Necessity isn’t the only mother of invention. Sometimes being a good mother does the trick. After a successful career in the financial industry and the birth of her second child, Lisa Cagigas Johnson ’91 found herself juggling the full-time demands of parenting and the busy schedules of her children, who were involved in dance and soccer and T-ball, as well as the day-to-day activities of school and family life. One of her primary concerns was making sure her kids grew up with a healthy diet. Explaining that she views food as preventive medicine, Johnson said, “I wanted my kids to eat well, and I was worried how I would be able to accomplish that with a busy schedule.”
Enter Johnson’s light-bulb moment. She realized that she could create an educational tool for her children through which both they and she could track the progress of their eating habits and fitness. She drove to the store and bought a simple roll of felt. What she envisioned was something tactile for her children to interact with—a format that would offer visual feedback on their accomplishments. The best part: no need for electronics and no batteries required. The end result was An Apple A Day, a colorful tracking board that helps children keep track of healthy food choices and exercise (the Healthy Choices Tracker) or responsibilities (the Responsibility Tracker). When a child eats a food or completes a task, he or she closes the door. The goal is to have all the doors closed by the end of the day.
From the beginning, Johnson wanted the trackers to get families talking about those choices and to give parents an opportunity to have important discussions with their children about their lifestyles.
“We didn’t want to develop an app,” says Johnson. “Children have enough screen time; mine certainly do, so we wanted to create something tactile and 3-D for children to actually hold and for parents to put on the side of the refrigerator.”
An Apple A Day has enjoyed successful partnerships with insurance companies, schools, and nonprofit organizations such as United Way. Johnson’s future plans include continued partnership with these types of organizations, as well as a focus on web and retail sales. But Johnson makes it clear that no matter what happens to the company in the future, it was already a success when she saw her original vision take shape in her children’s hands.