch point to that which we’re really hardwired to need that and we feel anxious, if we don’t have that you feel like you’re out in space, you’re not tethered to the, to the Space Shuttle anymore, and you’re just floating and you’re it’s like Does anyone care if I’m out here? I don’t know. And so I think you know, that’s something that I do I do, you know, with with the platform that I have is really advocating for people to get out there and find their their source of spirituality I guess and I it’s like, that’s such a that’s a tough word. I do I do know but it’s like, volunteer somewhere, go out connect with other human beings feel seen and see other people you know, even being in the grocery store, acknowledge that when you walk by somebody in the soup aisle, like they have an entire universe inside of them. And they you feel like you’re the only one like with you know, all of these crazy thoughts and these He was going on in your life and this nutty stuff and your to do list and all of this stuff like, genuinely walk by someone and be like, I wonder what their universe feels like. And I think, yeah, like I really, I really hope to be able to keep pushing that message to people and, and helping them find that for themselves because it’s something that I have found incredibly valuable. And again, like, I’m not pushing religion, I’m just pushing, you know, finding something outside of yourself. And I think we’ve gone down a little bit of the self care rabbit hole, which is great, we do need to be taking care of ourselves. 1,000% I’m not going to argue with that. But I think we’ve missed a little piece of that is like, Yeah, but taking care of yourself also means having purpose and taking care of others, or animals or whatever it is where it’s like, sometimes we’ve turned so far inward of like, well, how do I fix me it’s like, but part of fixing yourself is finding a purpose outside of it. And so, yes, I still do my crazy face facial routine at night for myself care, and I do meditate, I do do yoga, and exercise and all of that, absolutely, but but the thing that I’m really focused on now is getting out there, and I’m, you know, you know, trying to volunteer more with my children and, and just, you know, make a massive effort to be kind and to see people and acknowledge that I see them. Because I think that that is something that we’re that we’re missing, as, you know, probably a little you know, quite a bit of a result from social media and things like that, as we all feel unseen, we all, you know, need this constant validation and dopamine hits of, you know, what’s next, what’s next? What’s next? And what can what can the world do for me? It’s like, now what can I do? What can I do for the world, they’re all you know, there’s just so much fear and hate right now. And, and I would love to diminish, to diminish part of that and, and to, to make people feel more secure in the world, because I think that ultimately results in, you know, a higher level of kindness and empathy, hopefully, so,
ya know, amen. My, you know, my kids, we drive to the beach on the weekends, and we’re blessed enough to have a place at the beach and several spots in Philly, where there are always homeless people. And I have to explain to a six and eight year old why this person is asking for food or money or water or something, right? And they don’t understand like, Oh, why don’t they just go home and eat dinner or something, you know, and we started to make homeless bags. And so my kids color school bags, like the lunch bags, and they write notes that say you are loved and draw a picture on them and stuff in the bag. And we go to the dollar store. And we get socks and nail clipper sets and deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush and some granola bars and little water bottles. And each bag probably has like 15 bucks worth of stuff in it. And we fold them up and we keep them in my car. And just last weekend, we were driving back from the beach, and we pulled up at a light and my son pulls the window down, the gentleman comes over and he hands him a bag and the guy says God bless you, you know, when my kids like I’m trying to teach them to your point, like not everybody has a home or food or parents that say they love you like, yeah, you have to look at the world, that you’re blessed and make their day better. Like my whole purpose in life isn’t to make $9 million. And live in Monte Carlo, it’s to go to bed every night feeling joy. And if I do that, I have succeeded in my life. Right. And that’s it’s such a different mindset. Now that I have that I did like in my 20s. And I was like, I want to grow the corporate ladder. Now. I’m like, you know, feel joy, have a happy family, like, you know, enjoy planting my garden and playing with my chickens outside? Yes. Just trying to do all of our hearts to me. Yes, the families, you know, feel better. And I think if we all take a little piece of that, and you know, go forward with it, then the world would be a much better place. And I know you have for another meeting. But yes, yeah, everybody know that this is the life changing product. And you can have a cue out on their website, we’ll put all the links in the show notes. Because animal is a life changing product for kids and for adults. So thank you so much, Miss Anna, for joining me your talk. And thank you.
Thank you so much, Courtney, I appreciate you and appreciate all the work you’re doing and I just want to be connected for forever and always. So thank you.
You’re welcome. All right, thanks so much. Bye for now. Bye. Bye. Hold on. One more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show, I want to help you build a great sleeper not just in the times you’re listening to the show. But all day every day. Every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber made simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support, laughs and the latest in sleep research, to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community that’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join. I can’t wait to see you there.