Please welcome Karla Trotman, owner of BellyButtonBoutique, which she started during the most uncomfortable nine months of her life. She offers some button-sized gems in this interview.
What was your life like when it hit you that you were or were about to become a pregnant entrepreneur?
I started my business at the end of my pregnancy, when you are feeling like the baby is going to fall out of you and that the pregnancy will never end. So it kept my mind off of those physical issues, but because my company is about making pregnancy more comfortable, it provided me with great inspiration.
What was the one thing you wish you had known before you got pregnant?
That it wasn’t going to feel good. You don’t realize that the baby is going to be squished up against your innards like that. Its quite crowded.
Was there a really challenging part of your story, where you considered closing or changing your business? How did it turn out for you?
I’m blessed in the fact that I am a 3rd generation entrepreneur. My father’s company is still thriving. I remember my mom telling my father in the beginning, “we are going to push through the 3 to 5 year mark, where most businesses fail. If it doesn’t work out, then fine. But we are going to stay the distance”. There were times in the very beginning where there was NO money coming in, I had stocks of product and felt that I had done everything that I could to make it work. Additionally, I had two small children and was a bit frazzled. It was then that I realized that I had to put my big girl panties on and push through. Whenever you think that you have hit a wall, that is when you realize that you need outside help and/or advice. So I became humble and asked my father for advice.
What was your maternity leave period like?
During my leave, I launched my online store. That was exciting. You see, when you are working towards something that is your dream, its not work. I juggled it well because I had a supportive family. Plus, I was up nursing and taking care of a baby at all hours of the night, so it all worked out.
If you had the chance to trade your situation for the “corporate paycheck, kids in daycare” option, would you? And why or why not?
My kids always went to daycare and I still collect a check, per se. Because my store is online, I am able to do marketing and special projects for my father’s corporation. I really miss the interaction with my peers because my current situation is very isolating. But this is what I was born to do. And when mommy is happy, everyone is happy.
Do you have a funny story about being a pregnant entrepreneur?
Unfortunately, I do not have any funny stories about being a pregnant entrepreneur. My husband did think I was nuts signing papers in the hospital and fielding calls from my attorney. And there were all of those nights nursing my son while typing with one hand on my computer…
What advice would you give to the independent young women who follow you?
Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own. Lots of people thought that my idea was dumb. But based on my research and a spiritual directive telling me to move forward, I knew that it would work. So I proved everyone wrong. All roads to success aren’t paved. Sometimes you have to get off of the beaten path and create your own trail through the woods in order to reach the goal. And try to start you business before getting pregnant and having a family. Sooooo much easier 🙂
Please welcome Marissa, as she shares her story of adding a new life to her already very full life, twice!
I was in the last semester of a Ph.D. program when I found out I was pregnant. Luckily, I had most of my dissertation written, but I still had the daunting task of defending my research before an audience of professors. At seven weeks pregnant I can remember walking into the committee room at the university and facing my dissertation committee – with massive morning sickness. It felt like a miracle that I made it through the presentation without vomiting, but I managed to complete this last hurdle with grace. And, a few short weeks later at eleven weeks pregnant I proudly graduated with a doctorate in Educational Psychology.
I had done it. I had reached my life-long goal. I was ecstatic, overjoyed, and as elated as I always thought I would be. Only I hadn’t ever dreamed that graduation would coincide with pregnancy.
So, I had a new Ph.D. and a new baby arriving later that year. I’m not going to lie and say that this didn’t make me nervous. I had worked extremely hard — five long years of classes, teaching apprenticeships, research, writing, oh, and a full-time job – to reach this goal, and now what? Could I find a new job with a baby bump? Should I keep my current job and put my child in day care once she arrived? Or should I quit work to stay home with my baby?
In the end I made the difficult decision not to return to my job. In fact, never in a million years did I think I would want to stay at home with a baby, but there I was in my new found profession of “Dr Mom”. I loved (and do still love) every minute of it.
But, I found that I did miss conducting research, writing, teaching, and most of all, working with children. So, I founded a blog called Land of Once Upon aTime, which is devoted to showing parents how to guide their child in learning, literacy, and development with the help children’s books. In 2011, my blog was nominated for a Bammy Award which recognizes excellence in the field of education, which was a proud moment for me. In addition to blogging and being Dr Mom to my daughter, I was freelance writing and teaching college courses in psychology (in my spare time).
As my daughter got older, I became ready to take on even more work, but I didn’t really want to go back to a corporate job. I wanted the freedom to be my own boss, work from home, and set my own hours so I could continue to spend as much time as possible with my daughter. After a little brainstorming, I came up with the idea for A First Foundation, which provides consulting to parents and education professionals to equip them with the knowledge they need to give the children in their lives the best foundation for a lifetime of learning.
As luck would have it, I found myself (happily) pregnant again as I was just setting the groundwork for A First Foundation!
Being a mom to a toddler and a pregnant entrepreneur wasn’t always easy, but I tried my best to capitalize on my bursts of energy and the “nesting” phenomenon. Now, after nine long months of pregnancy and planning, I’m ready to launch my ideas into action with a new little baby boy in tow.
Marissa Kiepert Truong, Ph.D. is a mom on the mainline, early literacy blogger, and early learning consultant. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn. For more information about her consulting services, please email her at AFIRSTFOUNDATION(at)GMAIL(dot)COM.
Welcome to Carrie Curry. She’s the first guest this year eager to tell her story of being a Pregnant Entrepreneur. I hope her experiences help you get through your special nine months!
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was working full time for a great non-profit organization. I did much of my work from home so I was able to sneak in a few naps here and there and rest when I needed to. I thought I was exhausted then…
After our precious son entered (and rocked) our world, I decided to stay at home with him full time. I loved watching him grow and explore his little world. But he napped a lot. And slept well at night! So I started to get bored, and needed an outlet for my creativity.
When he was around 1 year old, I started a cake business, Coastal Cakery www.coastalcakery.com. I had a strong passion for making beautiful cakes that tasted delicious – and there was very little competition in our area for it – so it became successful very quickly.
Soon enough, I was pregnant again. It was much different this time. I couldn’t nap when I was tired. I had a 2 year old to chase around and the cake business to manage on the side. I was responding to emails, planning cake designs, and shopping supplies during the days with my little helper by my side. After bedtime, I would bake and decorate until the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, most of my business was done Thursday – Saturday as most cake, cookie, and pastry orders are placed for the weekend. I was able to rest more during the week and was refreshed for the next busy weekend. I remember thinking on Saturday nights, “I can’t do this anymore!” but by the time I had the next cake to work on, I was ready to get my creative juices flowing!
When my daughter was born, I realized how much my life had changed. I got a call for a cake order the day she was born and non-chalantly told the client from my hospital bed, “Well, I just had a baby today so I can’t do it this weekend.”
Fast forward a few years and the creative outlets grew. I started a website and blog with my sister called Chockababy ( www.chockababy.com). And then, found out I was pregnant again. This time, something had to give. I passed on most of the cake orders to my assistant and the website/blog became a stand-alone blog.
This pregnancy was the hardest on my body as I had a hard time saying “no” to all the things I love to do. But, being my own boss, I was able to take breaks when needed and find assistance so as to not feel the stress of looming deadlines. The Chockababy blog has adapted over time as well. I was able to focus my attention from sharing about everything to my passion: being a supportive mom community and my life dealing with a child with food allergies.
As much as being an entreprenuer can be exhausting, it’s also so freeing to be able to control my own schedule. I think I would have a very hard time being a full time working mom outside of the home. Occasionally, I may feel like I work all the time, but I am doing things I love. And, over time, I have come close to finding a great balance – with hope that perfect balance will come soon! I think, the best thing about it is this one truth: you can do what works best for you and your family. It makes whatever you do “the best job ever!”
Carrie Curry lives in Milton, DE. She’s a blogger at Chockababy.com, owner of Coastal Cakery, and part-time math instructor – when not actively being “mommy” to 3 crazy kids.
THANK YOUfor voting and helping The Pregnant Entrepreneur to win this award.
See more posts and info about the other winners here.
Q:What tips would you give a mom who wants to write a book?
If you want to write a book, start writing. Seriously, that’s it. Also, start connecting with others who can help bring your book to market. Writing your book is the easiest part. Publishing the book is harder. Marketing the book is even harder. But in the end, if your book is something you believe in, or if you have a story only you can tell, then all of the hours you put in both pre- and post-publishing will be worth it. Don’t write a book because you can. Write it because you must.
Q:How do you balance writing and motherhood?
I was absolutely possessed to write The Pregnant Entrepreneur. I was pregnant with my second child when it became clear that I was the one to write it. Much of the book is about how there is very little balance in a mother’s life, and even less in the life of a mom who is also an entrepreneur. Moms use the kind of balance needed to ride a bike: always in motion, constantly adjusting your position and center of gravity, going off road when the old path doesn’t lead you to the right end. My children have always seen me working, but very often they don’t realize that I’m working because my life as an entrepreneur is so much fun and I’m around more than I would be if I had to go to an office 10 hours a day. I want them growing up knowing that you can achieve everything you strive for, but you don’t have to “have it all,” at least not all at the same time. My main business, a successful professional organizing and design business (www.HeartWorkOrg.com) , makes even more demands on my day and time with family than my book does, so I make sure that I really love what I’m doing. Since I’m the boss in both my kitchen and my business, shame on me if I’m not creating a life that I love. Entrepreneurship offers the best path to a workday that caters to a mother’s own family needs.
Q:Where do you find writing inspiration?
The inspiration for The Pregnant Entrepreneur was personal. I needed a guidebook to get me through something completely new, which was how to get through my special nine months as a credible and successful entrepreneur. I was honored to include in my book the stories of other women who have gone through pregnancy while running their own business. It’s hard to find these stories when you most need to hear them. Even with all of the improvements in women’s rights and working conditions, women are still largely unsupported in the US as young mothers, so I wanted to give women a heads up on the issues they will face as pregnant entrepreneurs. The book includes some simple spreadsheets in the book to help women do things like fund their own maternity leave, so they can stay home with their newborn for as long as possible. I want to encourage women to take the next step to their dreams. Technology has created an amazing opportunity to kick the Old Boy’s Club to the curb and really maximize the New Girl’s Club. We are put on this earth to help each other, and women’s stories from around the world inspire me to encourage others. Since writing the book, both of my blogs (www.PregnantEntrepreneur.com and www.HeartWorkOrg.com ) provide a platform to help other women and men live more organized, peaceful and maybe even more balanced lives…even though balance is like the mythical unicorn. But wouldn’t it be great to happen upon it one day?
Welcome to an interview with another successful pregnant entrepreneur, Sarah Bond, CEO of Main Line Parent.
You are nine months pregnant and are at the helm of a great resource for moms called Main Line Parent. How did this come about?
Main Line Parent been online for two years and we are about to publish our fourth issue of our print magazine and launch a digital edition with customized mobile application for Spring 2012. We identify as a regional parenting publication, but what sets us apart is that we started out as a Facebook group in 2010. I started this company when my first daughter was four months old and I wanted to make more mom friends who were in a similar stage of life. I invited the four or five moms I’d met in prenatal yoga within days it grew ten-fold as their friends and friends of friends joined. We planned social networking events and started a website to publish parenting articles and features on local resources for families. Within a year I had my sights set on planning a charity benefit for the local birth center, where I’d had such an amazing experience for the birth of my daughter, and launching a print magazine as well. Mom’s Night Out for Mother’s Day was a huge success and the first issue of our magazine was met with rave reviews, so I kept going. In the following year I attracted a team of experts to fine tune our editorial and design and to assist in client relationship building, which also kept me going.
You are about to release your fourth issue of the beautiful magazine Main Line Parent. How are you feeling about the business right now?
I feel great about the business. Our Spring Issue is about to come out the first week of March and we are riding a wave of success from our first Main Line Early Childhood Education Fair held earlier this month. The Spring Issue celebrates outstanding local parents with exciting features such as one several local moms who have built amazing businesses, another about a Mom’s Club which is building a $50K playground project, a chef from a new culinary hot spot in Wayne who makes cooking at home fun with his daughter by reinventing culinary classics with creative twists, and many more. This issue will be available for free through our distribution network of schools, cafes and local businesses as well as online to our subscribers and through a new custom mobile application for iDevices.
We are also preparing for our second annual Mom’s Night Out for Mother’s Day and we’re excited to already have $5,000 in contributions from local businesses for our silent auction. This night of beauty and fashion for moms is the ultimate girl’s night out: with a VIP lounge, swag-filled gift bags, cocktails, a red carpet, and dinner at the Radnor Valley Country Club and a fashion show by Van Cleve Collections. Our auction will benefit the Main Line Parent Foundation, which provides grants and scholarships to students, mompreneurs, moms clubs and local groups that share our mission of Building Community.
You started this venture in the midst of the Great Recession. Some would say that is crazy. What do you think?
Unlike many business models, such as opening a retail location or manufacturing products, Main Line Parent was built as a financially self-sustaining business. I already had the necessary skills from my years working in marketing roles, such as web and print collateral design, copy writing and integrated marketing communications planning, so I was in a good position to offer my expertise to local businesses and allow them to tap into a desirable niche market through the social media network I developed. The biggest investments were my time and my family has been very supportive financially so I did not need to take on a large amount of expensive debt to begin. We tapped into a niche market and have grown steadily with careful consideration to our financial position to ensure that we do not overextend ourselves as well.
What are your plans to take a maternity leave once the baby comes? Will your business be able to pay for you to be out?
I do not plan to take any kind of formal maternity leave, though I will be relying more on the rest of my team to keep our momentum going for a few weeks while I adjust to life with two. I’m optimistic that I will manage with a lot of baby-wearing and working during naps, which I did within two weeks of my first daughter being born (she was such a big sleeper during the day… cross your fingers for me that I’ll be so lucky again?)
How important are your staff and team to this business? How did you connect with key individuals?
My team is absolutely essential. I would not still be doing this if I have not been joined by the natural relationship-building talents of Pamela Badolato, the copy writing savy and strategic editorial direction of Melissa Greiner, and the visual talents of Brittany Ostrov (our Photo Director), Veronica Utz (our Design Director), and Meredith Miller (our Art Director). And we, as the executive team would not be successful without the support of our contributing photographers and writers. As a business-owner, I would not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my mentor and PR/Social Media expert, Dawn E. Warden, the event planning expertise and support of Karen Pecora and this would not have gotten started at all without the encouragement, financial support, and strategic consulting that my husband has provided.
I connected with this team through social media and networking (I even met my husband seven years ago on match.com… I guess I’ve always been connecting with key individuals online!) We united under a vision for taking this brand and with every issue we have fine-tuned our product.
Are there any physical challenges with your pregnancy, and how are you working through them?
As with my first pregnancy, I had challenges getting pregnant because I have the most common form of infertility, PCOS. As anyone who has gone through this process will tell you, this is emotionally and physically exhausting — and I was about a year into running this business by that point. But with my determination, a great team of infertility specialists, and a tremendous amount of fortunate circumstances I was able to get pregnant again.
Then, about half-way through my pregnancy I was crippled by back and hip pain, barely able to walk or climb a flight of stairs and I was SAVED by chiropractic treatments twice and three times a week by Dr. Brandi Nemchenko in King of Prussia, Dr. Cara Hillwig in Bryn Mawr, and Dr. Martin Orimenko in Ardmore (I rotated between their practices based on my schedule and where I could fit in adjustments between client meetings!) I highly recommend all three to women who are pregnant — if you are experiencing any kind of hip and back pain — or if you are ever faced with a breech baby — give one or more of them a call!
People talk about mommy brain like it’s a bad thing, but I know you have serious plans for the future of your business. Would you be able to share the next big thing we should look for from Main Line Parent?
Our next big thing is about to come to market, we are so excited to be working with Nxtbook Media, a company based in Lancaster, to be launching a free mobile application and digital edition of our magazine. (We are in the final stages of approval from Apple and expect our spring issue to be available in March through this medium. You can see a demo of our Winter Issue’s digital edition here.) This will compliment our printed circulation and enhance the reader experience with rich multimedia aspects and click-through links to share content through social networks. Along with our next big event, Mom’s Night Out for Mother’s Day, we’re looking ahead to the Fall 2012 when we will host the first Private and Independent School Expo for the region.
If you haven’t ever heard of co-working, that’s not surprising. I hadn’t either, until very recently. This is not to be confused with “job sharing”, which is a strategy some women use to work part-time in a full-time position at a corporation. No, this is really a new concept, or perhaps an old concept with a new structure. You’ve probably gone to a coffee shop to get a bit of work done, where you congregate with other people doing the same thing, but independently.
Aliza Schlabach, herself a working mom, has launched a group who comes together to work in their own businesses, but in a shared space. She schedules the events, once or more each month, and finds the space so that (mostly) business owners can congregate and benefit from the engery and resources that workers in an office take for granted.
Update since originally published: Aliza’s business has been renamed the JuiceBox and is currently on the hunt for permanent real estate.
The really exciting twist on this is Aliza’s addition of childcare to the mix, since her market is mostly moms and dads who usually run their business from their homes and around their kids. Is this a brilliant idea? Here’s the interview, where Aliza buckles down and shows how it’s done.
How did you come up with the coworking concept?
This past fall I took part in DreamIt Ventures startup accelerator program in Philadelphia; for three months I worked as a User Experience consultant for one of the startup companies. We worked in a crowded open room, and while it wasn’t particularly comfortable, it was still wonderful… we (15 startup companies which consisted of about 45 people) bounced ideas off each other, learned to network like crazy, and collaborated. Even though my company consisted of only three people, we were in an environment that was much bigger and more exciting; it fostered enthusiasm and creativity beyond what could have happened from our small group working alone.
During that program I also became familiar with Indy Hall, a cool coworking space in Old City Philadelphia that was founded by Alex Hillman, who is extremely well known in the coworking community worldwide. DreamIt and Indy Hall were my introduction to coworking.
One day in November I was driving home from a school we were considering sending my five year old to for kindergarden, and was fretting over how far apart my home, my work, his school, and my daughter’s daycare were. And suddenly I had one of those lightbulb moments; the Coworking for Parents concept was born.
Are there other similar models in operation elsewhere, in other parts of the country?
So far in all of my Googling, I have only found a handful of other businesses with this concept worldwide:
This facility will be perfect for most work from home parents of young children… anyone who spends the majority of time on their computer and who also has young kids to attend to. We will also welcome anyone else who wants to cowork in our area… parents of older kids, and those without kids as well; they just won’t need the childcare services. Finally, we are considering including a commercial kitchen in our space. This will be great for event hosting, as well as for renting to those with bakery and other food related businesses who might sometimes need a larger facility (and maybe childcare) to handle larger orders and grow their businesses beyond the capacities of their home.
The childcare side of the business will allow entrepreneurial and telecommuting parents the ability to be more productive than they could possibly be at home without childcare.
The coworking environment will foster a true community spirit and opportunities to inspire, be inspired, network, socialize, learn, and be happier and more productive. It will of course also offer traditional business services such as access to conference rooms and print facilities.
Do you see this as a mentoring/networking possibility as well?
Absolutely! I think networking in a space of fellow entrepreneurs is a given. We will likely also set up a program of monthly networking events, speakers, and perhaps also a mentoring program for startups.
What kinds of work might a parent actually get done in a few hours?
Hosting a business meeting in a board room or participating in a conference call (with no screaming children in the background). Designing a few mockups of a web site. An intense session of programming. Writing a proposal, or a magazine article. Finances. Getting through a big pile of email. Cooking in the commercial kitchen. The possibilities are endless!
How will you address concerns about quality of child care?
Quality child care is all about the people who are providing that care. In addition to thorough background checks and references, I plan on interviewing all candidates personally. They must demonstrate warmth, responsibility, attention, a youthful spirit, and creativity. Part of the interviewing process will include having them provide examples of activities they would love to pursue with the children they work with. I will also institute both a parent and peer review process to make sure we reward the teachers who excel, and dismiss those who don’t perform.
Do you see this growing into a business, or is this just a really great networking opportunity?
The facility will either be set up as a for profit business or a non-profit organization, depending on how the revenue plan works out (currently a work in progress). I could see large family friendly organizations potentially sponsoring us, as an effort to support family-focused entrepreneurship on a community level. Ikea, Wegmans, and Whole Foods perhaps? (Is this wishful thinking? 🙂
How have you been getting the word out about this option?
I have been very active setting up my email newsletter mailing list on CoworkingForParents.com, and getting the word out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CoworkingForParents) and Meetup.com (www.meetup.com/CoworkingForparents). Locally I have been talking to people in person and online from Philly Startup Leaders, Main Line Parent magazine, have posted on Craigslist, and have been meeting individually with many local business owners.
Would a pregnant woman be welcome?
Absolutely! How wonderful would it be for her to be supported in her business and through her pregnancy by others who have been through it.
What is the one biggest success you hope to have?
Just one? That’s tough. 🙂 If I can open the doors to this business, have it be even a little bit profitable within a year or two, and make a few parents happy and productive enough to spread the word, I will be a very happy and content woman.
Hear more about why I wrote this book, what kinds of economic benefit having your own business as a mom can offer, and what I think about balance. My interview takes place the last 10 minutes of this hour-long show. Enjoy!