Jan McWilliams – Smart Skills

by Claire Minnaar

Tell us a bit about YOU and your family (where you are based, single / married, number of kids, etc)

Based in CT, I live with my wonderful husband of 20 yrs as well as my 16 yr old son and 13 yr old daughter

What is the name of your company and when did you start your business?

SmartSkills (Pty) Ltd – I started at the end of February 2010, thinking I would ease in slowly, produce my material for workshops and the like – and WHAM – never looked back! There is an enormous demand for the service I provide to learners and educators alike.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I worked as a professional organizer for a while but my passion is helping kids learn the essential “exectutive” life skills they need to get through school and life successfully with their self-esteems intact. The School Sorted Planner I developed and had to print because of demand from schools is enabling me to reach learners on a much wider scale, which is so amazing,

What are the challenges you face or have faced being a working Mom and how have you overcome them?

Consultations with learners can only be done after school – which is when my own kids need my time (and taxi) – it limits the amount of clients I can see each week – fortunately many parents work with me to teach their kids the skills, and I can consult with them in the mornings.

What is the hardest part or have been some of your struggles starting your own business?

I have struggled with the legal aspects – trademarking, copyright, forming a (pty) ltd and the like – thank goodness for my wonderful man! It is so technical, as well as costly, and his support has been unwavering.

How do you balance your business and your family?

Luckily the skills I teach to learners and educators are things like planning, organization and time management – these all help me fit a lot into each day comfortably. Saying this, the first print run of the school Sorted planner was draining and demanding, and my family did not see enough of me!

What or whom has been the greatest support for you and your business?

My husband Rory, my sister Sue and special friend Sandy – all offer varied and continuous encouragement when it all seemed too much for one person to handle!

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Use a different printer!!! No seriously, I would have gone a little slower and allowed myself more time to breathe!

What advice can you give other Moms out there who are starting a new business?

If you are blessed to find what you are passionate about, helps others and you love doing it – just GO FOR IT! Passion and commitment show and the rewards you reap are so emotionally fulfilling!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that I may have missed?

Making great contacts is vital – I have not spent a cent on advertising and yet I have more clients than time and will have to order another print run of School Sorted – it helps to have a great product that really works, but referrals and recommendations make up all of my business. Always provide more to your clients than you set out to or they expect!

If other Moms would like to keep in touch, how can they contact you?

Mobile: 082 933 4632
Website: www.smartskills.co.za
Email: jan (at) smartskills.co.za

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Lindy Diane Smit March 28, 2011 - 6:52 pm

Jan has really developed a fantastic product with her School Sorted Planner. It has already helped so many children and should be a must in every school backpack. Teaching children to organise and plan their days will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Isabelle March 28, 2011 - 8:42 pm

Jan is so passionate about what she does and this shows through when you talk to her about her product. Ultimately she wants children to succeed and they will because of her determination.
Congrats Jan!


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