Mother Run: Hannah McFaull + April Hobbs of ...And Out Come The Boobs

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    Have you ever felt like you’ve lost part, or all, of your identity after becoming a mother?  Your priorities have shifted and you no longer have time for those things that made you YOU. You’re tired, wishing you could feel like you did before, feeling guilty for wishing you felt differently, and on top of everything else--your regular clothes don’t fit because you just had a baby.  Well, Hannah McFaull and April Hobbs knew that feeling and they decided to do something about it.

    Hannah and April, whose husbands have been friends since high school, met four years ago when April’s husband took a job with Hannah’s and relocated from the UK.  The two became fast friends. They talked about their future business for 18 months before finally taking the plunge in September 2017 and began preparing for their launch.  Their company, ...And Out Come The Boobs, went live right around Thanksgiving of that same year and took off. This is their story.

What all did you do before going into business for yourself?

H: I had my daughter in March 2016, and before that was the Co-Director of a radical women’s rights nonprofit, specializing in communication and finances. I’d always worked in non-profits in the human rights field, both in the UK and the US. I didn’t earn enough to cover the cost of my childcare, so becoming a full-time parent was a no-brainer.

A- Prior to this I was a bartender for 10 years, most recently at Forbidden Island in Alameda - and I have been sewing for 13 years before that, both for recreation and for a specialty western riding apparel company.

What made you want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?

H: I’ve always been surrounded by strong women who have made things happen and being punks, the concept of DIY (Doing It Yourself) has always been central to the way I’ve tried to live my life. My husband started his own company in 2004, and is now one of the world’s biggest vinyl record manufacturers. His passion for his work, his drive and ambition inspires me every day.

...And Out Come The Boobs started as a conversation between friends - me complaining about the nursing clothes on the market, and April telling me that she would be happy to alter some of my clothes to turn them into nursing clothes. And we figured if I was feeling this way, then there must be others who were also unhappy. Turns out we were right!

A- I’ve always wanted to have my own company, sewing, punk and upcycling are right up my alley - and because I felt breastfeeding in public was such a pain in the ass, mostly because I am shy, I wanted to make clothes that I would feel comfortable nursing in. Something I felt cool wearing, but also could comfortably breastfeed in public in.

When you first went into business, did you dive right in and work things out as you went or were you more a researcher and planner?  What parts of running a business did you both struggle with at the beginning?

H: I think we are still at the beginning! We’re definitely working it all out as we go along - refining our business model and our approach to our work. We come across things all the time that we know we need to develop, and have to spend time thinking and talking things through. One thing I think we are good at is learning from our mistakes and giving ourselves a break when we mess up! We know that there’s no handbook for this and we’re trying to be kind to ourselves, and allow ourselves to grow as we gain more knowledge.

I’m definitely a planner and organizer, I’m never happier than when I’ve got a to-do list to work from. It definitely helps me keep all the plates spinning as a parent, as a partner and as a business owner.

A- Luckily I partnered up with Hannah who likes to plan! On the manufacturing side, customizing the shirts requires cutting into the design of the shirts and consideration of how to preserve the integrity of the T-shirt design, while still providing a totally comfortable nursing shirt. Each shirt takes some time to figure out which of our nursing designs fits best.

When we were starting out we made some prototypes and got them out to nursing parents to give us feedback on placement of the zippers, how long they should be etc. We are refining our process constantly through the reviews and feedback we get from our customers.

Your idea is so great, I know I personally didn’t buy nursing specific clothing because I just didn’t like what was available so I made what I already had work.  What personally led you to decide to begin making your products?

H: I hated the nursing clothing I had (I hated the maternity clothing too, but that’s an interview for another day!). It either made me feel like I was swamped by material, or that my boobs were always on show. I also struggled with breastfeeding at first, put on a load of weight, and felt like I was losing grip on who I was before I got pregnant. I have this really vivid memory of crying while trying to nurse my daughter, and looking at this enormous box of band t-shirts that I’d lovingly collected over years of going to shows, and wishing that I could just throw one of them one, fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans and leave the house with my bright pink hair spiked. I couldn’t do any of those things! I happened to mention to April how unhappy I was, and she offered to alter some of my clothes for me.

A- I just wanted to wear my clothes and I couldn’t!

Feeling like you’ve lost your identity after having a baby is a very common issue among women.  Something as simple as having clothing options available that make you feel like yourself can go a long way in helping women feel better.  How does it feel knowing that your product can really help new mothers in this way?

H: It’s honestly the driving force behind why we’re doing this. Becoming a parent is one of the most transformative things you can experience in life, and I personally wasn’t expecting to miss my pre-baby self as much as I did. For me, the expression of self through choices of clothing, hair color etc is such an important part of who I am and all got put on hold when I got pregnant - nothing fit, couldn’t bleach my hair, couldn’t get any new tattoos. So after the birth of my daughter I needed to claw that back as quickly as I could to prevent me feeling like I was drifting even further from myself.

A-  This is exactly why we do this. Breastfeeding is hard and when we’re on the go, we want to be able to feed our babies comfortably anywhere we are and feel like ourselves while we are doing it.

How do you balance your work with motherhood?  What struggles have you overcome while trying to find a balance between the two?

H: one of the reasons I love working with April, and with other parents, is that our kids come first. Always. No ifs, ands or buts. So if one of the kids is sick, or teething, or just being a nightmare, we totally get it and there’s no judgment or need for explanation. We took 3 weeks off in February this year so I could give birth to my son and April could move house, and we could have lost momentum, or found other distractions, but we really missed each other and came back to AOCTB more fired up with bigger plans than ever before!

A: You know that saying, ‘you sleep when they sleep’? Well, I sew when she sleeps. When my kids are around, I focus all my attention on them, it makes it so that sewing comes second, it's hard trying to find a balance between my children, work and sleep.

You ladies are the first Mother Run Interview team! How does working with a partner compare balance/scheduling/working wise compared to if you worked alone?  Do you think you face different obstacles working with two schedules or do you think it makes it easier to not have to do everything single handedly?

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H: I don’t think we could do this single handedly - I personally can’t operate a sewing machine, so our division of responsibilities completely plays to our individual strengths and skills. I think this is what makes our partnership work so well, is that we understand what our roles are. I love working with April - not only do I get to hang out with my friend but she has such great ideas and is such a positive person. We definitely keep each other going, keep each other motivated. I think it took us a while to get into our groove and find the best way to work together (and we’re still making it better all the time!), but as long as we are open and honest with each other about what we need, or what we have going on, then we can only hope to make our relationship stronger!

A- Working with a partner that does the stuff I don’t like to do (like computers and the facebook) is the best. She keeps the orders going/moving while I can just worry about  production.

Tell me a little about your kids, how old were they when you began your business journey?

H: My daughter Rosie is 2 and my son Joe is 10 weeks old. I tend to wear Joe in a carrier when I work but Rosie wants to help with everything, so she has a babysitter who comes to play a few times a week so I can get things done. We have a pack and play at the AOCTB workspace, an endless supply of goldfish crackers and have hosted a few toddler dance parties while we get orders finished off!

A: My youngest is 14 months old and she was 9 months old when we started our journey. My oldest is 21 and my son is 18. My oldest daughter has a 2 1\2 year old who is amazing! Grandma’s little rebel. My son is a bass player and a singer for a punk band in San Diego. They are my everything and driving force….(no one believes I’m a Grandma, but it’s true).

As small business owners, it can often be hard to see ourselves as entrepreneurs or to receive support in what we are doing.  Have you dealt with people doubting your ability to run a business or telling you it’s not a “real” job? If so, how do you handle it?

H: I think because our business is so new, we haven’t really seen ourselves as business owners yet, or had to describe ourselves that way very often. We did our first event a few weeks ago, and I think the more of those we do, the more real it will feel. We’ve definitely had conversations where people have had questions about our plans and have walked away impressed when we’ve answered all their questions and ‘proved’ that we know what we’re doing.

A: I have dealt with a little doubting, but that pushes me more. That’s just the way I’m wired. I really never thought about entrepreneurship, I just really wanted to improve our selection of nursing clothes.

Anything on your business goals bucket list?

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H: The name ...And Out Come The Boobs comes from the Rancid album ...And Out Come The Wolves, and the album art work is what our logo is a parody of. I’d love to get a photo of Lars from Rancid wearing one of our shirts! Aside from that I’d like to get a handle on Pinterest - I know it’s a hugely underused way of getting information out there and its on my to-do list for 2018.

A: Absolutely what Hannah said. My goal was to to go international and we’ve done that, so I guess I have to dream bigger. I would love to be able to have an employee or two. Hiring other moms is the best - no one manages their time more efficiently than a working mom!

Any favorite business or creative resources you love?  Favorite inspiring books, films, podcasts, blogs, speakers?

H: I find business inspiration in loads of small-business owning parents that we’ve connected with on Instagram - their honesty, passion and dedication takes my breath away and I strive to be as genuine about their challenges and achievements as they are.

A: The thing that inspires me are all the personal stories I’ve heard of women who were shamed and criticized while trying to breastfeed in public. I felt that with my older children and my youngest at times. I get inspired to normalize breastfeeding through their struggles as well as mine.

Any advice for other business owning moms?

H: Be real about your achievements and your goals. We all want to make enough money to put our kids through college, but not all of us are going to do that with our Etsy stores. Decide what your motivation is for running your business and remind yourself of it regularly.

And have a ‘get up and dance’ song, that makes you get off your ass and get things done. Motherhood and tiredness go hand in hand, so if you have a song that makes you wiggle, gives you energy and makes you smile, keep it on heavy rotation on your playlists...

A: Always put your family first.
 

Connect with Hannah + April:

On Etsy

On Instagram

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Jaclyn Shaw of Jaclyn Shaw Photography

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

    Jaclyn Shaw’s love of photography began during her teenage years.  “My dad first introduced me to photography when I was 15,” she remembers.  “He had a Minolta camera that he showed me how to use and it was always a welcomed excuse to hang out with him.  In high school I began taking photography classes and really loved it. I HATED taking pictures of people. Those were the assignments that I literally begged my teacher to let me do something else.  I was too nervous and introverted and wasn’t comfortable with that type of interaction with people. It’s still a struggle that I deal with, but I force the interactions and as soon as I’m doing what I do best, all the anxiety melts away.”

    While her photography passion had its beginnings as a kid, it wasn’t until much later that she knew she wanted to make a career out of it.  “I picked my camera back up after a very long hiatus, when my kids were little,” she explains. “I had forgotten how much fun it was and I began posting the images I took.  I had a close friend ask me to take photos of his brother’s wedding and it took me three weeks to decide that I would do it. I was a nervous wreck the whole time, but every time I lifted my camera, I would instantly relax and learn to have fun.  That’s when I knew I needed to start putting more energy into it to see how far I could take it.” At the time, she was the mother of an eight year old girl named Sophia, a four year old boy named Sampson, and was pregnant with her third child, who would be a boy named Sullivan.  She wasted no time diving into her new venture. “I actually went into business blindly and as things popped up, learned along the way,” she recalls. “It was not an ideal, or probably smart way to go about things, but it worked well enough. I had a huge struggle in marketing appropriately and figuring out what made sense to charge my clients for what I had to offer.  The more I worked, the better I felt about my product and the more confidence I gained in charging what I thought was, not only appropriate, but necessary in order to be able to contribute to my family.”

    Prior to taking that plunge into entrepreneurship, Jaclyn worked in residential and commercial property management, as well as being a real estate agent.  “I made great money, but it was immensely stressful, time consuming, and was not filling a personal void that I felt,” she explains. “It got to the point where I had a really hard time ‘finding my happy’ and I knew that this was affecting my family.”  Making a career change into your own business is always a risk, but she knew it was the right move to make. “Photography was something that I knew that I enjoyed immensely,” says Jaclyn. “I’ve never once felt the need to complain about what I was doing.  It was never a ‘chore’ to shoot or sit at the computer for hours editing. It was fun--each and every time, and I felt a creative release that I didn’t know I needed to fulfil. I was lucky enough to have a husband that was willing to both financially and emotionally support me.  We knew it was a risk to relinquish the salary that I was making, and that running your own business takes time to take off, but personal happiness and fulfillment have always been things that my husband and I have seen as top priorities, so we took the risk.”

    That risk paid off and since beginning she has honed her craft in so many types of photo sessions.  One of the fun and challenging things about photography is using different skills for different types of photos.  “They are all SO different, and bring different things,” she explains. “Newborns require a little finesse, lots of props and very careful hands and poses.  They aren’t the type of session you just show up to and hope the best for. They require such small, specific details in order to run smoothly. Families are always great fun because you never know what you’re going to get.  You can drive to the session all while thinking of what poses you may want to try and realize as soon as you get there that what you wanted to do won’t fit that family. I feel like I have to think more quickly and really be on my toes, and I have to be immensely flexible, especially when dealing with multiple kids.  My mind usually races during these sessions and sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place, but if there are little ones, I usually AM all over the place. Family sessions require lots of running, lots of time on the ground and lots of fart noises.  Senior pictures are ridiculously fun, each and every time.  These are kids that have grown up in front of a camera, whether it be a friends or their own, and they know how to pose!  They are up for any and all of my crazy ideas, so it’s great creatively. There are usually lots of laughs and great conversations at these.  Weddings are special on a whole other level. It’s a long day watching months and months of a bride and grooms vision come to fruition. Being present for each and every moment, and having the opportunity to capture those moments for all of time is the greatest of compliments, especially as a photographer.  I have the unique opportunity to sit back and watch an entire day unfold. I get to see the bride and her dad standing in the corner laughing and crying and sharing a special moment alone. I get to see flower girls twirl in a mirror and feel like princesses and I get to see friends and family spend an entire afternoon celebrating the coming together of two insanely in-love people.  There is also a special friendship that ensues with photographing weddings. I come to the point where all of my clients feel like family or friends, but I spend so much time with the bride and groom that it just feels a little different.” She recently expanded her offerings into a new type of session. “Boudoir photography has always been on my bucket list, and I’ve recently started dabbling in it, and I am SO glad that I did,” Jaclyn says.  “It has been rewarding both creatively and on a level with my clients that I just don’t get in any other way. It’s a very personal experience and takes a lot of courage, and it requires conversations that you never typically have. Having the opportunity to show women, of all sizes, how incredibly beautiful they are in ways that they don’t ever see themselves fills my heart each and every time. It has become a very special route for me to be able to offer my clients.”

    It’s now been seven years since Jaclyn went into business for herself and her business has changed so much.  “It’s evolved in so many ways, from the time that I put into it, to the product that I give,” she says. “I used to struggle to get my clients 20-25 images that were worthy of them even looking at, and now I have a hard time narrowing them down to 60-70 images.  I’ve taught myself how to edit the way that I want my images to turn out. I’ve taught myself how to design my own website - twice. I learned how to put together the proper marketing and contracts that I feel fit who I represent and I’ve changed my logo and ‘look’ about half a dozen times.  I’ve also learned a great deal with how to ‘read’ people and help them relax in order to get the images that I know they want to get. I still struggle with this a lot - some people are tough nails to crack, but I’ve learned to not take it personally. I’ve found a pretty good rhythm with how I run my shoots, and it seems to work most of the time. It’s always evolving, and being in the business that I am, it probably always should.”

From a recent newborn session.

From a recent newborn session.

    It’s not only her business that has evolved in that time, her kids have also grown up, changing the balance of family and work throughout the years.  “This has always been a struggle,” says Jaclyn. “It’s hard and there is guilt that comes along with always sitting at the computer, or texting a client or editing while your kids want to play or need your attention, or the laundry needs done.  Currently, my youngest is in preschool from 8am - 11am and some days I am able to squeeze in work during that time, or for a quick hour or so during nap time, but I primarily edit and do almost everything else from the hours of 8 pm- midnight, on a nightly basis - especially during the busy season.  We moved my computer from the basement and into the living room so I could at least be in the same vicinity of my husband while I edit on those nights. It doesn’t feel like there is quite as much of a marriage strain since we have done that. I can turn around and engage in conversations with him and we get the opportunity to catch up.  Typically, when the kids go to bed, that is the time most couples have to spend time together. That’s not always the case from the months of June through November, but Chad is understanding and I try to arrange some of those nights so we can go on mini-dates or hang out and play dominoes or sit on the couch with a glass of wine and just talk. It another one of those very important things to try and balance.”

    That balance has gotten a bit easier over the years as her children have grown older and starting this fall it will be even easier.  “At this point the kids pretty much get it and don’t seem to care as much,” she explains. “My youngest is not very forgiving about me working when he needs attention, and I make sure that I release myself from work as much as possible once the oldest kids get home from school so that I can be attentive to them.  Sophia usually has an afterschool activity that I need to be at, or run her to. Sampson needs my attention with math homework most nights, and Sullivan just wants someone to take the time to watch him play Legos. I make sure to be there for the kids for all of these things. Sometimes is means longer nights, and I’m ok with that.  Next year, my youngest will be in all-day Kindergarten, so I am looking forward to having the day to do my work, and hopefully have my evenings back for my family.”

    Her many years of photography had led to some great lessons.  Her work requires building a relationship between herself and her clients that didn’t always come easily.  “I was terrible at building relationships with my clients at first - or at least I felt that I was terrible at it,” she says.  “It’s always amazing to me how many photographers I’ve met that all feel that they are insanely introverted, yet they choose this profession.  I guess I’m a high-functioning introvert, but like with anything, you get better at it with practice. You learn how to read people and find where their comfort level is and the relationship builds from that.  Or, in some cases, you blabber nonsense and make a fool of yourself and when the session has ended, pray that your clients went home with smiles on their faces and that they at least had fun. Kindness and smiles always go a long way. As with any creative venture, pursuing a photography business is all about practice.  I’ll say it a million times over. Practice your craft. Practice talking to complete strangers, and practice making mistakes, but that is where you learn the most. And take classes or watch videos or read things that are pertinent. The more you learn, the more your comfort level and confidence grows, and it will come through in every facet of your business.”            

    Having started, and now successfully run, her business for seven years while mothering, she also is filled with plenty of advice for moms hoping to do the same.  “If you love it, stick with it. Make it grow. Take risks. Don’t give up. Ever,” she says. “There were a million times when I knew I wasn’t as good as the next photographer, but I read something one time that I never stop thinking about: ‘You can’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.’  Everyone has to START somewhere, some people just started sooner than others. You’ll make it if you want it hard enough.” In addition to constantly learning and not giving up, there is one more thing she says is important to success. “For those who are looking to pursue the photography business, or any business for that matter, it’s all about passion.  If it fuels you in ways that nothing else can, don’t ever stop until you get to where you want to be. There are a lot of photographers out there and it’s a pretty saturated market, but those who don’t truly have the passion to do it won’t last. Some photographers will seem to have it all together, and some will have very specific strengths. Find the look and feel that fits you best and go with it.  Make it your own and you’ll succeed.”

 

Connect with Jaclyn:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany