Mother Run: Alexis Edwards of Birth 360

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    Alexis Edwards wasn’t always a birth worker.  “I worked full time as a social worker before transitioning home for a few years after having children,” she recounts.  “I still worked from home part-time for an adoption agency writing home studies and conducting post-placement home visits, while also keeping humans alive and shit was bananas. Shout out to all those work from home moms doing the impossible! In November 2016 I became certified as a birth and postpartum doula and then officially put my kids in school part-time to grow my private practice.”         

    She first discovered the new path she wanted to take during that time home with her kids. “I had a lot of time to think about my career and the populations I wanted to serve,” she explains.  “I also had a lot of time to realize that staying home wasn’t the best fit for me. I struggled emotionally and lacked support. I felt very isolated during my daughters first year and started my blog as a way to get everything I was feeling out of my brain.  Ironically, my blog connected me with other mothers and made me feel less alone. It made me realize the importance of community, especially during new parenthood, and it was then I started researching doula trainings. I knew I wanted to support new parents in the perinatal period and use my social work skills to serve the mental health needs that are often ignored during this huge transition in life.”  A big part of her decision to go into this new line of work stemmed directly from her own doula use. “I had a doula for both of my births and very much valued their support along the way,” she says. “I also suffered from severe postpartum anxiety after my sons birth and coming out the other side of that inspired me to support other women in normalizing and validating the struggles new parents can face that aren’t often talked about.”  Within her own practice she works to support every mother she comes across and knows that every birth and situation looks different.  “I support all types of birth and have supported women in a range of experiences, from a home birth to holding their hand in the OR,” she says. “My goal is not to try and sway my client into one type of birthing environment vs. another. Each woman is unique and will have unique needs and I will always support their decision to birth with and where they feel safe and supported. I encourage all of my clients, no matter their birth preferences to seek out a comprehensive childbirth education course. One that covers all the variations of normal when it comes to birth and that provides knowledge and information on all types of intervention and the risks/benefits involved so they can feel empowered in making an informed choice. The thing I’ve realized the longer I’ve worked with women in this stage of life, is that a satisfying birth experience has less to do with where or how the baby was born, and more to do with how the experience made her FEEL. And the thing that consistently determines whether a woman has positive emotions connected to her birth is significantly related to how she was treated by those surrounding her.”

    Her social work background has led her to create quite a unique, and much needed, business.  With a goal to bridge the gap between birth and mental health, her work serves to help many women who may otherwise fall through the cracks.  Her ability to connect more extensively with birthing people prenatally helps build a deeper relationship than one may typically have with a doctor or other healthcare provider.  “This allows for rapport and trust to build early on and I’m planting seeds about postpartum the whole time, reminding them that should they need additional mental health support postpartum, I am trained to do so,” Alexis explains. “It’s so much easier to reach out for support when you already know who to reach out to. As a doula, I’m also seeing my clients sooner than a medical provider in the postpartum period. Most women don’t see their provider until 6 weeks postpartum which is light years in new parent land. Doulas typically do a postpartum home visit around 1-2 weeks postpartum and are also checking in via phone/text during those early weeks so it allows me the opportunity to observe clients in the midst of the newborn haze when it’s more likely for issues to surface. Doulas are also trained to provide options and encourage informed choice. This means that I’m not just discussing medication as an option, but also offering referrals to support groups, lactation support, psychiatrists, etc. and especially those trained in perinatal issues. I don’t want to paint medical providers in a bad light.  Many are providing proper referrals in the same way, but not all have that knowledge and the best they know to do is prescribe a standard medication which may not always be the best fit depending on the patient and their unique needs.”

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    In addition to offering birth and postpartum doula services, Alexis also uses her education and experiences to advocate for trauma survivors in birth through her program Carry on Warriors.  “I am a trauma survivor myself and experienced traumatic birth with both of my children,” she shares. “I also primarily worked with trauma survivors as a counselor before having children, but despite all that, I didn’t really consider the impact my history would have on my own births and postpartum.  That’s the thing about trauma, even if you feel ok cognitively, the body still stores those trauma memories and they can come flooding to the surface during the perinatal period. So much of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is this raw, primal, physical, and emotional journey and our body can interpret those sensations as unsafe and women might find themselves being triggered by the normal parts of birth or new parenthood.  I think this is one of those things that isn’t often talked about so I’m passionate about creating conversation around this issue, especially considering 1 in 3 women are survivors.” In addition to the Carry on Warriors program, she also offers a group called Growing Together which focuses on partners becoming parents. “There is so much emphasis prenatally on making a birth plan, decorating the nursery, or what to pack in your hospital bag, but no one is talking about the shit show you are about to navigate when you get sent home alone with a tiny human that is basically a digestive system,” says Alexis.  “Growing Together was created with the goal of educating both partners on the various postpartum issues they may face and equipping them with tools and support on how to better handle conflict and meet each others needs during this rocky time as a couple.”

    One of the things within her work that she is passionate about is changing the statistics of maternal mortality.  “There are many wonderfully compassionate and evidence-based OBGYN’s that also provide women centered care, but the truth of the matter is our healthcare system is significantly flawed,” she explains.  “There is an overall issue with unnecessary interventions that absolutely contribute to birth trauma which increases your likelihood of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. The U.S. also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.  Even more, as many as 1 in 5 women experience a mood disorder postpartum and that increases to 1 in 3 for women of color so it’s hard not to consider the correlation between what is happening in birth and what women are experiencing after the fact.” She even attended the March for Moms in Washington D.C. earlier this year to lobby for maternal health.  “That means I had to run around capitol hill in a pencil skirt and kitten heels to yell at Senators to stop letting mothers die in the U.S.,” she says. “No, that’s an exaggeration, lol. But that is essentially what I did. The first day was an actual March for Moms to build awareness around maternal health issues such as postpartum mood disorders and maternal mortality and survivors and family members that have lost loved ones were able to speak and share their stories.  I think that portion of the trip was meant to motivate and inspire us to speak from the heart when meeting with legislators. Our goal in the legislative meetings was to encourage their support and sponsorship of three specific bills related to maternal health. One was a bill that requires medical providers to screen for postpartum depression, another would strengthen maternal mortality review committees in order to collect more accurate data on why mothers are dying, and the last was to create paid family and medical leave, all causes I’m extremely passionate about as each could improve outcomes for mothers.”

    Her foray into birth work was slow and built around her family and the season of life they were in at the time.  “I started my doula training journey in early 2016 when my youngest was almost 2,” she says. “Our first year and a half with her was a hot fucking mess.  She slept zero. She only wanted boob. And I felt immense guilt that I wasn’t giving my older kiddo the attention he deserved. Looking back, I know I would have failed at starting my practice during that stage which is probably why I didn’t even consider it until we started to come out the other side of that sleep deprived, over touched torture.  I definitely took it slow in the beginning as I was still home with them full time, but just did what I could when I could squeeze it in and gave myself grace along the way, knowing I would eventually reach a place where we could transition them into more childcare. And that’s exactly what happened. They are now almost 4 and 6 and my oldest will start kindergarten this Fall and we will transition our daughter to a full time preschool.  It’s crazy to think I’ve come that far in the journey.”

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    The on-call nature of birth work provides an additional challenge to running a business with kids.  You never know exactly when a call is going to come in and you have to drop what you’re doing or sneak out in the middle of the night.  “Not gonna lie, on-call is fucking tough,” says Alexis. “I suffer from anxiety so I have to be mindful of those feelings creeping in and engage in the right self-care so I can stay well rested and not feel on edge waiting for the call.  But I also limit the number of birth clients I take on each month to make that process more manageable. Many full time doulas might take 5-6 clients a month, but I only take 1-2 which also allows me to manage the other services I offer and still ‘balance’ that family life.”  As working mothers that balance ebbs and flows as we move through different periods of life. “It definitely has gotten easier as they have gotten older,” she says. “They are more independent and really enjoy school and time with their friends vs. those earlier years where separation anxiety and thirst for nipple was real life.”

    Though on-call work as a mother is hard, Alexis says the biggest challenge she has had to overcome is “definitely affordable, quality childcare.”  “It was hard initially to start a business without childcare,” she continues. “I needed to make money to pay for it, but I also needed childcare to serve clients.  It was rough there initially and there were a few months I wanted to quit from the anxiety, but I just kept pushing through and eventually it all worked out and now that is less of a stressor.  I do still have it in the back of mind though since my income isn’t consistent. If I have a slow month, it can get stressful, but I’ve been working harder at adding in those unexpected periods to my budget to give us a cushion for when that does happen.  That’s been a big part of my journey that I’ve learned as I go. Managing money is uncomfortable AF, and I think many business owners struggle with how to manage a budget and make financially sound business decisions. I recently invested in a bookkeeper to keep my life right and that has been tremendously helpful.”

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    So often as small business owners we face criticism or doubt from others about our ability to not only run a business, but to run one with children.  Alexis has the perfect answer for those would dare to question her choices. “Fuck that noise,” she says. “It pisses me off how often I am asked ‘how do you do it all?’ when my husband is just being a dad and having a career no questions asked.  I constantly have to remind myself that women are given this ridiculous narrative that we can’t have it all so I know that’s where the question stems from. But the truth of the matter is I don’t have it all. I’m not perfect and I have good days and bad days, and no matter what I do or how I do it, one thing will suffer while I give energy to another.  And I just give that some grace and keep going. I know I have something to offer this world, and if someone wants to doubt that then they ain’t my people. This is another space where my village comes in. I surround myself with other female entrepreneurs and feel inspired and supported by how much they kick ass and take names on the daily.” That village is also what helps her get through challenging times.  “I’ve learned over the years to ask for help and seek connection when I need it. Our culture doesn’t do the best job encouraging a village. We are one of the only cultures that doesn’t raise families as a community and I do believe that contributes to the poor outcomes our country is navigating in regards to maternal health. So I try really hard to practice what I preach to my clients and ask for support when I feel myself getting overwhelmed.”

What’s on her business bucket list?

“Write a book!!!”

Her favorite creative and business resources:

“You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. The Courage to Become by Catia Holm. Also the Hey, Girl podcast. And Brene Brown. All the Brene Brown.”

Her advice for other biz owning moms?

“Keep doing you boo. When doubt or comparison starts to creep in, kick that shit in the face and keep doing that goodness you know you were meant to do. Also, wine.”

Connect with Alexis:

On the web

On Instagram

Top Knot Squad Podcast

 

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: 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: Anne Harrigan of Treehouse Restored

The business minded family (who are high school sweethearts!) and their almost 2 year old daughter.

The business minded family (who are high school sweethearts!) and their almost 2 year old daughter.

    After her daughter was born in 2016, Anne Harrigan joined the estimated 10-20% of new mothers who suffer from postpartum depression.  “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” she explains, “I just thought I was broken.”  She turned to the one thing she knew, her religion.  “I love to spend time with Jesus,” she says.  “I always imagine myself in a treehouse in the middle of nowhere when we’re talking.  I don’t know why, but that’s what I envision.  Anyway, over the course of 9 months, I felt like that treehouse was slowly destroyed.  My peace was gone, and I couldn’t get out of this metaphorical hole.  I could feel myself drowning and couldn’t figure out how to make things better.  Once I finally realized what I was dealing with, I asked Jesus to free me from it and He did right in that very moment!  And as I continued to recover and regain my confidence in who I was, the Lord showed me a picture of my treehouse being rebuilt--even stronger and more peaceful than before!  So, I decided to name my shop Treehouse Restored to remind myself, and to share with anyone who asks, that Jesus can rebuild anyones ‘treehouse.’  Doesn’t matter if it was destroyed by yourself, someone else, or circumstances.”

    With such a strong foundation, Treehouse Restored was born.  After having an Etsy shop years ago that didn’t pan out, Anne reopened and rebranded her shop as it is today in early 2017.  “After being freed from depression, I realized that it was important to do something for myself every single day,” she says.  “I already had some basic sewing knowledge, but I wanted to get better.  I decided that I would try to make my daughter some clothes and I actually ended up REALLY liking it!  So I figured if I was going to make my daughter’s clothes, then other people might want to buy what I’m making!”  

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

Anne's daughter modeling the Sassy Shirt!

    Before the creation of Treehouse Restored and the birth of her daughter, Anne worked as a sign language interpreter.  “I enjoyed being in that field,” she says.  “I specialized in Deaf-Blind Interpreting, some people refer to it as tactile interpreting.  My dream has always been to be a stay-at-home mom, though, so when I got pregnant, I knew I would be leaving my field and venturing into something new.  I just wasn’t sure what it was at the time!”  When it did finally come time for her to start her business, “I totally dove in without a clue of what I was doing,” she says.  She had some experience from running her own interpreter business, but says “I feel like retail is a completely different ballgame!”  Like most of us, she struggled a bit with some of the business aspects in the beginning, including pricing and advertising.  “I felt bad asking people to pay for my time and my skills, but I’ve really come to realize the value of my time and find confidence in my skills, so my shop is starting to reflect that.  I still struggle with advertising, since I don’t like paying to get my name out there, but it’s a work in progress!  I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds since I started, but I still feel like I have a long way to go!”

    As previously mentioned, Anne had some basic sewing knowledge to found her business on.  “My mom sewed a lot in my childhood,” she recalls, “but I definitely am self-taught in most things sewing related.  A lot of trial and error!  My business kind of developed out of me practicing my skills and then trying to sell what I felt like was quality work.”  One of the things she loves about homemade clothing is it’s distinctness.  “I just love making new and varied things,” she says.  “My shop has very limited supply of the products I make and I think that’s reflective of my desire for people to be able to say they have a truly unique item that I made.  The problem I have with a lot of ready to wear clothing is that there could be thousands of other people who bought that exact same article of clothing, so it’s not really that special.  Having a limited number of my products available allows your purchase to be truly unique and special!”

Warm and soft car seat ponchos offer a safe alternative to a winter coat!

Warm and soft car seat ponchos offer a safe alternative to a winter coat!

    If you think opening a business is a challenge in itself, try doing it with a one year old, which is exactly what Anne did!  Luckily, her daughter is “actually really chill,” says Anne.  “She entertains herself well and loves to play so it makes it easy to get in some sewing here and there.”  That’s not to say that it’s without its struggles, however.  “I find that the thing I struggle with the most is having to advocate for myself often to other people,” she explains.  “A lot of people think that I do this because it’s fun and therefore not super important.  But the fact is that I need this time to do things for myself.  It keeps my mind active and also gives me an outlet to do adult things without having to leave my child to do it.  It’s empowering to know what you need and then fight for that!  I find time to sew at nap time, early in the morning, and many times while my child is watching a movie!”  The other main struggle with balancing the two has been organization, something I’m sure a lot of us can relate with!  “I find that I tend to start off really well with my organizational skills, but then things get busy and that’s the first thing to go.  Honestly, I still struggle with it, so I can’t say I’ve overcome it, but I try to take time every few weeks to regroup.”

Anne modeling a shirt she made for herself for a special 10 year anniversary trip to Ireland!

Anne modeling a shirt she made for herself for a special 10 year anniversary trip to Ireland!

    In addition to balancing her shop with being a stay-at-home mother, Anne’s family also gets involved in Treehouse Restored.  “My husband owns a barbershop and has tremendous talent for business, so I ask him about pricing, advertising, and even ideas for the future,” she says.  “He’s super creative as well, so it helps to have his input!  My daughter helps by modeling just about everything I make.”  Their current business endeavors are even paving the way for a future dream of theirs, to own a coffee business that focuses on “partnering with growers, roasters and distributors, and helping people around the world become independent business owners and gain financial freedom!”  

    As small business owners, it can often be hard to see ourselves as entrepreneurs or to receive support in what we are doing.  Like so many of us, Anne has also dealt with people doubting her business and her success.  “I have learned over the years that I can’t force someone to learn something they don’t want to learn.  So, I have learned to be confident in the things that I do and seek value in who I am and not what I do,” she says.  “So when others try to tell me that sewing is “stupid” and that I’m crazy for thinking I could be successful as a mom with young children, I can confidently smile at them and say ‘ok,’ because I know that I’m doing things that a lot of other people are scared to do!  So if any mother runners out there are discouraged, remember that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!  It’s not!  And you chose to push forward when most people quit!  That already makes you amazing!  So don’t let others try to discourage you when they can’t see your vision!”  The people that do offer support instead of doubt are the ones that help her persevere through those particularly hard and challenging days.  “I have a lot of people who believe in me and want me to accomplish my dream!  Also, remembering that I am living my dream right now (being a mom) really helps put things into perspective.  I waited a long time to become a mom and I am thankful every. single. day. for that gift!”

    It’s also her dream, she says, “to inspire other mothers into fulfilling their dreams!  The dream doesn’t have to be business related, I just want women to know that they have value and an irreplaceable role in society and the community around them!  So if you are out there wondering if you are good enough, the answer is YES!!  Now go live your dream and find others who want to cheer you along in it!  You can do it!”

    If that didn’t seem like advice enough, Anne has this to leave us with: “Build a community around you that supports what you’re doing!  Get CONNECTED!  You can’t do this alone and there are plenty of people out there who want to help you fulfil your dream; whether that’s through purchasing your products, giving you encouragement, or promoting what you’re about!  You can do this!!  And let let others use their giftings to help you excel to the next level!”  

Connect with Anne

Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Naya Weber of Lactivist in Louboutins

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    Mixing fashion and lactation may not seem like they go hand in hand, but to Naya Weber the two are intricately connected.  Her blog, Lactivist in Louboutins, is a wonderful blend of breastfeeding, motherhood, and style.  She originally began writing it as a way to hold herself accountable after giving birth.  As she says, “I didn’t want to end up on an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ because I did not put any focus on me.”  This is a sentiment that I’m positive a lot of new moms can identify with, myself included (I was still wearing my maternity leggings when I got pregnant the second time, yikes!).  “As I got deeper into motherhood, I realized how important breastfeeding was to me,” she says.  “I worked hard to establish a relationship with my older son and loved to learn about it.  My blog focus changed very organically into documenting my journey as a working and pumping mom.”  She also credits the start of her blog and personal breastfeeding journey with helping her find her passion and, she says, “it helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up!”

    Her road to Lactivist in Louboutins and the discovery of her passion began back in 2011.  After working in sales for several years and becoming burned out, she says she worked as a “configuration and data manager for an engineering company, which paid the bills but definitely wasn’t my dream job.  I began pursuing a career in lactation while working for the engineering company, by obtaining a lactation educator and counselor certification.  I also got really involved in breastfeeding advocacy and was unofficially an apprentice for an established lactation practice near Fort Worth, TX. I finally started working in the breastfeeding field when I began to work for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth.  It’s a non-profit human milk bank and my job was to talk about breast milk all day.  Around the same time, I started teaching breastfeeding  classes part-time at a hospital entity in the Fort Worth area.  I was able to pursue becoming a lactation consultant full time about two years ago.  Prior to that, I was working towards it on a very part time basis, primarily nights and weekends since I had a day job.  In all, it took me five years to complete all of the requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam.”  Despite the fact that it wasn’t her main focus during much of that time, which made it take a bit longer, she never let that get in the way of her dream.

    A big part of her journey began back with the birth of her first son.  Looking back, she recalls that “he was a late preterm baby, born 3.5 weeks early.  He would tire out at the breast without transferring much milk, but my husband and I didn’t realize it.  We ended up having to supplement him and I was pumping after every feed for several weeks.  We persevered and breastfed for almost two years, despite me going back to work when he was 12 weeks old.”  With the knowledge and experiences she had gained from her firstborns breastfeeding story, she was ready to start again when her second son was born 3.5 years later.  As it turns out, he would have a difficult time as well.  She says “he was born with severe lip and tongue ties.  He was gaining weight beautifully, but I was in a world of pain.  We made it through our difficult period and breastfed for 2.5 years--much longer than I had intended!”  She credits her personal experience with helping her to “empathize with the families I support.  I’ve been worried about breast milk supply, weight gain, had cracked nipples, pumped at work, and more.  I can relate to the frustration they may be feeling.  My goal is to empower them to make the best decision possible for their family.”

    As her own story shows, breastfeeding is not easy for everyone.  If it were there would be no need for lactation consultants.  Many of us, myself included, have a desperate need for these services when beginning our breastfeeding journeys.  As Naya says, “I believe lactation is very natural--nearly all of our bodies were designed to do it after childbirth (and some without childbirth).  It’s breastfeeding that requires support.  Many moms fear that they will be judged for seeking help, but it’s okay to ask for help.  For something that’s touted as natural, it doesn’t come naturally to some women.”  For those of us that it did not come naturally to, having relatable consultants who have been there, experienced that, can make all the difference in the world.  As someone who had a very negative experience using lactation consultants, seeing how caring and relatable women like Naya are restores my hope should I ever need to seek help again.

    When Naya first began blogging, planning definitely wasn’t on the agenda.  She recalls that “I definitely dove right in and worked on things as they came about.  It still serves as my creative outlet.  I don’t have a huge audience, but many of my readers have been with me for years.  Because I use it as a way to be creative, I tend to be very selective with collaborations I do.  Despite writing in this space for six years, I still work things out as I go.”  It wasn’t all easy though, she says that “something I struggled with initially was finding my voice and writing style.  I tend to very wordy, but I really had to edit down some of my posts.  I am happy to say I don’t have that problem any more.”  While she dove right into the blogosphere, she still says that “it was a bit scary starting my blog.  Mostly it was my friends that were reading it at the start, but I was nervous about my employer and family members finding it.”  During the past six years since Lactivist in Louboutins began, she has self-taught herself many skills, including basic HTML code, social media promotion, graphic design, and marketing.  While most was self-taught, she did take a few classes in social media and marketing along the way.  If you, dear reader, are worried about not currently possessing the skills needed to accomplish what you wish to do, please take inspiration from the fact that it can all be learned on your own, it just may take a little time!

Naya, her husband, and their two boys.

Naya, her husband, and their two boys.

    While researching and planning may not have been part of her blogging experience, starting down the IBCLC path was a different story.  “I had to be much more calculated,” she says.  “In the beginning, trying to juggle schoolwork with my full time job, motherhood, and trying to be a good partner to my husband was difficult.  My time is a very precious commodity and I really had to let things go when I was in the thick of schooling and obtaining clinical hours.  I still struggle a bit with managing all the different things I do, but it has gotten a lot better.”  

    Naya’s two boys are currently 7 and 3.5 years old.  Juggling everything she has to do has gotten a little easier as they’ve aged, as she says “they’re now not as dependent on me and can play together well.  Most of the time they entertain each other with minimal interaction from me.  It gives me a chance to finish up meeting notes, respond to emails, or have a few minutes of quiet before starting the next task on my neverending to-do list.”  This hasn’t always been the case, however, at first “balancing work, schooling, and motherhood was hard.  I cried A LOT about feeling like I was giving everything in my life (including my kids) a solid 10%, despite wanting to put more effort into everything, especially time with my kids.”  “Now that schooling is done,” she says, “I’m finding it a little easier.  On my days off from work, I try to spend a lot of time with my kids and focus on being present for them.  For me that means putting my phone down and keeping my laptop closed.  I try really hard to make memories with my sons--not just the big monumental trips to Disney World memories, but the smaller ones as well.  I love to have dance parties with them in our living room, we crank up the music and rock out.  We also have a movie night on a Friday or Saturday where the kids stay up really late and we watch something together.”  The biggest struggle she’s overcome, though, is “telling that mom guilt voice in the back of my head to shut up.  While it does poke out every now and again, I tell myself that my sons love me and they know that I am crazy about them.”  Her sons have also been involved in her various business journeys.  She says that “whether I was working on the blog, teaching breastfeeding classes, or working part time seeing moms, they’ve been with me every step of the way.  I do this for them.”

    While just helping mother’s one on one is impressive enough, Naya also has quite an impressive resume of opportunities she has got to be a part of since she started.  She has spoken at MommyCon 2016, speaks to local groups of postnatal mothers, spoke on the topic of Sex and the Breastfeeding Mother, and so much more.  “Someone recently introduced me to a group of lactation consultants and called me influential,” she says, “I haven’t ever really thought of myself that way...if my words have helped even one person, I am grateful to write them.”   “I can honestly say that I had no idea it would lead to all of this,” she says, “not a clue.  I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and still get a thrill when someone says they’ve read my blog or heard of me.  I’ve gotten ‘recognized’ a few times and I’m not going to lie, it felt kind of weird but good.  I’m really just an awkward mom hoping I don’t make a fool out of myself.”  

    Though she has already gotten to do some amazing things a result of Lactivist in Louboutins and through lactation consulting, she has many goals to still achieve.  “I would love to do more in the fields of maternal mental health and postpartum support,” says Naya.  “That may mean obtaining a postpartum doula certification, but I haven’t even started exploring the possibilities.  On the other end of the spectrum, I would love to learn more about styling and offer services to women, focusing on postpartum women dressing a body that feels strange to them... I would also love to speak at more conferences or group sessions and share my knowledge.”  

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    With all the things that her work has led to, the two things that have brought her the most joy, she says, is that “I’ve met some incredible women through the blogging community who have become close friends and co-conspirators of sorts.  We try to get together every few months, but it’s hard due to jobs, kids, and life.  I am not sure I would’ve met them otherwise, but I’m glad they’re a part of my life.”  The second thing that she loves is “‘graduating’ moms and babies from seeing a lactation consultant.  It doesn’t happen often, but after several visits, I get to tell a mom and baby that they don’t have to come back because breastfeeding finally going well.  Sometimes there are tears, but there are always smiles and hugs.”  

    Although her work is incredibly rewarding, like so many mothers, sometimes there are days that are harder than others.  When this happens, what keeps Naya motivated may sound familiar.  “As cliched as it sounds,” she says, “my kids keep me motivated.  They see their mom working hard, being happy with her career choice, and working outside of the home while raising children.  I also feel like the universe throws something incredibly positive my way on those days when I want to throw in the towel.  A recent example: a few days before I took my IBCLC exam, I had hit a wall.  I couldn’t study anymore, I didn’t want to do this anymore, I was done.  My ridiculously supportive husband took the day off and we went to a restaurant for brunch since the kids were in school.  I saw a mom nursing in public and I went over to give her a ‘Thanks for nursing in public’ card.  I gave it to her and told her she was doing a great job.  She put her hand on my arm and told me it was her first time to nurse her three week old baby in public and she was very nervous, but I made her feel more confident.  I was over the moon and couldn’t believe my luck.  Even when I get off track, something happens to remind me of why I started this journey to begin with.”

    If you’ve been inspired by Naya’s story, then here is one last bit of inspiring advice from her: “Do it.  Follow your passion, make your dream a reality.  If you wait for the right time to start, you may be waiting forever.”

 

More of Naya’s favorite resources:

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

 ivorymix.com (stock photos)

Livingfornaptime.com (blogging help for working moms)

 

Documentaries:

The Milky Way Movie (on breastfeeding)

Embrace (on body image)

Miss Representation (on how mainstream media exploits women)

 

Connect with Naya:

On the web

On Facebook

On Instagram


 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

 

Brittany

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: Jessica Chester of Yard Cards by Jess

Jessica, her husband, and their three children.

Jessica, her husband, and their three children.

    When Jessica Chester launched Yard Cards by Jess in September of 2016 she had a mere 6 hours a week to dedicate to it.  While such a small amount may seem daunting to some, Jessica took what she had and learned to make every hour count.  Her oldest was in 5th grade at the time and she also had two young children in preschool.  

    If you are like me, you may not have heard of, or seen, yard cards before.  Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Jessica’s Instagram page and since she is actually located in my city, I have actually had the pleasure of happening upon one of her displays when out dog walking a few months back!  Jessica was first exposed to yard cards through her family, “Yard cards seem to have originated in the Southern U.S.,” she says, “I mean one of the mottos is ‘Bigger is better!  I grew up in Kentucky and most of my family is there and my dad’s cousin owns a yard card business.  That was my first exposure to the concept.  I thought they were so fun!  What an original, over-the-top way to share with everyone what you’re celebrating in your life.  And what a fun surprise to receive!”

Some of the many different kinds of sign Jessica can do!

Some of the many different kinds of sign Jessica can do!

    What a fun surprise, indeed!  Jessica’s Instagram feed is full of smiling customer photos of both children and adults enjoying the surprise of a fun yard card.  While the concept of helping people celebrate was not the first thing that drew Jessica to the business, her main thoughts originally were on the perks it brought her and her family.  “Low overhead costs, self employment, flexibility,” these were the first things she thought of when looking for what work she would be able to do while still having time to raise her children.  She was in for a surprise herself, however, and says “the absolute joy it brings me has honestly been very surprising!  I did not realize how much it would impact me and my daily life to be part of people’s happy moments on a regular basis.  Not only that, but I derive SO MUCH purpose and motivation and contentment from owning my own business.  It validates me in a way that was missing before.”

    Speaking of before, prior to starting her business, Jessica spent most of her career managing apartments.  “When I became pregnant with our 3rd child, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home with our children.  I was a domestic engineer for four years prior to launching Yard Cards by Jess.”  Like many of us, being a stay at home mom was not all Jess wanted to do.  “While I’m so grateful that I was able to stay home with our two youngest, being a stay at home mom didn’t fill me with the sense of purpose that I know so many moms derive from that role,” she says.  “I knew I did not want to go back to work full-time when they were all in school as I wanted to be available to participate in all of their school activities, devote time to volunteering at their schools, and not have to worry about calling in to work if one of them is sick.  Self-employment meets that requirement, as well as my desire to have more control of my work.  I have a strong personality and this lets me do things my way, for better or for worse!”

Celebrating a birthday and making a little girls day!

Celebrating a birthday and making a little girls day!

    Unlike those of us who wing it, Jessica did a lot of research and planning before launching her business.  “I’d first been exposed to the business of yard cards several years before taking the plunge but I wanted my launch and business to be perfect from the start,” however, she says “that is so unrealistic!  I had to overcome a lot of fear and perfectionism and finally just go for it or I’d have been waiting FOREVER for things to be perfect.  I struggled with wanting to sink a lot of money into this venture from the beginning so that I could have a great website and wow people with my inventory and give the appearance of someone that knows what they’re doing.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), we weren’t in the position to throw money at this business without first seeing how it took off and begin to make money back before reinvesting.  If I had to do it over again I would have realized that entrepreneurs start somewhere and I didn’t have to begin at the top.”

    Jessica recently celebrated her company’s one year anniversary and she is still trying to figure out a balance between work and family.  “Next year,” she says, “all of my kids will be in school full-time and I’m trying not to rush this last little bit of time with one kid still home with me.  I’m anxious to devote more time to growing my business but also have to remind myself to cherish this season of life.  I struggle with getting into a work groove and being totally in the zone and then needing to pick someone up from school or get a snack for my youngest.  I try to reign in the frustration and remind myself that they’re still my top priority.  The reason I’m doing this business is to benefit our whole family!”  

    Even in the span of a year her business, and herself, has changed and evolved.  While she says that she is “still fine tuning procedures and communication and basically all aspects of the business...I’ve learned some hard lessons too and hope to use them to grow and learn.”  She has also “changed due to the confidence and purpose this has given me.  Many people have commented on the change in me the last year and I love that other can see what this means to me.”  When she first started she only had 6 hours during the week to dedicate to work, this year she has 15.  She says that while “it is getting easier to make time for my business” there are also other responsibilities popping up as her kids advance a year in school.  Their time is filled with “sports and activities and homework help.”  While things like that do take up more time for a mother driving to and from activities and attending events, “every year they also get better at entertaining themselves and needing less from me on a minute-by-minute basis.”   

Jessica out working with her kids!

Jessica out working with her kids!

    Her kids also get a kick out of accompanying and assisting their mom.  Jessica says that “they think it’s the best!  I’ve loved to hear that they brag at school about my business or they tell me how proud of me they are.  I’m so glad they’re getting to see me work hard and enjoy what I do!  They LOVE helping me do cards when I let them.  My oldest is in middle school so I’ve definitely put him to work to earn his allowance!  The little likes to help me pick up the cards and usually tackles the small balloons and stars.  It’s a great opportunity for them to work for me in the future and to give them some ownership of what I consider to be a family business.”

  

Jessica’s advice for other Mother Runners:

  1. We’re all doing the best we’re capable of.  If you’re rocking entrepreneurship, you’re already winning for taking the leap!

  2. Our motherhood journey is full of seasons.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy them all but I’m working on it!  If this one is rough, grit your teeth and try to enjoy the ride and know there is an end in sight.  My mom always tell me the days are long and the years are short.  So true!  

  3. Find a tribe if you can!  Online is great too.  This is such a challenging role and support from those who understand can be invaluable!

 

Connect with Jessica

On Facebook at facebook.com/yardcardsbyjess

On Instagram instagram.comyardcardsbyjess

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