By Michelle Lloyd
Julie Aguirre Whitted, 38, from South Charlotte began Hola Baby when she was in search of T-shirts that said “mija” (my daughter) and “mijo” (my son) in Spanish. Julie grew up bilingual and hoped that her children would learn Spanish as well. She couldn’t find any tees that she liked, so she made her own. She collaborated the designs with her designer cousin who lives in Mexico and began Hola Baby in 2009.
Q. What did you do before you began your own business?
I was a reporter at WBTV for three years and at various stations around the country before then, it was my dream job and I'm proud of my accomplishments but after 10 years in that field I was a little burned out on crime, car accidents and bad weather, so I left that behind, started a family and soon after that my own business, www.holababyshop.com Cute Spanish Shirts for Kids! In 2008, I was also a MomsCharlotte blogger.
Q. How well is business for Hola Baby?
In my first year I just sold to family and friends ( thank you family and friends, I love you!). In my second year I've sold primarily to strangers! People across the country who found the shirts on the Internet and liked them enough to buy them, not because they know or like me, but because they like the shirts, that's so exciting! Hola Baby is also in several boutiques.
Q. How do you manage making the tee's with the kiddos around?
I took care of the manufacturing just weeks before my second child was born. I remember a meeting at Contagious Graphics in Charlotte with my just turned 3-year-old. The guy let her play with the little collectible Japanese figures on his desk, while I settled some final screen-printing details. The day after they were made I had a photo shoot scheduled with 10 toddlers at Pura Vida Art! As a former reporter, I'm used to working on a deadline but impending labor gave the deadline a whole new meaning! Now it's easy. The shirts are in the home office, and I fill orders during my spare time between shuffling the kids to school, naptime and other events.
Q. What is your favorite part of owning your own company?
It's a wonderful creative outlet, and I love that my business is a positive representation of my culture and heritage.
Q. Any tips for our moms?
Well, if I had to do it again, I would not have launched my business weeks after having a baby, other than that it has been a wonderful experience and would encourage other women to turn their ideas into businesses, too!
Q. What is your favorite tee?
I love them all of course! But the "Fresona" one for the girl and "El Mero Mero" for the boy would have to be my favorites.
You can contact Julie at holababyshop.com.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Cara Putzrath (aka Cara Zara), 44, is a South Charlotte mom of 2 who also is a professional hula-hoop dancer! She performs at festivals, events, and birthday parties. She also teaches the art and fitness of hula-hooping with after-school programs and summer camps.
Q. How well is your business is doing?
For over a year I have had steady business and I am booked for parties about 4-6 weeks out. I am now scheduling for the 2011-2012 school year for my after-school enrichment program. I teach kids to appreciate physical activity for the pure pleasure of movement in a manner that's not based on repetition or competition. I foster team building skills and enhance children's self-esteem in a playful and exciting way! I hoop at area festivals and have been seen spinning my hoops at Festival in the Park, First Night Charlotte, Charlotte Shakespeare Company, Strawberry Festival and many others. I was also featured on the Charlotte Today Show. Q. How long have you been hula-hooping?
I started when I was a little kid and then put the hoop down for a few decades before picking it back up again. I’m now into my fifth year as a Hoop Dancer and it has been a transforming journey. It all began when my best friend insisted that I participate in a hooping workshop in her back yard. I enjoyed the free-wheeling swoosh of the Hoop around my waist and the awe inspiring tricks of well-accomplished hoopers. All I could do at the time was keep the hoop around my waist. Every attempted trick hit the ground with a thud. I have come a long way since that day in the back yard!
Q. What made you decide to make a business out of it?
On December 31, 2009, I hooped at a party under a full moon with the beat of a drum circle and made my New Year’s declaration that I would share my love of hooping by teaching and performing, which is funny because I never make New Year’s resolutions! My girlfriend who was hosting the party commented that New Year's Eve wishes under the spell of a full moon and a drum circle are pretty powerful. She was right!
Q. What is your favorite part of having your own business?
I get paid to hula-hoop! It really doesn’t get any better than that. My favorite part is seeing the joy in the children’s faces and watching them express themselves through play. Children are enthusiastic and willing to try anything. When adults drop a hoop they automatically look around to see who’s watching their mistakes and compare themselves to others. When children drop the hoop they pick it right back up and try again.
Somewhere between childhood and adulthood our lives get filled up with a myriad of “can’ts” – “I can’t because I have no rhythm” – “I can’t because I have a bad knee” – I can’t because I’ll look silly” – “I can’t because I’m busy”.
Kids don’t have those blocks yet and hopefully with my help they won’t – ever! They’ll be just like the Little Engine That Could. “I think I can. I think I can.” It’s that attitude that propels you forward in life especially when things get difficult.
Q. How do you manage family life while running Cara Zara?
I wake up crazy early! Ideally my day starts at 4 a.m. so that I can have the quiet time to plan, write my blog, update my website, produce promo videos, sew costumes, watch hooping videos on YouTube for inspiration and a million other things. In fact it is 4:15 a.m. as I am writing this to you. I also work full-time as a lighting rep so my business has been a weekend endeavor. It can get tiring working 7 days a week but hooping gives me such a bolt of energy that I keep spinning away. Now my business has grown large enough that I will become a full-time hula-hooper this fall by teaching kids in after-school enrichment programs all over Charlotte while performing at festivals and parties on the weekend.
Q. Do your children participate when you do festivals?
My daughter Anneliese is famous for stealing the spotlight! I love to pull her up on stage with me because she gets the other kids in the crowd thinking “I can do that too!” My teenage son Otto and husband Erik are my strong men. When I work a festival I bring around 3 dozen custom-made hoops with me. They are made out of PVC pipe and specialty tapes and are heavy so the boys help carry my load. I have turned my family into a 3-ring circus. Both Erik and Otto can hoop too.
Q. What is something you wish you knew before you began Cara Zara?
Don’t try to fit someone else’s business formula - go chart your own path. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur. I have always had a small side business. My business license is under my name and has morphed over the years. I’ve worked as a decorator, photo stylist, greeting card designer, prop-master, antique vendor, etc. I guess you could say it’s in my blood to have my own business.
In the past I tried to emulate/replicate the success of someone else because I was impressed with their success. All of those previous businesses had moderate success but the hooping business has been electric. Once I centered my unique talent while letting things happen organically and shifting my business offerings based on the needs of the community and what excites me, things really began to click.
Avi Woolman, 34, of South Charlotte is a mom of three girls all under age 7 who owns ActivewearUSA.com. The website carries yoga and fitness clothing with more than 60 brands, 1,200 styles and more than 12,000 options. The site just added swimwear. ActivewearUSA.com began in 2009. In May, it logged in 32,000 visitors and more than 175,000 page views.
I haven't spent my life in retail, running an e-commerce company, or for that matter practicing yoga. After graduating from university in Israel with a computer science degree I started my career as a software engineer.
I had my first baby six years ago, and I decided to quit my time-consuming job (12 hours a day) and do an MBA in International Business Management from the University of London while taking care of my baby. It was with the birth of my second daughter that I discovered yoga while trying to get back in shape.
Despite the wonderful benefits of yoga, what I discovered was the lack of decent yoga bags on the market, a bag that would allow me to be “hands-free.” So after many days and sleepless nights, I created the Yogoco bag. (I then created my) first company, Yogoco - manufacturing eco-friendly, highly functional and super stylish yoga bags.
That went well and I wanted to expand from yoga bags to yoga apparel. So after many more days and sleepless nights ActivewearUSA.com was born.
ActivewearUSA.com started with just 2 brands: Yogoco and Margarita Activewear, which is a great activewear line from Israel, famous for its Margarita Daisy pants. The idea behind ActivewearUSA.com was to offer the best yoga and fashion fitness clothing (known as activewear) with exceptional customer service.
We offer free shipping in Charlotte, price match guarantee, easy, no-hassle returns, and we do our utmost to get every order out the same day. We also include a free ActivewearUSA.com aluminum sports bottle with every order as both a “thank you” and a way to encourage our customers to stop using plastic bottles.
Q. How do manage family life with 3 girls under 7 and run a business?
It’s hard! Very hard!! I work all night. I have built a team that really cares and does more than their job description. I have developed a great technique of breast feeding while writing e-mails, seriously! My priority is the kids. Both my husband and I grew up with proper cooked food and we continue this tradition. This means no take out. We cook a healthy dinner every day. Healthy dinner can be prepared pretty quickly. My dad always says that there is plenty of time to rest in the next world.
Q. Any tips you can share with other working moms?
Be positive, work hard and enjoy it! There is a saying: Bite off more than you can chew, and chew it. And I don’t mean eat a lot! Most of us moms are constantly hesitating before we take on a new project because we are not sure how we will have the time. We are already over stretched. You will be amazed with how much you can do with a little “can-do” attitude.
Q. What has been most rewarding about having your own business?
The letters I get from customers saying how much they love our products and our exceptional customer service is very rewarding. I still can’t believe they are talking about the company I started.
We love to amaze our customers and look for fun ways to do that. Some customers have been sent Godiva chocolates as a thank you for their business.
Q. What does your typical day look like?
A typical day goes like this: First is first – coffee, but coffee of course does not mean I sit down and drink it. While the kids are having breakfast I answer the urgent emails.
I always find a little time to plan dinner for the kids and do it while I call my parents in Israel to see how they are doing. I go to yoga or if there is no time I go for a good run with my gorgeous boxer, Lucy! Coming back with a great energy I go back to work! I am blessed with a great girl that helps me with the kids.
And I am on and off kids and work basically all day and I love it! I like to take short breaks from work during the afternoon and do one thing with the kids, it can be a quick chat with my 6 year old, a story time with my 3 year old or a good cuddle with my 9 months old!After the kids are in bed I go on working (mostly until midnight).
On a good day I will stop working and have an evening with my husband – watch a movie or read a book until I fall asleep.:-)
Q. Which of your brands do you practice yoga in?
I love all our brands, I wear all of them. I won’t take any brand that I have not personally worn practicing Yoga or working out. But I do especially love Margarita Activewear, ION Actif and Element V!
Learn more at ActivewearUSA.com.
Some of you might have met Penny Dietz, a Cotswold mom of 2 and owner of “green i am,” at our MomsCharlotte Monkey Joes event last year. Penny, 39, created green i am when her youngest son, Watson, had a major reaction to toxins in their home and needed breathing treatments as well as medications. Over the past 4 years, green i am and “detoxing” homes has not only helped Penny’s son Watson get better, it has helped more than 200 families create safe and healthy homes.
She does this by conducting workshops, doing one-on-one consults and writing blogs and articles. Penny then comes up with a customized action plan and offers safe-to-use products. Over the course of a year, her business has doubled!
Q. How did green i am begin?
As with most mompreneurs, I saw a need. As I thought back over Watson’s circumstances, I tried to understand what I could have done differently. After all, I attended all the pre-natal classes offered by the hospital and my doctor as well as read many books. Unfortunately, what I didn’t hear/read was how to create a safe and healthy home for my baby. I’m not talking about locking up chemicals but avoiding them altogether when it came to house cleaning, bathing, etc.
The scary truth -- I had inadvertently “poisoned” my son through use of toxic household cleaners, which I believe was the root cause of Watson’s respiratory/health challenges. Thankfully, I was blessed to see the other side of the equation, which was more simple than administering breathing treatments and/or medications each day. It was just saying no to chemicals. That’s when I realized we’re all a victim of you don’t know what you don’t know. My mission then began to educate, raise awareness and “pull back the covers” on the real dirt. As a result, I “birthed” green i am.
Q. How has it helped your son?
First, by getting rid of toxins in our home environment, we noticed less of a need for breathing steroids and/or use of the nebulizer. Additionally, the frequency and duration of colds, ear infections and bronchial challenges decreased dramatically.
That said, while saying no to toxins was a huge component of Watson’s improved health, building up Watson’s natural immunity was also very important. Keep in mind that many times when you are taking medications for a symptom there is an offset to another component of your health. For Watson, when he was taking antibiotics, his system was getting stripped of both the good bacteria and bad bacteria. When the good bacteria is gone, it leaves you vulnerable to a weaker immune system.
So, for Watson, the use of probiotics and omegas were important to achieve/maintain great health. The result – well, November of 2007 was the last time Watson had a breathing treatment or medication for that matter. What a blessing!
Q. How do you manage home life with running a growing business?
Admittedly, some days I do it better than others. That said, in general, I try to stick to office hours, which are school based - 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Any client needs outside of those are handled as time permits based on needs of the family. And thankfully, my husband and boys are very supportive of what I do!
Q. What are some things you wish you knew before you began green i am?
I wish I knew that not everyone would embrace saying no to toxins. I launched green i am thinking that once the “real dirt” was revealed who could possibly continue using toxic products. I’ve since learned that I’m the messenger; my role is purely to educate and raise awareness. And if there’s desire to change, I support and enable. That said, I’m not here to judge personal decisions; just to respect them.
Q. What advice would you give to our readers about owning your own company while being a active mom?
First, find something that aligns with your passion. I’ve also found benefit in including my family. I just love the fact that they are my number one cheerleaders! Work hard but relish the balance that you deserve. After all, you’re in control. And get creative with your time – meaning, like doing business on the golf course, hosting/attending play dates that double as a client meeting is a win/win for all.
Q. What bad chemicals should our readers be aware of?
Regarding a few chemicals to avoid when it comes to purchasing household products, you’ll find the chemicals listed with corresponding product finds and health impacts.
-- Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) – may be found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, dish soaps and laundry detergent. Known to be caustic. May cause chemical burns, may cause irritation to the respiratory tract, irritating to the eyes and skin, causes 75% of all caustic injury to kids under 5 years of age.
-- Butyl Cellosolve – may be found in glass cleaners, all purpose cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, and carpet cleaner/stain remover. Probable Carcinogen. Linked to Reproductive Harm. Irritating to the eyes, skins and respiratory system. Exposure for just 15 minutes cleaning soap scum from the shower exposes one to 3x the limit.
-- Phenol – may be found in disinfectants, germicides, mouthwash, and cosmetics – also part of Bisphenol A (may be found in plastics) and Triclosan (may be found in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste) - Phenol and its vapors are corrosive to the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory tract. Repeated or prolonged skin contact with phenol may cause dermatitis or even second and third-degree burns due to phenol's caustic properties. The substance may cause harmful effects on the central nervous system and heart, resulting in dysrhythmia, seizures, and coma. Long-term or repeated exposure of the substance may have harmful effects on the liver and kidneys. May cause estrogenic or endocrine disrupting activity.
-- Ammonia – may be found in glass cleaners and multi-purpose cleaners. Irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. NEVER mix with bleach or a poisonous gas may result.
-- Hydrochloric Acid – may be found in odor eliminators and toilet bowl cleaners. Can cause severe damage to skin. Can be harmful to health, just by breathing the fumes. Can be fatal if swallowed.
-- Formaldehyde – may be found in soaps and cosmetics. Known carcinogen. Formaldehyde can be toxic and allergenic Because formaldehyde resins are used in many construction materials it is one of the more common indoor air pollutants. At concentrations above 0.1 ppm in air formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and mucous membranes, resulting in watery eyes. Formaldehyde inhaled at this concentration may cause headaches, a burning sensation in the throat, and difficulty breathing, as well as triggering or aggravating asthma symptoms.
South Charlotte mom of 3-year old twins, Kara Cozier, 33, is the co-founder of NavMak Enterprises, a building, remodeling and renovation company for new or older homes. NavMak is celebrating its two-year anniversary this month, and has seen a 235 percent sales increase in the last year.
Q. What made you decide to go in business for yourself?
Sometime after I graduated college when I was serving in the Navy, I decided I wanted to have my own business. Figuring out what to do was the first challenge. I originally wanted to start a coffee business and did two years of research and wrote a business plan. By the time I finished the financial plan, I decided I needed to do something else.
While working as a production supervisor for Ryan Homes, I got my broker license and general contractor license. When my girls were about 14 months old I decided to start working in real estate. After a couple of months, that grew into starting a construction and real estate business. My overall goal is financial independence. I want to homeschool my children and be able to travel and create my own schedule without the restrictions a typical job requires.
Q. How hard has it been with twin girls?
It is definitely a daily challenge. I have great support from family and friends to help out. In the beginning I couldn’t afford to have a babysitter more than a few hours a week, so I worked from home and carefully scheduled meetings. Now I have more flexibility and an office I can go to to get away from the distractions in the home. That is essential right now with the amount of business I am doing. Now my challenge is strategically growing the business and finding the right people to support that growth.
Q. How do you manage running a business plus keeping up with twins and your extracurricular activities?
I’m a pretty organized person and have a lot of energy. I am doing something I love and am working with amazing people. That really helps me stay focused and motivated to do well. I’ve had to learn to turn the phone off, shut down the computer and focus on family time. The problem with having your own business is that it never stops. You set the schedule and that schedule can be around the clock if you let it. I’ve done the 2 a.m. paperwork before and that gets old!
I work really hard at scheduling my days so that meetings and other business activities are on certain days and during particular hours so I can get what I need done and have time for my family. Spending time with them and taking a break makes me more productive and inspired. It isn’t always about the quantity of hours you spend at your job. I had to pound that idea into my head. It doesn’t have to be an 8 hour + workday. If you can get what you need done in 4, why are you sitting there in front of the computer staring at the screen?
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m a morning person so I’m up at 5 a.m. putting the coffee on. I love the quiet of the morning. Then I am in my home office working on emails, paperwork and getting organized for the day. No one calls me before 8 a.m. so I have a solid three hours of quiet time to get my head in the game.
Around 8 is when my girls wake up. I spend about 30 minutes of quality time with them until my babysitter arrives. Then I’m off to the office, a project or my first meeting. I’m back home by 2 or 3 most days and the end of my work day varies. Some days it ends when I get home, others I need to keep pushing through until 5. Either way, at 5 p.m. work stops. I take personal calls or calls from employees only. If an employee calls it is going to be important. I don’t expect them to call or text unless they really need me after 5 pm. I want to be there to support them so I’ll take those calls.
At 6:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays I’m at Crossfit Ballantyne relieving stress and clearing my head. Crossfit is my new addiction. My husband participates with me so it is great time for us to do something together. It has also given me more energy and made me feel fantastic physically. Sometimes my girls come with us and it is really funny to see them mimicking us by doing pushups or overhead squats in the play area.
I’m in bed by 10 p.m. after watching a TV show or reading a little. I have to be careful with the reading because I’ll stay up all night reading a book so I try to just listen to a book on the iPod instead. For some reason I can turn that off pretty easily.
Q. How did you get started in construction/remodeling?
Growing up my parents did a lot of work on the houses we lived in. We moved about nine times in the same town when I was growing up. We would fix up one house and then move on to the next. My parents even built a house by themselves. I was always there participating somehow. After the Navy I was presented with an opportunity to work for Ryan Homes as a production supervisor. Working outdoors in a community supervising construction just sounded like a natural transition for me from my military service. After two years of building townhomes and single family homes I had the experience necessary for when I decided to go out on my own. I’ve definitely learned something on every project I’ve worked on since then.
Remodeling is tricky. You never know what you are going to find when you tear down a wall. It is really interesting to watch a project evolve and see the finished product. Before and after photos are always fun!
Q. What do you wish you were told before you began NavMak?
I wish I had a list of everything that needed to be done to start a business, where to do it, resources, how much the fees arethe list goes on. I’m still discovering different fees and requirements as my business grows. It is very important that you have people to support you. Hiring an accountant and corporate lawyer were two of my best decisions. Those fees are 100 percent worth it! Brader Greene and Paul Bass have provided me with the support I needed to keep me on the right track. One error in those areas and you could find yourself in some serious trouble.
Q. What does NavMak stand for?
Finding a name for your business that isn’t taken already is another unexpected challenge. NavMak is all about my identity. NavMak is a combination of Navy, Mother and Kara. The Navy was a big part of my personal development. I learned and grew a great deal during my time as a Naval Officer. Applying for ROTC and serving in the military is on my list of best decisions. Being a mother is very important to me. It is an amazing and rewarding experience. As a mother, business owner and wife, it is easy to lose yourself in your responsibilities to others. It is important to remember yourself every now and then. Even if it is just a 45-minute pedicure or a glass of wine with a friend once a month, I try to allow for some “Kara” time to keep me sane.
Q. I read that you are an advocate for healthy foods and natural living. How do you stay on top of things while running a business and raising twins?
When my girls were 6 months old I made a decision that changed everything for my family. I wanted my girls to be healthy and I started trying to figure out what that meant. That is when I learned about things like organic foods and grass-fed beef. One thing lead to another and I ended up in Dr Michael Smith’s office at Carolinas Natural Health Center asking about homeopathy. Since then we’ve eliminated processed foods from our diet, eat organic/local produce, and buy our meats locally from farms like Baucom’s Best and Creekside Acres. We eat a limited amount of dairy as well. My girls drank goat milk instead of cow’s milk when they turned one.
Since we made the decision 3 years ago to change our way of thinking about health and food, my girls haven’t had an ear infection and haven’t taken antibiotics or any other prescribed medicine. They get over illnesses within 48 hours and have no developmental or medical issues. My husband and I have lost weight and recover from illness quickly as well. The first few months were challenging when we made these changes. Mostly because we were researching and trying to figure it all out. Once we got into a rhythm and learned about the resources available and developed our “go-to” meals, life was just as easy as before when we broke out the box of Hamburger Helper.
I find time to stop at the grocery store or Farmer’s market in between meetings or on the way home. A lot of the time I take the girls with me after work. I get them involved in cooking too. Making healthy food a priority is important. Once you realize how much in your life is affected by what you eat it becomes something you won’t compromise on.
Contact Kara at navmak.com or 704-989-1757.
Jennifer Branham of South Charlotte opened Natural Luxe in 2009 when her daughter was a year old. Jennifer, 37, became alarmed when she read about the chemicals used in baby lotions, baby bottles and food containers. But she had a hard time finding eco-friendly items that were affordable and stylish. That’s when Natural Luxe was born. Right now, the boutique has space inside HomeStyles Gallery in Mint Hill and will open a Charlotte location this year.
Q. How do you juggle being a mom and owning a business?
I work a lot during nap time and school time, but I've made an effort this year to leave the laptop in my office and focus on my daughter (same with my Blackberry!).
Q. What are your favorite brands that you carry?
I love the Mar y Sol handbags we carry, they are so beautiful and support fair trade women's coops in Madagascar. I also love Lunchskins -- I think every mom should have a set of reusable snack and sandwich bags. They are so convenient and eco-friendly.
Q. Which product would you recommend to a first-time mom?
I would recommend body lotions and washes -- they are such an easy way to start to green your baby's products. We love Little Twig because they have no parabens, pthlates and they are also nut and soy free --your baby might have an allergy you aren't even aware of yet -- plus a lot of the green baby lotions contain lavender, which is naturally soothing for both baby and mom.
Q. What is your daily routine?
I get my daughter up and going for the day and then I tackle orders, find new products, connect with customers on Facebook and Twitter. I love finding local events to participate in. I really believe you need to be engaged in your local community.
Q. What advice do you wish you had been given before you began Natural Luxe?
I wish someone had told me that you can't be everywhere at all times, start slowly and focus on a few goals each month.
Learn more about Natural Luxe online.
Jan Tiffany has been a regular on MomsCharlotte since the beginning of our venture three years ago! This 41-year-old South Charlotte mom of two (boys, ages 9 and 10) runs three businesses that she and her husband Chuck started: Jumpin Jacks, a party rentals business; Sandbagit, which makes sandbag covers; and LooseEnds, a personal assistance service.
Q. How did Jumpin Jacks begin?
We started Jumpin Jacks after the boys had their second- and third-year-old birthday parties. Their birthdays are 366 days apart and they have always shared a big backyard summer party. We called around for a moonbounce and found the local companies either 1. Do not return phone calls or 2. Have a disparity in prices, availability etc. The moonbounce that we ended up with was dirty and had duct tape on it.
Chuck and I both had decent full time jobs, but with both boys in day care (which was more than our house payment) we still needed additional income. After the less-than-favorable experience renting the moonbounce, Chuck decided we could probably offer a better service. He started the company from the ground up -- name, logo, website, etc.
We bought one moonbounce. That was 2003. Now with four vehicles, three trailers and more than $75,000 in rental equipment, we are almost into our ninth year in business. Even through a struggling economy, the business has increased in revenue 20 percent year after year.
Sandbagit started in December 2009. We found the company for sale in Connecticut and it tied in nicely with our moonbounce company. We thought it would be a good source of additional revenues. We drove to New York the weekend before Christmas and spent time in the city with the kids as we made our way to Hartford to finalize the purchase. Sandbagit markets and manufactures the vinyl sandbag covers that are used primarily by inflatables companies to anchor the inflatables to the ground.
Loosends started after I was laid off in May of 2009. When friends and friends of friends found out I wasn't "working," they asked for help running their households. The calls came from working moms and previous customers/clients from Swan Learning Center for tutoring, errands, housekeeping, party planning, etc. At that point, I developed a logo, Facebook page, email and website to promote a personal assistance service.
Q. And you work outside these businesses?
After a year of "unemployment" I received an offer to run the financial division at Christ Church Kindergarten and Preschool. It is a spectacular 50-year-old preschool and kindergarten in South Charlotte. I took the position in the fall of 2010.
Q. How were you able to manage a full time job, on top of starting a new company, plus be a mom of two boys?
Chuck and I are pretty good at tag teaming, both in family and in business. Together we have managed to run a home office while working our full time jobs. Along with an amazing child care experience (birth to 5), we were able to balance it all. Life gets really "busy" and "hectic" but we are really good at using our down time. We love vacations and road trips; those have been our saving grace.
We are tech savvy and communicate through texts and emails a lot. Our home office extends to the garage, the family room, the dining room and the bedroom! Many nights we use our king size bed to spread reports and contracts to review and approve together.
Establish written policies, keep electronic files and backups! We created everything as we went along and should have been better organized (electronically).
But for everything else, we really tried to research and most importantly make friends in the business to learn and network from others. That would be the advice I give to someone else. Networking is huge and making friends matches unlimited advertising dollars in my opinion. I would say 75 percent of our business in the early years came from happy moms!
Learn more about Jumpin Jacks at . Email inquiries about LooseEnds at .
In 2009, Mooresville mom of two Rachel Sutherland started her own boutique public relations and marketing firm - Rachel Southerland Communications. The 36-year-old mom of two started with one client and now has 10 across the nation. We recently chatted with Rachel.
Q. How did the idea begin for Rachel Sutherland Communications?
As a fashion journalist, I got to know a handful of small business owners in Charlotte quite well. Many needed more direction than I could provide (as a member of the media without violating ethical standards) on how to market themselves more effectively. As the newspaper industry changed and my hours were involuntarily cut, I started considering my options. What could I do that would allow me to play off my strengths?
Q. Did you have previous PR experience?
Not per se, but at the basest level, PR/marketing and journalism are both about informing the consumer. Instead of culling pitches and deciding which stories to tell on behalf of the newspaper, I am helping my clients tell their stories to a larger audience.
Q. How did you juggle beginning a new business with family life?
I'm still in the process of juggling/finding balance. It's been a pretty crazy year or so for our family. Three months after I took my voluntary buyout from the Charlotte Observer in November 2009, my husband Patrick was laid off from his job in the Charlotte Observer's sports department. He and I went from working opposite shifts to both working from home (he's now an editor with ESPN.com).
I've brought my children with me to client meetings -- thankfully I have understanding clients! -- and taken work calls on the beach in Hilton Head during a family vacation. I've canceled plans to run races with my triathlon buddies because of a client event.
I've had an office in Plaza-Midwood since October and that has helped better define work/family time, but there's still overlap.
Q. What has been your most rewarding moment?
Defying my own expectations, and seeing my business grow beyond my wildest expectations so quickly, pretty much by word-of-mouth.
Q. What is your typical day like?
My typical day is mostly not typical. Today, I'm working from home, and have been in front of the computer since I woke up this morning, heading downstairs to only get a cup of coffee and lunch. Tomorrow, the fam and I are planning to hit the Davidson Farmer's Market, then I'm having a working lunch with a local media source, reintroducing her to one of my clients. If there's time, I'll probably hit Costco for groceries before taking my son to baseball practice.
Next week, I'm coordinating a preview party for a client on Tuesday, on Wednesday I'll be heading to High Point Furniture Market for the first of a handful of visits in the next two weeks, and on Thursday meeting with an editor of a state-wide magazine on Thursday. Wednesday will find me giving a presentation on social media for the client's national vendors, and the following week, I'll be walking members of the national media through my client's latest collections.
Q. Going back, what family balancing advice do you wish you were given when you began your company?
Make time for yourself, make you a priority, even if it's one afternoon a week. Unplug, tune out and feed your soul. Everyone -- you, your family, your clients -- will be better for it.
Q. Do you have any tips for working moms?
Delegate at home and at work. I try to think of everything this way: "Is this worth time away from my family?" If not, then it is outsourced (hiring a cleaning service at home, hiring a bookkeeper for the business).
I've also recently discovered weekly meal planning. I was getting too frustrated by my lack of preparedness and giving the kids chicken nuggets and mac and cheese too often. Now I sit down on Sundays, evaluate my work schedule, identify pockets of prep time and plan our dinners accordingly.
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Yes, Robyn Pellei runs her own business as CEO of ViveVita. But what's even more amazing is that this 37-year-old Cotswold woman is the mother of nine children, and she home schools them! I know how hard it is to take care of one child while working from home, let alone nine! Her five boys and four girls range from 18 months to 11 years old.
Robyn began ViveVita when she had just (just!) four kids. The idea behind her company: "Creating innovative products that efficiently solve everyday problems for Moms and families," as her website puts it. Imagine products such as sippy cup bands where you can write the child's name or special ID mats children can put on their "special chair." She has three products on the market right now, with one of them -- the sippy cup "Bandette" labels -- sold at Babies R Us nationwide.
I chatted with Robyn, to see how this Supermom gets it all done.
Q. How did ViveVita begin?
ViveVita began out of a need to resolve some irritating everyday issues that I was facing – and realizing that I would be facing them for many years to come if I didn’t figure out a way to fix them. And since I was set on "fixing" the problems, I was determined to fix them in ways that I enjoyed – creating something pretty or cute, not just functional.
Q. What are some of the products that you've created and where can we find them?
Bandette cup and bottle labels (like wine-charms for kids plus labeling), available at BabiesRUs, Amazon and other fine retailers. Bandle bottle labels (same as Bandette labels but smaller) available on Amazon. Gripsterz StayAlong – the fun walking handle for kids (attaches to anything, multiple lengths & configurations for use) available on Amazon. ToothBand toothbrush labels; My Spot place markers (adorable 8” spots for showing kids where they need to sit and stay, perfect for time-outs and stopping arguments over whose sitting where!); & Kissaboo booboo covers (for real and ‘imagined’ booboos – no more wasted bandages!). All coming available on Amazon in the next 6-8 weeks.
Q. How did you manage the stress of beginning a new company while being a mom?
I shared it! Making sure that my husband, kids, family and friends knew what was going on and where I was every step of the process really helped lighten the load and helped them understand what was happening to us all and why.
Q. When you began ViveVita, did you make any promises to yourself about what you would and wouldn't sacrifice?
Yes, and still do as I continue to grow. Remaining very present and around for my immediate family is very important to me. I never want the business to seem more important than them and my true hope is that they never even feel like I have taken any moment away from them for the sake of the business.
Q. How do you manage working with 9 children at home with you?
For most people it probably looks something like "managed chaos!" I have an office that is off to the side of the house – I work in the office early in the morning, late at night, and during the day whenever I can take the time (or when I have sitters, which is usually 3-4 times a week for 3-4 hours). Being that my goal is to be present for the kids, I don’t usually shoo them right out of the office when they come in instead, I encourage them to climb into the back of my chair and either comb my hair or give me a back rub (smart score for Mommy!).
I will also take my laptop into the busy home zone and do the quick and easy stuff while also helping the kids with whatever they need. And, you’d be surprised how well 9 children can entertain each other – I highly recommend that any mompreneur have more kids to solve the keeping-them-busy issues!
Q. What is your every day schedule?
I usually get up around 6 a.m., get showered and dressed before the kids get up. I then touch base with emails and the business – setting a plan for the business day. Breakfast, dressing, morning chores, and then "morning school" comes on fast and furious. Mornings require the most of managed chaos. By lunch, we have finished up most of the school work and played a bit. After lunch comes nap time, independent work for the kids, and business work for me.
With a fair share of interruptions, we get through the afternoon and are wrapping things up by 4 p.m. – moving on to soccer practices and dinner prep. The nights are a flurry again – feeding everyone, getting ready for bed and then reading together or playing a game with Daddy. The calm after the storm comes in the late evening and I spring to life – with what energy I have left to spring with! I like the nights, so I am typically up very late doing business or household chores. I very rarely watch TV, but I do cherish my friend time on Facebook!
Q. How are you able to homeschool different aged children plus run a business?
Easythey are all in 5th grade! Maybe not really easy, but probably not as bad as you would think. I teach the oldest kids all from the same 5th grade curriculum for history and science and then tailor the rest to the learning level of each child making sure that they remain fairly grade appropriate. I encourage independence and the big kids help the younger ones a lot. And the business, well – that’s really a learning process for us all. We are all getting a homeschooled business education. Our children know a lot about starting and managing a business already!
Q. What advice do you wish you were given when you started ViveVita?
Honestly, I didn’t know that it was going to be so hard! I kind-of thought it would be fun to just start a business and learn something new. I wish that I was better prepared for the ‘long steep road’. I also wish that someone had screamed at me (I probably would not have listened/heard if they quietly mentioned it!) that I needed to make wise, non-emotional or personal decisions. We wasted way too much money and time by not making good business decisions, letting personal feelings (hopes, friendships, expectations, fears and disappointments) drive the decisions instead of sound observation, research, and calculations.
I would recommend that anyone who is starting a business first take the time to really evaluate the value and merit of the entire process – not just "will it work," but also "will I want to pull this all the way through, no matter where that leads."
Q. What are some of your methods and tricks to managing nine children?
I really put a lot of effort into training the kids how to manage their own issues and this alone has saved me much time and energy. I teach them how to deal with conflicts – so they don’t come running to me every time. One of my famous lines “Oh, I’m sorry, but I did not do that to you...please go talk to the person that did it.”
I try hard to have them obey the first time I say or request something – we don’t have the time to work through 1,2,3 and the end result is always the same anyway (or should bebut, maybe I am a little dreamy here!).
I carefully use video or TV time, ensuring that it is a used only when I need some extra quiet time. I would like to say that I am extremely organized with my time and schedule, but that is not the case. I am organized, but I leave a lot of room for the hundreds of "blips" 9 children can throw into a daily schedule. I only get frustrated if I try to follow a strict regime.
Q. I know how hard it is to work from home while taking care of 1 child and cooking dinner for 3, how do you do it for 11? In this phase of our family and business life, we are certainly not eating as healthy as I would like and have in the past. I have learned to lay down my expectations for perfection in that area "for this season" and allow us to have easy dinners that require less time and thought.
As for the amount of mouths to feed, it really doesn’t matter whether you are cooking for 1 or 9, you still have to do the cooking and dirty the pans! The kids also help – you’d be amazed what kids can do even though they are young.