We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephen Tako and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Stephen, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor in our success is having the belief that the world needs our brand and that obstacles must not prevent us from being successful. Our success goes far beyond our own needs to be a healthy organization, because the focus is more on the children that we serve, who would not receive the help without our brand’s success. Success is the only option.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I am a storyteller. When I share stories, I live them in my head and do my best to bring the audience along for a fun journey. In a way, I suppose I never really grew up. At least not entirely… It’s probably what sets me apart from many others and allows me to see and feel what my young characters are going through in my stories.

As an artist, I also recognize my limitations and I’ve been fortunate to have the gift of collaborating with extremely talented people who are able to take my stories and characters and bring them into new dimensions.

Wayne Berg of Waynimation is the fabulous illustrator who brought the original concept designs of Peter Gullerud and updated them, along with new characters, to the digital screen with 11 x Emmy recipient James R. Alburger as the film/sound editor. Adding an amazing international voiceover cast (including 5 former NFL players), transformed my three books into award-winning films!

What really excites me is that my books and films are all now part of the Confident Life™ Anti-Bullying Program! The pilot program is running at a school this fall to help children in grades K-3rd and we know this program will make a big difference for children and families all across Southern California.

Being an avid lover of dancing and having an appreciation of traditions, we have developed the Pathways to Peace, Multicultural Dance-A-Thon! This fundraising event premieres in October (Bullying Awareness month) and will be an annual event that features family-friendly dancers from many different cultures.

It has been a long road to get to this level. I wrote my first “Dancing Yeti’ story in 2011 and after 5 illustrators and many story revisions, the first Junga the Dancing Yeti® book was finally published in 2018. In 2020 through 2022, during the pandemic, I released the 2nd & 3rd Junga books, plus completed all three films, AND started our non-profit, Motivated To Act, a 501(c)3.

This was not good timing to run fundraising campaigns and we have had to do much self-funding to complete each project. There have been many times when I felt temporarily defeated due to set-backs, but then I would remember all the children who are suffering or who will suffer, unless our program is implemented. That mental reminder was all I needed to keep going forward. Perseverance, determination and patience are clearly aspects of my success… and continuing to surround myself with people who are more talented than I am.

I’d like the world to know that Motivated To Act’s mission is to use the Junga Yeti stories in a variety of languages to appeal to young children and teach them the important skills of empathy, inclusion, conflict resolution and more. Our multicultural approach provides pathways to peace by showcasing and appreciating people from many different cultures.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

Our relatives were recently visiting from Europe and we took them on an 11-day road trip! It started in San Diego where we visited landmark location such as the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island, The International Houses at Balboa Park are always a hit and the Kobe burger at Prado is amazing. We went to Solana Beach and Torrey Pines to show them beautiful and relaxing spots. We also went to The Field Irish Pub where everything is authentic and oftentimes even the servers are imported from Ireland. Then to the incredible Extraordinary Desserts for the most beautiful and tasty desserts imaginable.

We drove up to Los Angeles to see the Hollywood sign and Stars on Hollywood Blvd. and visited many souvenir shops. We went to the Original Farmer’s Market in the Fairfax District and visited The Grove because it is always beautiful, clean and classy.

Before leaving the area, we always stop at Stolichnaya Bakery at Fairfax and Santa Monica Blvd. If anyone knows of a better European bakery, I’d be surprised. The pastry with cream and raisons is unbelievable, but best when you eat them right away.

Next we had a beautiful drive through Beverly Hills to see the mansions. As luck has it, there was a car show in the heart of the shopping district and we enjoyed people-watching as we walked the streets to see the car show.

We then headed over to Santa Monica and walked through the Third Street Promenade. One of my favorite places there is the Ye Olde King’s Head restaurant. It is particularly nice to have a cup of tea and scone and walk over to the cliffs to watch the ocean waves. The walk across the pier is a nice way to get a little exercise.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I’d like to give a shout out to two particular individuals from Sister Cities International.

First is Dr. Michael McQuary: Dr. Mike represented the San Diego Unified School District and personally endorsed my most recent children’s anti-bullying book, Junga the Dancing Yeti® in Yeti, Set, Go! He and I are both members of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club and his endorsement allowed the Rotary’s Youth Services Committee to sponsor our educational materials.
Because he believes in my mission to help children, Dr. Mike joined our non-profit (Motivated To Act) as an advisor and he has hand-delivered all three of our Junga the Dancing Yeti® books to children in South Africa. He opened up the opportunity for me and my business partner to attend the US-Mexico Annual Mayor’s Summit with Sister Cities International and introduced us to many influential people.

Next is Timothy Stiven: At the US-Mexico Mayor’s Summit, Dr. McQuary introduced me to Timothy Stiven, who is a humanities teacher at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego. Mr. Stiven and his high school students are very involved with a program called “Flowers for the Future”, where they help girls in Kabul, Afghanistan continue their education.
Tim brought our team into his classroom to discuss the multicultural aspects of our anti-bullying project, and his students worked on translating our educational materials into 5 additional languages, with more languages planned for this year. Since Mr. Stiven is also a member of Sister Cities International, he has opened opportunities for me to work with them on a big multicultural project for October, which is Bullying Awareness month.

And while I’m here, I’d also like to thank my partner Marzena Jakubowski who helped me co-found the anti-bullying non-profit, Motivated To Act. She has brought many years of wisdom to this program and I wouldn’t be here without her!

Website: www.MotivatedToAct.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/motivatedtoact/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-tako-6949733/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/motivatedto_act

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MotivatedToAct/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@stephentako1

Image Credits
Ward Leber and associates from the Child Safety Network® present Stephen Tako with the 2023 Award for Innovation in Curriculum for his work with Motivated To Act. Image on the Red Carpet is courtesy of Paul Nestor

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