Jackie’s hectic half-dozen

Jackie Erb and son Tommy Cockram. Pictures: Louisa Jones

Jackie Erb is a busy Barwon Heads mum with six children ranging in age from 7 to 24 (I feel tired just writing that!).

When I drove into her neighborhood, I had a flashback to the good ol’ ‘80s (pre-devices) with kids roaming the streets everywhere.

Walking into the house of a big family, you would expect a bit of disarray but this wasn’t true in the slightest.

After chatting to Jackie for a bit you discover a sweet, super-organised, fun mum with a zest for life and quiet fire in her belly, which she has no doubt she has passed on to her babies.

One of those babies is 17-year-old Tommy, who has taken a covid creative curiosity and turned it into a mind-blowing global success.

Jackie reflects back to 14-year-old Tommy in covid and remembers thinking he was ‘wasting his time’ on social media.

Little did she know he was creating content that was building a global audience that currently sits at more than 8 million people.

And for someone who didn’t even know what TikTok was, Jackie is now all over it, as she manages the career of her globally-famous teen star.

Tommy has even feature in the Barefoot Investor Kids edition where he shares that he made $10k from one post!

You could presume a teen with this kind of success could be a little cocky or extroverted, but what I found was a polite, humble young man with a spirit of adventure and quiet determination.

I spoke to Tommy and Jackie to get the scoop on Tommy’s meteoric rise to social stardom.

So firstly, how did you end up in Barwon Heads with your Swiss husband Adrian?

I owned a racehorse farm in Modewarre with my ex-husband.

When we broke up, I moved to Barwon Heads to start a new life with my four kids.

My mum lived down there too, which was a great support.

I was going through a bit of a tough time, so I said to Mum, “Let’s go to Fiji on a holiday.”

I was on a tiny tropical island and met this beautiful Swiss gentleman, Adrian, who was there on a world trip with some mates.

He barely spoke English at the time. It was hilarious! We had a German girl interpreting things for us. Anyway, we really hit it off!

Long story short, we fell in love, had a long-distance relationship for a while, and then he bit the bullet and moved out here.

We married and had two more children. He is such a wonderful man!

That is the most romantic story ever! So six children? How do you do it and still look so sane and serene? I have two and struggle!

(laughs) Well, in all honesty, it’s exhausting and hectic! Two are not living here anymore, but I have always had to be super organized as the mental load is quite huge.

I have a calendar and I have lists that I check off daily.

I do things straight away. For example, if I get a message from school I will answer instantly,

otherwise I can’t get it done.

I make their lunches as soon as I unpack them from school and pop them in the fridge ready to go, because then it’s on to sport training or games and back to dinner.

I’m lucky that the work I do managing Tommy and helping Adrian in his business fit in really well around everything else.

It was funny, I asked Ava a question about what Mummy’s favourite thing to do is and she said, “Hanging the washing out!”

I try to make time for myself by going for a run or to the gym to keep some balance, but it’s definitely hectic.

So run me through the six children…

Edward, 24, is working construction. He left home and is doing really well. He loves hanging out with his friends and is looking to buy his first home.

He used to be heavily involved in karate and loves anime comics.

Bella, 22, is working for a shearing company and also left home. She loves her two staffies and horse riding.

She is a real country girl at heart and you will find her in riding boots most of the time.

Lily, 20, just finished her second year of university at Deakin studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology and criminology.

She was fortunate to get a scholarship from our local Bendigo Bank, which is a huge help.

She is also a talented artist and her work from Year 12 was featured in the National Gallery of

Victoria as part of Top Arts.

She also does art commissions on the side and has two part-time jobs – one at our local IGA and one teaching art at Pinot and Picasso.

Tommy, 17, is in Year 11 VCE at Oberon High school. He is completing his studies in conjunction with working on his social media content on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram.

He also has a part time job at Starfish Bakery.

He loves spending time with his friends and going to the gym to try and build his guns!

Ollie, 11, is in Year 6 at Barwon Heads Primary and is mad about sport, especially basketball, footy, and running.

He is in two basketball teams because he has so much energy.

He is extremely social and it’s not uncommon for us to have five of his friends streaming through the doors every day. I just have to lock the pantry.

He is a great little runner and missed out on making the state cross country by one position.

He is the most outgoing of all the kids. By far.

Ava, 7, is in Year 2 at Barwon Heads Primary and is very studious and loves school.

She plays basketball with her schoolmates, which is very cute to watch. She loves reading and crafts and her best friend Billie. They are inseparable.

She is obsessed with the beach and swimming even when it’s absolutely freezing. Little fish.

OK let’s hear from you, Tommy: Tell us about how it all started…

Tommy: When I was in lockdown I just started making videos on TikTok. It started off as me doing tricks on the trampoline and then I switched to storytelling videos.

Within my first month of TikTok, I had 500,000 followers.

So how many followers do you have now?

Tommy: I have 7.9 million on TikTok and one million on YouTube.

When did you start making videos?

Tommy: I’d been making videos for fun since I was nine on all sorts of things. I now try to do them daily. It’s always storytelling, explaining things like extreme sports, scary videos.

They usually go for about 30 seconds each.

Is there a secret to getting people hooked on your content?

Tommy: Yeah, you really have to catch the audience attention straight away.

I make a lot of scary videos now. People particularly love watching close calls with death.

It’s also important to use the right music, the right hashtags etcetera.

Do you need special equipment to do it?

Tommy: Not at all. For ages I just used an old phone I got for $500. I now use a GoPro 360 and I edit on my iPad through an app called VideoLeap. It really doesn’t cost much to get started.

So when you get to that many subscribers, do you start making money from it?

Tommy: Well, in America you can make money from TikTok, but not in Australia. So what I do instead is make promotional videos for different companies or businesses and that’s how I get paid.

Jackie: Because he’s under-18, I had to get my head around these platforms. I had never been on YouTube apart from looking up a song.

And as for TikTok, he literally came to me one day in covid and said “Mum, I’ve just hit a million subscribers on TikTok,” and I said, “What’s TikTok?”.

I’d never been on TikTok in my life!

At first, I thought ‘Geez, that’s amazing’, then all of a sudden I got an email about wanting to manage him!

I thought ‘This is getting serious for me’. Then contracts started coming through. Luckily my brother’s quite a good businessman and he got us a good lawyer and a mentor from the industry.

So now you manage him and look after all his business deals. Is it lucrative?

Jackie: It’s public knowledge from his feature in the Barefoot Investor Kids that he made $10,000 from one TikTok promotion, which is insane.

He hasn’t replicated that since but that’s because we say no to a lot of requests because they don’t align with his brand.

YouTube can be quite lucrative depending on your engagement and views.

Can you make a career out of it?

Jackie: It can definitely be a career, but you need to be very dedicated. It takes a lot of work and consistency.

It’s easy to get drained from constantly coming up with ideas and dealing with some possible negativity and trolls. You have your fans and the not-so-friendly.

You need to believe in yourself and go for it. Not care what others think.

Tommy is actually really humble and not your typical outgoing personality but I think that’s what sets him apart.

Amazing that Tommy featured in the Barefoot Investor for Kids. How did that come about?

Jackie: Scott Pape asked his subscribers to apply and so I did. Tommy was chosen from thousands of applicants, which was really exciting.

All the Barefoot Kids had a Zoom meeting with Scott to celebrate the book and have a meet and greet, which was a real highlight for Tommy.

Tommy, what do you do outside of school and making videos?

Tommy: I skate a lot. My dream is to get my skydiving license and skydive out of a hot air balloon one day.

I’m about to go in a Warbird plane and do aerobatics at Barwon Heads Airport. They’re taking me up for a video, which will be fun.

Oh, my God, I can’t imagine being his mother!

Jackie: I know, right? We’d be in a supermarket and he’d literally just do a backflip in one of the aisles!

We had two tramps at one stage in the backyard where he’d jump from one to the other doing tricks.

He’d go to meet-ups with people around Geelong in a warehouse and they’d all do tricks.

He’s only had a couple of broken bones, which is pretty good considering.

Do you get noticed in public?

Jackie: He does, but he’s quite humble. I don’t think he really likes the attention.

Sometimes when he gets noticed in the street he’ll get embarrassed and say, “Mum, mum” and I say, “Tom, eight million people are looking at you!”.

What advice would you have for kids thinking of wanting to build their own social following?

Tommy: Just stay consistent with your posting. Don’t give up.

I usually post at about 10 o’clock at night. I don’t really follow when it says the best times to post.

Personally, I don’t really think that’s accurate, algorithms change all the time. I’ll make the video post to YouTube and then I’ll post to TikTok, then to Instagram after.

Jackie, what stage would you say is the hardest with raising kids?

Jackie: Definitely teenagers – from 14 to 16. Because I have three of each, people always ask me this.

People think girls are hard but I think, for me, the boys are just a little more reckless.

Kids do all sorts of things, no matter how good we are as parents. So I’ve said to them, “You’re going to have temptations, you’re going to have to make your own decisions. I trust you but sometimes you’ll make dumb decisions, but I’ll always be here for you”.

What do you wish you knew about parenting in advance?

Jackie: That it goes really, really, really fast but you don’t know it until one day they drive off with a P-plate in the corner of the window of the car and you die a little on the inside.

It’s such a busy time of feeding/sleeping/playing/sports activities/school drop off and pick up and all that comes with being a parent that I wish I knew how to slow it all down a little bit and maybe try and enjoy it all a little bit more.

I wish I knew not to be in a rush all the time.

And although I feel pressured to sometimes be more or do more, that being a parent is hands down the best role I would ever have.

Check out Tommy’s social media accounts on TikTok, YouTube or Instagram at TCEZY.


Jackie at a glance…

Adrian Erb, husband, 42 – Hardworking, adventurous, gorgeous human.

Eddie Cockram, 24 – Loyal, kind, car enthusiast.

Bella Cockram, 22 – Quiet-natured, animal lover, country girl.

Lily Cockram, 20 – Artist extraordinaire, great sense of humour, sweetheart.

Tommy Cockram, 17 – Social media expert, thrill-seeker, loving.

Ollie Erb, 11 – Enthusiastic, non-stop sporty boy, empathetic.

Ava Erb, 7 – Cheeky, fun, water-mad.

Guilty pleasure: Red wine, nut chocolates, and a hot bath. Preferably all three together.

Go-to shower song: I love music. We have a Friday night boogie session outside by the fire with disco lights and the kids let loose. So fun. I would probably lean toward a rock ballad from U2 or Post Malone.

Favourite movies or series: So hard. Love movies, too. Shawshank Redemption, Primal Fear (love Edward Norton), ET, Silence of the Lambs for thriller, Top Gun, Phar Lap. I’m a mad Survivor fan and Breaking Bad was amazing

Favourite book: One of my first jobs out of university was at Lonely Planet Publications and I still love my travel guides. Also, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.

Favourite quote: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – The 14th Dalai Lama.

Three inspiring people you’d love to have over for a backyard barbecue:

Gary Vaynerchuk, known as Gary V. An American immigrant social media guru and entrepreneur. He is different in that he operates with kindness and positivity. He is down to earth and relates to me. He started with nothing and worked his way through hardship to success. Tommy and I recently went to his seminar and I would love to hear more about his life and values.

I’d love to have dinner with my dad, Geoff Ainsworth, who I’ve missed for the past 12 years, and fill him in on all the amazing things his grandkids have been up to. As a past Geelong Cats captain he would love to hear about their success over the years. Grandkids and footy would be hot topics. I would love to hear his quick wit and dad jokes, too.

I’ve recently seen the Lewis Capaldi documentary, and he is a cheeky Scotsman with Tourette’s who is hilarious. I would love to hear him sing in person and hear about how he keeps going despite his condition. I think he’s inspiring.