10 to Watch Winner: Family Sparks

As a social impact business, Family Sparks is focused on using digital, clinically driven solutions to change the mental-health space — and change lives.

Erin Skillen and Dr. Jillian Roberts. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

Broadening the conversation around mental health means accepting the workplace as important to the well-being of the average working adult.

At Family Sparks, a mental wellness company founded by psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts, the goal is to disrupt the mental-health space with digital, clinically based solutions that change lives.

Family Sparks began as an online parent counselling service but has grown to provide mental-health services for a wide range of clients.

“We didn’t realize how little discussion people were having about mental wellness in their companies,” says Erin Skillen, COO and co-founder. “It was something you see symptoms of every day, but you don’t really think of it as an overall trend that you can do something about.”

“We began to see that everybody was in dire straits,” she adds. “People needed an alternative to massive corporate programs.”

With that in mind, Family Sparks added an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), providing clinically based counselling, coaching and resources to help businesses support and improve employees’ mental wellness. 

Working with carefully vetted affiliate partners for face-to-face counselling in Victoria, Nanaimo and Toronto, the EAP also has online video and chat counselling and HR training, along with legal and financial advice for some 500 employees — and still growing.

Q & A with Erin Skillen of Family Sparks

What was the best business advice you ever received?

Be yourself, tell a compelling story and surround yourself with smart people whose strengths complement your weaknesses.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

There’s rarely a perfect time to start, so stop talking about it and start doing something about it.

What was the scariest part of starting up?

Imposter Syndrome. That little voice that says, “Who do you think you are? You can’t do this.”

What book or podcast have you found most inspirational?

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and How I Built This with Guy Raz

What would you do differently if you could do it all again?

I honestly wouldn’t do anything differently because even the mistakes taught me something and got me here to where I am now. And I love where I’m at.

This article is from the April/May 2019 issue of Douglas.