How 4 Busy Moms Make Their Small Businesses Work
Moms who run small businesses often lead double lives, managing both a company and a household with kids. Although it can be tough to keep everyone — spouses, children, partners, vendors, customers, and themselves — happy, quite a few mompreneurs do just that.
Here’s how a few of these busy parents make their small businesses work.
The Owners: Cathy Yoder (pictured, right), mother of seven, and Monica Knight (pictured, left), mother of two
The Business: Fabulessly Frugal provides moms with coupons, daily deals, and money-saving tips on its website. (It also offers online seminars.) Yoder started a blog in 2008 to cover the travails of couponing; Knight was her first contributor. What began as a fun project turned into a necessity after Yoder’s husband lost his job. “In the beginning, we had a passion to help other people save money while we were learning to do it better ourselves,” Knight says. “There was a point where the motivation changed to, How can we make this business thrive and support the family?”
Key Strategy: The venture took off at a time when the recession was pushing many Americans to look for ways to trim their household costs — and offered them the thrill of finding good deals.
Measure of Success: Two and a half years in, Yoder and Knight were earning enough income to support their families. However, they say that getting to see their kids during the day and helping others cope with financial problems provide an even bigger payoff than the money they earn through advertisements and affiliate programs.
Professional Advice: Yoder strongly recommends that other small-business owners find a partner. “We help each other out when life stuff gets in the way,” she says. “I don’t know how people do it on their own.”
Aden + Anais
The Owner: Raegan Moya-Jones, mother of four
The Business: A native of Australia, Moya-Jones made swaddling American babies much easier. She introduced her cotton muslin blankets to the U.S. market in 2006, after she was surprised to find she couldn’t find any here. Bigger, thinner, and in many cases cuter than other blankets on the market, the blankets took off with little marketing, thanks to strong word-of-mouth support. It doesn’t hurt that celebrities have been photographed using her Aden + Anais products, either.
Key Strategy: Moya-Jones relied on funding from family and friends during the first three years of business.
Measure of Success: The company now employs more than 60 people and has additional offices in Japan and Australia. Its product line has grown to 800 SKUs, including bibs, sheets, and towels, which generated $30 million in sales last year.
Entrepreneurial Advice: If she had to do anything differently, Moya-Jones says she would have hired a finance executive sooner. With the help of her chief operating officer, she felt she had a strong handle on sales and the business strategy, but it wasn’t until her CFO came on board in 2011 that she got a strong hold on the company’s finances. “Having transparency into the numbers and what it has enabled me to do in terms of decision-making has changed my life,” she says.
What’s Next: Moya-Jones doesn’t “see any sign of growth slowing down.” She plans to run the company as long as she loves doing it. “Successful entrepreneurs don’t start out being entrepreneurs because they want to make a lot of money,” she says. “They do it because they’re passionate about something.”
The Owner: Jennifer Zee, mother of one
The Business: Zee began taking professional photographs five years ago, after she evolved from a biology grad student into a full-time lover of the arts. She works at least three days a week most of the year, taking and editing photographs of San Francisco families. Ginkgo Photo is a full-time operation in the fall, when demand for smiling babies and their siblings is at its highest, in anticipation of the holidays.
Key Strategy: Zee, who moved to San Francisco in 2008, targets the city’s abundance of young families, which make up her client base. Moms frequently recommend her on local online forums, so Zee doesn’t need to invest much time or money in marketing.
Measure of Success: For Zee, success equals flexibility, and she’s already achieved “finding a happy balance between being a mom and making a little bit of money.”
Entrepreneurial Advice: When Zee started out, she wasn’t sure how much she should charge — and undersold herself. She has since raised her price for a one-hour photo shoot (and the editing and prints that go with it) from $80 to $275. The price hike came after she gained experience and calculated how much each job truly cost her. “How much do I need to get paid to feel like it’s OK to spend time away from my kid? If it works out to only $8 an hour, then it’s not worth it,” she says.
Sarah Johnson is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.