We sat down with Sophie Kirby, transplant from the UK, mastermind, writer, director, producer, singer and star of Sophie and Friends, to learn how her career in journalism, interest in psychology, experience with her own mental health and emotional awareness, as well as an old children’s TV show in the US inspired her to create this YouTube channel for kids. Read on to learn more on this founding story set out to change the world for the best.
When did you come to Berlin and what brought you here initially?
I moved to this beautiful city almost seven years ago and I can't believe how quickly my time here has gone! To be honest, it was my gut that brought me here. After completing a Masters degree in Television Journalism in London, I had a very strong and almost visceral sense that I needed to move to Berlin. So I essentially came here with no plan aside from adventure, exploration and growth. I'm happy to say I've never regretted it! Luckily things somehow aligned and literally as soon as I landed at Schoenefeld airport, I got a call from the BBC needing a producer to immediately jump in on a documentary project.
One of the biggest challenges when arriving here is finding a network of friends and collaborators. Did you struggle with this? What were some things that helped you to expand your network here?
This is certainly something I've struggled with over the years - especially many friends I made early on left the city to begin new chapters. I had some experience of building a new network in a foreign city as I previously lived abroad while doing my undergrad in Modern Languages - so I made use of some of the things I'd discovered then: couchsurfing gatherings, meetup.com and generally pursuing hobbies I love, and being open and curious towards people I met through them.
But despite these things, there have been low points - especially as a freelancer, as insecurity and lack of structure can be particularly challenging when one has a smaller support network. What's helped me more in recent years, in particular, is learning mindfulness-based self-compassion, which I use to soothe myself during difficult moments and find new strength to go back out there!
When and how did the idea for Sophie and Friends come about?
In hindsight, Sophie and Friends is something that has been percolating for many years - and has multiple contributing influences. My main job aside from Sophie and Friends is as a journalist in television news -- and my many years' experience in the newsroom have caused me to think deeply about how to solve the major challenges we as humans face. It’s also led me to consider the emotional factors that play a role in every political debate or decision, every news or current affairs story - not to mention every leader's character.
This fascination with psychology and strong desire to improve the world combined with discoveries at a personal level. Mindfulness, self-compassion and emotional awareness and regulation tools have greatly improved my sense of well-being and my own mental health and I've become passionate about sharing them with others. Then there was the chance discovery of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood - the utterly brilliant and revolutionary US children's show of several decades ago that taught not only self-worth and tolerance, but also that emotions are acceptable and mentionable. Thousands of people say it transformed their lives for the better - and the second I saw it, I realised that's what the world needs right now! That's what I HAVE to do! If children develop these emotional skills, if they learn compassion, and if they gain a fundamental security in- and acceptance of- themselves, I believe the world can become a more peaceful and harmonious place.
Has founding the program helped you to feel more rooted in Berlin? Do you feel that it's supported you in "finding your people" / expanding your network?
Absolutely. Through Sophie and Friends, I've been lucky enough to become connected to the most wonderful, talented group of people who share similar interests and passions. Doing what I love has definitely helped me find my tribe!
Do you have any advice for new expats in Berlin in regards to reaching out and finding like-minded people to collaborate and socialize with?
Be yourself, follow your interests and be patient and kind to yourself through the ups and downs of settling in a new city. Building a new network of like-minded people takes time and strength and very often, a lot of luck too. But I've definitely found that the more you talk about what you're interested in, what you're passionate about and share your skills with other people, the more like-minded people somehow come to you!
As the mastermind of Sophie & Friends, do you have any advice for other newcomers who are considering starting their own businesses and projects?
Oh that's a tough one :)
Talk to as many people as possible. Everyone has some knowledge or skills or experience to share - and most often, people are very very happy to give it! Be willing to reorganize your priorities to put your business or project as high up as possible - so that it receives the time and attention it needs to get off the ground. But keep on living the life that makes you happy alongside that - with the balance that you require. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to build every successful idea. We're made to work together, so even if you feel like you don't know what you're doing, reach out to people, and you'll soon figure it out. Another thing that has helped me with this process is treating it like play! Not getting hung up on outcomes but enjoying the day-to-day and staying in the moment, the enjoyment of every bit of work and the reasons why I'm doing it -- to help others!