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Forbes Column 2009: Mompreneurs

Posted on Friday, Jul 17th 2009

Here’s Zero In on women juggling motherhood and careers using entrepreneurship as a vehicle: read Mompreneurs.

As part of this story, we also encourage you to tell your own story of mompreneurship, or stories of other women entrepreneurs who are successfully juggling entrepreneurship and motherhood, and have insights to share.

This segment is a part in the series : Forbes Column 2009

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Dawn Martinello
Monday Morning VA
http://www.mondaymorningva.com

The unique story of Dawn Martinello began about five years back— as a newlywed with a successful career in customs brokerage and an innate desire to have a baby. I had the opportunity of speaking with Mrs. Martinello about her experience as a mompreneur.

After the birth of her son, the idea of returning to work seemed to have vanished. “There was just no way I could or would leave my baby to return to work full-time” Martinello recalls. She decided to start an Avon business when her son was four months old and continued to sell products and build teams for a year and a half. Shortly after, she was presented with an opportunity that would change her life and take her on a new entrepreneurship path. With only a few dollars to her name and no capital; Monday Morning VA was founded on February 2009 through a self employment benefit program that provided the necessary assistance for business start ups with social support of networking, seminars and a bi-weekly check of $744.

Now she is the successful founder of Monday Morning VA, a virtual assistance company that provides administrative solutions to businesses around the globe, where she manages the social media, advertising, webs sight design and maintenance. To date the company has had sales of approximately $1500 per month and total revenue of $7000-achieved through integrity, honesty, hard work and customer service.

I asked Mrs. Martinello to describe a bit about her experience as an entrepreneur. “I really do love the fact that I own my own business. I feel completely empowered by it. I control my destiny and there’s no one to tell me that I can’t reach as far as the stars. What makes being an entrepreneur so great, can also be its disadvantages. There’s no one to lend a hand if I get sick, or want to take an afternoon off. Forget about fringe benefits and vacations!”

Martinello’s story is a great example of many stay at home moms who go into entrepreneurship and build an amazing career—all achieved through hard work and dedication.“I chose this business because it was something that could be done strictly from home and allowed me enough flexibility that I could hire helpers and still care for my son and family,” Martinello says.

Monday Morning VA has given Martinello a new career and at the same time the flexibility to be at home with her family. It is important to be able to care for our families and yet feel a sense of independence while doing so. As Martinello says “The world today forces us to really be independent and autonomous. Having something to always fall back on is definitely something people should be considering because you never know what the future holds.”

Erika Valdez Friday, July 24, 2009 at 9:19 PM PT

Allison Karl O’Kelly-Story
CEO/Founder – Mom Corps
http://www.momcorps.com

Founder and CEO of Mom Corps, Allison Karl O’Kelly has a great story to tell about being a successful mompreneur. Graduating cum laude with an accounting degree from the University of Georgia and earning an MBA from Harvard Business School is only the beginning of an extraordinary career path for O’Kelly. After completing her college education, O’Kelly went on to work for KPMG in the global professional services network. Later on she took a position with Toys “R” Us in which she was placed in a fast-track management program and was responsible for launching the original Babiesurs.com Web site and running an $11 million operation.

When O’Kelly made the decision of having a family she found it difficult to find a balance between career and family in the corporate world—she had always strived to be successful professionally and the same standards applied for motherhood. She observed how many mothers just like her found it difficult to remain in the workforce, and find job opportunities that offered symmetry in their lives. “Because of this obstacle, many mothers leave the workforce altogether. At the same time, I noticed corporations were struggling to find high-caliber employees,” O’Kelly says.

The entrepreneurship experience started when O’Kelly established her own accounting practice, servicing small businesses with strategic planning, accounting and tax services. Eventually she noticed a trend from women facing her same situation and she wanted to offer mothers just like her a similar experience in the workforce.

In 2005 she founded Mom Corps, a premier staffing solution supplying companies with top-tier, experienced professionals “on demand” to meet their business needs and cycle. Specializing in functions including, legal, marketing, HR, strategy, finance and technical management Mom Corps has proved to be a success story. The job candidates are able to maintain flexibility while continuing to pursue their professional careers and at the same time serving clients with excellence. Mom Corps provides candidates the opportunity to find professional job opportunities suited to their qualifications and most importantly their scheduling needs. Headquartered in Atlanta and operating nationwide through the online job board with over 500 clients, Mom Corps offers franchise opportunities in select areas and full service staffing in Atlanta as well as three additional markets: Boston, Miami, and Philadelphia.

O’Kelly has been recognized as an innovative entrepreneur and flexible work expert and has been featured in a variety of national media and awarded numerous awards. Mother of two boys, and a thriving entrepreneur, O’Kelly was able to find the perfect balance for her life by creating a business that offers other women raising families the same opportunity she encountered.

“The best part of owning my own business while also being a mom is having full control of my schedule and my flexibility. I like to say that I work and live as part of a 24-hour clock. In that time, I squeeze in family time, work time, me time, volunteer time… Because I have my own schedule, it doesn’t matter in which of the 24 hours it falls. I might work in the evening and volunteer at my sons’ school in the morning. I feel that I have the best of both worlds” O’Kelly says.

Erika Valdez Friday, July 24, 2009 at 10:54 PM PT

Valerie Fitzgerald
The Valerie Fitzgerald Group
http://www.valeriefitzgerald.com

I recently had the opportunity of learning more about Valerie Fitzgerald’s incredible entrepreneurship story. Once a former model, now a successful mompreneur and author of Heart & Sold, Fitzgerald is the founder of The Valerie Fitzgerald Group-a premier source for luxury real estate based in Beverly Hills, CA. She went from a single abused mom to a billionaire all achieved through hard work and ambition to care for her and her daughter. “I was past “my prime” as a model in NYC when asked if I would relocate to Los Angeles to work at a cosmetics company. I packed everything I had and headed to the west coast in a beat up VW bug and my toddler daughter. By the time I arrived in Los Angeles, the department was shut down and I was without a job, without an income, and had to figure out my next steps. A friend suggested I go into real estate. Without knowing a thing about selling houses, or the LA market for that matter, I jumped in and said, ‘yes’ knowing I had to provide for my daughter. As a single mother, I worked insanely hard to provide a life for my daughter she would not only thrive in, but be proud of,” Fitzgerald says.

The company was funded with sweat equity. Fitzgerald worked intensely for nine months without making a single penny and without a day off for seven years. Her hard work eventually paid off, in the last ten years she’s averaged sales of approximately $200 million yearly with a client database of over 10,000-ranking her on Wall Street Journal’s Top 200 list for high sales volume!

Fitzgerald has always been exceptionally active in her real estate business. She works directly with her clients while receiving support from her administrative staff. She employs three administrative assistants, one in-house marketing consultant and nine buyer agents. Nevertheless the business model has proved to be incredibly successful. It has greatly benefited from excellent client referrals and through social networking sites. As a business owner, she has always managed to adapt to a rapidly changing market by building a strong foundation with clear goals and actions.

Interestingly, Fitzgerald has been able to find the perfect balance between being a mom and an entrepreneur, she attributes it to her ability to prioritize, delegate and plan efficiently. She has made it a point to be home with her daughter every night for dinner while running a business that offers her clients the outmost high quality services.

“It’s given me the ability to create the life I want to live and the life I want to give to my daughter. It’s been a blessing and despite huge learning curves, it’s been a wonderful adventure. I am proud of what I’ve built, of what I’ve created, and of what I’ve designed” Fitzgerald tells me when asked on her mompreneur experience.

Erika Valdez Saturday, July 25, 2009 at 12:35 PM PT

I find these stories to be inspiring, as a young women just getting ready to head out into the business world, its nice to see that women make it. They have it all family and a job they enjoy. It gives me hope that I too will be able to have it all. Thank you for writing such inspiring stories.

Christina Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 6:01 AM PT

As a mother of three and recently returning to the work force (four years ago) after tending to my children and being there for there every need, it was hard to go back to work and follow someone elses schedule and blend with my own schedule at home. It is very inspiring to see that woman can go back out and create there own niche! Be there own boss, and use there talents as a means to succeed! It is very important to me to be active and feel that i have purpose, reading these stories has given me ideas and a sense of power again. I can do more! In these hard economic times, i need more! thanks.

maria Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 4:00 AM PT

Stacey Kannenberg
Cedar Valley Publishing
http://www.cedarvalleypublishing.com

Growing up in Hayward, Wisconsin and raised by entrepreneur grandparents, Stacey Kannenberg was exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age. At the age of seven, she had a profitable hot dog stand, which earnings paid for some of her college fund. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Kannenberg about her motivating experience as a full time entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom.

Kannenberg spent 14 years in Corporate America before she became a stay-at-home mom to care for her two young daughters. “I wanted to create a company that my children could be involved in; and at the same time, I couldn’t find what I was looking for to help get my own children get ready for school, so I decided to create it!,” she tells me. Kannenberg is the successful founder/CEO of two publishing companies: Cedar Valley Publishing and Stacey Kannenberg Unlimited (an imprint of Cedar Valley Publishing)—and co-author of the award winning and state approved, Let’s Get Ready series.

The company was self-funded with only $6,000 taken out of savings. In the first three months after the first book was released it created revenue of $24,000. All of Kannenberg’s hard work and dedication paid off. She’s been able to sell 60,000 copies of her self-published book line, break into the school market, garner over 700 mom blog reviews and build a national media platform—all in a shoestring budget! The company has raised a total of over $340,000 so far.

Kannenberg has worn many hats in the company, from marketing, public relations, writing to advertising and distribution. At the beginning she advertised through word of mouth, now she has an ACT database in which her customers and partners (such as educational type companies and booksellers) can know what she is working on.

Kannenberg never felt pressured to be a full time mom, she always had the support of friends and family, yet she says learning to balance both being a mom and an entrepreneur was the most difficult challenge—which is what she sees as being the biggest struggle for stay-at-home moms when making the transition.

This mom, publisher, consultant, spokesperson and motivator has done it all. Her mompreneur experience has inspired and motivated many. According to Kannenberg, “There is no other way to be successful, personally or professionally, if you don’t follow your passion. I love the freedom of taking nothing and turning it into something that is tangible and viable! It is hard work with long hours and many sacrifices along the way.”

Erika Valdez Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:12 AM PT

Bibby Gignilliat
Parties That Cook
http://www.partiesthatcook.com

At a very young age Bibby Gignilliat discovered that entrepreneurship was her passion. One summer at the age of 10, she made $300 from collecting and reselling golf balls that people had lost in the woods of a nearby golf course in Oak Park, Illinois. This was only the beginning, she’s always loved coming up with clever ideas that later turn into revenue generating businesses. Gignilliat is now a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Parties That Cook, an award-winning culinary events company, which is revolutionizing corporate team building in the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago through unique hands-on cooking events.

I spoke with Ms. Gignilliat about her experience as an entrepreneur and I was able to capture her amazing story. Prior to owning her own business, Gignilliat worked in Corporate America in positions that included a Marketing Manager for Williams-Sonoma Inc. One day while at a meeting she decided that it was time to fulfill her dream of attending Tante Marie’s professional cooking school and follow her love of food, which led her to teaching cooking classes and later to the creation of Parties That Cook.

Gignilliat created her first cooking company in 1999, Gourmet Gatherings, which was later re-launched as Parties That Cook in 2006. “I wanted to call all the shots and have flexibility with my schedule. Mostly, I wanted to create a career around my passion for food and entertaining,” she tells me. Parties That Cook was launched with an equity investment of 4K, and since it’s inception it has grown at a 73% annual compound rate and in 2008 it grossed 1.45M. The company has remained profitable despite the economy downturn. Kitchens are rented for events and HR and IT are outsourced functions in order to keep the cost of overhead low.

The company is advertised by using Pay-Per-Click ads on Google and Yahoo and also on Yelp and CitySearch—70% of the company’s new business is attributed to online search. Potential customers find the company through referrals, search engines, and networking events. Interestingly, in the beginning Gignilliat had to do everything on her own from leading events, to answering phones to doing the PR. Now, she has staff and she is able to focus on strategic planning, business development and of course managing.

Corporate team building makes up 90% of the company’s business. Some of the top sectors include; pharmaceuticals and finance. “The market is diverse and expanding as companies strive to build cohesive teams and navigate mergers and reorganizations. Demand for private events and public cooking classes have increased significantly as well with the popularization of food network celebrity chefs,” Gignilliat recalls. Companies using Parties That Cook services range from Google, Pfizer, Facebook and Pottery Barn.

Gignilliat has an exciting career she is passionate about. “Getting to call all the shots and create a work environment exactly as I want. I can have ideas and implement them without all the company bureaucracy,” she says on her experience as an entrepreneur. Gignilliat is an exceptional example of strong and independent women who have ventured into entrepreneurship and have become a success story.

Erika Valdez Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:15 AM PT

These women are amazing, their stories are inspiring. One can only hope that with hard work and determination they too will find success. These women are the true success stories of our time. Thank you for sharing their stories with us.

Allie Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM PT

Here is my story…

(You can also learn a bit more from the interview with DotComMothers.com: http://www.dotcommothers.com/home-based-business-ideas-shara/ )

Just a few weeks after giving birth to my son, the doctors informed us that his right eye contained no vision; it was congenitally small (microthalmic) and would need to remain under supervision. Months later, following a retinal detachment, a diagnosis of glaucoma and an optic nerve cyst, our son’s right eye was removed – a necessary decision we had hoped we’d not be forced to make.

During a four hour surgery, just ten days following his first birthday, an orbital implant was surgically attached to our son’s extra ocular nerve. Weeks later we visited a prosthetics specialist who created a prosthetic eye. The removable eye was painted to match his left, and was placed over the orbital implant (created from an ocean coral called Hydroxyappetite).

Because the eye was removable, our young son found great pleasure in popping it out. He would do so in order to chew on the eye or to hide it in various locations (inside toys, cereal boxes, etc). In an effort to re-direct that behavior, I sought to find a solution that would work for our unique situation.

Along with the use of his new eye, our son was instructed to wear a pair of glasses – in order to protect his left eye (in the event of a fall or accident). He struggled with his glasses daily, pulling them off and leaving them in an assortment of locations.

My mother suggested that I create a personal book for our son, addressing each issue. I searched for a company that might be able to help me, but came up empty. I decided to create two books at home. One book addressed the issue of my son’s new eye, the other focused on his need to keep his glasses on in order to protect his left eye. Each story page featured photos from our personal collection: photos of the prosthetic eye, of our son, of family members who love him. Photos of his glasses, of family and friends who also wear glasses, and of the objects and items that could potentially damage his left eye if his glasses were not worn. I had each book laminated and bound.

I read the books to my son daily. They impacted his behavior dramatically and we soon passed through that season of our lives…and into another. When our son entered preschool, I requested that his teacher read the prosthetic eye story to the class – in order to open up the lines of communication between my son and the other students.

Oftentimes fear of the unknown is all that separates us from those we do not understand.

Again the book was read in Kindergarten and in first grade. By second grade, all of my son’s friends were well aware of his situation; so much so that it no longer mattered to any of them. It was old news.

The books have been an invaluable tool in our son’s life. If you choose to order a Personal Child Story, it is our hope that it (or they) will also bless your child’s life in countless ways.

Shara Friday, July 31, 2009 at 6:53 PM PT

I am always inspired by articles written by moms’ who have found ways to juggle home and career. Sometimes, what seems like a slight diversion from your days of “regular employment” ends up being just what is needed to surprisingly jump-start a new business, career, etc. Fellow posters are validating what I thought all along, mothers are very creative!

I was not looking for becoming an entrepreneur or start a new business. I was fairly content providing contractual services as a School Psychologist and teaching the occasional sign language course. However, due to my associations with families who had children with exceptional needs I decided to design my sign language instruction with a “developmental psychology twist.” Before, I knew it my simple DVDs that were to be practice for my workshops ended up in the hands of people all over North America. Parents of infants, families and educators with special needs children, daycare and health care providers all were asking for copies of my DVD. Evidently, I was filling a niche, by creating funny, fun , interactive and clearly demonstrated educational sign language DVDs. People were calling for at first one, then a dozen, then much more! It was then I needed to create SIGNING FAMILIES to have a solid business model.

Less than two years later I am happy to be the owner of Signing Families and to have been able to prosper during difficult economic times. Our newest DVD, ” BABY, TODDLER AND PRESCHOOL SIGN LANGUAGE” has been very successful. We decided to make this DVD as a teaching tool for anyone from the preschool set to senior citizens. The idea is that older children and adults serve as language models for younger children and individuals with special needs. We have added Spanish narrative to our DVD as a bonus feature. We are pleased and proud to have been embraced and endorsed by many communities, including fellow moms groups, Autism associations, organizations for Down Syndrome, preschool and daycare groups and many, many more. Also, now we are expanding on our products with sign language books created in cooperation with Personal Child Stories that are in English, Spanish and ASL! A parent can teach any child these languages in the comfort of their own home!

Best of all, SIGNING FAMILIES has allowed us to give back in small ways to people who support and care for children and their parents. We hope to increase our revenue so that we may assist more in organizations in need.

Louise Sattler Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 2:03 PM PT

Sally Shields
http://www.theDILRules.com
Speaker, Radio Personality and
International Media Specialist
#1 Amazon.com Bestseller of
The DAUGHTER-IN-LAW Rules

Once a former jazz pianist Sally Shields is not only an award winning musician and successful speaker but the author of an Amazon.com best seller book; The Daughter-In-Law Rules. I had the opportunity of speaking with Ms. Shields about her experience as a mompreneur.
Her initial encounter with entrepreneurship occurred after she had her children. Traveling and performing as a musician did not turn out to be feasible as it once was—Shields needed to make a living and to provide for her children’s future.

After becoming an Amazon.com best seller, she began working on a new business adventure—finding ways of selling through non-traditional methods, which led her to become a speaker and strategist on this topic. “I embarked on a journey to learn as much as I could about selling through non-traditional methods that had little to do with bookstore sales. Over many months, I studied the top gurus ranging from authors and publishers, to media trainers, agents, radio hosts, producers, distributors and more. I began to understand the secret that successful authors know; and that is, that they have learned how to use their book as a tool to build their business,” Shields tells me. From here on after, her life changing mompreneur experience took off!

Funding came from savings. Luckily her husband’s knowledge in web work saved her a lot of money.
She created a lot of publicity establishing a money-generating brand worth thousands and thousands of dollars and giving her revenue of nearly $500,000. Shields partners with PR firms, booking agents, authors, entrepreneurs and marketers among others. She acknowledges her success to becoming an international media specialist as coming from perseverance, hard work and caring for her clients.

Aside from being an author and speaker, she is a workshop and teleseminar leader, radio host and creator of a potentially reality show. Shields also does fund raising and executive events with the National Breast Cancer Foundation and 1-800 Flowers.

Transitioning to entrepreneurship wasn’t that much of stretch for Shields, her previous experience as a freelance pianist made it simpler as well as the drive to care for her family. Yet she describes her most challenging experience as juggling both, being a full time mom and an entrepreneur. Regardless of any challenges she’s encountered, she would not change it. She’s managed to find balance to raise her family and to nurture her entrepreneurial spirit at the same time. “That is the best combination—the best of both worlds,” she tells me.

Once again, this is another success story giving not only credit but admiration to mompreneurs and their hard work. “The only two things you need to become successful in any endeavor is to have a passion for your topic, and a sincere desire to help people. The rest will fall into place,” Shields says. This amazing mompreneur has done it all!

Erika Valdez Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1:24 PM PT

This is a fabulous reminder that inspiration and motivation create the foundation for a new business. These moms, motivated by the desire to control their lives and inspired to find solutions for common issues, are able to achieve a new kind of success they did not know existed before – life-work balance.

I have been fortunate to be able to do the same, by creating a law firm that works with entrepreneurs (especially women) to help them reach their highest potential – it is a great feeling to help others reach their goals.

Havona Madama Monday, August 3, 2009 at 3:40 PM PT

Lucinda Cross, author of Corporate Mom Dropouts provides helpful tips, and a careful consideration of alternatives, for women and mothers who want to pursue entrepreneurship whether you just started or thinking about starting a business.

I was motivated to start my own enterprise 5 years ago when my last boss refused to let me take off a day to stay home with my ill son, Khallid. What ever your own individual circumstance– the economic downturn or a passion you wish to follow –read the individual adventures, business strategies and helpful ideas of twenty plus former corporate moms who threw out their commuting tickets and traditional corporate pant suits.

Corporate Mom Dropouts offers women the confidence they’ll need to make sound decisions, first as a mom and then as a businesswomen. This invaluable reference should be on every woman’s shelf.

Become inspired and follow through with your dream. Good luck on your journey. My sincerest wishes for every success… (And don’t forget to recommend the book to other women friends and family members who may also benefit!)

Lucinda Cross Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 2:12 PM PT

I am proud these women! I believe this is the true American dream- to own a small business (not to own a home- which should be reserved to those that can afford it!).

I have heard the statistic that if you include both small businesses (as defined by the SBA) and sole proprietors (as found by IRS filings)- that the number of small businesses in the US is around 99% of all businesses (again, by number). This is what will drive the economy forward, providing the government will not put barriers on their growth!

Keep up the good work- and great article!

David

David V Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 5:45 AM PT

Amazing and inspiring. There is career, fulfillment and success without and outside a structured environment as in a company or rigidly structured environment. We need more such stories.

Sadly I have seen even highly educated women have to make a choice between raising a family or having a career. We need to modernize the view of career as a linear/chronological progression. Detours and sabbaticals as part of one’s career history should be acceptable when rejoining workforce. Many a times, these detours provide opportunities to develop skills that one may not otherwise, do so.

Leaders, hiring professionals need to sit up and rethink this.

Sramana, thank you for this post.

Inspired Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 9:37 PM PT

Jennifer Blakeley
Alphabet Photography
http://www.alphabetphotography.com

Jennifer Blakeley’s love for entrepreneurship started with lemonade stands in the hot summer months, and cutting lawns and shoveling driveways in the cold winter months in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada. Her passion for entrepreneurship continued on, and at the age of 24 decided to open her first business—a Laundromat Café called Sips and Suds. It did not stop there, only four years after running her first business she opened a second company, Alphabet Photography, which leads her to where she is today—a successful entrepreneur.

Alphabet Photography is a successfully trademarked company inspired by Stephen T. Johnson’s book “Alphabet city”. Blakeley began photographing objects that resembled letters of the alphabet, and this is how the company was born. The photos are of objects found unstaged in their natural surroundings. Each photograph alone is a stunning masterpiece that is an ideal gift for weddings, housewarmings or any other special occasion. Alphabet Photography had tremendous success from the beginning. Blakeley was originally running the business from Sips and Suds and from her home. All of the funds came from the large increase in revenue that occurred shortly after she started the business. Interestingly, the first year sales were over $1 million dollars. Eventually, the business expanded into a new location, hiring new staff and bringing in a new business partner, Miriam Laundry (a mom of 3) was the next step.

Advertisement came from Google pay-per-click ads, which raised awareness for the company. Currently, social media tools such as Facebook, are used which offers news about promotions and events. The company’s PR management has helped get the business on major TV shows, radio programs and publications. Blakeley tells me that hard work and aggression has been the key to the company’s success. Her team is always thinking of new ways to market the business and to implement new strategies. Overall, Alphabet Photography’s business model has being a success thanks to Blakeley’s team, Miriam Laundry, her loyal supporters and her belief that everything can always be improved. Alphabet Photography’s current revenue is approximately $3 million dollars.

Her transition to entrepreneurship from her previous job in Human Resources was both challenging and exciting. Blakeley faced a new experience with a large amount of responsibility and hard work. This experience, however, prepared her to deal with obstacles and ups and downs she later faced. This is why today she strives for the best regardless of how complex it might be. “The difficult thing about giving up a career to become an entrepreneur is the uncertainty of everything involved. But it’s the thrill and excitement of it, and knowing that the harder you work, and the smarter you are, the more successful you will be. That is the part that I love,” Blakeley tells me.

This soon to be mom is a great example of a devoted entrepreneur. He true love for new business opportunities can easily be seen in the success of her company and in her dedication and drive to continue expanding and improving. She loves what she does, she never stops!—work is her life. “The great thing about being an entrepreneur is being in charge of your own life, and holding your own destiny in your hands,” Blakeley says.

Erika Valdez Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 8:53 AM PT

Colette Marshall
http://www.worldwidebrands.com
http://www.fixmefast.com
http://www.cozykidbedtime.com

Born in South Africa and raised in the United States in an entrepreneurial family, Colette Marshall is another example of an admirable and successful entrepreneur. After graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a Mechanical Engineer degree and having held top positions in various companies, Marshall went on to become the current president of worldwidebrands.com. World Wide Brands is both the leading provider of product research and sourcing tools for the Internet, and the leading provider of education for women establishing web based entrepreneurial ventures.

Marshall started at World Wide Brands as the Affiliate Manager where she built and managed an affiliate network that today contributes 60% of the company’s revenues. As Director of Marketing, she established and built relationships with such organizations as eBay, Amazon, Yahoo!, Intuit, and UPS. As President, she is heard frequently on eBay Radio, speaks at numerous conventions including eBay Live! And Nielsen’s ASD Retail trade Shows in Las Vegas.

Aside from being president of this $10 million dollar company, she has her own entrepreneurial ventures which include: A+ Computer Fix—A company specializing in on-site computer repair and services (which both her and her husband Tim run), and cozykidbedtime.com—An online retail store that sells bedroom products, décor and accessories (which is run by the Marshall family). Funded with limited capital both A+ Computer Fix and cozykidbedtime.com are on the path to further success. A+ Computer Fix is on its way to becoming a $1 million dollar company and cozykidbedtime.com just recently went public.

Marshall’s passion for internet marketing has added to her long list of successes in the entrepreneurial world. She has had tremendous impact in World Wide Brands, while tending to additional entrepreneurship businesses. She feels that due to today’s economy, one must be prepared to deal with its issues as a family. “With the recession still ‘biting,’ continued uncertainties in the stock market and the real estate markets, families are starting to invest in their own entrepreneurial dreams. Many Moms are rallying their family members to take positive action to generate additional income,” she tells me. Worldwide Brands is finding that many families are turning to starting a home-based online business as one of these options. This allows them to contribute incremental income while also doing the things that parents have to do for the family.

Marshall views her entrepreneurial experience as very satisfying and with the freedom to follow one’s own destiny with independent decision making. She forms part of a company like World Wide Brands which focuses on helping women with entrepreneurial ventures, all while being part of two additional growing family businesses.

Erika Valdez Monday, August 10, 2009 at 9:32 PM PT

Angelica Menefee
Founder/CEO of Trampoline Inc.
http://www.trampolinelearning.com

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Angelica Menefee has a unique entrepreneurship story to tell. This successful mompreneur ventured into this business as a problem solving technique—which quickly worked for her. Her story begins after the birth of her first son when she decided to quit her teaching job and become a full time stay at home mom. A couple years after, the need to help financially surfaced and she needed to find ways to earn money while staying at home with her children. “I came up with a format for creating enrichment curriculum that schools could implement using teachers already on staff to present subjects that are generally outsourced (foreign language, etiquette, art, sports). Creating the curriculum meant that I could work from home and that the schools would not have to pay another salary,” she tells me. Hence the creation of Trampoline!

Menefee is the founder and president of Trampoline, which offers educational programs in four divisions; Explorer (foreign languages, world cultures and geography), Scholar (art history, classical music and etiquette), Competitors (sports), Advisor (consulting services), and Tutor (instructional aids). The company was initially funded with limited capital in 2005—an inventory based upon sales was built which kept expenditures low. In the early establishment of the company, Menefee had to wear many hats, from marketing to billing, eventually she hired a director of marketing and PR, an editor and a writer among other employees—all former stay at home moms.

The business was first advertised in ads of local publications and also by contacting local schools. Most of the awareness however, came from national conventions on early childhood educators, that Menefee attended. Customers can now find Trampoline not only through its website, but through the conventions on childhood education, which have proven to be a success for Menefee. Total revenue for Trampoline is between $700,000 and $800,000, all to having no debt, careful planning, client value, and providing worthwhile products at reasonable prices.

Menefee’s transition to becoming a mompreneur was a bit tricky and with many challenges. It became overwhelming at times. “There was the feeling that you weren’t succeeding on any front; you weren’t doing enough to be a good parent or enough to be a good business woman. There just wasn’t enough time in a day. Working from home blurs the lines between home and workplace. I had to stop switching over the laundry in between business calls and taking one more call at dinner time,” she says. Her family had to also make the transition from having a full time mom to one that had full time work to do from home. It was difficult maintaining balance at first, yet she tells me she enjoyed the intellectual challenge.

This mother of three and successful entrepreneur sees her experience as a humbling journey, in which she has learned what she is good at by making her business stronger. “I have learned that stay at home moms are an invaluable asset to the workforce. Many were successful business women who have learned a lot about patience, humility, and the importance of balance in their lives. They make great employees!” Menefee says.

Erika Valdez Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:02 PM PT

Julie Murphy Casserly
Founder of JMC Wealth Management
Author of Award-Winning Book “The Emotion Behind Money”
Financial Contributor on CNBC’s “On the Money”

Julie Murphy Casserly was born in Chicago, Illinois to a family of 12 children, in a home with lots of love and fun stories to tell through out the years. Her entrepreneur story is nonetheless unique and extraordinary. Right after obtaining her MBA from the University of Notre Dame, she had the opportunity to build her own financial planning practice as an independent contractor. She took the challenge and went off to become the successful entrepreneur she is today. Julie is the founder of JMC Wealth Management—a financial planning company in Chicago, the author of the award winning book “The Emotion Behind Money,” and a financial contributor on CNBC’s “On the Money.”

JMC Wealth Management was initially funded with personal funds heavily reinvested to keep expenses at a low rate. Since its foundation in 2000, Julie had to play 100% of all the roles in the company—showing dedication and passion for the business. Interestingly, the company was built up completely on referrals from clients and strategic alliances; such continues to be the case. Julie has worked with thousands of clients over the years working and partnering with companies such as CNBC, Investment firms, Insurance firms and Women’s organization such as the Women’s Business Development Center. Creating collaborative relationships personally and financially with employees has helped the business grow to its current position of being a distinguished wealth management company and a $7 million dollar revenue business.

The transition into entrepreneurship did bring personal challenges for Julie. In her interview, she tells me that the pressure was huge when she first embarked in this journey. “Everyone told me I was crazy! In the book I published recently I refer to these people as the “Crabs in your Bucket.” They pull you down and back from what you are trying to reach for. I found over the years, as you grow, you need to remove the “Crabs” in your life or else you’re more likely to stay where you are,” she says. Furthermore she experienced the many risks that entrepreneurship brings—the uncertainties of success while managing a business on your own. From the very beginning, Julie created a personal board of directors (which changes over time); such individuals play a huge part in the evolution of her company, providing mentorship, and inspiration for growth.

On the topic of mompreneurs, Julie views isolation as being a main contributor to struggles faced when venturing into entrepreneurship. “Sometimes you feel like you are on your own island. It’s important to make sure that one’s soul is being filled,” she tells me. She has managed to so by appreciating every moment of her life as an entrepreneur.

This remarkable woman has created a profitable business with immense potential for future growth. Julie is currently working on becoming a world renowned financial expert bridging the gap between money and emotions to help people have long term financial success.

Erika Valdez Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 8:25 PM PT

Stephanie Fohn
CEO
WhiteHat Security

The next mompreneur story is about Stephanie Fohn, CEO of WhiteHat Security. Fohn ventured into entrepreneurship at the age of five, when she started selling all kinds of things around her neighborhood. At the age of nine she had an extremely successful popsicle stand.

After graduate school, this MIT alumnus spent six years doing late stage venture investing and investing banking. Her transition to start-up occurred due to a relationship with one of her clients who had started a company and wanted Fohn to join the founding team. From this point on, Fohn has been the founder and/or executive at five start-ups (one of which was internally funded and the rest venture funded). Her current company is WhiteHat Security founded in 2001 by Jeremiah Grossman. WhiteHat Security is a leading provider of website risk management solutions. The company’s flagship service, Sentinel, is offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) based solution, providing complete vulnerability management for custom websites.

At the early stages of the company, large advertising campaigns weren’t feasible. In order to get the word out, WhiteHat Security had to rely on references from early customers, and engage in PR activities. Now the company employs a number of marketing methods such as tradeshows, webinars, and PR. WhiteHat Security has been able to position itself as a trusted media source.

WhiteHat Security’s business model has proven extremely successful. It is considered the industry leader in their segment with a brand of the highest quality. Presently, with about 250 enterprise customers, WhiteHat Security expects to bring nearly $10 million this year alone.

Interestingly, right before Fohn ventured into entrepreneurship, she traveled alone for nine months in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Southeast Asia. She spent that time embracing change and uncertainty and thinking about being an entrepreneur. Upon returning, Fohn joined WhiteHat Security in 2004. She was given the task to raise funds and she was able to obtain $1.8 million to get the company jumpstarted. To help booster investors’ confidence Fohn invested her own money. From here on after, the company has had immense success.

The transition into entrepreneurship came at a good time for Fohn. Her previous career was interesting, yet not satisfying. Entrepreneurship became her passion and it brought her the satisfaction she sought. After giving birth to twins, Fohn never felt pressure to become a full time stay-at-home- mom. The board of directors was extremely supportive and her mother gave her the best advice one can get. “I never felt any peer pressure about quitting my job and becoming a full-time mom. In fact, my own mother was very supportive. She said to me, the most important thing is to be yourself and do what makes you happy. If you are not happy, then your children will sense that unhappiness in you. What kind of role model can you be for them, if you are not happy with your own life?” Fohn explains.

The entrepreneur experience for Fohn has been promising and full of rewards. Even thou it can get challenging to raise a family and a company at the same time, it also has its many rewards. “For me, being an entrepreneur is an integral part of who I am, so I know I would not be happy without my work. My children bring me joy, but the creativity that comes from starting something and seeing it grow and prosper also brings me joy – a different kind of joy,” Fohn tells me.

Erika Valdez Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 7:20 PM PT

Lucy Postins
Founder & President
The Honest Kitchen

Lucy Postins is the Founder and President of The Honest Kitchen—a private, family owned company located in East Village near Downtown San Diego. The Honest Kitchen provides natural human-grade pet food products that promote nutritional awareness, environment responsibility, and a sustainable community.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Postins and learn more about her experience as a mompreneur. Just like the rest of the mompreneur stories, her story is unique and remarkable. Born in the UK, this mompreneur has always had a deep love for animals; she grew up in a rural setting, in a small village in Southern England. She later went on to obtain a Bachelors degree in Equine Business Studies from Moreton Morrel College of Agriculture in Warwickshire.

Postins’ transition to entrepreneurship occurred as an unexpected event. She discovered the need for a product for her own dog (healthy and nutritious food)—hence the idea for The Honest Kitchen. Initially, her idea of the company was to be an online local business selling healthy foods for local pets, yet she soon realized the need for her product was in much demand.

Postins began by wearing every hat in the company, which was operated from a spare room in her house. After an intense PR outreach, the business began to grow by word of mouth as customers told their friends. Now, Postins is CEO involved in all areas of the business as a communicator and decision maker.
Currently, customers find The Honest Kitchen, via the company’s website. Postins tells me that referrals has and continues to make a huge impact on the company’s sales. The next step is to invest and do more online marketing through a new social networking site. The Honest Kitchen has positioned itself as a strong player in its industry bringing in revenue of approximately $15 million.

This successful entrepreneur, wife and mother of two makes it a point to remain focused on her business while being there for her family. “We do a pretty good job of separating work and family life and I don’t allow myself to stay at the office all night (as I would if I didn’t have children) because we place high importance on eating meals together as a family. Like all things, it’s a matter of balance,” she tells me.

On the topic of moms and their transition to becoming mompreneurs, Postins believes both can be achieved. “I think in many ways, moms are perfectly equipped for being entrepreneurs because they are so good at multi-tasking, organizing schedules, leading by example, inspiring others, and helping others to succeed. Motherhood is literally a never-ending list of things to be done and running a small business is just the same,” Postins says.

Nonetheless, Postins has faced many challenges which include; dealing with the entire responsibility of running a business, where others depend on the company’s success for their own livelihoods. Yet she has made her experience a most positive one. She has been able to balance her life as an entrepreneur, a wife and a mom.

Erika Valdez Friday, August 21, 2009 at 10:58 PM PT

Julie & Danielle
Taggies
http://www.taggies.com

Taggies Inc. is a rapidly growing corporation based on the idea that babies and kids love to rub satin edges, clothing labels and tags. This patented concept (Tags placed on a variety of company products such as toys and blankets) has had significant market exposure and tremendous success. The company was founded almost 10 years ago by an early childhood educator and a mom—Julie and Danielle. Today, these two mompreneurs are seeing their business idea which came out of nowhere, as a serious and booming company.

Both of these mompreneurs grew up in an education-oriented family. Julie obtained a Masters degree in Education and Danielle a Bachelor of Arts degree in French language and literature. The transition into entrepreneur occurred unexpectedly; Julie had the Taggies concept and Danielle approached her with a business plan. Taggies was originally funded from personal savings. They were able to raise enough capital to get the business up and running. Both mompreneurs played every role possible in the company, from CEO to box packer. Today Julie is in charge of the company’s finances and Danielle deals with a lot of the marketing and product development.

In the early stages of Taggies, the advertisement was entirely from word of mouth (a Mom-to-Mom network). Currently, Taggies has an ever-expanding network of mothers, fathers, grandparents and caregivers aside from over 4,000 specialty accounts of distribution channels. Today, customers find Taggies, not only through referrals, but through the company’s webpage and Facebook page. Taggies’ business model has proved extremely successful. These mompreneurs have succeeded in creating an internationally recognized household staple, serving over 20 countries.

During their transition to entrepreneurship, both Julie and Danielle had to learn to balance raising a family and a business opportunity.”Learning to juggle both responsibilities was cumbersome, but very worthwhile on both the family and professional fronts,” Danielle tells me. Both mompreneurs have always had the support from families from the very beginning. They agree such support is necessary in order to thrive in this kind of business. They both feel respected and understood on this business venture.

Both mompreneurs tell me that juggling continues to be the most challenging issue. There needs to be a balance between the family and the company, since both are important and demanding of one’s time. “It requires great discipline, you must respect work when you are at work and when you are home with your family, try as hard as possible to keep focused on them,” both mompreneurs tell me.

Taggies is now faced with many domestic and international opportunities. Julie and Danielle expect to continue expanding the business and to learn as much as possible from this amazing experience.

Erika Valdez Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 1:15 PM PT

Jill Robbins
Founder of HomeFree
http://www.homefreetreats.com

Jill Robbins, both a mom and a clinical psychologist, is the successful founder of HomeFree—a company selling wholesome cookies and cakes targeted at kids with food allergies. The line also includes cook books of allergen-free recipes. This now mompreneur, never imagined going into the entrepreneur path. “I never quite decided to go into entrepreneurship. I was quite content with my life, with lots of time with my family, working as a clinical psychologist part time, volunteering in my town and at my son’s school and singing in the choir. I was not seeking to be in business,” Robbins tells me.
Interestingly, her mompreneur story was born out of love for her son (who was born with food allergies).

It all started with Robbins baking allergen-free cookies, and due to word-of-mouth it became a demand. She opened up HomeFree and ran it from her basement using a commercial kitchen. With the help of her family, business continued to grow and revenue to come in. Because of the growth, the company relocated and additional staff had to be hired. Since HomeFree began as a web based business, the company’s efforts were mainly focused on food allergy related web sites. Nonetheless many of the company’s customers learned about the cookies at fundraisers for food allergy advocacy, education and research and also by the cookies being distributed widely in stores, schools and other institutions. Today, HomeFree is seeing how their “typical customer” (families with food allergies) is becoming more broadly defined, attracting individuals seeking kosher, vegan or heart healthy options.

HomeFree partners with food allergy organizations, particularly by sponsoring fundraisers. The goal is to provide top quality products with the highest possible standards for safety, quality, and customer service. The company’s well respected reputation has been achieved through hard work, persistence, determination, passion, support and a terrific needed product.

Robbins quickly became aware how this business was making a positive change for her son and millions of other Americans facing allergy problems. Yet, regardless of not feeling pressured to become a stay-at-home-mom, she did find it difficult to quit her job as a clinical psychologist—something she had always loved doing. “I loved my work as a psychologist, and was particularly reluctant to stop my work with my long term clients,” Robbins says.

Robbins’ experience as an entrepreneur has been extraordinary. She has been able to make a difference for so many individuals, while also making a difference for herself. “Being an entrepreneur requires an astounding amount of time, energy, money, and ability to stay calm. Yet it is extremely fulfilling to pave an important path, to rise to challenges, and to succeed in providing a product that makes a real difference in people’s lives,” this mompreneur tells me.

Erika Valdez Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 2:54 PM PT

Katrina Garnett
Successful Entrepreneur
My Little Swans

The next mompreneur story captures the remarkable story of Katrina Garnett, a successful serial entrepreneur based in California. Born in Australia to a Greek-Irish family, Garnett was exposed to devoted and strong work ethic at an early age. She remembers sitting under a desk with her twin sister watching her mother work continuously. Aside from growing into an artistic and hard working family, this now active startup investor has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In a recent interview I had the opportunity of interviewing this brilliant entrepreneur and capture her mompreneur story.

Garnett was the Founder, Chairman and President/CEO of CrossWorlds Software Inc. from its establishment in 1996 to its public offering in 2000 (and ultimate merger with IBM in 2001). As a private company, Garnett raised over $80 million in startup funding. Because of her revolutionary vision at CrossWorlds, it led to the establishment of a new software industry segment around the concept of Enterprise Application (EAI). She built a global public company with annual revenues of over $100 million.

Prior to the establishment of CrossWorlds, Garnett worked at Oracle from 1986 to 1990 in technical management positions. The company grew from $75 million to over $1 billion in sales. From 1990 to 1996 she served as VP and GM at Sybase’s $150 million, Distributed, Objects and Connectivity Division. She managed a 300-person development team and was responsible for the Company’s next generation Object Database, Replication Server for global trading systems and Messaging Middleware products.

To add to her extraordinary trajectory, Garnett holds software patents, including Inventor of Patents for Modular Application Collaboration. Her newest business adventure is My Little Swans—a private internet membership business model offering a premier collection of services for families looking to create their own grand tours of travel experiences and memories. With over 23 travel partnerships from around the world, covering 130,000 destinations, it promises to be a successful business venture. Aside from appearing on leading TV shows such as CNBC and CNN, Garnett has been featured on the cover of Forbes and selected by this same magazine as one of their 25 top startup technology companies.

When asked on her transition into entrepreneurship, Garnett tells me that it all happened at the perfect time. “You just don’t wake up and become one,” she tells me. She has always been attracted to the risk and opportunity entrepreneurship entails. “If you are going to work hard and spend long hours doing so, then why not just work for yourself. I’m a risk taker. I only know how to work 200%.” Garnett tells me.

Over the past 20 years, Garnett has worked with the outmost discipline to build her career to what it is today. She enjoys the thrill of starting a new company and building it to a successful business. Throughout all of her successful business ventures, she has never felt discriminated in the industry. Even while being pregnant and running a start up she never felt pressured to become a stay-at-home-mom. She feels extremely lucky to have a husband that has supported her from day one.

On the topic of raising a family and a new business opportunity, Garnett tells me that it is all about balancing priorities, creating boundaries and having the necessary support. “Having kids is great. When you come home, you can’t ignore them. In a way it is a refreshing way to turn off the business mode and create boundaries.” Garnett tells me. She sees women as being extremely capable of doing both. It is all about taking advantage of opportunities while being proactive. Garnett has been able to balance both a family and a successful career.

Erika Valdez Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 7:07 PM PT

Linda Holroyd
Founder/CEO
FountainBlue

The next mompreneur story captures the extraordinary experience of Linda Holroyd, CEO of FountainBlue—a leadership organization supporting early-stage entrepreneurs. Holroyd’s unique story began when she left her native country of Hong Kong and moved to the United States at the age of five years old. While her parents worked to provide for the family, she took the responsibility of looking after her three siblings. Growing up in San Francisco, Holroyd always knew the importance of education; she viewed it as a ticket out of poverty, so she worked extremely hard to get herself through college. While obtaining a Psychology degree through UC Davis she had a number of diverse jobs to support her educational goal, some which included an office administrator and a note-taker/typist. Such jobs became relevant to her business knowledge today. Later on in life she also obtained three certificates in nonprofit management, project management, and executive management.

The transition to entrepreneur occurred when she joined her husband and together built their own web consulting company (Galatia Inc), funded with personal savings. Holroyd was in charge of sales, marketing, HR and finance among others. She then founded her own company—FountainBlue. Being the founder and sole proprietor, she wore every single hat in the business. So far the success of FountainBlue has been in part to the strong synergies built between organizations and communities.

FountainBlue’s advertising spread through word of mouth during its early stages. Today it continues to be key for the growth of the company in part due to spreading more effectively through social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The company’s business model revolves around event admissions and sponsorships in order to attract entrepreneurs that are passionate, competent, as well as receptive to input and feedback, and willing to help others in the community. FountainBlue offers an entrepreneur series in which entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors are featured. For example, for the women in leadership series (When She Speaks), FountainBlue features corporate women executives in the high tech industry. Regarding the success of her company Holroyd tells me that “It is important to be nimble of mind, passionate of heart, and constant of purpose to a vision which others cannot see. Before you start, ensure you have a vision that will serve the audience you select, the ability to execute and deliver results, and focus on continually improving what you do and how you do it.”

When it comes to mompreneurship, Holroyd did feel the pressure to quit her job and become a full-time mom. Yet she continued to follow her dream while still placing her family as the number one priority. On the topic of struggles faced during the transition to entrepreneurship, she tells me “My advice is to use your heart to figure out how to compartmentalize your time and energy. Use your head to plan how to divide your time and energy. And your body, hands and feet to execute on your commitment, without questioning yourself at every step.”

This mompreneur has been able to achieve her dream through hard work and dedication. Entrepreneurship has given her not only financial returns, but independence and an endless list of opportunities and expansion for success.

Erika Valdez Monday, August 31, 2009 at 2:49 PM PT

Fran Durekas
Founder of Children’s Creative Learning Centers (CCLC)

Born in the San Francisco Bay area to an entrepreneurial family of seven children, Fran Durekas always enjoyed for things to constantly be moving forward and to be challenging. Her passion to work with young children influenced her to study Early Childhood Development at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. This same goal took her into the path of entrepreneurship. Working as a director of a well established Before and After school program, she was given the opportunity to buy the business from the owner she was working for. Her dream was to change the perception of service provided at this organization and the opportunity occurred at the perfect time.

Children’s Creative Learning Centers (CCLC)—a national child care provider dedicated to quality employer-sponsored early childhood education, was funded with the help of Dureka’s parents; being 24 she did not qualify for a small-business loan. The business quickly expanded within the first year. Durekas was fully engaged in all business decisions at its early stages. Currently she is the Chief Development Officer—in charge of all brand and development decisions.

CCLC’s initial advertisement was primarily word of mouth and local marketing (mostly to parents in local parent magazines). Word of mouth continues to be an excellent source of marketing for CCLC. In her interview Durekas tells me that the success of CCLC is in part due to the values of the company. “When I first moved CCLC from community centers into an employer-based child care offering, our first clients went with us, not because of my experience (because I was new to this particular area of child care), but because I was a young woman entrepreneur. They were inspired by my drive to do something on my own and take that risk – that’s what inspired these women to believe in and support me and CCLC,” she tells me. The company’s reputation is very strong in the community. CCLC serves a variety of clients both large (Fortune 500) and small organizations in industries such as entertainment, education, technology, medical and professional services and government. The growth of the company is due to its excellent teachers who offer the children the best educational environment and loving care.

At the beginning it did get a bit difficult for her family to understand her decision to work full-time. Yet eventually it changed and due to the support of her husband and her family, Durekas has been able to provide an excellent service through CCLC. She tells me that it is important for her to show her three daughters that they can make their way as a woman/mom/partner—all of it or whatever they choose to do. “Being an entrepreneur is in my DNA and it is what makes me happy,” Durekas says. She has been able to balance her family as the number one priority, without losing emphasis on her company.

I asked Durekas what she sees as being a struggle for moms who transition into entrepreneurship. Interestingly she tells me “mentally preparing yourself for your journey. Women who want to take an idea and run with it need to look for a strong support system as they take the leap. Women entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with this decision and NOT feel guilty. A stay at home mom has to really think about what makes her happy and how that impacts her children. If she is going to feel good about herself following her passion, then she will pass that on to her children. “

Erika Valdez Monday, August 31, 2009 at 2:53 PM PT

Caroline de Gruchy
Founder of C.R. Visuals Inc.

Caroline de Gruchy is the founder of C.R. Visuals, a company created in 1995 to meet the multimedia and web design needs of small to medium businesses. Caroline was born in Montreal, her father was a programmer and her mother a stay-at-home mom. She obtained a masters degree in anthropology at the University of Calgary in Alberta; shortly after she moved to the United States. While in New York working on a graduate program, she decided that Academia was not something she wanted to continue pursuing, so she moved to Toronto. There she returned back to school in the field of multimedia program. While interning at Bell Sygma the idea of creating her own company was born.

For C.R. Visuals, networking and word of mouth have always been the most effective ways to advertise. Customers find the company through referrals as well as through online services. C.R. Visuals is a B2B company. The clients are knowledgeable about their products/services and the target market. They know what kind of marketing they are after. Some of the company’s partners include videographers, freelance designers, programmers and photographers. Caroline tells me that the growth of the business is in part due to perseverance, knowing the trade, communication with clients and catering to their needs.

Caroline’s goal was to get into multimedia, something she accomplished through her hard work and dedication. In her interview while being asked on her opinion on being an entrepreneur she tells me:
“You need self-discipline to stay at work when no one else demands it; to keep working when the clients aren’t there; to stay optimistic when things falter; to budget your resources when times are good. You need to be flexible to shift your company when the opportunities change; to move with the times; to recognize shifting markets. You need to be brave. It won’t always go well but this is what you want to do. You need to separate yourself from your company emotionally. If it fails, you are not a failure; if it succeeds, you are not necessarily ready to conquer the world. One day you will want to sell your business and quit, so it needs to be in saleable condition. Learn to delegate now so that the company can run on its own (that way you can go on vacation).”

This extraordinary woman has been able to achieve the dream of owning her own company. She is an example of so many remarkable women out there that have venture into entrepreneurship and are now running a successful businesses.

Erika Valdez Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 12:58 PM PT

Fran Lessans
Founder of Passport Health

Fran Lessans is the founder/CEO/President of Passport Health—a comprehensive service to international travelers by providing vaccines and destination-specific health information as well as the largest provider of travel medical/immunization services in the United States. I had the pleasure of learning more about this extraordinary woman through a recent interview. Lessans was born in Germany, she moved to Baltimore at the age of 18 months old. She was the only child of Holocaust survivors—mother a seamstress, father a tailor in a factory. Lessans’ educational background is in nursing (a career she has used all her life and partly influenced by her four year old son having diabetes).

Being an entrepreneur is natural for Lessans, in 1982 prior to launching her own business, she turned a failing family planning to profitability in only three months all due to her sharp business skills. In 1994 she founded her own business—Passport Health. The idea for the company was influenced by the demand and necessity for medical travel services as well as the need for educational materials to help students get a better idea and understanding on the transmission of diseases (something not available at the time).

At the early stages of Passport Health, referrals and word of mouth were the primary forms of advertisement. Today, the company’s market is mainly international travelers. New customers are attracted through the company’s website and PR.

Passport Health’s business model has proven extremely successful. Franchises have had a tremendous positive impact overall. The company’s competitors are range from hospital-based travel clinics to medical offices that dabble in travel medicine. Passport Health’s competitive advantage over them? Passport Health is run as an independent business by nurses that specialize in travel medicine. There is also high customer satisfaction, no waiting in line, and convenient and accessible locations just to name a few. Because of its success rate, revenue in 2008 was $37,000,000.

The company works and partners with organizations such as Centers for Disease Control, US Department of Defense, The White House, the Health Ministry of Singapore, corporations needing site flue clinics, corporations with international travelers and pharmaceutical companies.

The transition to entrepreneurship for Lessans was bumpy but worthwhile. In her search of business partners she encountered a lot of negativity and disbelief on her work. Fran however, did not give up because she knew it was the right thing to provide such services to America.

Lessans he believes it is a personal decision to remain a stay-at-home-mom or to become a mompreneur. “Every family is different and has different needs,” she says. Lessans is a strong believer of commitments and best practices in everything she does. She uses the same methods as she used in raising children, which are: enforcing values, commitment, goals and why you do it and you hope your worth will become their worth.

Overall, Lessans is a strong believer that you should never take no for an answer. “If you cannot get in the front door, keep going. If you don’t get in, leave it alone for a while and try again later. The key is not to get frustrated,” Lessans says.

Erika Valdez Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 1:59 PM PT

Stacy Aaron
Change Guides LLC

The next mompreneur story showcases Stacy Aaron, one of the founders of Change Guides LLC; a company with the mission to provide change management products and services to clients of all sizes. Aaron grew up as a very independent child (a trait that has not changed). Her father was a professor at OSU and her mother a stay-at-home-mom. She attended Miami University of Ohio and received a BS degree in Marketing with a minor in Sociology. A few years later she attended Case Western Reserve University and received an MBA in Finance.

Her mompreneur story dates back to 2003, having a young son and having left a demanding consulting job she decided it was time to venture into entrepreneurship. Her first company was a consulting firm specializing in Change Management (Aaron Management Consulting). Shortly after, her friend and current business partner Kate Nelson approached her with the idea of starting another company—Change Guides LLC. Prior to the opening of Change Guides LLC in the Spring of 2005, Aaron and Nelson wrote a their first book Change Management Pocket Guide: Tools for Managing Change (an excellent asset to the company).

Amazon has been the best marketing approach for the book.”Clients see our book then they approach us for training, consulting or more products,” Aaron tells me in her interview. Change Guides LLC is constantly involved with the local chamber of commerce and the local Business Courier. Customers also find the business through the website, learn about the company and usually follow up with an e-mail or phone call depending of their needs.

When it comes to attracting new customers, Change Guides LLC usually sends out newsletters , joins local professional groups and just recently published a second book titled The Eight Constants of Change. Networking is crucial since it leads to referrals. When it comes to the business model Aaron tells me “It’s been very successful because we’ve been able to keep our expenses low and invest wisely. We’ve made a profit every year and our revenue and customer base continues to grow.” Flexibility and adaptability, understanding of the market’s needs adds to this accomplishment.

Prior to this business adventure, Aaron was a stay-at-home mom and a part-time adjunct professor. The transition was easy for her to do; learning to balance was key. Once she became an entrepreneur she was faced with the typical challenges which included; the unpredictability of client and child requests, dealing with the scheduling, overlapping of various demands, and juggling. However, with commitment it all worked out.

On the topic of choosing to remain a stay-at-home mom or become a mompreneur Aaron tells me “I think what I did is very much a trend. At least some women will enjoy being a stay-at-home mom to a point but once the kids are in school, they want more. I really started to invest more time and energy into being an entrepreneur when my son went to kindergarten. Some women don’t have the desire to add professional work to their job as stay-at-home mom. I think either path is fine, whatever satisfies that particular person and whatever works for that family is best.”

Erika Valdez Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 3:58 PM PT

Lee Wright
Founder of Ma Mi Skin Care
http://www.mami-natural-skin-care.com

The next mompreneur story is that of Lee Wright. Wright was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and at the age of three her family immigrated to the United States. Growing up in Ft. Lauderdale in a hard working family that valued education; Wright obtained a Masters degree in Organizational Communications at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Today Wright is the Founder and President of Ma Mi Skin Care, a company with natural skin care products targeted at moms.

Wright’s love for entrepreneurship has always been a part of her. She always longed for the idea of owning her own business. With the support and help of her family, Ma Mi Skin Care was created making this a dream come true for Wright. She felt the need to cater to other moms and offer them a product that would meet the challenges and joys of life and motherhood—hence the creation of Ma Mi Skin Care.

Wright’s initial roles in the company were diverse; she experienced being in charge of marketing all the way to participating in the design of the website and the labels of the products. According to Wright, word of mouth served as an advertising tool for the company in its initial stages; today media social tools such as Twitter and Facebook continue to expand the knowledge of Ma Mi Skin to the public.

Being a mother of two and the owner of a successful company has allowed Wright to balance both tasks she loves doing the most. In her interview she tells me that she has been confronted with many challenges from both fronts. “Learning to not feel guilty when I am not working on the business, I always feel like I should be working on it when we are out having fun, like I am back in school with homework I should be doing” she tells me. Yet she has indisputably managed to raise a family and a business opportunity.

Wright believes that moms should do what they feel is best for them and for their families. It is important to fill complete as a mother and as an entrepreneur. Her unique mompreneur story is a great example of other hard working and dedicated mompreneurs.

Erika Valdez Monday, October 5, 2009 at 8:24 PM PT

Leslie Haywood
Founder/President of Charmed Life Products
http://www.grillcharms.com

Leslie Haywood is the founder and president of Charmed Life Products LLC, a company that sells stainless still charms to mark food before it is cooked to help distinguish rare from well-done, mark different flavors and avoid food allergens. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about this amazing mompreneur and her story into this new adventure—raising a family and a business opportunity.

Interestingly, the idea for the company occurred one day while Haywood and her husband were entertaining friends. The need to find out the spice level of the food being served become the light bulb moment for Haywood. She immediately saw the need for a product that could be used to distinguish flavors and spices prior to cooking food. This marked her new entrepreneurship adventure.

From its official establishment in 2006, Haywood has been greatly involved with the company. She’s performed almost every single role possible in the company while being a full time mom of two daughters. She has placed high emphasis in marketing the company by using resources like HARO and online social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Today, Charmed Life Products LLC is a growing business with a lot of success due to the hard work and dedication of Haywood.

In her interview, I asked Haywood what she viewed as most challenging of raising a family and a business opportunity. “Trying to balance the two. It’s a balancing act that is perpetually out of balance. I try my hardest not to let the kids pay the price of having an entrepreneur for a mom.” She tells me.

Mompreneur Leslie Haywood has been able to achieve the best of both worlds. Her passion for being a mother and a business owner is being fulfilled through entrepreneurship. Her drive and motivation derives from her goal to set an example for her two daughters. “I hope that in the future they can look at what I have done and know that their opportunities are limited only by their dreams.” Haywood says.

Erika Valdez Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 2:29 PM PT