Archive » October 5, 2007
By Leanne Cooper-Elliott
Valley Resident Launches Family-Oriented Company
For Nick Gianis, the catalyst for a major life change started with a common dilemma -- how to maintain a professional career in order to provide financially for his family, and how to provide emotionally for his family in spite of his professional career. It is a common source of guilt among parents, and Gianis, who at the time was 39 and Vice President of a fast-growing pharmaceutical services company based in Frisco, Texas, was no exception.
The real clash came after a promotion and a move to Texas from San Diego. Things intensified when Gianis spent most of his waking hours, six days a week or more, helping to nurture his 30-member sales and marketing team to be all they could be; while at home, his daughters had to cope with little or no daily nurturing or direction from their father.
“I traveled regularly, and when I wasn’t traveling I would leave before my daughters woke up in the morning and come home from the office after they had dinner. It got to the point where my girls were used to never having me at home,” said Gianis.
Although he praises his wife, Shani, for being an incredible parent in his absence, Gianis felt that nothing took the place of a home with two parents. A little soul-searching and a desire for change brought Gianis to the doorstep of a man named Vikash Sanyal, a lifelong friend and founder of a new company called Life’s Building Blocks. Gianis had been involved in the company since its inception in August 2003, but after explaining to Sanyal his goal to leave the corporate world and to focus on his family, Gianis found that Sanyal’s company and vision provided a new career opportunity that perfectly fit both his personal and professional goals.
“It was a lightening bolt moment for me.” Gianis confesses.
Gianis, Sanyal, and another lifelong friend, Darren Alexander, struck a professional partnership and began to develop, in earnest, a company with the primary focus of building strong moral character in children ages 4 to 11. They brought together character development experts, game development experts, and award-winning children’s book authors to create a system of fun, interactive learning products that gets the whole family involved.
In June, with a pregnant wife, Gianis moved his family to Buellton, where they could be closer to Shani’s family here in the valley, and the Life’s Building Blocks headquarters in San Diego.
Nick and Shani were high school sweethearts, grew up in Los Angeles and both graduated in Business Administration from San Diego State University. When the career change presented itself, they jumped at the chance to move back to California, a state they never dreamed of leaving in the first place.
Gianis has been working with Life’s Building Blocks full-time since August, but the company launched officially in June with a full line of in-home products that are making a serious splash with the younger generation. This is largely due to careful research, and also because the program offers easy, effective tools for parents with busy schedules.
The games and tools are based around characters called the “Spruce Street Six”, a group of friends, each of whom is known for a particular virtue, and all of whom have a penchant for situations that conjure the tough choices in any moral dilemma. The programs are age specific and include an Adult Guide, Chapter (story) Book, Activity Book, “Thank You” Cards, a Family Activity/Challenge Card and a “What Would Zaki Do?” board game. Each month, the program addresses the importance of all virtues (honesty, courage, self-control, kindness, perseverance and fairness), while focusing on one in particular, allowing children to ponder and interact with situations involving the virtue in depth for up to a month or more. The monthly program is addressed to the child and sent by mail to his or her home.
Much of the research during the development happened right in Gianis’ home with his daughters, Alexi, 12, and Kadyn, 8.
“It’s been a wonderful way to bring the family together and get us all involved in Nick’s career,” said Mrs. Gianis.
The girls helped pick chapter headings and other important parts of the program, but Alexi and Kadyn weren’t the only ones learning. Nick and Shani discovered that what they had considered to be a good job teaching their girls right and wrong was more reactive than pro-active. Gianis found this to be the case with many parents with whom he’s spoken.
Amy Curti of Santa Ynez is mother to a 4 year old. “My son is in pre-school, and even at his young age he’s already experiencing real-world moral dilemmas. This program is a great tool to help us teach the values we hold as a family. To me it’s a no-brainer -- everyone needs to have this in their home. Turn off the television, read the book, play the game, and watch something amazing happen.”
The Character Development Program is currently distributed through what Life’s Building Blocks calls character coaches. Through in-home character building parties and personal networking, character coaches have the dual pleasure of making a difference in families’ lives as well as earning a full or part-time income.
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