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Parent's Corner

Chief Executive Mother: The Makings of Mompreneurs

By: Pamela Brill


You've changed your share of diapers, nursed your baby through countless feedings and played more games of peek-a-boo than you thought humanly possible. Mastering new motherhood is nothing to scoff at, and yet you find that the skills you've acquired could be put to use in a different sense.

For those mothers with an entrepreneurial spirit, creating a business or developing a new product seems like a natural fit, enabling them to put their newfound parenting knowledge into something tangible. But what may look good on paper, doesn't necessarily translate into a business model without taking the proper steps. With expert advice from moms who have successfully transitioned into entrepreneurs, you can determine how to translate your own experience into something marketable.

 Taking the Leap

 For Nadine Bubeck, risk-taking frightened her, but ultimately her drive and determination outweighed her fears. "I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit," said the owner of Mama B. Designs (www.MamaBDesigns.com), makers of kids' and adult graphic T-shirts. "The fearless side of me told me to pursue [it], and that's exactly what I did." The former television news anchor and mother of a preemie took her love of fashion and decided to launch a boutique apparel line.

After initially designing twinning options for moms and sons—much of the market had already been devoted to mothers and daughters—Bubeck officially teamed up with the March of Dimes, launching a Miracle Line of clothing for men, women and kids. "As a parent of a preemie, I loved the idea of creating fashion that gives back," she said. "The Miracle Line's goal is to stylishly spread prematurity awareness; fifty percent of each item sold goes to the foundation."

Starting Mama B. Designs did not come without challenges; Bubeck put up her own money to get her business up off the ground and spent time researching how to design a website and set up a payment system. She credits leaning on personal contacts who helped her along the way: from former television colleagues that served as models, to a photographer friend who created website images. "It is imperative to create a support system and form a trusting tribe of go-to people," she affirmed.

Bubeck knew that she finally made it when she saw one of Mama B. Designs' tops featured in a national magazine and landed a spot to promote her Miracle Line on a Los Angeles television show. However, she does not rest on her laurels. To keep herself motivated and maintain a balance, she makes time to be with her family and takes care of business in off-hours when necessary. "I'm all for taking breaks, being flexible and refocusing my attention when need be," she admitted. "My sons come first. Work-wise, I fit a lot into nap time…"

To those mompreneurs-to-be, Bubeck offers the following advice: "Be fearless. Be smart. And go for it. What's the worst that can happen?"

Turning Fantasy into Reality

For Cassie Slane and Ami Van Dine, a simple playdate turned into a potential business opportunity. The two mothers had the idea to launch Dreamland Fairy (www.DreamlandFairy.com) after their young daughters decided to turn a hand-painted fairy house (originally fashioned by mother and daughter) into a toy line that could be sold at retail. "We realized that we had a unique concept we could manufacture and bring to other children," they said. "We also wanted to model for our daughters that any idea could be turned into reality, with hard work, patience and persistence."

In bringing Dreamland Fairy to market, Slane and Van Dine were tasked with finding a manufacturer and initially had four different suppliers making the components overseas. "Once we got all the pieces, we hand-packed the first 1,000 kits ourselves in a rented storage facility," they recall. Today, they have one manufacturer that can make an entire kit in 30 days.

After having sold their first 1,000 fairy kits and re-orders began pouring in, they realized that they had a viable product on their hands. "Ami literally walked from store to store in our local community (in the middle of a snowstorm) and asked small stores to try out the product," says Slane.  Now, four years later, Dreamland Fairy is in 600 stores in the U.S. and 50 in Canada, and are introducing their sixth product.

Over time, the two have developed a knack for juggling their company and family life. "Sometimes, work has to take a backseat to your family, but most of the time, we have found creative ways to make it work," they say. Phone calls are returned while kids are in school, and other tasks are handled once the kids have gone to sleep. "We also have very supportive husbands that have taken on extra responsibilities when we're on the road or slammed with orders," they add.

For those moms looking to embrace their own entrepreneurial spirit, Slane and Van Dine advise starting out slowly. "Make sure you prove your concept before taking on too much," they say. "If it's a good idea, it will grow organically." Being 100-percent committed to your business is also essential. "I always tell people that if you are the hardest-working person you know, you can do it," says Slane.

Expert Advice from the Trenches

Asking yourself some pointed questions is the best way to determine if you are ready to be a mompreneur. For starters, does the product or service solve a real problem that people are likely to pay someone to solve, poses Caroline Greene, life/business coach and author of NEXT: How to Start a Successful Business That's Right for You and Your Family (www.CarolineGreeneCoaching.com) . "If the answer is yes, then the next step is to trust herself and move forward."

While Greene believes mothers possess the natural skills of multitasking, time management and determination—all of which can translate into the business world—she feels women need to watch out for potential pitfalls. "The most common error I see moms make is spending too much time, effort and money branding a product or service before they know whether or not anyone will want to buy it," she noted. Greene advises testing a product by developing a prototype and trying to sell it first. "The market will tell you whether or not the idea is a good one regardless of whether you are fully branded, have an awesome website or create a darling business card," she adds.

And rather than wrestle with the concept of developing a work/life balance, Greene urges future mompreneurs to re-think the term. "What I help my clients achieve is FLOW: the ability to move from one area of her life, to another with less stress and more ease while focusing on what truly matters," she offers. Experimenting with what works best for you and your family is essential—and should be changed as needed. "When something no longer works, let it go and replace it with something that does—at work and at home," she concludes.