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31 August 2023

When Moms Move - 5 Questions for Meryl Szolkiewicz, founder of JIKA Sitting Ball

— My Story

The My Story Tribe will partner with Jika Sitting Ball in 2024, and we are beyond excited to grow our impact on children's mental health through movement. How many fabulous, impactful businesses are created when moms across the world put their foot down and address something that irks them, right? Hundreds. They see a problem, find (or create!) a solution, and turn that into a thriving business. One of those women is Meryl Szcolkiewicz and we are fans!

Meet Meryl.


Often, women are a multitude of things. Who are you?

Hi, I'm Meryl Szolkiewicz, a mother, a wife, a sister and a friend. Right now I have 14 tabs open on my browser(slowing down the processing speed of my laptop), but I'm mostly wondering if I should go spend some time with my children who are currently on holiday. 

Sometimes I consider myself a professional juggler, keeping literal and figurative balls in the air and sometimes I drop a few. Besides acting and music, I owned a Pilates Studio and worked with many bodies including children and postpartum women; I've homeschooled my 3 boys and now, as a deliberate mindful exercise - I am focusing on one business: Jika Sitting Ball which is where all the ideas in my head can bounce around and collaborate. 

 I am motivated by 3 things: Cultivating Community, Storytelling and Empowering others to move towards their purposes - which is why this space in MyStoryTribe is so valuable to me.

What is your opinion / take on the impact of MOVEMENT on the physical , emotional and mental development of a child?

The Pilates world offer a portal to human movement and physiology and how they are connected. I worked with adults first, and witnessed how stresses and trauma get stuck in our bodies and how we develop compensations around them. Then, how specific movement paired with intentional breathwork (and sometimes manual deep pressure 'activations') shift the body and mind away from restrictions. 

During these discoveries, my own children were at the school starting phase (ages 4-7) and we, as parents, contended with things like focusing on word sums, or sitting still, finishing tasks, self-regulating; and one child that just wants to be outside and upside-down! It's interesting how our children will model what they see and by integrating movement into our home as a practice, we were able to bridge some of these meltdowns. I also had Paediatric Occupational Therapists friends who are a wealth of valuable information. Working with kids is tricky because you HAVE to play, but it became a creative outlet to get these growing bodies past milestones. 

At some point in our home, we even had crawling time, where we would literally crawl around the house - it sounds ridiculous, but crawl therapy is a thing and actually is a necessity for our physiology and reflex integration as well as a list of other benefits.

List 5 benefits of movement for children.

 Besides the obvious: Coordination, reflex integration, depth perception, balance, core strength...(that's 5, right?)


At the beginning of the kids class I would ask:

 Are you a squashed banana or a crispy carrot? 

A simple illustration of how we can move through a space and how we perceive ourselves in that space - Proprioception. Movement builds our proprioception sense which has a direct effect on our confidence. How much more important is that for our kids with their growing limbs and seemingly overnight body transitions?

At the end of the class, we would do a cooldown with some breathwork exercises and I would ask the kids:


 Hand on your heart, name one thing you are thankful for. 


Sometimes these utterances would be so beautiful that we all realise that we are part of a greater fabric and through gratitude, we can be more mindful.

How did your philosophy of movement lead to JIKA?

It came from a concept: 


What if I could design a life we didn't need a holiday from? 


A call to be more conscious of our everyday decisions and problem solving as we went along.  We were homeschooling and the kids needed more effective seating that didn't restrict them. The more people would come through my studio doors, the more I realised that I was treating the symptoms of their stresses and not the cause. At some point during the pandemic, I was giving "Mindful Desk Movement" workshops and classes to corporate office workers through Zoom to combat Sitting Disease as some call it. 

So what if instead of finding ways to cope with our environment and stresses, we just change the way we sit. Just transform the one thing that we are doing too much of?

The word Jika means to twist, turn or transform. It's a Xhosa word (I'm an Eastern Cape girl) and so it was an apt name for this Sitting Ball. Let's Jika!

What is the dream? How would you like JIKA to impact kids and where do you see this business going?

Sometimes I think that my dreams aren't big enough. I guess that comes from my acting career and experiencing many set-backs and disappointments; 


but my Big Hairy Audacious Goal (B-HAG) is to have a whole range of flexible active seating options to promote movement during our work time. 


I have so many product ideas and it seems daunting. As an entrepreneur, having a good idea is not enough (and Jika is a fantastic idea!). Seth Godin writes, 


"Marketing is the act of making change happen. Making is insufficient. You haven't made an impact until you've changed someone." 


My hope is to serve our schools and supporting structures (Tutor centers, homeschooling cottages and hubs) with the concept of flexible active seating and partner with parents to serve the home as well. It has helped my family and I know it can help others. 

What are your tips for moms who run a business?

Oef! Can we trade tips? I love collaboration and find so much value in hearing others stories so I don't feel so alone in this entrepreneurial journey. 

I listen to a lot of podcasts for motivation. Even in telling just part of my own story here, I am able to take stock of how far Jika has come and the convictions that made me step into this arena in the first place. 

 One big thing that I am currently learning is actually a music phrase: 


Poco a Poco. It means little by little.


 There are weeks that go by that I am only able to implement a tenth of what I have planned, but that little bit was able to move me to occupy a space that I didn't before. That I need to stay faithful in the small things and not only worry about the big things, even if the movements and pivots are small. That they can create impact through consistency.

(If you are curious about The My Story Tribe's own Meet on the Mat movement series click here!)