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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Carlisle sisters hope to take on Moshi Monsters

Two sisters are launching a unique children’s venture they hope will eventually rival the likes of latest online craze Moshi Monsters.

Chi Chums photo
Julia Clifford shows In Search of Indalia to children at Norman Street School

Chi Chums has been founded by Julia and Jo Clifford, who also run the Curves ladies’ fitness centre in Carlisle.

In a career twist, the women have come up with a new kids’ concept they hope will soon be taking Cumbria, and eventually the world, by storm.

Set in the fantasy land of  Indalia, Chi Chums are characters that promote positive qualities such as happiness, confidence and self-esteem to children.

The women have used them to create a children’s book, interactive website and merchandise, all launching this weekend.

Julia, who has an 11-year-old daughter Jade and grown-up son James, said the inspiration for the project has come from their own children.

She said: “I was in Keswick with my daughter and she was picking up crystals and talking about how they made her feel. I thought it would be lovely to have them on a bracelet so she felt happy when she looked at it.”

From there a seed was planted. Julia started making prototype bracelets and saw a potential business opportunity. But it was speaking to sister Jo – who also has two children, Megan, 15, and Matthew, 19 – that transformed Chi Chums. They created characters for each mood and a story tying them together.

Then it was suggested they use their ideas to create a children’s book.

“With Chi Chums children take a magical  journey into the wonderful  world of Indalia,” said Julia. “They encounter fantastic creatures, each of which embodies the kind of inner  strengths that children need in their everyday lives if they are to be happy and self-confident.”

With help from the University of Cumbria they starting working with graphic designer Paul McDonald, who drew up the characters and has helped them develop the website.

To ensure the concept works, children from Norman Street Primary School in Carlisle have been testing out the characters and have been named as their Chi Chums Champions.

The launch has been organised to coincide with a charity open day at Wetheral Animal Refuge tomorrow. The Christmas fair runs from 10am to 4pm and Julia and Jo will be there signing copies of the book.

Julia added that although in some ways it is very different from the work they do at Curves, the principle – to change lives for the better – is the same.

Both women have lived in other countries, Jo for years in Mexico and Julia in Kenya, and say that despite its comparable wealth, the UK is not getting it right.

They refer to a recent Unicef report that shows that children here are the unhappiest in the developed world.

“That’s frightening and our inspiration comes from the desire to change that,” added Julia.

They hope to expand the website to include games and other features, with a similar membership-based model to that of global success Moshi Monsters.   

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