Mother Run: Erin Giordano of December Dame

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     If you want to see the profound effects that women (and mothers) supporting and encouraging each other can have, look no further than Erin Giordano.  Erin had thoughts of starting of her own business but hadn’t yet taken the plunge until one day she saw another mother maker hosting a collaboration contest.  The contest, run by Nicole Sloan of Drawings by Nicole, was looking for submissions for new designs that she would help turn into enamel pins. “My husband and I had talked a LOT about me starting a business from home making the enamel pins,” Erin shares.  “But I am quite pessimistic, I kept telling myself it was just wishful thinking. So when Nicole posted about her collaboration contest, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. And if I won an opportunity to work with her, it would give me a little more insight into what it would take for me to start on my own.  I was really encouraged by the support I received and I told myself it was now or never!”

The design that won Erin the collaboration contest with Drawings by Nicole

The design that won Erin the collaboration contest with Drawings by Nicole

    Not only did Erin go on to win that collaboration In January 2018, it also proved to be the tipping point that officially led her to entrepreneurship.  One of the things that had been holding her back was not having the right tools, but that first pin with Nicole changed all that. “I didn’t have the necessary equipment needed to start designing,” Erin explains.  “For those who don’t remember or didn’t see, my design idea that I sent to Nicole was a pen/colored pencil drawing that I scanned using my mom’s computer and emailed to her. With the money I made from the sales of our pin collaboration, I was able to buy a used iPad Pro.”  The other hold up she had, that I’m sure most all of us can relate to at some point, is that pesky little feeling of self doubt. “I really had to talk myself out of a negative mindset,” she says. “I tell myself ‘it’ll never work’ too often. This was one of those times that I had to push through my self-doubt.”  The fact that it was joint effort to put her first design into the world gave her a bit of pause, but afterwards she decided to keep it going and start her own shop. “I was thinking ‘what if the only reason I did ok with sales is because of being associated with a bigger shop? What if the only reason they turned out so well is because I had a second person working with me on it?,’” she says.  “But I dove in anyways. And so far it’s working out pretty ok!”

    Prior to having children of her own, Erin got her Associates Degree in Child Development and worked as a preschool teacher for two years.  “From there, I decided to try out the medical field,” she says. “I was a pharmacy technician for seven years, which is funny because I am quite ‘crunchy.’  I worked in a pharmacy full-time until I was 38 weeks pregnant with our first baby, my son Jones, and then we decided that being a stay at home mom was the best choice for our family.”

    As we all know, starting a business from home with our kids is never easy (though perhaps her background as a preschool teacher gives her an edge!).  Not only is Erin running her business with two children, she is doing it as a mom of two under two. “My son, Jones, is 20 months old and my daughter, Pearl, is 7 months,” she says.  “They definitely keep me on my toes but I love being a mom so much. Being a mama is just as wonderful (and exhausting!) as they said it would be.”

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    While working with any age of children is hard, working with two babies comes with unique challenges since they can’t do anything alone.  “The biggest struggle is that both of my kids are so young and need their mom SO often for SO many different reasons,” Erin explains. “My son, being an inquisitive toddler, wants to play with the pins and play with the printer and play with my packing supplies and unravel the tape dispenser.  My daughter pretty much wants to nurse and be held 24/7, like most 7 month olds do. So yeah, still trying to find the best way to balance! With designing and talking to manufacturers and packing orders, right now I’m just trying to get as much done while my husband is home, while also spending enough time with him, and when the babies are asleep.”  Another challenge with very young kids, she says, is that “toddlers and babies don’t understand that you just need a few minutes to get some work done. And I’m trying to find the most efficient way to pack orders. Most of the time, I pack them with Pearl in the carrier on my back and when my husband is home to play with Jones.”

    One of the greatest things about social media is the connections you can make with people you may have otherwise never known existed.  This is one of Erin’s favorite parts of starting her business. “With pins being so popular right now, I’ve found and gotten to talk to so many artists over the last couple months!,” she says.  “Everyone is so nice and so encouraging. And it’s been awesome connecting with so many other moms running businesses.”

    She may have just started her business but Erin has big plans for its future.  “My goal is to really just see how far I can take this and take it to its limit, whatever that means,” she says.  “My goal three months ago was to maybe do shirts one day, and now I’ve almost sold out of two designs. So now my current goal is to have a few shirt designs in rotation by the end of the year, while still adding new pins to my shop!”

Don't underestimate mothers.

Don't underestimate mothers.

    As many of us know, sometimes a general lack of support can come from those around us who don’t share our vision but we can sometimes also be our own worst enemy.  “So far, I haven’t had to deal with much negativity besides my own,” Erin shares. “But sometimes I’ll talk to people about what I’m doing and they seem to see this as more of a hobby, rather than a business.  I’m pouring my heart into this, along with a lot of my free time. Which as other moms know, I don’t have much of. I am determined to make this work and to prove to people, and especially myself, that I CAN be successful.”

    So what is Erin’s advice for other mothers looking to join the entrepreneurial ranks?  “I feel like I’m still trying to figure all this out,” she says. “Surround yourself with people who cheer you on, find other moms who you can reach out to for encouragement and advice.  And definitely don’t get discouraged on the bad days.”

    “The encouragement I’ve gotten and the friends I’ve made is what helps me to keep going and keep putting myself out there,” says Erin.  Never be afraid to reach out to someone and tell them you love what they’re doing— a little support can go a long way!

 

Connect with Erin:

On Instagram

On Etsy

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany


 

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: Tabi Falcone of Annabelle Beet Designs

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    Tabi Falcone of Annabelle Beet Designs is a woman who wears many hats.  From her day job as a technical apparel designer, to her creative small business, to being a biological and foster mother--her days and her heart are full.  

    By day her occupation as a technical apparel designer keeps her busy.  “The easiest way to describe my occupation is that I write the blueprints for clothes,” she explains.  “I work directly with the creative design team and turn their vision into specifications (the measurements of the garments, construction, etc) and then work with the vendors to turn it into an actual garment that can be sold in stores.  The biggest thing (and what makes this a very specialized field) is I am in charge of the fit of the garment.  If you buy a pair of pants that fit really well, you have a technical designer to thank!  My education is in Fashion Design, and I sewed professionally for years at a bridal shop as well as freelance corsetry.  This past month I was also promoted to senior technical design so I have responsibility over a large popular brand and have three people reporting to me--no pressure or anything!”

    Her degree even led to the beginning of her new small business, which she started in November 2017.  “I have a background in painting through my college education and I’ve been consistently painting with my kids for years,” she says.  “I started experimenting with watercolors about a year and a half ago and have absolutely fallen in love with them. I started off with the food pun paintings as an extension of a separate business I briefly stepped into with a partner.  This business (reusable bags) was short lived and I learned that for my creative side I work best on my own for the core part of my business. After a small break I was feeling that ‘small biz’ tug again and decided to just put aside my fears and jump in to selling the part of that previous business that did the best - my paintings.”  Her decision to start selling her paintings is likely relatable to many handmade artists—“Honestly I made more paintings of food puns than my husband wanted hung in our house!,” she says. “He told me to either start selling or stop making, and stopping making was definitely not an option. I knew I would have limited time/energy as a full time working ‘mom of many’ and wouldn’t be able to do enough craft shows to satisfy me, so I decided to list my shop on Etsy.”

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    The third element of Tabi’s story is her family.  “My kids were (and still are) 5 and 7 when I started my small business,” she says.  “To them the only thing that has really changed is that every once in a while I pop out of the house for the day to sell at a craft show.  We have always been an artistic family and paint a lot together, and I do a lot of my business painting after hours as well. My kids are still young so they have a 7:30 and 8:00 bedtime which gives me two hours free every night before it’s time for me to go to bed.  Liam is 7 (and a half he reminds me) and is a cyclone of energy. The only time he stops moving is when he’s reading; we have read-a-thons every night before bed as our cuddle time. Going to the library is one of his favorite rewards and he will sit and read easily for 2 hours straight.  When he’s not reading he’s building forts or literally running around in circles. Maxwell is 5, and is a precocious little one with a surprising vocabulary. Some of his favorite words are ‘consequence’ and ‘difficult,’ which always surprises newcomers to the house.”

    In addition to her two biological children, Tabi and her husband are also foster parents.   “It’s an extremely detailed, invasive and long process,” says Tabi. “We were required to take a long class (30 hours) to learn trauma based parenting, invasive questions (including about our sex life - no lie), our friends/family were interviewed, our home was studied 4 times, we needed a fire inspection, medical reports on all members of the family living in the home, comprehensive background checks, income information, details on how much money we spend monthly on our bills, CPR certification and honestly probably more that I’m not remembering.  Between my work schedule (I travel internationally twice a year and to NYC in between), the two birth children we already have, and my husbands school schedule it took us a total of 10 months to receive our license.” That long process to become foster parents was well worth it. “The actual day to day of fostering is the most rewarding and heartbreaking thing we have done as parents,” she says. “We’ve said goodbye to children we parented for over 5 months knowing that we may never see them again, and we are preparing to say goodbye to a baby we have had for almost half of her life.  We’ve seen our children grow in empathy and we have celebrated and grieved with them. At the end of the day, it is something that has become ingrained in the fabric of our family, as much as it can suck sometimes.”

    With everything Tabi and her family has going on, finding time to devote to her growing business has been a bit of a struggle. “Finding time for everything that I need to do, and accepting that I can’t do everything that I want to do has been the biggest challenge,” she says. “I use a day planner and that has helped me a LOT, when I can remember to keep up with it. It has a page a day so I can break it down to realistic time slots of what I can actually get done in a day.”

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    That limited time hasn’t stopped her from getting her art out into the world and accomplishing her business goals (which is fitting as she says one of her favorite pieces is “purple to yellow ombre with the saying ‘slay your own dragons’ on it!”). She already has a couple craft shows under her belt and even though her fair days didn’t get off to a great start she didn’t let that get to her for long. “That [first] show actually did not go well and I left very discouraged,” she recalls. “It was a smaller show which had not been done before and it ended up POURING all day. I made about $10 more than what I paid for the slot and was questioning my dedication afterwards. I just did my second show, though, which was a larger show with beautiful weather and I ended up making four times my vendor fee and had an AMAZING response from the community. There will be some collaborations coming out of connections I made and I’m feeling really positive about the direction my shop is going in.”

    One of her goals for the year was to have her art in two local shops. It’s only June and she is already well on her way to surpassing that. She recently got her first wholesale order from a local business owner and has her art displayed in a local gallery.  “The gallery came about organically when my husband and I were on a date night at our local gallery hop,” she explains. “I talked to the woman working at the gallery for our local DADA (Downtown Arts District Association) and mentioned I was interested in joining. I showed her some pictures of my work and it turned out they had some spots opening up!  Within three weeks I was setting up my space there! With the shop I had been following them since they opened this year and based on their IG I felt my art would be a really good fit. They happened to be around the corner from a space I was attending a ‘Creatives and Cupcakes’ event at so I swung by to say hi and introduce myself. We set up a meeting and I frantically threw together a wholesale linesheet the day before to try to look professional. It apparently worked because the owner loved it and put in an order on the spot!  It’s so amazing to know that my work’s in an actual store. Somehow it makes it so much more real than selling on Etsy. I feel like it took me to a different level and it actually inspired me to create my own website! I took a quick break while I was travelling internationally for my day job, but now that I’m back I’m going to start reaching out to more retailers and try to expand my reach.” In addition that those goals that she is already smashing, her business future has one more major one in it. “My full blown bucket list is to open a gallery/studio space that is part art gallery/shop and part adult/children’s art studio,” she says. “Similar to the ‘wine and paint’ studios but with splatter painting and REALLY messy types of art like that.”

    A lot of small business owners have a hard time finding support from those around them who may not understand what goes into starting and running your own business.  Tabi is one of the lucky people to not have this problem. “This part is awesome,” she says. “I surround myself with really supportive people. My husband is absolutely my biggest supporter--he built my displays and helps me find time to focus on my art; as well as puts up me turning our dining room into my studio.  I have a very tight knit group of friends, many of whom are makers as well and have side hustles; we all build each other up constantly.”

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    With all that she has going on, Tabi isn’t slowing down and has some sage advice for other mothers looking to do the same.  “DON’T GIVE UP,” she stresses. “Seriously, do not give up on yourself. Change the plan, change the path, change the process, but never change the goal.  You absolutely can do it, even if it’s not in the way you originally envisioned. Find your tribe and lean on them. I could not be doing what I’m doing without having my friends and family to build me back up and be my sounding board when things aren’t doing what I want them to do.”

Connect with Tabi:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook

On Etsy

Thank you so much for reading along!

 

Yours in business + motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Lindsey Maxwell of Blissful Transition

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      When Lindsey Maxwell, PCD (DONA) and LCCE, was an undergrad student, she took a class that set the course for her passion and business.  That class was called “Birth in a Family Context.”  “It was eye-opening and one of the most informative, interesting classes I have ever taken,” she says.  “It changed the way I viewed birth.  As a twenty year old, I honestly had no idea women were choosing to have their babies at home and that, at the time, it was illegal for certified professional midwives to practice in the state of Indiana.  Once the semester ended, I began volunteering at Bloomington Area Birth Services (BABS).  I owe everything to this nonprofit and the wonderful women who ran it.  During my time at BABS, I helped with childbirth education classes, attended breastfeeding support groups, learned about babywearing, and connected with many wonderful families and professionals.”

     Lindsey’s business has evolved a bit from her beginning as a birth doula eight years ago.  “Before going into business, I studied up on the perinatal period and attended birth and postpartum doula training workshops through DONA International,” she explains.  “At the time, I didn’t have kids, and although I personally didn’t know much about parenting I loved working with children and always felt bonded with the families I nannied for.  Once I attended my trainings I volunteered my time with a handful of clients to get a feel for the work and gain hands-on experience.  I joined a local doula group so I could collaborate with other professionals, make connections, share feedback, and process my experience as a birth worker.”  She got that entrepreneur bug during her training process.  “I remember coming home from my postpartum doula workshop feeling very determined to set up a business plan,” she says.  “That’s when I came up with the name ‘Blissful Transition.’  I wanted families to feel at ease welcoming a new baby into their family with the least amount of stressors as possible.  I have a very Type A personality and found that, eventually, birth work no longer fit into my life.  After four years of being a birth doula, I decided to focus on the postpartum world.  It was just too challenging for me to be on-call.  I was constantly stressed about missing important events, time with family, and working long hours.  Still, I liked assisting families in preparing for birth, and I’ve since added prenatal consultations so that I still feel involved in that realm.” 

     Postpartum support can be a lifeline to new mothers.  “Studies show that postpartum doula support helps reduce postpartum mood disorders and improves breastfeeding success,” Lindsey explains.  “It makes sense.  I understand hiring postpartum help can be costly but it’s so worth it.  If someone told me they couldn’t afford a postpartum doula, I would encourage them to gather resources and plan prenatally to make for a smoother transition after baby is born.  Taking a childbirth class, creating a meal train, finding reliable childcare, and joining a new moms’ group are just a few recommendations!”

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     After making the switch from birth to postpartum doula, she soon realized that postpartum support covered a large range of ways to help new mothers and families.  “It wasn’t until after having a baby of my own in 2015 that I added professional cleaning and organizing services to my resume,” she explains.  “When working with families in the postpartum period, I found myself helping out with housework, running errands, prepping meals, etc.  I was taking care of the practical day-to-day things so that mom and partner could focus on taking care of themselves and their new baby.  Of course I enjoy chatting with mom and holding her adorable baby (if that’s what she needs!), but most of the time it’s about loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, and helping folks maintain a sense of normalcy after a life-changing experience.”  The realization of how this type of service could benefit families as they adjusted to their new family dynamic came from one particular instance in her own home.  “I remember coming home from a day full of appointments with my newborn and my sister-in-law, Amy, had come by and cleaned while we were gone,” she says.  “Is there anything better than coming home to a clean house?!  It was such a simple gesture but the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.  I could spend time with my family instead of worrying about a list of household tasks that needed to be completed in my sleep-deprived state (with a newborn to boot!).  Adding cleaning and organizing services to my businesses just made sense--in a way, I was already doing it.  Sometimes my clients would say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to ask you to do that!’ but if that’s what helped their day run more smoothly, I was happy to.  Postpartum support looks different for every family and that’s okay.  I’m here to help you find what works best for you!”

     Lindsey got her business start before having kids so she was already well established in her work before needing to find her new balance with parenting.  “I stayed at home with my son, Bodhi, for his first year, which was lovely,” she says.  “It was around his first birthday that I decided I wanted to to get back to working with clients on a part-time basis.  We were still living in Bloomington and had a lot of support from family, which allowed lots of flexibility with my work schedule.  I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.  Taking on part-time hours created a way for me to get out of the house and do what I love without feeling burnt out in the work I do.  It felt like a great balance.”  Bodhi is now three and Lindsey’s balance changed again 11 months ago as her family welcomed their second child, a daughter named Frances.  “Staying home with two kids is a lot of work, and honestly, I’m still trying to find that balance,” she explains.  “Some days I feel like I have it all together.  Others are tough, messy, and stressful.  Frances refuses to take a bottle (we exclusively breastfeed) or a pacifier and is dealing with some serious separation anxiety these last few months.  Sometimes it feels like I never get a break!  I’ve found that it’s important I separate myself from the kids every once in a while--a trip to the nail salon, a night out with my husband, staying up to binge watch Netflix, or simply grabbing a coffee can make a difference.  Working for a few hours a week helps me recharge, too.  I feel like I can’t be a good mom if I’m not taking care of myself.”

     Eight years in and this mama still has some major business goals she’d like to accomplish.  “I love learning and enjoy attending webinars and trainings,” she says.  “I know it sounds super nerdy but I miss being in school.  I often think about going back to get my Masters in counseling or social work.  I could host support groups for moms with an education background like that.  I also love cooking--adding meal preparation and delivery to my list of services would be pretty awesome.  I’ve been to a few Mother Blessing ceremonies and I think they are just the coolest thing--I would enjoy coordinating get togethers like these.  I’m a big fan of encouraging women and coming together as a community to show them how much we care.  Moms don’t get acknowledged enough for all their hard work!  Baby showers are great for baby essentials but Mother Blessings are where it’s at!”

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     Like all of us, she also has some stress points as a business owning mom.  “Feeling inadequate is probably my biggest stressor,” she says.  “If I’m solely focused on work, I feel like I’m not spending enough time with my family.  And then when I am at home with my kids, I sometimes feel like I should be working more.  I’m trying hard to be present and feel content with where I’m at, knowing I’m giving my best each day.”  Another tough part of her job right now is the recent relocation her family made.  “The hardest part for me, right now, is that we’re fairly new to the Fort Wayne area--we just moved here in October [2017],” she explains.  “I’m still learning about the city, meeting new people, etc.  I’ve actually connected with another mama who trades childcare with me and it’s working out for the both of us.  I watch her kids while she teaches yoga and she watches mine while I’m meeting with clients but only for a few hours each week.”

     That particular struggle is the foundation of her best advice for other moms in business.  “Creating a support network is HUGE and can make all the difference in work and parenting,” she says.  “I obviously stress this with my clients but it’s important for me as a business owner, too.  When we moved to Fort Wayne, I kind of had to start all over again.  Making those connections and laying the foundation for your business in a new area can seem daunting.  But, little by little, I am connecting the dots and look forward to working more in the near future!”

 

Connect with Lindsey:

On the web

On Facebook

On Instagram

 

Thank you so much for reading! 

Yours in business and motherhood, 

Brittany 

Mother Run: Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry

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    If ever there were someone suited to go into business for themselves, it’s Janalyn Barmes of Jay Artistry.  “I’ve thought about starting my own business since I decided to be a business major,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to work for myself, but just wasn’t sure exactly how or what I wanted to do to make that happen.”  Having been in college or working since graduating High School in 2010, she finally figured it out. “When my daughter was born in 2013 and son was born in 2016, I knew I wanted to make a change to be able to stay at home with them more,” she explains.  Though her business officially began in November 2016, she says that she “had been already creating art for people whenever asked for about two years before I decided to finally make it official. I am a business major and have always wanted to run my own business, plus I have always loved all things artsy.  It has been great being able to utilize my business knowledge and my love for art in the same job that lets me be home with my kids.”

    Having a business background, she was able to dive right into her entrepreneurial venture.  “I researched a little,” she says, “but I’m more of a ‘figure it out as I go’ kind of person.”  “My business isn’t super big and I only do it part-time right now because of school, so that made it easier to dive in,” she goes on to explain.  “I definitely struggled with the pricing portion of my business for a while. It is hard to charge enough to cover costs and still make a decent profit but also not charge too much that no one can afford it.  Seeing what comparable art sells for from other artists has helped a lot in determining a fair price to set for both myself and my customers.”

    So how did she come to the decision that she wanted to start her business specifically in calligraphy?  “I have always had a thing for handwriting,” Janalyn says. “Even as a kid I remember changing the way I would write certain letters to create my own ‘handwriting.’  My normal handwriting is oddly unique (and hard for some people to even read!), but I love the way it looks. Some people have complained about it and some have told me they loved it.  For my art, I have a select few ‘fonts’ that I’ve made up along the way that I use and I’m to the point that I don’t really even have to think about what I’m drawing anymore, I just do it.  It’s usually super relaxing and I love that handwriting is so versatile. Like, I can create something for anyone. Everyone has a favorite quote, song, or book. Making art that reflects what someone already loves is super fun and gives me the ability to reach an extremely large customer base.”  In addition to an ongoing love for handwriting and lettering, she shares that one of her main goals for Jay Artistry is “to create art that inspires people to figure out what they want out of life and then go get it. I believe it is extremely important to have goals and to try to accomplish what you feel you are created to do.  When you see a meaningful phrase or quote that speaks to you everyday, it inspires you to keep going or try a little harder. Positive affirmations are one of the many tools we can use to reach our goals. I love to create encouraging art that helps people reach their goals by reminding them of why they wanted to reach them to begin with.”

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    Balancing mothering, a growing business, and a master’s degree is no easy feat.  “It has been a struggle some weeks to get everything done on time,” she says. “All of my schooling is online through Indiana Wesleyan University.  So, it has been a huge blessing to be able to work on what I have due each week whenever I have free time. My husband has been a saint throughout this whole process and I really couldn’t have done it without him.  Also, utilizing my son’s naptime has been a great resource for both art and school. It’s amazing what just one extra hour of work a day will do.” She is set to graduate with her MBA in June 2018. On top of everything she does, her family also just moved across the country from Indiana to Florida and she already has plans for what to do post graduation in her new city.  “There are so many opportunities to set up my art at festivals and in locally owned shops down there,” she explains. “I plan on expanding the products in my Etsy shop, setting up at the art and craft festivals, and also learning more about stained glass. I recently acquired all the equipment needed to get started in stained glass but haven’t had much time to dedicate to it.  I have a few product ideas that I can’t wait to get started on that combine my inspirational calligraphy with stained glass. But I’m new to the glass world so I have a lot to learn. The plan is to basically hit the ground running as soon as I am done with school and embrace every artistic opportunity that I can find.”

    On the motherhood side of things, Janalyn is the mother of two--Aria and Daxden.  Aria is four and Janalyn shares that “she is the sweetest soul I’ve ever met. She is beautiful inside and out and is always found wearing a costume of some sort.  Her imagination is crazy awesome and she loves to have me paint her face. She is also extremely artistic for being only four years old and creates things for me all the time.  Everyone calls her my mini-me, which I take as a huge compliment because she is just so darn pretty! She was almost three when I launched Jay Artistry.” Her son, Daxton, is almost two and is “a typical rambunctious little boy with a huge heart.  He is the biggest momma’s boy and I absolutely love every minute of it. He is so funny and rotten and cute! I never knew how amazing having a baby boy could be until I had him! He was only about six months old when I started Jay Artistry.”

    Finding balance between motherhood, business, and school has changed a bit as her kids have gotten a little older.  “In some ways it’s easier and in some way it is harder,” explains Janalyn. “Aria loves to sit next to me and paint or draw with me.  I also get a lot accomplished when she is at preschool. However, Dax is at that age now where he only naps once a day and he gets into everything, so painting with him around is not an option.  That’s a big reason why I’ve been more focused on my digital art than anything else. There’s no mess and it’s easily accessible. He loves to sit with me and ‘help’ while I work. I have an old broken computer that I let him play with and hit the buttons while I do my homework, or I get crayons and paper out for him if I am drawing.”  That ability to have her kids working and creating art next to her is one of the biggest upsides to her business. “My favorite part of running my own business is the freedom that comes with it,” she says. “If I am sick, I don’t have to suffer at work for eight hours. If I feel like taking a break to play with my kids, I can do that. “It’s also been a great way to meet people, through friends of friends or even through IG.  Meeting new people, doing maker trades, and setting my own flexible schedule are some of my favorite perks.”

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    Working from home with your kids and making your own schedule doesn’t eliminate hard days, however.  What keeps Janalyn going on those challenging days? “Caffeine and essential oils,” she says. “Coffee just makes everything better.  I always keep my Stress Away oil close by and drink Thieves oil in my green tea nearly every afternoon. I have learned with time that if I am stressed, I don’t make art that I am satisfied with.  So, I have to take care of myself first in order to fuel my creativity. As a mom, full-time student, and business owner, it’s extremely important that I make myself a priority or I cannot balance everything and end up slacking in all aspects.  My husband is also extremely helpful with keeping me sane, lol. He will take the kids to the store or to his parents so I can catch up on everything with no distractions. It’s extremely helpful.”

    Having such a supportive family is key.  Not everyone who runs a small business feels supported or taken seriously by those around them, but that’s not a problem Janalyn has faced much.  “I have actually been blessed enough to be supported by a majority of my friends and family,” she says. “While there has been skepticism from some, most now realize I am serious about doing this as a career and have accepted it.  Honestly, I try to completely block out the unhelpful negativity that comes from others. I openly accept constructive criticism and advice, but I will not let someone else’s blatant negativity get in the way of my goals. I think it’s hard to transition to seeing yourself as an entrepreneur because that’s kind of a big scary word, lol.  It takes guts to start your own business, no matter how big or small.”

    

 

Janalyn’s advice for other business owning moms:

Don’t set unrealistic deadlines for yourself:

I always add an extra day or two when giving customers a time-frame on when their art will be completed.  Most of the time, they don’t mind waiting and they appreciate it if I have it done a little earlier than expected.  It’s better to have the time to create and not feel stressed, it makes for better art and a happier artist.

 

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed:

Learning and growing is part of the process.  No one starts a business and is an expert at it on day one.  You just have to strive to make improvements everyday to eventually get to where you want to be.

 

Don’t be afraid to say no:

Sometimes, a customer request is just not worth the amount of work entailed or sacrifice you would have to make to complete it.  It’s okay to say no in a respectful way that you cannot complete something.

 

Support your fellow entrepreneur:

Just because you have similar art or a similar business idea as someone else does not make you competitors.  While there is competition in big business, it’s better at the smaller level to encourage one another and help each other along the way.  Everyone has a unique spin to their business, honor that and focus on lifting each other up. If you have the ability to shop at a locally owned business instead of a corporation, do it.  It might cost you a little more but we small business owners need to stick together!

 

Connect with Janalyn:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Keisha Reaves of Push Thru

Keisha and her son.

Keisha and her son.

    Keisha Reaves has a passion for helping women through various stages of motherhood.  It all started with her private practice as a licensed professional counselor. “I’ve been in the mental health field for over ten years and I absolutely love it,” she says.  “It’s so rewarding making a difference in people’s lives and helping them reach their potential.” Maternal health wasn’t always her specialty, however. “I first started out working with children in the foster care system and I did that for six years,” she explains.  “Afterwards I worked with clients with developmental disabilities for a few years and truly enjoyed it. I later switched to working in a psychiatric hospital while also doing community counseling. Once I started working in private practice in 2015, I noticed that I received a lot of clients dealing with infertility, postpartum depression or just adjustment issues associated with motherhood, that’s when I found my passion and I knew that I felt compelled to do more work with this group of women.”

    Her background in maternal health counseling, combined with her own postpartum experience, led to the birth of Push Thru, a postpartum subscription box known as the after birth survival kit for moms.  “After having my son, I felt incredibly isolated and guilty and overwhelmed,” she shares. “Majority of the year 2017 I was completely selfless and basically threw myself to the wayside. I was so focused on my baby’s needs and everyone else that I didn’t bother to think of myself.  I had days where I questioned myself as a mother and I felt that I was losing myself in this new role. I then had several other women share similar thoughts and I wanted to create something to help them with this. I wanted to create something that focuses on the mother solely and also offer encouragement to her to let her know that she’s doing a wonderful job.”

    Keisha’s after birth survival kit for mothers is a much needed product.  A lot of times women don’t think about what the after birth experience will be like for themselves as people, instead focusing on how they will care for their new child. As Keisha explains it, “I think Push Thru offers preventative care in a cute little box.  The online platform on the website is where moms can chat with each other, offer support, and provide suggestions. I leave my card in each box that’s sent out with my email for mothers to contact me and I’m certified through Postpartum Support International. Each box offers support to help combat anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  We are currently working on building a checklist for the website for mothers to use to identify their symptoms as well as creating a database of clinicians in the event a mother has postpartum depression, we can quickly refer them to someone qualified to treat them. I believe that the more we talk about postpartum depression and the difficulties that can occur after giving birth, the less shame there will be.  Women will feel more comfortable seeking out help. The more resources and tools we give women, the more they will feel supported and capable of being the best mother they can be.”

    The idea for Push Thru came to Keisha in the summer of 2017.  “Within a few months things just started rolling,” she says. “I had many thoughts of thinking that this is stupid or that there are tons, TONS, of subscription box services out there already, but I took the dive and just did it.  The research helped me know how to specifically make this service useful, different, and to set it apart from its competitors.” Subscription boxes are much different than a lot of other business models, as they require working with many other brands and keeping large amounts of inventory.  “The struggle at the beginning was start up costs,”: says Keisha. “It takes money to make money. Pinching coins here and there helped fund a graphic designer, develop the website, create the actual box, and purchase some of the items that went into the launch box. It was a risk because there was a possibility that no one would even buy the box and I could be left with all of this inventory.  In the end it was definitely successful, but certainly gaining funds can be hard in any start up.”

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    In addition to balancing her private practice with her new entrepreneurial journey with Push Thru, Keisha also has a 13 month old son.  “He was seven months when I started this process and he is the reason I do what I do,” she explains. “He’s incredibly patient with me and he’s taught me so much about myself.  He’s helped me grow as a woman, a mother, and a partner.”

Her transition from full time work to full time work plus a new business was “not bad at all,” she says.  “I’ve always been a person that enjoys projects and putting my creativity to work. I just have to be strategic with my time to make sure my job, family, kid, or myself isn’t neglected in the process.”  Balancing business and motherhood always comes with some struggles though, and for Keisha it’s no different. “I have a calendar and I try to stay organized,” she says. “I pick my little guy up from daycare at the same time every day and from that time until he goes down to bed I’m present.  It’s all about he and I. After he goes to bed is when I do emails, budgeting, phone calls, and everything else. So I try to get as much done as I can before I get him and after he goes to bed. The struggles that I have in trying balance are on weekends. Sometimes I try to get work in when he’s napping or for an hour or two in the mornings and I have some guilt around that.  I try to limit weekend work as much as possible.” By far Keisha’s biggest challenge though is “getting over mom guilt.” She says that “some weeknights I will have events to attend or meetings and although my husband is good about taking over at home, I have guilt about not being there as if I’m missing out on something or as if he’s going to forget me. It’s not a crazy thought, but I know the career and business I’m building and I’m doing my best to balance it all.”

    Her goals for helping women don’t stop with Push Thru.  “I would like to be able to travel around the world and learn more about different cultures and how those mothers handle the after birth experience,” she explains.  “I would like to learn what other cultures use in products or remedies for the after birth experience in order to share with everyone. I’d like to learn about other cultures’ customs and traditions in the after birth experience.  I find it fascinating. I would also like to fight for more maternity leave for working mothers. I would like to travel doing more work to bring awareness and support for postpartum depression.” Push Thru is only the beginning of her wonderful journey to helping as many mothers as she can.  

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    In addition to helping postpartum women, she also has amazing advice for the business owning mom.  “Don’t give up and buy into your own product,” she urges. “There will be days when you feel like this is a waste of time, no one’s going to be interested and you’ll want to just fall back into your comfort zone.  Don’t. Keep doing it. You won’t see results in the first month or the first year. There is no real overnight success. Everything great takes time to catch up. But keep at it. And buy into your own product meaning be passionate about it.  Don’t be critical or play it down, think of it just as amazing as it actually is. If you want people to be excited about it, YOU have to be excited about it. Excitement is contagious.” Another thing she suggests doing to help you in your business journey is to “create a support system.”  In her own journey starting Push Thru, she says that her “friends are truly the best and I save a lot of money by using them. My team of friends were a part of my focus group before I launched Push Thru. They witnessed the product first hand before I put it out there to the public, giving me feedback and constructive criticism.  They also listened to my pitches giving me feedback and reviewed my website from a customer perspective. They were able to seperate themselves as a friend and tell me their thoughts on products, marketing, pricing, and everything else. This helped save me money on outsourcing to a separate company for that. If I ever need to bounce an idea off of someone, my friends are my go to.  They’re mothers and consumers.”

    If you’re a soon to be mother, new mother, or looking for a special gift for a mom in your life, check out Push Thru.  Not only is it a a game changer for helping mothers care for themselves post-baby but Keisha also stocks her boxes with wonderful products from other mother owned businesses!  “Everyone in each of our Push Thru boxes are amazing,” she says. “Bee & Mae, Love Ground Candle Company, Olive and Elliot, Tailored Beauty, Butta Body, Abeadles Design, Hey Baby Atlanta, Jobbing with Jas, Bloom Voyage, I literally could go on.  What I love about each of these are that they are all owned by mothers and they’re literally killing it every single day.” Talk about a truly Mother Run community!

Connect with Keisha:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook



Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany







 

Mother Run: Jay Bloodsworth

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    Straight out of high school, Jay Bloodsworth dove right into entrepreneurship.  While working on her acting degree, she opened CR Productions, a theater production company, at 19 years old. “I had gotten frustrated with seeing such a limited range of shows being presented, nothing I was interested in or felt passionate about,” she says.  “So I decided to do it myself! Produce the kind of shows that meant a lot to me, had the messages I wanted to convey. I got a lot of flack for it. Plenty of people trying to convince me that it would never work because we weren’t ‘already famous.’  Which didn’t make sense to me, because wasn’t that the point? To GET famous BY making art, instead of waiting for it to fall in your lap?”

    Being fresh out of high school, Jay didn’t do much planning before jumping into her business.  “At 19 I wasn’t the greatest at reigning in my excitement and was easily disappointed when things went wrong,” she explains.  “Nowadays I still fly by the seat of my pants a fair bit, but I’m much more resilient and love a good list (or twenty). Having a baby as well means learning to be ok with not achieving as much some days.  I’ve become much more realistic about my goals.”

    While she may not have done a lot of planning before entering the world of entrepreneurship, creating has always been a part of her life.  At age 12 she says she “even started a ‘business’ selling plasticine models to my friends.” She goes on to explain that “around about the same time, my school did an off brand version of My Fair Lady.  I hated it! Cried and begged and pleaded to be left out of it. I insisted on being behind the scenes (or camera), as I wanted to be a photographer at the time. It was compulsory. I didn’t enjoy it, mostly found it stressful.  But when I hit high school I made friends with a girl who was an incredible performer. Her comic timing was impeccable. Drama was compulsory for year 8’s and the teacher picked up on our little duo. My first time actually wanting to be on stage was for a rendition of Little Women.  I was Meg and my friend was Jo. From then on I had the bug! The rush of being backstage, the stress of forgetting absolutely everything right before you went on. The adrenaline and relief once you came off. I have yet to find a high like it.”

    CR Productions has produced plays, street theatre, and musicals.  So what exactly does producing entail? As Jay explains, “The Producer beings the money and gathers the key creatives to make the show happen.  The Director brings the action and scaffolding. The Writer brings the heart. The Actors bring the hard part! (Kidding!) And the Back Stage crew glues it all together and makes sure it doesn’t fall apart.  As I make smaller scale shows, I tend to do a little bit of everything.” Her favorite type of production? “Definitely the plays,” she says. “I love seeing actors nail moments we’ve worked hard on it rehearsal, especially high pressure scenes.  Creating a believable tension build when you’ve done it a million times is difficult. Seeing it come to life just fills me with validation and pride. I feel like I’m their stage Mum!”

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    In March 2017, Jay made a transition from not just being a stage mum, but being a mum to a newborn son as well.  With new motherhood came some changes to her personal life and work balance. “I was forced to stop running last minute to the train, that’s for sure!” she says.  “I feel like I’ve become more prepared for any eventuality, more confident, more resilient, and my time management is better. There’s a whole new level of patience and understanding that I’m really enjoying unpacking.”  Luckily for Jay, her work environment was one she could take her son into with her, though it took some adjustment. So far her balance has come “with great difficulty,” she says. “I usually try to muscle in as much time as I can while he sleeps.  A lot of the grunt work for shows is via internet so sometimes I can sneak in an email or two while he’s playing. I try not to do that too much though because I don’t want to miss anything. I found it very hard at first, to claim my right to take up space as a working mother.  I was very afraid of what other people would think. That someone would comment on my breastfeeding or wearing him or having my mum there looking after him instead of me being at home because he was so young. It played on me constantly. I was lucky to have that time where no one said anything, because I was able to convince myself I DID deserve to be there.  When I did my first show after he was born, he came to every rehearsal. That probably won’t change much as I move forward. If he sqwuarked, he sqwuarked, and I held him. If he needed milk, I fed him. If an actor has an issue with it, they’re probably not resilient enough to make it in the industry. Thankfully, everyone I’ve worked with so far has been wonderful and supportive.”

    Even with a supportive work environment, adjusting to motherhood while running a business always presents challenges of some kind.  For Jay, that has been overcoming the preconceived notions of others. She explains that her biggest challenge was “working through other people’s doubt and not holding myself to their expectations.  I know my limits and they are far past most peoples. For example, my son was born in a planned no-med home birth. We didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid they would rain on our parade. Everyone was very supportive when they found out but I’m glad we kept it close to the chest.  I’ve brought that same mentality into my business. Waiting a little longer before revealing and I make it more of a statement than a question of permission about bringing the baby with me. If they aren’t willing to make space for us (if I’m working outside my company) it probably isn’t the project for me.”  In addition, she also struggled a bit with with people’s opinions of her being a working mother. “My mother was mortified when I announced I was taking my 7 week old to auditions,” she says. “It’s taken a lot of open communication and being understanding that other people’s opinions often reflect more about them than you, even when they mean well.  I aim to educate people about the importance of making space for mothers in the Arts, especially when they’re breastfeeding. It’s not hard, but it’s a very male dominated industry and people fear the unknown. Most of the time they just aren’t sure of the right questions to ask to help so it’s easier to say no, or ‘we don’t have the resources to support you.’  I have my ‘Why Am I Doing This/No One Believes In Me, What’s The Point’ moments. The difference now is that they’ve happened enough for me to know they pass.”

    Now, five years after starting CR Productions, Jay is starting to make some changes and is giving a bigger focus to her own personal work instead of the company’s.  “CR has always represented my teenage need to prove myself,” she explains. “Having a brand seemed important at the time, especially when a lot of what I was hearing from people was that no one would want to see MY art.  People seemed to put more trust in a well fronted group than one person. I wanted to peel back the layers and show the people coming to our shows that there’s a real person behind the curtain. I feel an honesty and vulnerability there that will give my art a deeper impact.  Now I’m a mum and I have big shoes to fill. I want to build a legacy that my son can be proud of, free from fear of judgement. I want him to look at me and tell his friends ‘my mum works hard and gets what she wants.’”

   She recently started a Patreon as a way to connect with, and gain support from, her audience as she delves into her personal work.  For those unfamiliar, Patreon is a membership platform where an artists’ fans can support their creative work financially in exchange for early access to finished work, behind the scenes bonuses, frequent updates, bonus material, and more.  The idea stems from the centuries old practice of wealthy patrons sponsoring the work of creatives so that they could then enjoy the work that was made. WIthout this practice, the world would be devoid of a lot of amazing work. As she works towards her goal of growing her art to a livable wage to give her flexibility and freedom to spend time with her family, she also is knee deep in school.  “I have basically been a forever student,” says Jay. “I took some time off in 2015/2016 to work a day job and work on shows, so this Diploma of Specialist Makeup Services will be my first that I finish since my acting degree in 2013. I wanted to do SPFX right out of high school (instead of acting) but I couldn’t afford it. As much as I enjoy writing, academic writing drives me up the wall!”

    With so much going on between growing her new brand, being a student, and being a new mom, sometimes days are challenging.  So what keeps her sane when things get crazy? “It sounds very cliche,” she says, “but reminding myself that Jude won’t be tiny forever.  It helps me take a deep breath and enjoy the moments when he’s messing about or taking a long time to nurse, even though I’m dying for him to sleep so I can get things done.  That, and cooking. It feels productive and there’s food at the end.”

    With five years of business experience and a year of motherhood under her belt, Jay leaves us with some great advice for all moms.  “Don’t let anyone but you tell you what you’re capable of,” she says. “Listen to your gut and SLOW DOWN when you need to. I had a really bad case of mastitis recently.  Even though I struggled to do nothing while I got better, I know that in the long run it was the right choice for myself, my family, and my business.”

 

Connect with Jay:

On Instagram

On Patreon

On Facebook

 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Meredith Stack of Red Fox Letters

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    When her daughter Parker was just six weeks old, Meredith Stack went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a chalkboard sign and a paint pen.  She spent an hour making up a Haunted Mansion “Welcome Foolish Mortals” sign for their Halloween decorations and a great new hobby was born.  “After that,” she says, “I picked up a sketchbook and started doodling words out.  It was a good hobby to have with a family because I can work on it while my kids are around.  Plus, I thought it would be a fun way to record funny things that she would say while she grew up.  Once I started to get more into it, I started looking up other hand lettering and found some artists that I loved-- Amanda Arneill, ChalkFullofLove, etc.  Then after a year or so, I found out that Amanda Arneill hosted online courses, so I immediately signed up.  Now I was a part of a community.  It all just snowballed from there.  Not only do I love that it’s something I can do while the kids are around, and even with Parker now that she’s two (she gets out her own paper and crayons and ‘draws’ with me) but I love the community of friends that I have discovered.  A group of ladies that I’ve never met in person, and yet I talk with every day and feel real connections with.  It’s a real feeling of community over competition, which was something I didn’t know I desperately needed until I had it.”

    Starting a business wasn’t exactly the first step Meredith had in mind after discovering her love of lettering.  Her Instagram page started out mainly as a way for her to dip her toe in and get feedback from people she didn’t know.  She kept it separate from her personal account because she was nervous about her friends seeing her work.  “I was feeling pretty self-conscious about it all,” she explains.  “I didn’t even really tell anyone about my lettering IG-- I worked to gain my followers as organically as possible.  Luckily, my friends are extremely supportive and they all found the account and followed it anyway.  I began feeling a little more confidence coming in and some friends were already asking for custom work.  So with some heavy encouragement from my husband, I decided it was time to set up shop.  I debated if I wanted to purchase a domain and start an online store that way, but ultimately decided to join the large pool of letterers on Etsy first while I got my bearings for selling online.”

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    If taking the plunge into running your own business seems stressful, try doing it with a two year old, a baby on the way, and a full time job like Meredith did!  “I definitely dove right in, but did research along the way,” she says.  “I read multiple blogs, reached out to people who were already successful for advice...but also rely on trial and error on the way.  I definitely feel that it’s a little slow at the start.  I receive a lot of custom requests outside of Etsy and those keep me busy.  I also started my shop while I was halfway through a pregnancy, which of course had me moving a little slower.  The biggest struggle that I currently have is really just getting my work in front of people.  There is so much talent out there for people to choose from, and I’m still trying to find the secret sauce to get it out to the right group of people.  It’s all a slow process.”   She thought about starting her shop for months before taking the plunge, saying “I talked about it and went back and forth daily for what felt like forever.  I’m still debating it somedays, ha!  It was really a confidence issue.  Art is such a subjective thing that even though I like my pieces, I wasn’t sure if anyone else would.  Once I realized that I wouldn’t know, or grow, without putting it all out there and taking in the good and the bad response, I was able to get up the gumption to go for it.”  One of the main things that motivated her to finally set up an official shop was her husband, who she describes as “my biggest supporter and cheerleader.”  She says “he told me everyday that I needed to start selling.  Every. Day.  He also sat with me while I put together all of my listings.  He is still the first person I go to to discuss new ideas that I have.”  

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    The best part about her craft of choice, is how easy it is to pick up and work on while her kids are around.  “I love being able to do my own work when I want to do it,” she says.  “I work a normal corporate desk job still as well, and sitting in a cubicle for 40 hours a week working on things that, at the end of the day, I don’t feel passionate about can often be draining.  I can come home, grab my iPad and get my creative juices flowing and work on what I want to work on-- a nice change of pace.”

    Finding her balance has been a process.  “It’s difficult right now because I still work my regular job while this is picking up,” she says.  “I come home about an hour or so before everyone else is home from work and daycare so I can use that time to sketch out ideas and then on the weekends before everyone wakes up.  I make it a point every day that I spend at least 30-60 minutes with Parker without any sort of device or distraction.  We’re on her level, in her world.  That helps.”  Like a lot of us, she couldn’t do it without a great support system in place at home.  “My husband is also a top notch father who absolutely loves to play with his kiddos,” she says.  “That also helps.  I really work to fit it in whenever I can, during my lunch break, after they go to bed at night, nap time...you can find me doing a lot of sketching and drafting.  I don’t think I have found my perfect system yet, and it’s been hard to sit and work on new projects while handling a newborn, but we are definitely finding a good routine for our family.”  

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    As working mothers, we are always in that process of finding the perfect routine because kids are constantly changing and growing and requiring new things.  Another new thing that makes us have to re-evaluate our routines is adding a new family member, which Meredith and her husband just did! “EVERYTHING changes with a new baby,” she explains.  “My new, current balance definitely involves a lot of cuddling Griffin.  I can’t put him down.  I’ve given myself permission to enjoy this time with my new buddy and will pick up the pace again soon.  It may make the process of growing my business slower, but I think it’s sooo worth it.”  This is advice I’m sure we all can use.  It is so important to realize that changes require us to switch up our plans, we need to remember this and constantly be adjusting to our current normal so as not to get frustrated if we are going through a crazier than usual period.  “My kids are probably the cutest things on this planet,” she goes on to explain.  “My daughter Parker is a little over two and my son Griffin is just now ten weeks old.  I always figured that I would have kids but I had no idea how much light and laughter they would bring to my day.  Parker was just a few weeks old, probably right around six weeks old actually, when I went and picked up that paint pen.”

         Since that first project when her first baby was six weeks old, to now, a little more than two years later, Meredith's biggest challenge has been the balancing of three separate things.  “By far the biggest struggle is balancing three full time jobs,” she says.  “Motherhood, lettering, and the desk job.  The long game plan is to basically take over the eCommerce world and then I can knock out one of those things to make my balance a little more even.  But I’ll have to study up more on the details of running a successful business and the ins and outs of that before it all happens.  I have a handle, and luckily my husband (I’m sure you’re starting to see a pattern of how amazing he is.  Super handsome, too.  I really hit the jackpot there) has a degree in business and finance, so he’s already a great ‘partner’ for me for the business side.”

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    So what does Meredith have her sights set on for this new year?  “I definitely want to build my Etsy shop and eventually have my own domain and site,” she says.  As well as “make this a full time job that I can rely on financially.  Those are my two long term goals.  Short term, I’d really like to have a booth set up sometime in the next six months and get that immediate feedback.  We have a lot of local art fairs in Louisville and I want to take advantage of that.”

    As for her advice for other moms who are just getting started, Meredith says “Just do it.”  Her business is very new and she knows that “the scariest part of anything new is just taking the initial leap.  But once you do it, it’s done.  It’s like getting a shot or ripping off a bandaid--the build up sucks.  The process sucks.  But once it’s done, it’s done.  And you feel good that you did it.  The same can be said for working out, paying someone a compliment, and getting out of bed.”  In addition, she says she wished she had “some super inspiring original quote.  Or a miracle solution that brings instant success.  I’ll leave it to Marty McFly (by way of George McFly) when he says, ‘If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.’ You’re already a total badass because you’re a mom.  That’s the hardest thing.  Anything else is a cakewalk comparatively.”


 

Connect with Meredith:

On Instagram

On Etsy

On Facebook


Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

 

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Mother Run: Erica Nicole Campbell from Aiming for August

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    When Erica Nicole Campbell started her blog, Aiming for August, in March 2016, she had no idea what it would turn into in such a short period of time.  What started as a hobby and an “outlet and a place for mothers to go if they were feeling lonely regarding all things motherhood,” has morphed into a wonderful community of mothers and an unintended business venture.  “I’m a total researcher/planner,” says Erica, but “it didn’t start as a business venture.  Once I realized I could make this brand into MY brand and business, things changed completely.  I started researching heavily how to create quality content.  In the beginning, the hardest part was definitely balancing the time devoted to growing my blog and being completely present with my family.  So much of blogging is social media or having your face buried in a screen.  I knew that I didn’t want that to be the image that my babies had of me so I pushed myself to make sure I wasn’t doing that.  I also became pregnant a couple months after starting the blog, so I wasn’t as motivated to do anything but sleep.”

    When Aiming for August first launched, Erica’s daughter E was 7 months old.  Their family recently welcomed a new baby boy, J, earlier this year.  Respecting her children’s privacy is very important to Erica.  “I don’t use their names because I’ve decided to wait until they’re old enough to want to be included on my blog.  As they’ve gotten older and I’ve grown more into myself as a woman/mother, I’ve stopped including them in as many blog posts and pictures,” she says.  In addition to motherhood leading to her venture into blogging, it also made her realize “how confident I was about helping other mothers and women.  This is when I also decided to pursue a career in Lactation Consulting.”

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    Lactation Consulting isn’t Erica’s first foray into helping mothers.  Prior to starting Aiming for August, she worked part time as a mother/baby/postpartum RN.   She explains that she is “currently balancing being a stay-at-home mom and managing my blog.  I recently took my board exam to become a lactation consultant and am just waiting for results.”  I hope all of you reading can join me in sending great thoughts her way as she awaits her test results!

    While starting something new is always a learning process, making a switch to blogging has “been fun,” says Erica.  “I love having a blog and my own corner of the internet!  I’m a millennial so I guess I’ve always been keen to adapting to technology.  I wouldn’t say that I’m tech savvy, but I definitely ‘get it.’  Since starting my blog, I actually know a lot more about coding and the ins and outs of social media algorithms.”  On her blog Erica covers so many topics--from pregnancy, the postpartum period, breastfeeding, and more.  Her favorite topic though is breastfeeding.  “I easily love to talk about breastfeeding!,” she says.  “I really like to share tips and tricks on how to be a more confident parent, whether that be through my struggles and triumphs or through sharing fun things that I’m doing with my family.”

    Recently, Erica has turned her platform to another topic--raising awareness on issues plaguing her community.  She recently teamed up with Huggies and the National Diaper Bank Network to bring awareness to the fact that 1 in 3 families have trouble providing the amount of diapers needed for their children.  “I’ve always strayed away from being blatantly outspoken about my views on certain issues,” says Erica, but “as time changes, I’ve realized that if I have a platform, I need to use it to help the common good and promote positivity.  I hope to address more gender related issues, political awareness, etc.  With so many allegations of harassment towards women in Hollywood, I hope to address that and how we can raise children to be better and more aware of how to change it.”

    Another parenting topic that is important to Erica is raising her children to be feminists.  “I can’t say that I’ve always had a female-strong mindset,” she says.  “I was raised in more a female submissive culture so that was always something that seemed like a norm to me until I became more confident in my role as a girlfriend.  I honestly can thank my husband for being such a strong feminist (ironic, right?).  I basically plan to raise my children to believe that women can truly do anything men can do and vice versa.  There are no assignments for gender.  It’s hard to remember because it’s not how my generation was raised but I try to be mindful of these things as my children grow older.  For instance there is no such thing as a boy color or girl color, there are no boy toys or girl toys.  Girls can be whatever they want to be and boys can too!”

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    When it comes to the work/life balance, Erica says “like every mother, I do what I have to do.  I don’t know if I’m balancing anything well, honestly.  At the end of the day, some of my to-do list gets done, my kids get fed and loved, and I don’t feel awful so I say that’s a win!”  Like so many of us, she says “the biggest struggle is thinking that I HAVE to do everything.  It has taken a few years of motherhood for me to realize what’s truly important, what’s not, and that I literally cannot do EVERYTHING (and that’s okay).”

    Her work towards this balance has changed a lot since the starting of Aiming for August and her start towards becoming a Lactation Consultant.  As mentioned, her family welcomed a new baby earlier this year and now she manages her work with two kids under two.  One of the main differences now, says Erica, is that “I don’t get as much sleep as I was prior to having my sweet boy.  I believe in holding babies as much as possible so during some naps, I just hold him.  It’s not productive whatsoever but it is sweet.  He and his sister take one long nap at the same time and this when I get those one-on-one guilt free cuddles so I take advantage of it.”  In order to fit in work, Erica says “I usually have to stay up later than I’d like or wake up extremely early.  Because my husband is off on the weekends, I’ve been getting some self-care/alone time to go to local coffee shops and work.”

    As someone who is also about to have two under two, I was very interested in Erica’s thoughts on the transition into mothering with the new baby.  “It’s hard in the beginning but gets so much better,” she says.  “I personally feel like this transition hasn’t been as hard as I expected it to be.  Because they’re so close to the same age, they do a lot of the same things.  Fortunately my daughter was potty trained before he was born so we don’t have to worry about double diapers.  I also feel like because you never get a break, your body is used to the hustle.  Once the hustle subsides, it subsides for good.  You no longer have to worry about the diapers, potty training, sleep training, etc.  You’re doing it all at once and the load is heavy but it’ll be over before you know it.”

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    When it comes to business, expect to see even greater things from Erica in the future.  “With my blog, I hope to attend more events-- like big events in big fabulous, cities,” she says.  “I would love to host my own events as well.  In the blogging community, there are some bloggers that are pretty big name and I’d love to meet them as well.”  In regards to her journey to become a Lactation Consultant, she says “I hope to be my own boss and own my own business.  I want to host classes in inner cities for a reasonable price to educate them about the benefits and ease of breastfeeding.”

    If you’re looking for some final, inspiring advice from Erica, look no further.  “I just want to say to all the mamas out there who feel like they’re drowning and unable to balance work and family, you’re a badass--don’t stress,” she says.  “Hug your kids tight and get on your grind when they sleep.  If you’re too tired, then you go to sleep too.  At the end of the day, make sure that you and your kids are happy and it’ll all fall into place.  We put too many expectations on ourselves and it’s overrated and unnecessary.  Focus on you.  Focus on your self care.  Focus on your family.  Your dreams will fall into place.”

 

Want some more inspiration? Check out Erica’s current inspirational resources:

Current read: “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero

Favorite podcasts:  Yes, Girl!, The Purposeful Home Podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, 2 Dope Queens, Nourishing Women Podcast, and This Pod is Your Pod

 

Connect with Erica:

At her website

On Instagram

On Facebook


 

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

Mother Run: Emily Frigo of Wise + Wild

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

    Balancing a thriving, on call business while raising four kids (and homeschooling!) is no easy task, just ask Emily Frigo from Wise + Wild.  “Just last night, I had asked a tarot reader ‘how do I balance business and motherhood,’ she said I’m doing pretty good, ha, so that was reassuring.”  

    Wise + Wild is a doula and birth photography business owned and run by Emily.  She mixes her passion of supporting women through their birth while also using her amazing photography skills to capture beautiful moments that mothers can cherish forever.  The name Wise + Wild was chosen because Emily believes that “everything surrounding birth is a balance between being both wise and wild.  Wise represents using modern knowledge so that we can feel confident in making the choices and wild draws in our primal, instinctual parts of our minds, bodies, and souls so that we can feel deeply connected to ourselves.  Combining both instincts and science together tend to make families feel empowered and in control of their birth journey.”

    Before she wore the many hats that make up Wise + Wild, Emily worked as a barista and a full-time nanny before deciding to stay home and focus on mothering during her child’s second year of life.  The stay at home life was not all she had imagined and soon she found herself isolated, bored, and spiraling into depression.  “I don’t love anything more than being a mother,” she says, “but I had lost my identity.”  

    Finding your identity after embarking on motherhood can be a tough and long process.  

In her happy place, behind the camera!

In her happy place, behind the camera!

After being gifted a camera during her first child’s first year, she began offering photo sessions to other families, but the joy in the work never came.  “It wasn’t until I started supporting births as a doula and watched these phenomenal birth stories unfold, that I combined my passions and started offering birth photography...and that is where I found my ‘happy place.’”  

    Describing herself as being “naturally an over-thinker and an over-planner”  she obsessively discusses the pros and cons of all decisions she makes and embarking on an entrepreneurial journey was no different.  “Since the beginning, my biggest struggle has always been self-confidence.  I’m always fighting with Imposture Syndrome.”

    Emily has always been fascinated by birth.  “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been intuitively inspired by the childbearing year.  Even as a child, when I’d be near a pregnant woman, I’d experience these waves of energy that I couldn't explain.  But it wasn’t until I started witnessing birth trauma in communities I was involved in that my connection to birth turned into advocacy.”  The journey into birth work has been a “slow and steady one.”  While some people may be able to point out the exact moment they realized what they wanted to do, for Emily there has never been a single defining moment, “just small reminders to continue down this path.”  While she loves being a doula and helping other families, her favorite birth stories are those of her four children, saying that “each birth has changed me for the better, gifting me so much wisdom and compassion.” “I have carried ten sweet babies in my womb,” says Emily, “four of whom are living today.  Each child holds a special part in my heart, including the ones I’ve lost too early.  My living children are ages 7, 3, 2, and 1.  They really stretch me to be a better human, I always learning from them (especially about patience)!”

    Supporting women through being a doula and taking birth photos is not all that Emily has to offer.  She has an impressive list of qualifications from Birth Doula, Stillbirthday Doula, Birth Photographer, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Encapsulator, herbalist, and Reiki Master.  She recently made the step to begin the process of becoming a Midwife.  “I always knew I would grow into Midwifery,” she says, “But I wanted to take it slow, to allow the journey to unfold naturally.  One recent morning, as I sat under the rising sun, I intuitively knew that it was time to enroll in school. Midwifery is a long journey, I’m just taking it one day at a time right now.”

    When it comes down to the balance of mothering and business, a never ending struggle I’m sure we can almost all relate to, Emily says that “I’m really hard on myself...It’s not easy for me to turn ‘off’ work and that’s probably intensified because I’m always on-call and must be ready to attend a birth at all times.  I push myself to wake up before my kids do, to spend time with myself before the crazy begins. Sometimes I answer emails and other business stuff, but most of the time I simply drink coffee on my porch in quiet.  When they rise, I try to be fully devoted to them, this is when we focus on each other and our homeschooling.”  While she has struck a pretty amazing balance between work and family, she couldn’t do it alone and is thankful for her husband who takes over when he gets home and allows her to get some work time in.  

    In a society that often paints the intricacies of birth as sterile and even shameful, something to be hidden away and not discussed or shown, Emily’s family has taken a different approach.  Her four kids are “absolutely obsessed with birth and anatomy.  They find birth so magical and women so powerful.  They are always asking about birth stories, to look at pictures and videos, and to learn about bodies.  I hope this helps raise them into truly respectful adults, ones who look at women as powerful and equal humans instead of just property.”  It is parenting like this that will hopefully allow the next generation to be more accepting and open about the birthing process as a whole and maybe begin to move away from looking at birth as something clinical and medical and instead see it for the amazing, personal experience it can be.  

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

    Doulas do not just help with the birth itself, but can also be an amazing resource in the postpartum period.  Emily says, “birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder, so sometimes even the most intervention-less homebirth can be traumatic,” something I can agree with from personal experience.  “The postpartum period is just as important for long term health as birth. Research has shown that the more a woman is part of the decision-making process during birth, she will be happier about the outcome, no matter what happens.  It’s important that families feel like they are in control of their birth, which will help facilitate a more peaceful and bonded connection during their postpartum and beyond.”

    A common misconception is that doulas and homebirth go hand in hand, but in reality anyone can have and benefit from one.  Emily believes that “every woman, in every birth situation, deserves to have a doula present...Studies show that doulas help women have more positive birth outcomes.”  While she agrees that it’s “not easy to step out of the hospital model of care, we are a society so conditioned on birthing in the hospital, it’s easy to ignore that women have been birthing in the comfort of our homes since the beginning of our existence.  It’s important not to allow fear to get in your way.  Research confirms amongst low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.  And while some interventions are necessary for the safety and health of the mother or baby, many are overused, are lacking scientific evidence of benefit, and even carry risks.  If you’re looking into birthing in your home, I recommend reaching out to your local homebirth community!”

    While our businesses may differ, our journey to balance to home and work are the same.  What’s Emily’s advice?  “Owning a business while mothering our children is not for the faintheart.  It takes balance, it takes patience, and it takes forgiveness.  But you’ve got this.  You can do this! And please, make time for self-care...don’t allow yourself to be neglected.”

 

Connect with Emily:

On the web at http://www.wisewildwell.com

On Instagram @wisewildwell

 

Additional reading provided by Emily:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmwh.12172/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/

https://www.jpmph.org/journal/view.php?number=283




 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany