Search results for

adopt

Motherhood

Thinking Of Adopting? 6 Helpful Steps to Get Started

March 2, 2017
adoption

Thank goodness for people like heymama member Jackie Cohen. Her honesty is refreshing, and her candid account of her journey to starting a family is helpful to say the least. We first chatted with Jackie late last year about her process From Infertility to Family, but with a major fundraiser for HelpUsAdopt.org, an organization that she is hugely involved with on the horizon, we wanted to find out precisely how she got the whole process started. If you are curious about adoption but don’t know the first thing about it, Jackie has gathered some helpful advice that will get you started. Read on…

For most, the process of adoption starts well before they actually decide to adopt, they just don’t know it yet. I didn’t. From my experience, the journey to motherhood and subsequent process of adoption, actually started with my struggle to have a baby. I think most people envision getting pregnant and carrying their own baby, and even if you struggle to conceive, with today’s technology there are so many options available to assist with fertility, that everyone assumes, “I can totally make a baby!” The reality is however, regardless of budget, or desire to conceive, sometimes, as badly as you might want it, there aren’t enough drugs or money to help you have a baby.

adoption

Jake, Whitney & Elliot, via helpusadopt.org

Without my fertility struggles however, I don’t think I would have adopted and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I love that I have become a voice for adoption, and am filled with a passion to share my story to help others build their families in the same way. Unfortunately, there are still some fears and stigmas attached to the process, and I hope that my experience can help. My little girl turned out to be an angel and there are others out there too. Here are the steps I took to get the process started:

  1. Find an Adoption Attorney. I did a private adoption, which is managed through a lawyer. He/she will outline everything you need to know about domestic adoption. There is a lot of paperwork to prepare and each family applying to adopt has to be cleared by the state, finger printed, and interviewed by a social worker.  They will guide you through the forms to fill out, books to read, papers to write and home visits to conduct. 
  2. The Birth Mother. What I learned during this process, is that Birth Mother (BM) generally picks a family based on what they believe is the perfect family that she (or they, if the birth dad is involved) can’t provide for the child. So, being single, and Jewish, could potentially work against me. I was lucky, it didn’t.
  3. Communication. I also learned that the means of communication is old school. You
    place ads in local papers in the classifieds, that says you are seeking a baby and direct people to contact you through a phone number that goes to a voicemail where they can reach you. Imagine that? I spent $13,000 on $40 ads. You do the math. I placed a lot of ads simultaneously in newspapers across the country, also referred to as an advertising blitz. Others opt to space out the charges and spend $1k-$2k a month, but I had already been trying to have a family for 2.5 years and was desperate to start.
  4. Use a Consultant. My lawyer advised that I work with an adoption consultant to place the Want Ads. They advised me of where to place the ads, based on demographics specifically lending themselves to adoption friendly states and statistics (generally lower income and religious
    who don’t believe in abortion).
  5. Market Yourself. During this process, you are also creating yourbook”. In it, you’ll include your story, how you like to spend your time and things that make you and your family unique. You should include plenty of pictures that illustrate how fabulous you are – because, you are!
  6. Woo the Birth Mother. Once you get “the call” and a potential birth mom feels a connection, let her get to know you and put her at ease. You don’t need to orchestrate grand gestures, I sent the BM sunflowers, to brighten her day. After the BM chooses you, you “date” for a little while. You are nice to each other, text and call each other, share pictures, stories and often go on doctors visits together.  For me, my story is a bit unusual and crazy because my adoption happened in just eight days (!), so my dating period was very short.

At the end of the day, it’s good to remember that these young women are often in crises, and they are confused, so anything you can do to show you are committed is welcome. It’s also important to realize that every story is different. I had the amazing blessing of being there for the birth of my daughter. I love that detail, and I feel fortunate to have it, but I know I would be just as attached to Julia if I didn’t get to experience her birth. My daughter is my daughter.  She is the love of my life. It sounds cliché, but she is my inspiration and muse, and I think that’s the greatest myth of all about adoption. People often wonder whether they can love a child that they didn’t give birth to. When I saw Julia come into this world, she took my breath away. Bottom line, you can, and will, love a child you didn’t give birth to.

adoption

Paige, Sean & Aria via helpusadopt.org

Currently, I sit on the board of HelpUsAdopt.org, a wonderful organization that promotes, and supports adoption, by awarding life-changing grants to families so they can bring their children home. The cost of adoption is around $40k-$60k ,which is usually on top of the amount that a family has already spent on fertility. Since it’s launch in 2007, Helpusadopt.org has awarded over $1.7 million dollars in grants and helped to build 189 families. Helpusadopt.org remains the nation’s only adoption grant organization that doesn’t charge an application fee, awards life-changing grants (up to $15,000) and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. All you need to do is visit helpusadopt.org/apply, where you can download the application (this section of the site also has detailed information regarding the application process, deadlines, and FAQs).

Take it from me, if you want to have a family, adoption is a wonderful way to make your dreams come true. Mine did.

 

To learn more about Helpusadopt.org and the work that they do and get information about their annual fundraising event, click here.

Living

Adoption Story: From Infertility To Family

November 10, 2016
Jackie Cohen

When you think of the words courageous, single mother, world traveler and successful business woman, Jackie Cohen comes to mind. Born and raised in New York City to immigrant parents, Jackie left an unfulfilled life on Wall Street behind to rediscover her passions on a ‘round the world journey that led her back to her family jewelry business and into the arms of her adopted daughter, Julia. After a passionate love affair left her wanting more out of life, Jackie embarked on a long and tortuous infertility path that ended after 9 failed attempts at IVF and several pregnancy losses. Not being one to take no for an answer, Jackie chose a new path to fulfilling her dream of becoming a mother and created a family of her own. Her little miracle baby then led to the launch of her jewelry line, My Story, because quite simply, every Mother has a story. Here’s hers…

Jackie Cohen

We’re so inspired by your journey to start a family. To recap, you were 40, single and dating Mr. Wrong when you realized you really wanted a baby. What was the catalyst that made you decide to do this on your own?

At 40 I was dating this Italian guy, who was also 40 and single and never married. He was lusty, crazy, rich, exciting and wild. He flew me to Italy to meet his family. I had this romantic idea of leading an adorned and bohemian lifestyle between Italy and NYC. But, in my heart I knew he was just a fling and not a life partner. After a crazy breakup, I knew I wanted a family.  I was never scared to do it on my own. I have an amazing family and support system. I didn’t think motherhood would be a tenth the amount of work it is, or as rich, wonderful and fulfilling as it is, so I am glad I was never scared to do it. I always knew that I would do it on my own if I didn’t have a life partner. I always knew I wanted to be a mother and the partner was sort of secondary.

What was your journey like with IVF? It can be really hard going in thinking you’re going to have a baby right away and it take 2, 3, 4, times and sometimes it doesn’t work….

It was HORRIBLE! I always say that suffering from infertility and going through IVF is the cruelest thing you can do to your body and emotions. I found it devastating every 28 days to get your hopes up, only to be disappointed that you weren’t pregnant. Or, you do get pregnant but suffer a loss. Personally, I had many complications and two pregnancy losses. This, compounded by the cost is the worst.  You’re constantly thinking, “I hope I get pregnant this time, otherwise it’s another $10,000.” It’s insane to think that way. Everything costs money, it’s a total mind f*&%.

Jackie Cohen

“Turns out, that worst day of my life, was the best decision I ever made!”

Why did you keep going with IVF for so long? What was the point when you really decided to go to adoption?

I kept trying IVF because I wanted a baby. Period. After the 9th time, I made peace with my body that it was just not meant to make a baby.  I drank a lot of wine, cried myself to sleep and picked myself up. The next day, made the decision to adopt and never looked back.  Turns out, that worst day of my life, was the best decision I ever made!

Was there any advice that really helped you to get through this process?

Only one piece of advice actually stands out. It was from a woman who had adopted a child, she said to me..there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  You will get a baby and I closed my eyes and for the first time, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Once you decided to go the adoption route, what happened? Tell us your adoption story….

I have the most amazing story – it’s a miracle! The whole process, from the first phone call I received from a potential birth mother, to the day my daughter, Julia was born, was only 8 days! The birth mother was a single mom, so she didn’t care that I was a single mom as well, and we clicked.  At the end of a two hour call, we decided to take it the next step.  Sheepishly she said, “I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but I am due on Thursday!” – it was Monday.  I jumped on a plane, the moment my lawyer told me I was allowed to and the birth mom and I met for lunch and then went for a pre-natal check-up at a small regional hospital. The doctor came in and did his exam and exclaimed, “There’s the baby’s head!! We’re having a baby!”  I called my mom and told her to jump on the next plane. Three hours later, Julia was born!  I was there to help deliver her and cut the umbilical cord. It was magical that I could share in the experience of her birth.

Jackie Cohen

“Sheepishly she said, “I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but I am due on Thursday!” – it was Monday.”

Wow. After years of trying, you had a daughter in 8 days? What was going through your head?

It honestly happened so fast, I didn’t have time for thoughts. My only thought was, I hope the birth mom likes me.  Because of the IVF journey, I didn’t want to buy anything in advance and sit there looking at a room full of baby stuff and get even more depressed, so I flew out there with nothing.  I also wanted to protect myself in case it didn’t work out. My mom and I stayed in a hotel with nothing. Looking back, it’s crazy how much stuff we buy for kids and how little you can survive with. When my mom came she brought some hand me downs, but they were all in boy colors, blue and green. We went to the local Walmart and bought her some pink stuff, so she would have a pink onesie to fly home in.  We had to wash the clothes in the sink by hand and let them dry overnight. I cherish the journey now, and of course I saved the Walmart onesie! Since it all happened so quickly, my friends threw me a shower, buying me everything I needed from a stroller to diaper genie. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of the crazy and wild ride.

Knowing now how everything worked out, what would you share with a woman in a similar situation trying to get pregnant?  

I would say to never give up and to believe.  Believe in yourself.  I know it sounds so cliche, but I felt like the desire to become a mom burns inside of you, and in my case was insatiable, so I didn’t give up. If you keep fighting for what you want, you will get it. Sometimes the reward is an unexpected inspiration and additional strength and courage that will bring you to new places you didn’t know you needed.  Julia’s adoption and happiness has brought me to give back.  Currently I work with HELPUSADOPT.ORG and have recently been asked to be on the board. I am thrilled to help others build their families through adoption.

How did this experience and finding your daughter inspire your jewelry line?

When Julia was born, I wanted a piece of jewelry to celebrate her.  When I couldn’t find anything that fit my style, I created a simple birthstone ring with skinny diamonds on the band for myself and had her name and birth date inscribed on the inside.  When people commented on it, I shared my adoption story and I found people sharing their stories back and wanting a ring for their loved ones as well. Today, the collection has grown to include necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more stackable rings! Proudly, a portion of the sales from each piece goes to HELPUSADOPT.ORG. I’ll be showing my line here in New York at the Saks on 5th and 50th st. November 15th & 16th, from 11am-8:30pm. Everyone’s invited!

Jackie Cohen

“I’ll be showing my line here in New York at the Saks on 5th and 50th st. November 15th & 16th, from 11am-8:30pm. Everyone’s invited!”

That’s amazing (and inspiring!). How did you get into the jewelry business?  

My dad started the company almost 50 years ago after immigrating from Cuba, so it’s in my DNA. After college however, I spent 12 years on Wall Street. I was successful, but burnt out, and unfulfilled in my career and personal life. After a year of traveling the world, from Africa, India, Europe and Israel, I came back to an invitation to join the family business! The rest is history.

We hear that the collection is going to be in Saks Fifth Avenue for the holidays. Congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment to be picked up in such a big door after just launching in February of 2016. How did that happen?

It was amazing to meet the Saks Fifth Avenue team and as they say, I was at the right place at the right time. A few months earlier, Saks hosted an event for Mother’s Day, where they sold personalized lockets.  It was super successful so they planned another one for the Christmas season and that’s when they came to me. I was floored when they suggested I might be a good fit for this Christmas season!

Can you share 3 “Pearls of Wisdom” about career and motherhood?

1. Don’t care about what other people think. So many people felt compelled to give me their opinions when I decided to adopt, regardless of whether I asked for it. To this day, people still question my decision. I say, “screw them!” So what if she isn’t my blood or if I birthed her? I take care of her like any mom would. I watch her breathe when she sleeps, cry when she hurts, and want to give her the best life in the world.

2. Be open to change and be flexible. I have made some pretty crazy decisions in my life. From radical career changes to quitting my job, from traveling around the world to adopting my daughter. With every change, I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. So many people are afraid of change and the unknown. With every change in my life, I didn’t know where I would end up, but I knew it was going to be better and bring me more happiness, love and success.

3. Never give up. This goes without saying or I wouldn’t have found my special angel baby.

Jackie Cohen

The idea that every woman has a story truly resonates with us at heymama. Some of us are just starting our families, some have endured years of fertility treatments and others have created the family they always dreamed of through donors or adoption. If we’ve learned anything through it all, the community of incredible heymama women, like Jackie, has made us feel like we aren’t alone. Knowing that if you want a family, you will find a way to make it happen, it just might not be how you originally planned and that’s all part of our journey as mothers.

saks_final

#STARTUPSTORIES, Fashion, Give Back, Lifestyle

#STARTUPSTORIES: Carly Burson’s Adoption Journey Inspires Her To Help Women All Over The World

March 10, 2016
Carly Burlson with her daughter and a teepee

Tell us your startup story? What is Tribe Alive and where did the idea originate from?

When I began my adoption journey, I knew that becoming a mother would profoundly impact my life; but I never imagined that it would alter the course of my life’s work. Although adoption presents opportunity to support a child, I was struck by the desire to address the core issue of child relinquishment on a global scale: namely, the economic insecurity facing women in the developing world. Tribe Alive was born from my decision to utilize years of experience in the fashion industry as a platform to alleviate poverty among people in the developing world.

 

What’s your previous background?

I built a career in visual design and merchandising and spent the majority of my years working with Ann Inc. and J.Crew.

Carly Burlson with her daughter and Tribe Alive pillow

What’s been the hardest thing about being a startup what’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

Finding balance is always something I struggle with. Start ups are nonstop and require an impossible amount of time and attention. The time I’ve invested in building this business over the last couple of years has taken a toll on my personal life. I’ve had to really re-evaluate how I run my business and how I find time for my family and friends. It takes being extremely intentional with my time and recognizing that I can’t be all things at once. Some days I neglect business responsibilities, other days family responsibilities. It’s a constant balancing act.

I began to look at the root of the issue and realized that adoption was not a solution, but merely a bandaid.

 

What’s been the most impactful thing that you’ve learned starting your business from the ground up?

That I can not do it alone.

Tribe Alive product

Tribe Alive Pillow

What was your first step to get things off the ground after you had the idea for a Tribe Alive to help women in poverty stricken countries?

I first reached out to different non-profits (that I knew of in the developing world) that had years of experience working with marginalized people. I knew I had the tools and resources needed to be successful in building a brand, but I wanted to partner with organizations that would effectively guide me to truly impact the lives of women living in poverty. These organizations have become my lifeline and became the true champions of Tribe Alive.

 

How did you get the capital to start your company did you raise money or do a kick starter?

It was a combination our own savings and a crowd funding campaign that we launched in the beginning.

Carly Burlson working on Tribe Alive and her daughter

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Be patient.

 

Do you have a mentor?

I have many, but I would have to say that our non-profit partners (who are on the ground in the countries we work in) are who I lean on most. Most business owners seek out other successful entrepreneurs as mentors, but I never wanted Tribe Alive to become just another business that forces me to become lost in the hustle. Our partners keep me honest, humble, and grounded to my original mission. Without them I could easily fall into chasing growth, becoming focused only on financial success, and making decisions that do not honor the dignity of our artisan partners.

Tribe Alive bag

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a similarly structured business that gives back?

I would advise that it’s a venture that needs to be entered sensitively. There are many social enterprises out there that do not take the dignity of their artisan partners into account when marketing themselves. I want to see social enterprise move in a direction where companies stop exploiting the hard lives of people living in poverty, and instead incorporate ethical practice and giving back into their model, because it’s the right thing to do.

 

When did you adopt your daughter? What was the experience like and how has it influenced your life professionally and personally?

We adopted our daughter a little over two and a half years ago. It was an extremely difficult and long process, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I always knew we would start and grow our family through adoption . Adopting my daughter completely changed my life, but also my view on child relinquishment.

I began to look at the root of the issue and realized that adoption was not a solution, but merely a bandaid.

I did not want my legacy to be raising other women’s children, but instead to create something that would empower women to the point that child relinquishment need not be the option.

Poverty is the main cause of the orphan crisis in the world; and I can think of no greater injustice than a women not being able to keep her child simply because she’s poor.

This realization has completely changed the course of my life.

Poverty is the main cause of the orphan crisis in the world; and I can think of no greater injustice than a women not being able to keep her child simply because she’s poor.

 

How do you work with the women in these countries and how are you able to provide jobs for them?

We partner with incredible non-profits who facilitate our production in every way. We design everything in house and then source it through our partners, who manage design sampling, production management, quality control, out of country logistics and most importantly maintaining safe and inspiring work environments for our artisans.

Tribe Alive bag

What do you think makes a good boss?

Empowering your people to take ownership in their roles and contribute to the growth of the company. I want Tribe Alive to reflect our entire team and not just my own vision.

 

What do you look for when you’re hiring people?

Passion, integrity and creativity.

 

What’s your the five-year goal of the company?

We started working with a handful of artisans in Honduras and Guatemala, and in one year we’ve been able to employ hundreds of impoverished women and operate out of five developing countries. What I love most about running this type of company is that our victories are never enough. It always feels like we can be doing more; and I hope the beautiful burden of bringing these women employment never leaves me. If I’m asked this question tomorrow or ten years from now, my answer will always be the same. We just want to employ more women.

It always feels like we can be doing more and I hope the beautiful burden of bringing these women employment never leaves me.

 

What’s been your biggest moment of feeling like what you’re doing is making an impact?

There are so many stories I could share that ground me in my quest, but our Honduran artisan partner Eugenia’s story is one closest to my heart. Eugenia started working with us in January 2015 and was part of a small project. At the end of the production she told me she was going to use the money that she made to buy her daughter a computer for school. I remember seeing the pride she felt in her eyes.

I returned to Honduras in July, to check on a much larger production, and was able to speak with Eugenia again. She asked me if I remembered when she said she was going to buy a computer with the money she made from the last job. When I told her I did, she said, “Well now I’m building my own house with the money from this job.”

Stories like Eugenia’s keep me going. If Tribe Alive existed only to give Eugenia an opportunity to put her children in a home of their own, then that alone would make my sacrifice even sweeter.

Carly Burson's daughter painter

How many countries are you currently in?

We currently work in Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti and India and hope to re-establish partnerships in Ethiopia this year.

Why do you think it’s important that we invest back into women? How do they support the community and help it to grow and be healthy?

We believe that women are the key to our future. Not only are women more apt to inspire and mentor, but also they are statistically more inclined to spend their money in ways that benefit the whole. Women spend the majority of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and better schooling for their family. It’s called the ‘muti-plier effect.’

When we invest in women, women reinvest in the health and wellbeing of their communities. When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more. We’re interested in positively affecting generations to come, which why we choose to invest in women. Women pay it forward.

Women spend the majority of their money on food, healthcare, home improvement, and better schooling for their children and family….When we invest in women, then women will reinvest in the health and wellbeing of their communities. When you reach one woman, you reach one hundred more.

 

How have you seen Tribe Alive impacting the lives of the women who are creating your products?

Our jewelry is made in a small community in Honduras where alongside our non-profit partner we employed over 70 women last year at living wages. The immediate impact of employment is that these women were able to provide for their families – fill bellies, send their kids to school, afford medicine – but our impact goes far beyond providing for the basic necessities. Those 65 women have children, friends, sisters and neighbors who watched them get up and go to work every day with pride and represent that there is hope for something better. When children witness strong, capable and self confident mothers everything changes and hopes and dreams are not only formed but viewed as a possibility. We’re in this to impact the lives of our artisan partners but more importantly the lives of their children.

 

Do you personally visit all the communities where your products are being produced? If so what has that experience been like?

Absolutely. It’s the most important part of my job. I have become very close with our artisan partners and have loved being able to share our lives with each other. Last year I was in Honduras for four weeks working alongside our partners on an important production and will never forget a moment I shared with one of our jewelry makers, Estella. After working together all day she looked at me and said “the only difference between you and me is that you’ve had opportunity and now I’m more like you.” I think the realization of how closely connected we all are has had a tremendous impact on my life. I’m grateful for experiences that have taught me that all people are pretty much the same and it’s small differences that divide us.

 

If you could have one wish for your own daughter what would that be?

That she grows up with the realization that we are all connected and it’s our job to take care of one another.

 

What’s an average day in your life like?

Pretty average. I first get my daughter off to school each morning, followed by a run with my pup and then home for coffee and emails. The rest of the day usually entails different meetings with different members of our team or Skype conversations with our out of country partners. I spend at least an hour a day designing and creating new ideas for the line and need that time each day to fuel my creativity since so much of my work is operational. The days I’m out of country working alongside our partners are what I live for the most.

 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My life. I have so much to be grateful for. My family. My work. My friends. It all motivates me to get up and live each day.

 

You can learn more about Tribe Alive and purchase their gorgeous products here, and see Carly’s Heymama profile here.
Photo credit Hilary Rose Walker of ourstylestories.com.

7 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

March 24, 2017
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

One of our goals for 2017 is to stay better informed. With so much happening in the headlines, it’s easy to get lost in the information clutter that is constantly coming our way. While staying abreast of those headlines is a necessity (unfortunately), it’s also imperative to listen to other people’s opinions and points of view on a variety of topics, that not only make the time pass while on the subway/driving in the car/folding laundry/doing dishes, they make you think. We first profiled Ashlee Gadd, founder of Coffee + Crumbs earlier this year and we learned that while she’s not running her successful site or writing her book, she’s creating podcasts offering words of wisdom for mamas like us. We asked Ashlee to share her favorite podcasts, and below is a list to get you started. If you aren’t listening to podcasts already, you’re going to wonder how you’ve missed them all this time. Read on…

 

  1. The Simple Show is a podcast exploring unconventional ways of living and making the most out of things like work, travel, and family. Tsh Oxenreider interviews interesting people about everything from slow living and minimalism, to traveling the world and writing a book. Her cheerful demeanor and thoughtful conversations will leave you feeling both encouraged and motivated.

Start with these:

Follow @tshoxenreider

  1. The Longest Shortest Time is a bold, daring podcast about parenthood in all of its forms. Host Hillary Frank interviews all types of parents to tell stories about the surprises and absurdities of raising other humans—and being raised by them.

Start with these:

Follow @longestshortesttime

  1. At Home is a podcast featuring a collection of conversations about mothering, home life and education. Through encouraging and thoughtful dialog, six mothers gather around one table to cover topics ranging from lighthearted chitchat to heavier conversations around politics, faith and social issues.

Start with these:

Follow @athomepodcast

podcasts

  1. The Coffee + Crumbs Podcast offers hope and encouragement for mothers through a variety of candid conversations about parenting. The show features three regular hosts – Lesley, April, and yours truly – with occasional guest interviews and appearances from the other Coffee + Crumbs writers. We tackle everything from potty training and baby registries to mental health and growing your family through adoption. Season two kicked off on March 7th!

Start with these:

Follow @coffeeandcrumbs

  1. The Mom Hour is hosted by two moms with eight kids between them, ranging in age from toddler to teen. Every week they share personal tips and stories to give moms a bit of added confidence as they move through motherhood.   

Start with these:

Follow @themomhour

  1. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert is a captivating podcast for creatives. Through poignant interviews with guest experts, Elizabeth Gilbert helps aspiring artists overcome their fears and create more joyfully. When you need a break from parenting chatter, tune in to this podcast for an immediate inspiration boost.

Start with these:

Follow @elizabeth_gilbert_writer

  1. Sorta Awesome is a weekly podcast geared toward women who want to stay current on all things awesome, including culture, media, trending conversations and general girlfriend chat. Their goal is for listeners to feel encouraged, empowered and excited to “find the awesome” in every day.

Start with these:

Follow @sortaawesomeshow

Although I have yet to hear it, I want to get one last podcast on your radar. The Village Magazine is launching a brand new podcast this month, and if it’s anything like their publication, I’m preemptively giving it five stars. Follow them on Instagram so you don’t miss the announcement!

podcastsAshlee Gadd is the founder of Coffee + Crumbs and is passionate about inspiring mothers to pursue creativity. Follow her @ashleegadd

 

Business, Give Back

One Woman’s Journey To Saving Over 200,000 Underprivileged Babies And Counting

October 18, 2016
Jane Chen

Here at heymama, we are fortunate enough to be immersed in a community of smart and savvy women who are building brands for and to support women and children worldwide. So many companies are not only making a name for themselves in the business world, they are finding opportunities to give back to those less fortunate and make a tremendous difference. It is important to Katya, Ali and I, as mothers, to be supporters of these visionaries and change-makers, shining a spotlight on people who are giving hope, resources and support to those in need.  We are really excited to create a new area of heymama where we will highlight these give back brands, charities and organizations, making it easy to support them and the communities that they are caring for.  We will be highlighting several women this week who have upped the ante on changing the world – we hope you are as inspired to get involved as we are.

Xo

Amri

When we heard about Embrace Innovations and it’s CEO, Jane Chen, we needed to interview her ASAP. Challenged in a course at Stanford University to create a baby incubator that costs less than 1% of those on the market, Jane designed the Embrace Infant Warmer, a baby-warmer that does not require constant electricity and keeps babies at the ideal body temperature. This ground-breaking yet simple technology uses a wax technology, and literally has been saving the lives of premature and underweight babies in developing countries worldwide. Recognizing the tremendous impact she could have, Jane went on to launch Little Lotus, a line of swaddles, sleeping bags and blankets with a special regulating function (which helps babies sleep better) and a 1:1 give back program that helps to save one baby with the Embrace Infant Warmer  for every Little Lotus product sold. The Embrace Warmer has already helped save over 200,000 babies and counting. As moms, we know how much our babies mean to us and are enamored with Jane’s goal of saving one million lives. Read her incredibly heartwarming and inspiring story below.

Jane! We need to start by saying how incredible Embrace Innovations is! Can you tell us a little about the Embrace Warmer and how it came to be?

Thank you! The Embrace Infant Warmer is a low-cost incubator designed to help premature and underweight babies in the developing world. It looks like a tiny sleeping bag, and keeps infants at a stable temperature using an innovative phase-change material that melts at 98 degrees F and maintains that temperature for up to 8 hours, without the need for electricity.

In 2008 at Stanford, a group of my classmates and I were challenged to design a baby incubator that cost less than 1% of a traditional design. Our class project led to the creation of the Embrace Infant Warmer, which to date, has now helped over 200,000 preterm infants in 20 developing countries.

Jane Chen

With each purchase of a Little Lotus item, a baby is helped by the Embrace Infant Warmer in a developing country through our nonprofit partners. Our goal is help save the lives of one million preterm infants, and we’re rallying families here in the U.S. to help us accomplish that.

Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished! Why is the Embrace Warmer so helpful in reducing the newborn death rate and helping premature babies in developing countries?

Around the world, more than one million babies die on their birthing day, with most of these deaths occurring in developing countries. The leading cause of these deaths are preventable complications, often related to prematurity and low birth weight. Newborn death rates are high in these countries, often because of a lack of prenatal care, as well as a lack of access to hospitals and modern medical equipment.  Moreover, many places don’t even have consistent access to electricity. This is why we set out to design a product that would be super easy to use, without the need for constant electricity. Our product can be used in a village clinic, or even in a home setting.

You must have some incredible stories from all of your travels and the help you’ve provided to so many people. Is there any story in particular that has touched you of a family your product has helped?

There is a child named Nathan who is extremely special to me, and his story is probably surprising to most. Born just under two pounds and abandoned on the side of the road in China after his birth, he’s come to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration.

After Nathan was discovered by an Orphanage (Little Flower) with whom we had just launched a program, Nathan was kept in an Embrace Warmer for thirty days. Thanks to the product, and Little Flower’s loving care, this tiny infant survived! At that birth weight, he really shouldn’t have survived at all, so his plight and survival was incredible – a testament to why we do this work at Embrace Innovations. When I went to visit him at the orphanage at seven months old, I found a healthy, happy baby boy.

Today, Nathan lives in Chicago with his adopted family, and is a smiling, interactive, and very lively toddler. His family has even sent me photos of Nathan posing next to his Embrace Warmer, which he is way too big for now.  Last year, Nathan’s mom gave me a figurine of a an angel guiding a little boy, representing our relationship. It was incredibly moving.

What an incredibly rewarding journey! Can you tell us about Little Lotus and its NASA technology? How does it work to keep babies’ temperature regulated?

Our swaddles, blankets, and sleeping bags use a special fabric that was first developed for NASA spacesuits. The fabric is incredibly soft to the touch, but contains microns of wax which keeps babies at the ideal temperature by drawing away excess heat when babies get too warm, and releasing it when they start to cool down.

The Little Lotus products were designed to help babies maintain their ideal skin temperature, and as a result, our studies have shown that babies are getting almost an extra hour of sleep a day with our product compared to other products, as they have fewer temperature fluctuations!

Jane Chen
How does purchasing a Little Lotus swaddle benefit babies in danger around the world?

Little Lotus Baby runs on a TOMS Shoes-like 1:1 model of giving. With each purchase of a Little Lotus item, a baby is helped by the Embrace Infant Warmer in a developing country through our nonprofit partners. Our goal is help save the lives of one million preterm infants, and we’re rallying families here in the U.S. to help us accomplish that.

What was your own journey like founding this company? How did you get things off the ground?

I started Embrace back in 2008, right after I graduated from Stanford. My co-founders and I moved to India, home to 40% of the world’s premature babies, and spent the next four years getting this product off the ground – figuring out everything from clinical testing, to manufacturing , to distribution. It was incredibly challenging!

In the spring of 2015, we decided to launch Little Lotus to help us fund the expansion of the Embrace Warmers. My team and I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the first $100K, and we were successful! We used those funds for critical product development, manufacturing, to deliver our first batch of products to customers back in December. Since then, we’ve developed an amazing community of parents who love our products, so the journey has been immensely rewarding.

You’ve seen so many difficult situations on your quest to help these little babies, not only in the personal stories from the countries you’ve worked with but also in your own struggles to build this business and get funding. What is the biggest takeaway or lesson you’ve learned in all of this?

During my time living in India, getting Embrace Innovations off the ground, I could feel myself becoming jaded over the years. On top of dealing with the regular stresses of startup life, I was in an environment where I had to face endless chaos and corruption, and where I was surrounded by extreme poverty, illness, and death. Then at some point, I had a realization. For every horrible thing I experienced, there was something equally as beautiful. The noble doctors I met, who stayed up all night seeing patients. The wonderful team who had come together to join us in our mission. The mothers whom, no matter how poor or uneducated or impoverished, would do absolutely anything to save their babies. I had the chance to see the purest and most selfless forms of love in the world everyday through my work. How could I become jaded when I was surrounded by such beauty of the human spirit?

I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my life: you get to choose the lens through which you see the world. I choose to see the world through the lens of beauty. As Thoreau said: “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”

Jane Chen

For every horrible thing I experienced, there was something equally as beautiful. The noble doctors I met, who stayed up all night seeing patients. The wonderful team who had come together to join us in our mission. The mothers whom, no matter how poor or uneducated or impoverished, would do absolutely anything to save their babies. I had the chance to see the purest and most selfless forms of love in the world everyday through my work.

I read a crazy story you told about losing your funding just a week before the deal was to go through.. Can you tell us about that? What did you do?

I’ve faced plenty of challenges in running a startup, but this was definitely the scariest.

In 2014, Embrace Innovations was on the brink of shutting down when a major round of funding unexpectedly fell through. What saved us was a serendipitous meeting with Marc Benioff, CEO and Founder of Salesforce. He and I sat next to each other during a meditation class at the World Economic Forum, and at the time, he was just about to help launch a global program on premature births with the Gates Foundation. When this crisis hit, with only a few days of cash left in the bank to run our company, I sent Marc a desperate email asking for his help – not really knowing what to expect. He generously agreed to fund the company, and gave us the runway we needed to find a new strategy, which was how Little Lotus was born.  We realized we couldn’t count on our revenues coming only from emerging markets, and decided to leverage our technology to launch a great product for babies in the US that can help babies in the developing world at the same time.

I can only believe the universe conspired for Marc and I to meet each other, and I will forever be indebted to him for his belief in our mission. and I to meet each other, and I will forever be indebted to him for his belief in our mission.

 

Jane Chen

We are big supporters of chance meetings! What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

“The universe will go on without you.” In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously!

Can you share four pearls of wisdom that you’ve learned so far in life?

1. When you fail, get up and try again. As an entrepreneur, you will fail over and over again. You will constantly face setbacks. And you just have to be ok with that. When my company nearly shut down, knocking the wind out of me, I had to find the courage to get back up and find a solution. As someone who has failed many times, I urge you to try, try, and try again.

2. You’ve got to keep putting yourself in challenging situations, and pushing your limits.  Each step in creating Embrace was scary — I had no previous experience developing a medical device, or running a company, but by thinking big, we turned an idea into a product that has helped save thousands of lives.

3. Accept what cannot be changed.  In life, and especially as an entrepreneur, so many situations are out of our control. Sh*t happens. Don’t waste energy fighting the things that cannot be changed. Instead, adapt to the situation and learn to ride with it.

4. Always have fun. One of the things I love so much about surfing, my passion sport, is how delightfully fun it is. I’m reminded not to take myself too seriously, to just enjoy life and be grateful for every day, and every experience. Truly, the best surfer is the one who is having the most fun. And that’s how I want to live my life.

Are you inspired by Jane as much as we are? You can read more in this Forbes article she wrote here.

Lastly, we are thrilled to support Jane and her Little Lotus giveaway! Click here to enter.

#LADYBOSS, #STARTUPSTORIES, Baby, Interview

Designed, Subscribed, Delivered! Lisa Hom of Parasol Reinvents the Diaper and Drops It At Your Door

July 26, 2016

As time progresses and we see the effects of global warming and what some products REALLY do to us, we have come to realize that we need to reevaluate what products we are buying and putting on our bodies. Lisa Hom of Parasol has redesigned diapers to be Disposable Baby Underwear that reflect the essence of the Modern Parent. One that is not only free of harmful materials, but is also soft, sleek, and stylish in design. Let’s not forget that this subscription-based product gets delivered to your door and makes sure you never suffer from running out of diapers!

There a lot of “eco-friendly” diapers out there and and even some diapers with cute prints these days (we won’t name names) How would you say Parasol is different?

I wanted to reimagine what a diaper could be.  We spent years developing a diaper that uses less wood pulp, creates less shipping waste, is completely safe for your baby, and lets you express your personal style with bright, vivid, hand-painted designs.  Even more importantly, I wanted to create a diaper that is luxuriously soft and comforting.  Modern parents are demanding responsible materials, but they are still forced to settle for the rough and bulky quality of eco brands.  Parasol is a game changer in that regard.  I LOVE watching parents’ reactions when they touch and feel our diapers for the first time – that’s when they truly understand just how different Parasols are.

What was it like to start a business based on a subscription service model and how to do see your business evolving in the long term?

It made sense for us to start with a subscription service because we wanted to provide parents with the convenience of receiving everything they need when they need it.  As we continue to grow our Parasol family, we will continue to add more features and flexibility to fit the changing needs of our subscribers.  We have already launched a Shop and Gift Subscriptions, but we will continue to evolve.  Looking ahead, I definitely see the possibility of launching our products in physical retail stores to expand our exposure to parents and give them another channel to purchase through.    

Tell us about the way you work with artists to create your packaging and the designs on your diapers. How are you supporting the community?

I have always been incredibly inspired by artists and where they draw their inspiration from – nature, architecture, color, emotions.  With Parasol, we wanted to work with artists from around the world and showcase their modern and chic styles on our packaging and product.  Much like a fashion brand, I want to constantly introduce newness with each season and bring our consumers design options that speak to their personal style.  We also want to support and promote the artists that we work with by telling their story and letting their designs tell the story of our Parasol brand.

Parasol diaper designs

 

“Parasol is a family brand and it’s important that we set a great example through our company policies and actions.  Our flexible policies allow mothers the freedom to spend time with and take care of their children without impacting their ability to grow within the company.”

What makes you choose an artist to work with?

It’s key to find the right fit for each product we launch, so we look for artists who understand the story we are trying to tell and can help us translate it in a visual way.  I’m constantly looking for new artists for us to work with.  It doesn’t matter if someone isn’t a pattern or textile designer, we are excited to meet a diverse group of talent.

Can you tell us how your business supports women, outside the aspect of providing an amazing, safe, chic service for mama & baby?

I know first-hand what it’s like to have a baby (x3) and continue wanting to build my career.  Parasol is a family brand and it’s important that we set a great example through our company policies and actions.  Our flexible policies allow mothers the freedom to spend time with and take care of their children without impacting their ability to grow within the company.  We also have a dedicated private nursery in the office for mothers to use (stocked with our diapers and wipes, of course!)  

Since we launched in April, we have also donated our products to MOMS OC, an organization in Orange County, California that supports low-income women from pregnancy through the child’s first year.  This is just the beginning, and we will continue to support women in all stages of her life and her career.

 What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

As a new founder, I was not sleeping.  I wasn’t able to define the lines between work and home, so I just kept working with every minute of every day.  But it wasn’t something that I was able to maintain in a healthy way.  One of my mentors, who is also a female CEO, told me that starting a business is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.  Much like being a parent, I needed to stay healthy and happy to be the best CEO for my company and employees.  

Lisa Hom of Parasol and son

What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs starting a business?

Find a business that you are truly truly passionate about.  That gives you the best chance for success.  Starting a business is a huge commitment and it requires a lot of your time and energy (much like a child).  So make sure that this is something that you will be excited to wake up for every morning, and committed to nurture even when there are challenges to work through.  If you love what you do, it will show.

Did you raise money? Can you tell us about your experience?

Parasol was funded by a couple of initial investors, but we will be raising a round of funding later this year.  I would be happy to give an update on the upcoming experience.

You highlight families with really active lifestyles on your site. How does this relate to the Parasol philosophy?

Parasol parents have made a shift from the generation before them.  Rather than defining  their identities by a traditional view of what parenthood should be, we see parents now opening up their entire worlds to include their children.  Whether parents are living active lifestyles by dedicating themselves to their craft, their sport, or their art, they all believe in raising their children within that context.  Every Parasol parent is on a journey, and it’s that journey (both intuitive and adventurous) that we honor.    

Lisa Hom of Parasol and daughter tea party

“I quickly found that asserting my opinion and voice earlier in the conversation was all I needed to do.  I had creative ideas and smart solutions to share, and men and women had no choice but to stop and listen.” 

 

With such a strong focus on safe and comfortable diapers for babies, we could imagine that living healthy is important to you. How do you keep up your wellness routine? What does wellness mean to you?

Wellness to me means staying active, eating well, taking time out for yourself and finding ways to be inspired.  All of these things are hard to do when you are busy being mom, so I actually schedule everything ahead of time in my Google calendar!  Whether it’s a pilates class, hip hop dance class, a hike with the kids, or an indoor soccer game, being active always re-energizes me.  I can’t say that I get much downtime, but even small “breaks” are helpful.  

What are your opinions on adopting and maintaining and well-rounded lifestyle? How do you achieve this with such a busy career and family?

As a mom of three, CEO of a startup, and wife, life right now is certainly a beautiful hustle.  It’s not perfectly balanced and I always wish I had more hours in the day, but the busy schedule also makes me more grateful for the downtime I do get.  With the convenience of technology, you will catch me checking emails on the treadmill and sneaking in a quick call when I’m in line at Target.  But I’m also very aware of being present and in the moment when Ella wants to craft together or Kellan wants to play in the backyard.  I also think it’s super important to plan new adventures together – whether it’s a global vacation, a day trip to explore the city, or cherry picking at the local farm.  

Lisa Hom of Parasol with son and daughter

What’s been the biggest challenge you have faced career wise and how did you overcome it?

When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, my biggest challenge was demanding respect in a room full of men.  Working as a buyer, I managed men and I met with vendors who were all male.   Once I stepped into a meeting and was asked if I was the secretary of my two direct reports, who were both men.  I’m 5’2” and I have a baby face.  So I first tried to command respect by dressing older and wearing heels.  But I quickly found that asserting my opinion and voice earlier in the conversation was all I needed to do.  I had creative ideas and smart solutions to share, and men and women had no choice but to stop and listen.  

Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

I have always been a risk taker and I love trying new things.  I loved sky diving and hated scuba diving.  In my late twenties, I joined a back-up dancing hip hop group.  I tried co-ed indoor soccer last year and I fell in love with the sport.  I want more tattoos.  

What’s in your 5 year plan.

My vision is for Parasol to be a global brand.  Babies, parents, and families around the world deserve to have baby-safe, high quality family essentials that fit their modern aesthetic, while also being comforting and empowering.  Baby products was a natural way for us to launch the brand, but I want to continue extending our core values to to other categories, including feminine hygiene and incontinence products.  Parasol is in a unique position to bring a sense of empowerment and confidence to the family at all the stages of life.

Lisa Hom of Parasol with her three kids

#LookGood, #SOCIALBOSS, Fashion

#SOCIALBOSS: Digital Icon Chriselle Lim Is Taking The Fashion World By Storm

January 20, 2016
chriselle lim monica and andy

Chriselle, tell us more about you and where you’re from?

I started off as a stylist; I was an editor at a local luxury magazine, Genlux magazine. I pretty much was on the traditional fashion editor path. Then I met Michelle Phan. I met her about 8 years ago and had no idea about anything digital related. At that point either you were on YouTube or had a blog. Michelle introduced that digital world to me. There really wasn’t anyone doing fashion on YouTube. I uploaded my first YouTube video 6 years ago, and the response was insane. I had 500,000 views overnight!! This was just me, without having a following. I saw a need and a want from people for this kind of digital content; curated content. A lot of girls on YouTube were posting about things that they bought, and it was very young content. I’m a little older, I’m 30 now. I really focused on the curated elevated content angle. I saw a huge need for it and a big gap in the editorial world and digital world and I ran with it. Our videos became an overnight hit. From there I started the blog.   It was a little bit of right timing, and it was unique content at that time. The combination of those two things made it a success.

hey_mama_chriselle-6

How long did it take you before you went full-time?

I went full-time after a year and a half… then that’s when I got my first paid job. Wow. People are willing to pay money for the content that you’re creating!

We have a staff of about 7 people now. Our production office is in downtown LA. It’s a well-fueled business now, but it took about 6 years.

What were those key hires?

Laura was my stylist assistant 8 year ago. She’s been so loyal to me. Her role transitioned, and she was my very first hire. In the beginning she was running everything, and now she is the operational director.  Coordinating schedules with deals, making sure deadlines come in on time, managing the staff so I can be creative. What I realized was that my hands were full with a little bit of everything, with being the boss, the talent, creative, the writer, the voice, and it got to be a little much . I had to let go of a few things for me to be creative and feel inspired.Now Lauren handles all the business elements because I was handling all of that, and it frees me up to be my best on the creative side.

chriselle lim monica and andy

What’s been the biggest surprise to you from becoming a mother?

Going into motherhood I heard all these different stories from different moms. I had this idea that it would be so scary and I’d lose my life.  That I wouldn’t be able to jump back. Once I had Chloe, no I didn’t jump right back into work, but I do have my life. I didn’t lose that part of me, it just got enhanced. So many people talk about how tiring it’s going to be. My life has been better since. It’s actually a great thing. I was expecting the worst, and actually it turned out it wasn’t.

A lot of people assume my husband is super wealthy, and that’s why I’m able to do what I do. We both have to work.  People always assume, but we both work very hard.

What are the three characteristics you would use to describe yourself?

Clean, classic, simple and elegant. I’m not really into trends. Clean lines and more classic pieces in my wardrobe.

chriselle lim monica and andy

Who’s been your inspiration?

The classic icons. I think my style is mainly it was from me making mistakes. What I feel most beautiful in and what I’m most confident in. For the past 20 years I was trying to adopt as many trends as possible. Looking back on it I cringe, a lot of it has to do with making mistakes. It’s about figuring myself out. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelley, Bianca Jagger; she was one of the first women to wear an all white suit to a party.

What tips do you have to do suggest finding your style?

I think it really depends on what you gravitate towards. We all gravitate towards expensive things.  When you’re shopping or going through a blog, you’ll always love something. I have tons of mood boards. When you see the same things popping up over and over again and find what you like, you’ll see a consistency. Is there a certain color scheme or silhouette that you gravitate towards? I do a lot of screen grabbing and I have a special screen grab folder. If you update our IOS they have this cool new tool to place all of your screengrabs in one folder. It’s like the new mood boarding…. Finding that consistency with what you like and being aware or it. It’s good to validate your subconscious so you can see what you’re attracted to.

chriselle lim monica and andy

What is your beauty regimen like? Are there tricks you love?

It’s all about skin. If you have amazing skin, you don’t have to wear that much makeup. For me it is all about protecting your skin. Koreans are really focused on good skin your whole life. It’s about preparation. Protecting it all year round. I’ve had skin regime for the past 10 years. I still do it every single night. I never ever fall asleep with makeup now. I don’t drink that much water. I know I should. Let’s be real. Who has the time? I take these hydrating pills that supplement your body for water, because for me I know I’m not getting enough water. Sheet masks…..

What is your vision for the brand and where do you see yourself in one year?

We still plan to grow the content side and to add even more content. We are posting 2 to 3 times a day starting next month. We’re continuing to build up this content machine. The name of the game at the end of the day is; it’s really about good content. We’re continue to build that out for our followers. Right now we’ve had CINC studios, because we have a production team behind us, we’ve garned the interested in fashion/beauty brands, creating these visually stimulating videos that are very professional. There are not many people doing that kind of quality, so building out our production studio and having that as another business and growing that into a big business is a goal. Right now we have 3 to 5 clients that come back to us. It’s not necessarily me starring in it, but me directing for commercials, fashion films.  We’re also starting to work on our Lifestyle category. A lot of the content that does really well is for the motherhood audience. Focusing on that.

What’s been the most challenging thing about being your own boss and leading a team?

The guilt that comes with it. I think that even though we know as working moms don’t need to feel guilty because we are doing this work for our growing families, it’s hard to run away from that guilt. Even though you have validation and are doing it right. I’ve talked to many women about it. Same thing they go through. Maybe I’ll get out of it, it’s only my first year in. There is a never ending cycle of feeling guilty when you have to leave, when you have to travel. It also feels good to be in this position and feeling guilty about loving that and that freedom and you’re able to work is hard. At least for me. It’s a never ending cycle.

I choose not to bring her on trips now. I did it early one and it made me feel worse to know that she was there but I don’t even have time to spend time with her in the hotel room. You have to figure out if it’s worth it to bring your child with you. In the first year, I traveled with her quite a bit and I was hard on her. Being realistic and not selfish. You have to go with what’s better for your child.

What do you do balance?

I shut off on the weekends. I instagram here and there. I don’t put the pressure on myself to do that. I don’t think it’s hurt me at all. It’s only helped me mentally. It’s really hard to shut off when I get home. Most of my work gets done at 9pm. I work up until 1am, 2am. The only time I’m able to shutoff is then, when it’s my hubby + Chloe.

What is your favorite social platform and why?

My favorite platform is snapchat. It is one just so real and authentic. I feel like I could really be myself. It’s not produced at all. It’s what I’m doing. It’s all of a sudden become this beautiful platform to showcase my best work. I go there more for inspiration. When it comes to updating my followers on what I’m doing at the moment, it’s snapchat. That’s where I’m able to showcase my motherhood life a bit more. We really try to keep it more fashion focused on every other platform. I have a lot of mommy followers.

chriselle lim monica and andy

Where do you see the industry heading? In a few years time.

Nothing ever stays the same. When I first started my blog it was the only platform. There was no Instagram. Blog numbers were so high back then. Now, we all have our dedicated followers but to get new blog followers is so much harder. I can’t really predict what is going to happen, but I do think that things are shifting a little bit more towards video and real content vs. very produced and polished things. People and brands are getting smarter about how they place products and sponsorship. We’ve gotten requests for doing integrated content rather than dedicated content. Can you just integrate into your lifestyle.

What advice and tips do you give to people trying to building their own voices on social?

Finding a unique voice, because there are so many people out there right now doing the same thing. I’ve also found that being very open makes you unique. Not everything is the same. I did my pregnancy announcement, but I also shared my story of my miscarriage. That kind of openness, opens the floodgates of them going through the miscarriage too. I think being able to share your story and finding the audience that can relate to you is so important. Maybe it’s the struggles of balancing school and your passion. So be authentic to your own story! One of the reasons why our following is loyal is because a lot of people starting following me before I was married, then when I met Allan and now that I have a baby. It’s almost like this never-ending story.  Everyone has a part of his or her story that can relate.

I am excited to get into my 50’s. I’m in my 30’s, and no one thinks it’s a big deal. 40 is kind of weird. 50, I’m not young anymore but I’m still going to be fabulous and people are going to love it.

The other advice I have is to collaborate a lot — I collaborated with different influencers, like Song of Style with Aimee. We partnered when we were both starting off!

You have to be very pro-active about the community you have in front of you.

Who are your mama inspirations?

Some of my favorite Instagram feeds are @dearestdaughters @camillestyles @blondeandbone and the brands I love are @onekingslane @eloeryland @vonholzhausen

Words you live by or quotes you love?

Ghandi – They ask what’s the most interesting thing you’ve heard of. I find this man so interesting.  He sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”

I think so many of us focus on goal setting, its one thing to be obsessed with them and not having a life outside of them and forgetting to live in the moment. There comes a point where you have to let it go and enjoy the ride. You can always have more and always have less.

Chloe is turning one year next week, that went by so fast. There were so many times I thought I wasn’t going to survive or make it through. Figuring out my whole working situation while breastfeeding. I wish I could go back and enjoy it. Not stressing out about it as much.

What is something that surprised me after becoming a mom?

Beside the fact that I was able to have my life back, the other thing is I’ve always been so business oriented and career oriented and into my building my own career, I never ever could have imagined loving something more than what I do. I never really understood how I could.. but after Chloe came, my world just completely shifted. It’s like a whole nother level and heart to be filled again. I’ve never seen myself as so motherly, so domesticated. I really love it.

To learn more about Chriselle, check out here website www.thechrisellefactor.com, and her Instagram and YouTube channels.

#LADYBOSS, Business, Kids Style, Social Media

#LADYBOSS: Freshly Picked Founder Susan Petersen’s Startup Success Story

November 2, 2015
Susan Petersen with her Freshly Picked Moccasins

 We’ve been dying to talk to Freshly Picked founder, Susan Petersen, since the day we started heymama. Her guts, determination and sheer hard work to build what’s turning into an empire put her on the top of our interview bucket list. Lucky for us, Susan’s success has only made her more willing to share her experience with other entrepreneurs. She’s worked hard her whole life, struggling to come up with a small amount of money to start her company, winning Shark Tank, building up a cult social media following, and becoming a household name sold in Nordstorm. This is one mama whose business advice you need to follow. 

 

You started you company with $200 what has this experience taught you and what can you share about starting out on a budget?

Since we were on such a tight budget starting out, we only had the necessities. We didn’t have fancy furniture, or any extras. We couldn’t just say let’s get this or that. If you don’t have money to spend, you keep your blinders on! At this point, we’re still bootstrapping and putting the money back. Even more than the money, you have to put in the work. There are so many things that are free but require your input and work. Instagram is free. Everything you need is free. You just have to be willing to put in the sweat. The most important things are free: the relationships you build and the people that are going to help you along the way. The early bloggers and the early editors who took a chance on me really helped me, and those relationships are free.

 

Even more than the money, you have to put in the work…..The most important things are free: the relationships you build and the people that are going to help you along the way.

 

How do you thank those people?

For me, that person at that point in my life made such a big difference. Whenever I have a thought to be thankful, I call and tell them how they made such a big difference in my life. Someone reached out to me recently to tell me how they appreciated me, and it felt like it made such a big difference in my day and made me feel valuable. I try to do that a lot now: verbally thanking people as soon as they do something, that’s a big deal. I try to do it as soon as I think of it.

 

Did you have any role models or mentors that help teach you this drive?

My grandmothers were very strong women who were getting their shit done. They never taught me anything specifically, but I became empowered by watching them. Encouragement is contagious, so it’s especially important when you daughters are watching you and learning by example.

 

What are you most proud of that you’ve accomplished at Freshly Picked?

It’s so awesome (and scary) to have a team that depends on the business for their livelihood. It’s amazing to feel like I’m making a big difference for someone, and they are making a big difference in my life which is so cool and makes me really proud.

One of my favorite things is when we hear customer stories about how our products have made a difference in their lives. They would say how couldn’t find any other shoes that stayed on their kids or find any that they would wear.

Our PR really gets me and is able to capture that essence so props to them. We’ve had so much great press, but our Fortune article was one of my favorites. Taking over their homepage for a good portion of the day, it was so fun to just go there and see an article about my business on Fortune– it was big moment.

 

Susan Peterson with her Freshly Picked Moccasins

 

What is intuitive business?

It really is falling ass backwards and making it work. I fail to grasp how big and crazy what’s happening is until I am many miles away from it. I was scared on Shark Tank but not as scared as I should have been. Not until afterward, when I was laying in bed thinking of how it could have gone wrong, did I recognize what had happened. I don’t think about the possibility for things to go wrong; I just jump feet first into any situation. It was later that I realized the gravity of how good or bad it could have gone. Really being in the moment and doing stuff has gone along way for me. The more you do it, the easier it is to trust your gut. For me, earlier this year, there were a couple of things (minor) that were wrong with the business, and I couldn’t figure it out. There were things keeping me up at night like how this and that didn’t add up, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I pulled in someone so that can get to the root of my problems. If I hadn’t trusted my gut and pulled someone in, it would have been a year and a half. It’s like the same way it is with your kids; you have to follow that instinct. You know most of the answers if you just listen. If you feel that something is not right, you have to explore that.

 

What were some of the difficulties when you started selling in other stores? You are now in big retailers like Nordstrom’s, how is this going for you?

The time lines are really different! You have to work so far in advance. It’s a lot different. Wrapping my head around that, I remember going into a meeting and them were asking me to see next year’s products, and I was like, “Oh yeah, I forgot to bring the those….” We were only working months out! Everything had to change. It changes the way your finance are allocated. When you’re selling directly, you can just go straight to the site. For moms thinking about whether to make the leap to wholesale, don’t do it until you have a major retailer under your belt. It’s nice to have the support of Nordstrom. Now that we have that partner and the experience, we’re adding smaller shops.

 

How has social media changed your business?

At the end of the day, we are the brand that Instagram built, quite honestly. Instagram has been such a driving force for our business. Until almost a year ago, we did not have anything except for Instagram. It was just me for a long time. For me, as a mom and social media/blogging, it all finally made sense. I knew what these women wanted from my experiences. They want people to tell them how cute their kids are and to connect with them. If you’re awake and feeding your baby, you’re on Instagram; it really lends itself to that one finger scroll. Our target market is new moms. I remember when I started, people, who were growing quickly, had that “K” next to their number. I set a goal for myself that by the end of the year I would have 10k followers. I worked my butt off that year. On Dec. 28th, we had 10k. As a personal goal, it changed things for me because it made me realize I could achieve such goals. Then we made a goal to get on Shark Tank, so I wrote that down. For moms and businesswomen: write it down. Make it intentional and something you’re going to work on. Writing things out makes it real and helps you to visualize and set a goal. I’m so excited to see what Instagram will do. They have the capability to do so much more. I think Instagram is going to be more for the younger moms. Our aunts and grandmas are still hanging out on Facebook. Facebook is a different audience altogether, so we have to create two different sets of content: one for the Facebook and one for Instagram. Social media is like sex. As soon as you know your parents are doing it, you’re off to the next.

 

For moms and businesswomen: write it down. Make it intentional and something you’re going to work on. Writing things out makes it real and helps you to visualize and set a goal.

 

Can you share some tips on growing your Instagram account and utilizing that to grow you business?

Something that has really helped us on Instagram is recognizing the community and providing them with a voice. The most important thing you can do is to acknowledge and engage with your audience. There will always be someone there to comment and engage back with you. Community engagement is so important. Everyone is waiting to see what Instagram is going to do there. As with any social media, the thing to do is to embrace the changes and incorporate them as soon as you can. Adapt as quickly as they roll out. If you can be one of the first adopters of new technology, you’re ahead of the game.

Susan Peterson at the Freshly Picked  offices

 

What is your feeling on give-aways and how helpful are they? Do they work?

Yes and no. Something that we noticed is that giveaways with other brands don’t work. If you’re a company that’s starting out, giveaways are going to help your following but they need to be specific, selective, and spread them out so people don’t get sick of it. You can’t do too many give-aways with too many partners, or it gets annoying. Partner with complementary brands that have the same demographic of customer. Make sure you’re doing the brunt of the work if you’re the small guy. This will make it easy for bigger brands with larger following to want to help you out.

 

Why do you think Freshly Picked has been so successful?

Timing, not being afraid to go for things, putting myself out there for the brand and not being afraid of failing are reasons why it has been so successful. I have failed so many times. I had made really expensive, costly, and stupid mistakes, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there for the brand and be able to go with whatever happens. It’s so important to just say yes. It ends up being so much better if you don’t try to control it. A lot of times, you think you’re going to move the needle, but it just doesn’t work out. It’s those things that you just do and don’t think about that actually make an impact. You never know what will really get the buzz and move the needle; these things are not replicable.

 

A lot of times, you think you’re going to move the needle, but it just doesn’t work out. It’s those things that you just do and don’t think about that actually make an impact. You never know what will really get the buzz and move the needle; these things are not replicable.

 

How many people do you have working for you now and do you still interview each one?

We have fourteen people working for us right now, and I am still interviewing everyone. I’m like a data miner. I’m the final interview. I like to play this game called Promadon. Sit around and tell me your life in two minutes or less. It’s about your life after your senior prom until now; then, tell me each job you’ve had from high school until now. What would your boss would say about you? You can spot red flags. I’ll dig into stuff, and you really start to see tell tale facts. I don’t seek out moms specifically, but I do have moms that work here. We have two moms that have transitioned. One of them is working part time, and the other one, we are going to wait and see. For me, as a boss, it’s important to me to let them know that they should not feel the pressure of having to hurry back to work. You want to see how you feel. We have a very flexible work environment. I think moms just work harder. Their priorities shift in a way you can’t image. The most beautiful thing to see is when a woman becomes a mother. It’s a gift. I love to have them as a part of our team. Everyone works hard; their priority shift allows them to get things done faster and that alone makes them a great asset to our team.

 

Susan Peterson Freshly Picked

 

How do you be a good boss and a good leader?

To be a good boss and a good leader is lonely. At the end of the day, I’ve learned that I can’t be friends with my employees. I respect and admire each and every one of them. I want them to have happy, long lives, but you have to have that there has to be a boundary in order to be a successful boss. I’ve also had the moment where you realize that you intimidate them. Before Freshly Picked, I never had that problem. Trying to ease that fear without crossing that line into a friendship is a tricky balance.

 

What is the best part of being an entrepreneur for you?

In my heart of hearts, this is what I was born to do. This is what I was meant to be doing. Yeah, there are frustrating times and there are hard times. The good times outweigh all the bad times. I love what I do so much, and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. Even the challenging times have taught me so much. I regret nothing.

 

Susan Peterson at the Frehly Picked office

 

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

My friend, Noelle, who sits on my board right now, helped me when we were getting our first huge orders. We just had so much more than we thought. We had about three months worth of work in front of us. I called her when I was crying and really sad, and she listened to me until I finished. Afterwards, she said, “Boo hoo, Susan, it’s so hard to be successful. You’re going to wake up and put your big girl panties on and get shit done.”

 

How hard is it to get a good board together, how important is that?

I have five board members. I picked them up one by one. Noelle is so integral into what I am doing; her life mimics mine, so bringing her on was such an easy decision. What I do is to try and find people that are where I want to go or have done what I want to do. I find the people I want and recruit them. The big things for my business are the same things that resides in any business, so I look for people who can advise in finance, development, and retail. We have really good board members.

 

You mention supporting women in building their dreams is a big mission of yours, and we feel the same way at heymama. What is the role of community in your life?

I have three sisters that I’m really close to. I have a couple of really good girlfriends that are super smart. I know three entrepreneurs that are at the same business growth stage that I’m at. We have a breakfast club and discuss the pain points that we’re each facing and try to help walk each other through them. From each breakfast club meeting, we’ve produced tons of good ideas. It’s such a nice thing to have all of these people to walk through it with you.

 

You can learn more about Susan on her heymama profile here, Instagram, and the Freshly Picked website.

Photography by the Emmy Lowe Photo team.