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Mama of Five Marie Tillman Turned Grief Into a $15 Million Foundation and Simultaneously Started a Business

February 7, 2017
Marie Tillman

To say that Marie Tillman, founder of Mac & Mia, a curated children’s clothing service, and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, a nonprofit that provides academic scholarships for veterans and their spouses, is a force, is an understatement. After the loss of her husband in Afghanistan, Marie started her foundation which has invested more than $15 million in educational support to individuals committed to a life of service both in and out of uniform. Then, inspired by her own experience as a working mother of five (yes, five!), Marie launched Mac & Mia, a clothing service that curates stylish looks for kids age newborn to six years old.

Marie Tillman

“I spent hours, weeks, months thinking about the concept and one day my husband said, “Just do it or someone else will and you’ll kick yourself.” And so I did!”

Marie, you are a true inspiration. How has your background led you to starting your children’s clothing service, Mac & Mia?

Mac & Mia is a result of my own experience as a working mom. We have five kids, so things can get a little crazy! When my now five year old was born, I started looking for ways to simplify my life and outsource little things so I could spend more quality time with the kids. Trips to the mall, or spending hours online shopping was something I knew I could live without, and I quickly realized other mothers feel the same way. At Mac & Mia, we take care of the shopping so parents can get a little more time back in their lives.

What was the first thing you did to get your business started?

I spent hours, weeks, months thinking about the concept and one day my husband said, “Just do it or someone else will and you’ll kick yourself.” And so I did! I pulled together a little money for inventory and a website. I moved the cars out into the driveway and set up the garage to pack and ship boxes from my house. It all sort of snowballed from there.

How did you take your business from a start up to today? Can you tell us 3 things that were integral to scaling your business?

Growing can be really exciting but also super challenging. Some of the key things that helped us scale are:

1. Hiring a great team- you can’t do it all by yourself!

2. Learning to let go and trust other people- as a business grows it’s impossible to manage every little detail. Find great people and trust them to execute on your vision.

3. Focus- It’s easy to get distracted but keeping an eye on the core of your business helps focus resources.

Marie Tillman

“Learn to let go and trust other people- as a business grows it’s impossible to manage every little detail. Find great people and trust them to execute on your vision.”

What does being a good boss mean to you?

I’ve been fortunate to know some great leaders and constantly look to them for inspiration and guidance. I think being a good boss means listening first, it’s important to understand where people are coming from so you can meet them where they are.

There are several subscription services for children’s clothing but few have items as high-quality as those brands you include. How do you differentiate yourself from the other companies out there?

Quality means a lot to us. I hate when I buy something for my kids and it falls apart or fades after one wash. Our team works hard to find pieces from both established and emerging brands to offer our customers unique items they’ll love. For us it’s all about delivering discovery and delight!

We love your Instagram! How have you seen social media impact your business? Any successful marketing strategies you can share?

We’re in a digital world and people love to share; social media has been big for us. It’s an outlet that works well with our business and provides a unique, genuine way of interacting, not only with our customers, but influencers, bloggers and vendors, too. Kids naturally bring so much joy and playfulness and that’s what we want to convey.

As for strategies, be authentic and build meaningful connections with your customer and community. It’s important to use these channels to engage and build a loyal customer – not just advertise to them.

You have turned the tragedy of losing your husband in Afghanistan into triumph for others when the Foundation you created has invested more than $15 million in educational support to date. What has been the most rewarding moment through this difficult experience?

There have been so many positive things that have come from my experience with the Foundation but meeting the scholars we support and hearing about how we’ve changed their lives is one of the most rewarding things.

Marie Tillman

On April 22th, you have organized Pat’s Run. What is it and how can people get involved?

Pat’s Run is a 4.2 mile run/walk held each April to celebrate Pat’s legacy of leadership and service. On April 22, 2017, over 30,000 participants, volunteers and spectators will unite in Tempe, Arizona and at Tillman Honor Runs nationwide to honor Pat and raise scholarship funds for the Pat Tillman Foundation’s Tillman Scholars program. Proceeds from the race directly support scholarships for Tillman Scholars who embody Pat’s commitment to service, learning and action. People interested in participating, but unable to make it to Tempe may sign up for one of 30 Tillman Honor Runs nationwide or register as a Remote Runner in their local community at www.patsrun.com

Your memoir, The Letter was published a few years ago. What was that experience like and what advice would you give to people wanting to share their own stories?

I started journaling when Pat was deployed and continued to write after his death. It was a form of therapy for me and so helpful as I sorted through some really complicated times. I never thought those ramblings would end up in a book but as time went on and I met more people working through loss, I realized my experience could be helpful to others. There is something so comforting in knowing you are not alone in your experience. I always encourage people to share their stories; it helps us all realize we are more similar than we are different.

What kept you going during those early dark days? What words of support and encouragement can you offer to women facing this hard situation of losing a husband?

My first husband had an amazing spirit, and really lived life to the fullest. I knew the best way to honor him was to keep living, as difficult as that was in the early days, I kept coming back to that notion time and time again. Losing a spouse was one of the most difficult things I’ve faced and such a personal journey, but some of the best advice I got along the way was to do what works for you. There’s no right way to mourn or live.

Marie Tillman

“Losing a spouse was one of the most difficult things I’ve faced and such a personal journey, but some of the best advice I got along the way was to do what works for you. There’s no right way to mourn or live.”

You are the mama to four boys and one little girl. What are the secrets to your sanity? Do you have any non-negotiables that keep you centered?

I think the secret is to be flexible and have a good team. No day is ever the same and with kids ranging in ages from 15 years to 3 years, things rarely go as planned – so flexibility is key!

When I’m home with the kids, I try to focus just on them and not check email or take work calls. They are my number one priority always, and I want them to feel that.

Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

Sunday afternoon is my time for planning and organizing. Spending an hour or so before the week starts saves me a ton of time in the long run. Also I love Amazon, Instacart and Bake 425 pizza!

Your home is stunning! Do we spy a disco-ball back splash? Where do you get your design ideas? Any go-to resources we should know about?

I love home design and spend probably way too many hours at night searching Pinterest for ideas. My friend Julia Buckingham is an amazingly talented designer and has helped turn all those Pinterest boards into a reality.

What are your 3 pearls of motherhood wisdom?

1. Savor the good and don’t worry too much about the bad. One thing is certain, everything changes.

2. People offer so much advice and input from the second you get pregnant, but do what works for you and your family.

3. A dance party puts everyone in a good mood.

Marie Tillman

“Savor the good and don’t worry too much about the bad. One thing is certain, everything changes.”

Give Back

Why I March

February 2, 2017
Womens march

By Jacq Tatelman

As a chubby cheeked little person in high school, I was the queen of volunteering – mostly because I’ve always been an overly empathetic person, but also to avoid doing my homework. Sorry Dad! I would drive around with my best friend delivering bagels to the homeless at dusk, build houses with Habitat for Humanity for our senior project, throw parties for developmentally disabled adults, make up little songs and dances for the commuters at the train station to gather donations for people in need. I’ve always had an acute awareness to the struggles of others, but nothing feels as powerful as when you take an idea, make it a reality, and watch it grow into a movement that changes lives right in front of your very own eyes.

Womens march

My husband and I started Camp Power in 2009 – a one week overnight camp for hundreds of kids growing up in Brooklyn’s toughest, most overlooked neighborhoods. It was there that the Girls Side created EDGE. A 20 minute pow-wow, on the edge of camp where the lake meets the golf course, where sounds of birds, morning dew on the soles of summer shoes, and swaying of leaves is the only sound you can hear. It was in this circle of women + young girls that my whole perspective on working with kids, raising my own, and being a woman changed. It was these conversations and shared stories that lead me to Washington, DC for the Million Women March.

I can close my eyes and explicitly remember this past summer, a young women shared a story about feeling discriminated against because she was black, less than because she was a woman, and worthless because her life at home with one parent was so turbulent she felt totally unlovable. I remember looking down at her different skin color as it hugged mine, I was squeezing her as tight as I could and thinking “I will fight for you, I will do whatever I can to fight for you.”

 Womens march

I thought of this girl at the exact moment I boarded the bus at 5am from Brooklyn to DC. There was an inherent feeling of greatness to this day – the Brooklyn street corners were packed with people boarding buses, many wearing all shades of the bright pink hat that will certainly live in infamy to represent this historical day, and the coffee cart man offered several different flavors of creamers for free. The bus ride was smelly but unforgettable. I was so fired up (slightly nervous due to the protests that followed the inauguration), but knew in my heart this is exactly where I was supposed to be. Standing with my sisterhood of woman and not just FOR women – young like my daughter and elder like my Grandma – but the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, immigrants, and other marginalized populations of people in my life whose voices are being drowned out. This day wasn’t for me…this day was for them. 

When we got off the bus in DC I looked at my crew of five and it was clear that this was so much bigger than any of us had imagined. We were in this for a togetherness that far superseded any explicable emotion. We stuck together and walked our 2.5 miles to the center of it all. Around us the buildings that have always stood for the tenants of this America we loved, we felt like those buildings and what they stood for were under attack and we the marchers were there to protect the sacred stories they were built upon. 

Womens march

We gathered with the 500k other marchers and… waited, chanting, laughing, crying, reading all the signs, chatting with a woman who spent weeks knitting a giant uterus and after a few hours it felt like things were in a stand still. The message was “there are too many people! they’re not letting us through! turn around and go another way!” Despite the fact that everyone was gracious to each other, we were feeling claustrophobic being squeezed between people, every way we turned, people, people, we clustered up and thought maybe we should just get through this and walk back to the bus meeting spot. We were here, right? Then out of the corner of my eye I see a sign “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL” and beneath it, a gorgeous black woman, whose face felt so familiar, it hit me. Keep going. My sweet camper’s face peered back at me and we did. The five of us worked through the crowd and marched alongside the fiercely brave men, women and children. When the men were chanting “HER BODY HER CHOICE!” and the women followed with “MY BODY, MY CHOICE” in unison… I cried. Are these issues really in jeopardy? Everything felt surreal, but being amongst the thousands restores your faith – we will rise up together because this, this is what democracy looks like.

 Womens march

After a long ride back to NYC we got off the bus, all five of us hugged. I’ll never forget the people I was with that day. We will always have this. I hailed a cab and the driver pulled over. He saw my arms full of pillow & blanket, backpack, rolled up sign, and immediately welcomed me into the cab. As we drove into the quiet night back to my home in Brooklyn he turned around and thanked me. And again, I cried. 

When I got home I let the hot shower soak into my entire body, and I felt the water hitting my limbs and toes. The days events had taken such a toll on my emotions and changed me in way that was so profound I was shocked.  I was not going to let this be my America. Not the place I was born, not where I am raising my two children, not where I run a business that celebrates diversity in a way that is so tangible I have literally embraced it in my arms thousands of times. I refuse for this to be my reality and today was the first day of the fight.

So to all the girls from EDGE, and those on the edge right now, I promise to to keep fighting for you, and to proudly do so… like a girl!

Jacq Tatelman is the Co-founder of STATE Bags. Founded in 2013, STATE Bags is a one for one fashion company that was created to empower American children in need.

Business, Give Back

Don’t Have Time to Shop? No Problem. Just Say No Gifts, Please!

December 20, 2016
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We’ve given you our Gift Guides here, here, here and here, but what if you would rather give a gift to someone in need this holiday season? No worries! heymama member, Hitha Palepu has got you covered. Hitha is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Bridge2Act, a writer and advocate for girls seeking an education and becoming leaders. Inspired by the overwhelming response to her “no gifts please” request at her son’s first birthday, she launched No.Gifts, a website dedicated to helping people #gogiftless and create custom donation pages for causes they are passionate about. This, we have time for.

Hitha, can you tell us more about your No.Gifts website and #gogiftless campaign?

NO.GIFTS is an offshoot of Bridge2Act, a company that I co-founded in 2014 to enable people to take action the moment they feel compelled. We developed a best-in-class donation platform, where you can make a donation in as little as 5 seconds and 100% of the donation is transferred to the charity in real-time.

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People give when they’re directly asked. There is also a movement towards having less stuff and leaving more of an impact. Through NO.GIFTS, we can build you a custom donation page to share with your loved ones on your birthday, your child’s birthday, or a wedding. We also launched a “gift impact” feature this holiday season, which allows you to gift a donation to a loved one. You can send them a beautiful digital card or print one out and give to them in person, informing them of the impact made in their name.

What inspired you to create this site?

My son’s first birthday was actually the inspiration! Our loved ones kept asking what they could get him as a gift, and we kept replying “no gifts!” Eventually I created a Bridge2Act donation link and shared it with our family and friends. We raised over $2000 from that link for 3 amazing children’s charities – and the rest is history!

How do you identify the charities that you work with?

Right now, we use the Bridge2Act platform (the parent company) to host the donation pages and process donations. We thoroughly vet every charity that applies and approve organizations that meet one of the following criteria:

  • Has a 3+ rating on Charity Navigator

  • Meets all 20 Give.org standards

  • Has been accredited by GiveWell

  • Has been accredited by a 3rd party nonprofit vetting organization (Global Citizen, Show Of Force, Gucci’s Chime For Change, or Guidestar)


What is currently your favorite charity?

At this moment, it’s the Karam Foundation. They’ve been providing aid to Syrians (mainly children) through in-country and refugee camp programs since 2007. Given the heartbreaking tragedy in Aleppo, I’ve been donating to Karam this month – for myself and for gifting impact to my loved ones.

Congratulations on creating such a meaningful company! If you had one wish this holiday season, what would it be?

As cheesy as it sounds, I wish for peace – around the world, certainly, but also here at home. And peace inside my own brain would be nice.

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Fashion, Give Back, Living

12 Gifts Under $55 For Your Bestie That Give Back To Great Causes

December 7, 2016
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Tis the season for giving and giving back. Whether we donate our time or our money to a charity, it is ALWAYS a great help to those in need. A not as well-known way of giving back is buying products that donate or stand for a cause. Here are 12 great gifts that are both amazing AND give back to great causes, all under $55, so you can feel extra giving this holiday season.

1. For the writer:

gifts that give back

Moleskin (RED) Classic Notebook*, $19.99

For any friend that loves to write, or is overflowing with feelings, there is no better journal than a Moleskin. Trust me, I have like 50.

*A portion of the suggested retail price goes directly to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.

2. For your friend who totes:

gifts that give back

FEED 100 Shopper*, $35.00

Out of all the gifts your friend will get, she’ll probably use this one the most.

*Provides 100 Vitamin A supplements to children in need.

3. For the skincare fanatic: 

gifts that give back

Keihl’s Collection for a Cause*, $45.00

Perfect for anyone who takes care of their skin or your gym buddy who always forgets her products at home.

*100% of net profits from the sale of “Collection For A Cause” benefits Feeding America®

4. The candle lover:

gifts that give back

Bright Endreavors Whitebark Pine*, $12.99

Give the gift of a soothing smell during a much-deserved bubble bath.

*Bright endeavors provides paid job training program, guidance and job skills young moms need to secure quality employment and begin on a path towards professional success.

5. The lounger who likes to wear her PJs as pants:

gifts that give back

Punjammies Lounge Pants*, $54.00

These PJs are permitted as loungewear & streetwear.

*Made proudly in India by women working to remain free from sex slavery.

6. For the feminist:

gifts that give back

Otherwild The Future Is Female T-Shirt*, $30

And if you don’t believe it, get outta here.

*25% of t-shirt sale proceeds donated to Planned Parenthood.

7. For the coffee addict:

gifts that give back

Gobena Coffee Sumatra Whole Bean*, $14.99

You can NEVER have enough coffee.

*100% of profit goes to orphan care

8. For your wonder-lusting friend:

gifts that give back

Soko Adventure Bracelet*, $40.00

A reminder to your bestie that there’s always time for an adventure.

*Benefits The Adventure Project’s hunger program supporting rural farmers in Kenya with irrigation pumps and training.

9. For your naughty friend:gifts that give back

Bare-Soaps Lump Of Coal*, $7.49

She deserves some char(coal) under the Christmas tree this year. With great benefits for their skin, of course.

*20% of the proceeds are reinvested in economic development

10. For that one friend that doesn’t drink enough water:

gifts that give back

Swell Shop White Marble*, $35.00

This bottle keeps water cold, coffee hot, and wine at room temperature. Perfect for any occasion, that’s for sure.

*S’well has teamed up with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help provide clean drinking water to children around the world.

11. For the accessorizer:

gifts that give back

Penh Lenh Black Choker*, $49.00

For any chocker lover. Pairs perfectly with an off the shoulder top.

*100% of the sales goes towards their mission is to empower marginalized and at-risk young women in Cambodia to pursue their life goals through quality education, vocational training, and advanced career opportunities. 

12. For your friend that loses everything inside her purse:

gifts that give back

Bordahan Bicycle Zipper Bag*, $25.00

She won’t spend the next 5 minutes scavenging her bag for her metro card, making you both miss the train. Bless.

*They practice Fair Trade labor practices to bring income and empowerment to native women in the Philippines.

Give Back

I Ate Like a Syrian Refugee For 3 Days And This Is What Happened

November 10, 2016
Circle of health international

When it comes to charity, I jump at any chance I get to be involved. I used to look at my privilege of being an american citizen with above average means as something I was unworthy of. There are so many people suffering in this world, so how did I end up in a position that people only dream of having, without even trying? What I’ve come to realize is that I should not take my privilege for granted, but I should strategically use it to bring awareness to the many causes I support.

Circle of Health International has created a challenge where participants help raise awareness on malnutrition and it’s effect on women and their offspring, by posting their experiences on eating like Amira, Tamara, Reeta, Anita or Farida for three days. I joined Amira’s team and ate like a Syrian refugee and this is what happened…

Monday.

Food Allowance (typical Syrian diet):

  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • 1 1/2 tabbouleh
  • 1/2 cup of baba ghanouj
  • 2 pieces of pita bread
  • 7 dates
  • 3 figs
  • 5 falafel balls

Skipping my morning routine of boxing and my post workout protein smoothie, I headed to heymama HQ at 10am, non caffeinated and a little sleepy. By 12pm I was starving and walked to the Whole Foods next door. Going into this challenge, I did not realize the difficulties or time constraints of making everything from scratch in my kitchen. How on earth do you make falafel balls?? Being at a grocery store, I decided to pick up everything I could for the day. Their buffet had a tabbouleh variation with corn, red pepper hummus, baba ghanouj, strange looking falafel patties, and pita bread. I’m assuming figs are out of season, because they were nowhere to be found, but I did grab a box of dates. Paying a total of $25 for my meal, extreme guilt washed over me. These women live on less than $2 dollars a day, and I had to pay 10x that. Plus, I was drinking bottled water, a privilege these women do not possess.

I divided my food for my lunch and dinner, as my stomach was grumbling and I would have eaten it all in one sitting if it was in front of me. As I was eating my overpriced meal, all I could think about was how terrible it tasted. Again, guilt washes over me.

Circle of health international

“Paying a total of $25 for my meal, extreme guilt washed over me. These women live on less than $2 dollars a day, and I had to pay over 10x that.”

I always continue to work at night, as social media never sleeps. I’m usually one to stay up until 2am, but I was falling asleep at 8 and had to force myself awake until 11. Still early. I don’t expect this to be from my food intake today, as it was a decent amount, but more so Daylight Savings and the in change my routine, and probably not being able to consume caffeine. Yup, that’s definitely it.

Circle of health international

Tuesday.

Food Allowance (typical Syrian diet limited):

  • 1/2 cup of hummus
  • 2 pieces of pita bread
  • 4 dates
  • 1 fig
  • 2 falafel balls

With no acceptable food in my apartment except for dates, I popped one in my mouth and went to my boxing class. Already in the warmup, I started to feel weak. Even though I was able to push myself through the class, I knew that my performance was subpar and I couldn’t remember most of the combinations. My head also pounded throughout the day. I assume dehydration and lack of protein for this one.

I went home, showered, and popped the last date into my mouth. I picked up my meal for the day at Taim, the mediterranean place around the corner. A third of the price & double the flavor as the previous day, but also half of the food. Today, I should add, is Election Day. A day everyone was excited about, everyone on my social media posting about Hillary Clinton and how #thefutureisfemale.

Circle of health international

I went to an Election Party to watch the the results. Starving from the small meal I had, I was practically salivating over the smell of balsamic brussels sprouts. As the votes rolled in and the race was neck to neck, my nerves got the best of me and I had two glasses of wine. Funny how when I entered the challenge, they told me to be selective of the days I would participate in i.e. Election Day, never would I think that wine would be the one to break my challenge. I’m admitting this because I truly believe that none of you will judge me for it.

Wednesday.

Food Allowance (Circle Of Health International/Greek provided meal):

  • 1 protein bar (calories ~300)
  • 1 piece of pita bread
  • 2 apples
  • 1 turkey sandwich (french style 6″ baguette with 3 slices of turkey, 2 pieces of cheese, lettuce, 2 slices of tomato, mayonnaise)

I woke up with a jolt. I fell asleep before the announcement and I needed to know what happened, even though the pit in my stomach was already giving me a hunch. I paced around my apartment, literally walking in circles in total disbelief. Two hours went by and I remembered I hadn’t fed my cat. A long call to my mom had also happened. I took a deep breath and left to go to pilates. All I could think was, why do I not have boxing so I can take my negative energy out on a punching bag?

I was actually thrilled on the fact that I could have a protein bar after the gym. It was the most normal thing I’ve eaten in days and probably the only reason I could stomach food. I was so hungry that I didn’t even have time to take a picture of it before eating.

Circle of health international

On the way to work I went to a deli to pick up a turkey sandwich. When I gave the butcher my specific order, he asked why, so I told him what I was doing. I couldn’t decide if it was a mockery or some light-hearted jokes, I think it was a little bit of both. Comments like “So you’re eating like a refugee with Beats headphones around your neck” and “this is good bread, do you want me to get you some old bread from the street instead?”. Again, the guilt.

Circle of health international

“And then I come back to why I’m doing this; not to feel like I am actually in Amira’s shoes, a situation I most likely will never be in, but to perhaps come to terms with this fact and help in a way that will actually make a difference.”

I could have more food this day than the previous two, yet I couldn’t manage to eat that much. The protein bar and the sandwich, which I felt extremely guilty on how delicious it was, were the only things I consumed. Also, having this food unconsumed added to the shame. I felt that I was taking it for granted, that maybe it would not be there in the morning if I didn’t eat it now. This grey day, the rain, the gloominess, it was all very reflective of my emotional state, that’s for sure.

By the end of today, I was in a place where I was confused at what I was doing and what I was doing it for. There was no way I could ever truly be in Amira’s shoes, never fully understand her life. I can eat as little as I want, but I will still have the privileged life I lead. Even if I was volunteering in Syria, living like her, living next to her, I would always be able to leave, I would always be able to come back to my reality which, even with the turnout of the election, is highly more optimistic than the state of Syria or any of the communities that the Circle Of Health International helps. And then I come back to why I’m doing this; not to feel like I am actually in Amira’s shoes, a situation I most likely will never be in, but to perhaps come to terms with this fact and help in a way that will actually make a difference: donating money. $60 will be able to feed a mother for a month. ONE MONTH. I probably spent $60 these last three days on this food. I encourage you all to take the challenge AND donate. I think the challenge is more for a personal discovery to see how you mindfully compare situations, like how you can buy groceries, how you will always have clean water to drink, how you can limit your food, but always have the option to eat more if need be, an option that these women do not have. But at the end of the day, the donation is what really helps them. You can join me on Amira’s team here (Sign up saying Heymama Co referred you). Find out more about #InHerShoesCOHI here.

Written by heymama Member, Stevi Sesin

Give Back

FEED Your Soul And Kids Worldwide

October 19, 2016
feed dinner

Last Sunday night we threw a special supper on World Hunger Day with FEED to raise meals for hungry kids around the world and raise awareness of the issue. We were overwhelmed by the smart, strong, and giving women who sat at the table with us to support this cause. As women and mothers, we each feel so much when any child is endangered and it was beautiful evening to give back and be able to make a difference for these kids.

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The much anticipated to open new Tribeca restaurant, Yves, hosted our event and the food was incredible. As we enjoyed the delicious food and lovely flowers from Peartree Flowers, we decided to go around the table and have everyone introduce themselves. Every woman was more and more interesting, and the second we got to the end, there was a giant rush of conversation.

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Guest Mignonne Gavigan treated each attendee to a stunning pair of earrings wrapped in a pretty black box at their seat. We ooohed and ahhhhed over the jewelry and the giant number of meals our evening was providing, which was written on each place setting. As everyone hugged to say goodbye, whisperings of “I never even knew I was looking for this.” and “I’ve finally found my tribe.” “These are my people”  were heard. Mamas we can’t wait to see you again either.

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If you weren’t able to make it to our dinner, you can still support FEED by donating meals here.

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.

Give Back

4 Kids At Home And 1.5 Million In Malawi, Join Melissa In Her Battle To Care For Them All

October 11, 2016
Goods for Good

Having lost her father at a young age, Melissa Kushner knows firsthand how losing a parent changes the course of a child’s life. Due in part to this experience, Melissa has committed herself to ensuring that the death of a parent does not determine a child’s fate. In 2005, her position at the United Nations took her to Malawi. Witnessing the fact that there are over 1.5 million children are orphans, she decided to make a change. Read her interview below on how Goods for Good came to be and get inspired to make a difference. Meet Melissa and find out more of what she does at the Meet Me in Malawi event on October 23rd in Brooklyn. Buy tickets here

Melissa, tell us your story. Why were you so drawn to helping orphaned children in other countries? Where you personally inspired by your own experience?

The course of my life changed when my father passed away three weeks before I was born. This experience gave me an innate desire to connect and work with other children who’ve lost their parents. This desire led me to Africa where, due to the AIDS crisis, there are so many children in need.

I ended up in Malawi because, early on in my career, I was lucky enough to meet my mentor, who ran the UNICEF office in Malawi. She opened up my eyes to the great need and possibilities in Malawi. In a country of 16 million people, there are more than 1.5 million children who have lost one or more parents. Combined with extreme poverty, this makes Malawi a natural place to get involved and help some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

You have four kids of your own, which is demanding in it’s own right. How are you able to keep growing and building Goods For Good and be a present parent to your kids? What is the juggle like for you knowing that you do such important work impacting the lives of so many children?

I went to speak about my work at a middle school last week and one of the students asked me if my job is hard. I took a deep breath and gently said sometimes, but what I really wanted to say is YES, YES it’s so hard! Some days everything seems possible and other days I am thankful if I can scrape by.

There are three things that are central to making it all work. The first is my support system. I am so grateful to have an equal partner in my husband and a loving, patient and highly competent nanny for my children. The second is compartmentalizing. Sometimes I feel like I could go crazy with so much to do at work and home. The only way that I can make things work is to be present wherever I am. When I am at work, I am at work and when I am home, I am at home.

Goods For GoodWell I just asked my daughter to tell me in her own words and she said, “You raise money for orphans and other poor people in Malawi so that they can get food and clothes and other stuff they need like toys.” Just in case you didn’t know, five years olds think that toys are a basic necessity.

What do your kids say if you pose the question, “What does mommy do?”

Well I just asked my daughter to tell me in her own words and she said, “You raise money for orphans and other poor people in Malawi so that they can get food and clothes and other stuff they need like toys.” Just in case you didn’t know, five years olds think that toys are a basic necessity.

Talking to kids about the difficult realities that many children are forced to grow up in is a challenging thing. How can we educate our kids and show them the importance of giving in a way that’s positive?

In order to provide a full picture of life in Malawi, for example, I recommend focusing on the houses and villages people live in, the food they eat, music, culture, sports, basically anything your child can relate to and draw some parallels. Providing a full picture of a child’s life, pointing out what children here can relate to as well as what they can’t directly relate to but can understand sets the child up to talk about the situation from an informed and empowered position. Don’t just focus on poverty, that would make anyone feel sad. Similarly, don’t make your child feel bad for how much they have and how little others have. Guilt is not a productive emotion for anyone, let alone your child. The hope is that by planting these seeds your child will begin to feel empathy and even be motivated to take action.

Are there any particular things you’ve done with your own children to teach them?

I believe that teaching and learning is comprised of many moments some elaborate and planned while others more simple and organic. In my opinion, it is the combination of the two that really brings deep understanding.

At the dinner table, we talk about what we appreciate. We practice sharing our possessions with each other, even sometimes when we don’t want to. After we share, we talk about how that made us feel. Taking it one step further, you can teach your children about how other people live by cooking and baking the foods of that culture, listening to local music, reading relevant books and even playing dress up in the clothes of that region.

Then, there are the bigger more planned and intentional actions we take. Lemonade stands, donating birthdays and sharing our home with Malawian visitors. This year, for our family vacation, we opened our home to our closest Malawian friends and their two children. Our friends had never been out of Malawi and my children have never had the chance to live with and play with children their age from another country. Needless to say it was stressful and messy, six kids in all, but it was magic!

Goods for Good

The majority of these children live in their villages and are cared for by their siblings, extended family or friends. You often see older siblings taking are of their younger siblings. It is not uncommon to see a 12 year old acting as mother and father to four or five younger siblings.

Tell us about the event you have coming up in October and how that will function as an opportunity to expose our kids. What kind of things will be happening at the event?

A few years ago, we realized there was a real need to get families involved in the Goods for Good’s mission. We wanted to share what we do, to teach our families how children live across the world, and to empower kids of all ages to make a difference. From this—Kids for Good was born!

We take great pride in Kids for Good, and it’s largely because this event naturally captures children’s behaviors and uses them as a way to teach them more about Malawi and what we do. By harnessing kids’ energy in familiar activities and then giving them a twist, we’re able to get kids excited about learning, exploring the world, and making a difference. Yes, they may be decorating their own drums here in New York, but we’re also showing them children in Malawi who are doing the same thing—children that they are helping just by being at our event. By facilitating this connection, we’re able to show kids how their world relates to others, and how they can help right here in New York.

How does Goods For Good actually work? How do you collaborate with these communities to care for orphaned children?

There are 1.5 million orphans in Malawi. This represents about 10% of the entire population. The majority of these children live in their villages and are cared for by their siblings, extended family or friends. You often see older siblings taking are of their younger siblings. It is not uncommon to see a 12 year old acting as mother and father to four or five younger siblings.

There are community organizations that provide services such as nursery school, feeding programs, medical care, counseling and extra curricular activities. The challenge with this is that 90% of Malawians survive by farming, which means it is essentially the poor taking care of the poorer and that is where Goods for Good comes in. We partner with communities to start businesses such as chicken farms, tailoring co-ops and honey bee hives. These businesses generate profits to support the orphans today, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy of the community and the country for their future.

Our work means that there are more children going to school, eating healthy food and being cared for today, while older members of the communities are being employed and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue and product that flow through the economy of the community.

Goods for Good

I do this work for the children. I believe that every single child in our world, regardless of where they are born and to whom they are born, deserve an equal opportunity to achieve their potential. When I see a child who rises above adversity and follows their dream, I am satisfied.

Can you give us a working example for a community business you have set up and how that’s been successful? What are the types of businesses you set up?

We run chicken, egg, honey and tailoring businesses at Goods for Good. Each differ slightly in their outcomes, but each have the same basic goal of producing profits today to support orphans and of building the economy of the community and of the country for the future.

One of our most successful businesses is our egg production business. We have produced over 1,000,000 eggs in Malawi, across four sites in the last two years. One site that is particularly successful is Ufulu Community Center. This grass roots orphan care organization provides support to over 6,000 children.

We opened up our layer business with them two years ago. They have 1,600 egg laying birds and have produced over 397,640 eggs in their community.  In addition to providing an affordable and local source of protein to the community, this business has been able to reinvest thousands of dollars in profits directly back into orphans, putting children back into school, providing nutritious meals and medical care.

What will happen if say, for some reason, you are not able to get back into the country to support the businesses? Will they be able to sustain themselves without any outside help?

Businesses take time to grow and stand entirely on their own two feet, and this is particularly true in a country that is extremely poor and vulnerable to shock. That being said, our businesses are designed and built to be sustainable and it is our aspiration that they would be able to withstand the test of time.

\Goods for Good

We take great pride in Kids for Good, and it’s largely because this event naturally captures children’s behaviors and uses them as a way to teach them more about Malawi and what we do. By harnessing kids’ energy in familiar activities and then giving them a twist, we’re able to get kids excited about learning, exploring the world, and making a difference.

Tell us in your own words what makes Goods For Good different than a Toms or someone who is employing artisans in a Fair Trade work arrangement? Why do you see your model as having such a great potential for impact?

Our businesses are built by the people for the people. We build businesses that are local to the country and can be sustained within the country and economy. Our products are created by community members and are bought and sold to the community and its surrounding areas.

We work to develop the economy of the area we work in. To change the lives of children today and to build opportunities for them and their families in the future. Our model can be replicated to help orphans and vulnerable children and to build economies across the world.

How do you educate these people about simple business practice and how to run a business? Do you have training courses or a “school” set up?

So much of what we do is education. The majority of the people we work with are only semi-literate and have only completed school through the 8th grade. We teach technical skills such as poultry care, financial management and marketing. We also work with our communities to strengthen the care they provide to orphans.

Goods for Good is also committed to having a 100% Malawian program team, so each member of our local team can easily communicate with and work with or local partners. Our local team spends about 50% of their week in the field with program partners. Our belief is that in addition to the direct impact of our programs, we are engaging and training future entrepreneurs.

Goods for Good

We partner with communities to start businesses such as chicken farms, tailoring co-ops and honey bee hives. These businesses generate profits to support the orphans today, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy of the community and the country for their future.

Can you tell us a story that really comes to mind when you think about why you do this work? Any big successes?

I do this work for the children. I believe that every single child in our world, regardless of where they are born and to whom they are born, deserve an equal opportunity to achieve their potential. When I see a child who rises above adversity and follows their dream, I am satisfied.

Having worked in Malawi for the last ten years, I have been lucky to watch children grow and achieve their goals over time. One young girl I have known since she was 16, and is now 26, just graduated university and received a prestigious scholarship to study agriculture in Israel for six months.  I remember when she was 16, struggling to speak and understand English, now she is reaching new heights in her career.

What are you looking to achieve this year?

We are in the process of finalizing our strategic plan for the next three to five years. As part of this process we are working to push our vision of impact to new heights while also balancing sustainability and quality. It is my dream that all children can remain in their home village and be supported and loved by their families and friends. That they be educated, well fed and have their basic needs met so that they can focus on achieving their dreams and lifting themselves, their family and their country out of poverty.

Goods for Good

You can find out more about Good for Goods and how you can help here.  

Photos by Stevi Sesin

#STARTUPSTORIES, Brand Spotlight, Give Back

Allison Klein, On A Mission To Provide Every Child With The Opportunity To Play

August 15, 2016
Allison Klein, founder of Rose + Rex

Rose + Rex was created on the basis that creative play is key to child development. Allison Klein, teacher and founder of the toy company, not only wants to work towards the goal of creating awareness about the importance of imaginative play on development, she also wants to work to ensure that every child, regardless of circumstance, has the opportunity to play. 

Where did the name Rose & Rex come from?

Rose and Rex were two of my first students during student teaching who showed me firsthand how imaginary play leads to profound personal development.

Tell us about Rose & Rex. What is it all about?

Rose and Rex is a teacher-curated toy boutique that promotes play-based learning. We’re here to introduce people to the importance of open-ended play and challenge the assumption that learning is only achieved at a desk filling out worksheets. For young children, imaginative play is an innate tool they use to develop their cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills. Our inspiring collection of open-ended toys,which ranges from handmade blocks to eco-friendly puppets, and play tips help to promote skill building through play. We’re excited to help more parents use imaginative play to encourage learning.

How did you go from having an idea to actually having a brand? What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

The brand evolved around the fundamental idea that learning and play are deeply connected. The right toys matter. What a child plays with matters. We turned these values into a brand by curating a collection of high-quality, carefully constructed toys that promote skill building through play and by offering content that we hope inspires parents to live a play-based life with their children. Rose & Rex isn’t a toy store that was created to sell plastic things to parents, we aim to be a brand that offers materials and resources that enhance development through play.

In the beginning, the biggest obstacle was challenging perceptions about play and hearing those initial “no’s” and negatives. People constantly said things to me like “but do you sell toys that do things, like move or talk?” I had to explain that our battery-free toys actually promote deeper skill building because they give children control over the play and encourage engagement instead of passive entertainment.

Allison Klein, founder of Rose + Rex

Where are the toys made? What materials are they made out of? Are they eco-friendly?

We sell toys that are made from child-safe, eco-friendly materials, such as sustainably harvested woods, plant-based rubbers and natural dyes and paints. Our toys are made by artists (many mamas!), designers and small businesses. As a brand, we not only want to illuminate the importance of play, we also want to raise the standard of toys children play with, from how it engages them to what it’s made of.

Talk to us about Rose and Rex’s commitment to giving back.

Our brand was built on a social mission to provide every child with the opportunity to play. For every Rose and Rex purchase, we “play it forward” to other organizations dedicated to young people and the planet. We take a three-pronged approach to giving: monetary and product donations, volunteering our time, and providing mentorship and learning opportunities.

How  do you partner with brands to make your “play it forward” initiative work?

We choose to partner with brands or organizations that are focused on improving young children’s early development in a variety of ways. This means providing resources like toys, learning opportunities, and a healthy planet in which to grow. We’re a member of One Percent for the Planet and also partner with Second Chance Toys, a NYC-based nonprofit that rescues non-biodegradable plastic toys from landfills, refurbishes them, and donates them to children in need, which helps protect the planet and promote children’s right to play.

Allison Klein, founder of Rose + Rex

How does this program help to enhance development for kids living below the poverty line?

Play is important for all children at all socioeconomic levels. Nearly 22% of all children live in families below the federal poverty line. Many of these children do not have access to toys and play materials which can seriously hinder all aspects of development, from the cognitive to the emotional to the physical. Playing with toys helps children to develop their language skills, their social awareness and their motor abilities. It has been found that children without access to toys and play materials often do not develop these skills at the same rate as their peers. In addition, for many children facing the challenges of poverty play is the most important tool they have to emotionally process. In play children explore their feelings, work through fears and develop coping skills. If children do not have the opportunity to do this, it can lead to anxiety, stress and behavioral challenges.

What role does technology play on our kids as they grow? Is there an age we should allow them to interact with technology? How can we guide them away from it?

One of the things we’re excited about is that open-ended play is more important now than ever before. As our world becomes more digitally focused, the kind of toys that children play with in their early years truly matters. The best way to avoid digital-dependence, and encourage well-rounded development, is to provide a child with open-ended toys early on and continue to encourage imaginative play through their elementary school years. Open-ended toys provide active engagement over passive entertainment—a set of building blocks vs. a tablet, for example. We’re definitely not anti-technology, as its important for children to share common knowledge with their peers, otherwise they may feel isolated.

What is the best business advice that you’ve ever received? Do you have any wise words to share that you’ve learned along the way?  

One thing I’ve learned is the importance of flexibility. When we talk about early childhood learning and essential life skills at Rose and Rex, the skill of “perseverance” comes up a lot—that is, the willingness to try multiple solutions. It’s just as important when you’re an adult! You have to be flexible when challenges or unforeseen turns occur for the business and be willing to pivot, adjust and move forward.  

What are your top picks right now for babies? Toddlers?

For babies, we simply adore each of our hand-crocheted rattles, which are perfect for introducing their first type of play—sensory play. Another favorite is our Oli and Carol land-to-water floating boat and bug car because they’re made from plant-based rubber (and make bath-time a cinch!). The toddler years are when play really starts to take off as their imagination blossoms, so all of our toys are a welcome pick! The perfect toddler toy chest would include a set of building blocks for cognitive development, a transportation toy for physical growth, a few pretend pals for emotional and social learning, eco-friendly art materials to nurture creative expression, and a set of “manipulatives” for learning math concepts and inspiring pretend play.  

toys designed by Allison Klein, founder of Rose + Rex

Go visit the Rose + Rex store to get 10% off any purchase and a FREE tote bag, using the code HeyMama

Give Back, Lifestyle, Mother's Day

Heymama Hosts A Mother’s Day Breakfast With Fridababy, Hatch & FEED

May 6, 2016
heymama. Hatch, Fridababy, Lauren Bush Lauren

We gathered our mamas at the serene Hatch showroom to celebrate Mother’s Day and the launch of Fridababy‘s new Bitty Bundle of Joy Kit with our beautiful community of strong, smart, and creative women who are shaping this world with their passion and energy. We felt so lucky to have three of our members Chelsea Hirschhorn of Fridababy, Ariane Gold of Hatch , and Lauren B Lauren of FEED co-host with us at the gorgeous Hatch showroom.

Lauren B Lauren at hey mama Mother's Day Breakfast

On top of the smiles we got from seeing our friends we laughed at the jokes of Dena Blizzard of One Funny Mother .

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Struck a pose in the photo booth by Sharing Box.

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Refreshments from Whealth & Co and Montauk Juice Factory juices were a plenty and our mamas took advantage of all the fun activities set up throughout the day…

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Got smart on all things mama and baby with celebrity pediatrician, Dr. Tiffany, who was there to answer all our burning questions.

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Gave back, every mama received a FEED bag giving 25 meals to kids in need.

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Took some time to pamper ourselves with makeup and nail stations by GLAMSQUAD.

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Mamas had the chance to win our kick-ass #YouGotThisInTheBag Raffle raffle including:

Hatch diaper bag and dress, Kiehl’s pampering mama and baby centric beauty items, Tenoverten mommy & mini gift card, Mignonne Gavigan feather earrings, Bauble Bar gift card, Tickets to Dena Blizzard’s One Funny Mother, a Maman brunch gift card and Fridababy’s FeverFrida.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to enter, you still have time. But not lots. We’ll be announcing the winner on Mother’s Day!  Just use the hashtag #YouGotThisInTheBag and tag @fridababy_hq @heymamco @hatchgal.

 

Gift Bag

#YouGotThisInTheBag goody bag: every mama took home one stuffed with their dream diaper bag essentials.

Fridababy‘s Bitty Bundle of Joy Kit; Rose + Rex hand puppets; Munchkin snack catchers, Latch bottles and Sterilizer Bags (for on-the-go); Supergoop!  sunblock, FEED pouches that give 25 meals to kids in need; Erzo Pre-Natal Vitamin Cookies;  Earth’s Best diaper wipes pack; Ella’s Kitchen organic squeeze pack for baby; Barley & Oats lactation cookies; Hello Sitter gift card; Monica and Andy swaddle; Sawyer passport pack.

HM x freidababy x Hatch x FEED-11 HM x freidababy x Hatch x FEED-7

Earth's Best

ErzoFoods

Photo credits:@stevilou.

Gift Guide, Give Back, Mother's Day

A Give Back Guide: What Mama Really Wants This Mother’s Day

May 4, 2016
Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day. It’s the one day a year when you can sleep late and then wake to breakfast in bed while getting covered in kisses from your sweet minis and lover. Or, if you’re like me, that’s what you dream will happen. This Mother’s Day, I’ve decided to actually ask for what I want, instead of assuming he knows. To help make me feel less guilty asking for what I want, I’ve found 10 amazing presents that are both good for you and your soul as they give back to the world too. So, whether you’re a mama shopping for your mama, a mama shopping for yourself, or just shopping for a loved one this Mother’s Day, these #FEELGOOD #GIVEBACK gifts are sure to get the job done, because what mama really want this year is happiness (for all).

1. WINDEN BABE NECKLACE

Cause you are truly, such a babe. Bonus: Winden casts these amazing pieces in recycled gold and silver.

2. LIVE IN SIMPLICITY T-SHIRT

A t-shirt for everything you do; perfect with jeans and heels or your next workout. Bonus: these limited edition tees are made from pure USDA organic cotton.

3. THE SETTING XOXO KEEPSAKE BOWL

Hugs, kisses and a place for your precious pieces. Bonus: handmade in NYC and  5% of every sale goes to fighting New York City hunger.

4. FREEDOM OF ANIMALS BUCKET BAG

From the playground to a formal dinner, it’ll do it all. Bonus: a luxury bag that’s also cruelty free, chemical free, and uses recycled materials. They also donate a percentage to the amazing Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

5. TERRAIN FRESH CUT BOUQUET

What mum doesn’t love flowers, let alone this beautiful bouget, which is more like a full forest, by her bedside. Bonus: blooms which support US farmers.

6. MOCIUN CURVED DIAMOND RING

Diamonds will forever say it all. Bonus: Mociun always uses sustainable business practices, including sourcing antique diamonds.

7. TENOVERTEN MANICURE/PEDICURE

The difference an hour or two alone in a salon makes on your soul is simply EVERYTHING. Bonus: vegan, cruelty free, and toxin free polish.

8. THE GREAT JANE RETREAT IN OJAI, CALIFORNIA

As women, we all deserve some time to focus on ourselves, to decompress and breathe fresh air into our souls. The Great Jane is a progressive retreat for mama entrepreneurs taking place May 20 to May 22. A place to inspire, be inspired and connect with amazing women while getting some time away from your minis and lovers. Bonus: Network with other entrepreneurial mamas to form lasting friendships or even business partnerships!

9. NAJA LINGERIE

Mom’s still deserve to look hot underneath it all. Bonus: Naja uses fabric made from recycled plastic to help eliminate waste in the ocean.

10. ARBONNE SKINCARE

Your hair may have baby food in it, your clothes wrinkled, but your skin always deserves precious care. Bonus: botanically-based, cruelty free products with recyclable packaging.

Curated gift guide above compliments of heymama member, Nicole Fasolino. To learn more about Nicole check out her Instagram handles @Nicolefasolino & @girlswhodressboys.

#LADYBOSS, Business, Give Back

9 Years and 90 Million Meals Later, Lauren Bush Lauren Is Solving One Of The World’s Biggest Problems

May 2, 2016
Visit_School_Guajiquiro (107) resized

New mama and all around #LADYBOSS, Lauren Bush Lauren currently serves as CEO and Founder of FEED Projects with a mission to create good products to help feed the world. In 2004, Lauren was an Honorary Spokesperson for the UN World Food Program, in 2009 she was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, and she is also a 2013 Advocacy Award recipient from the World of Children Award. To date her company has provided more than 90 million meals to children and families in need and she’s already hard at work for the next 10 million!

How’s that for #FEELGOOD work? We were a little nervous to meet the super inspiring mama for coffee, but her sweet and gentle disposition totally put us at ease and we were laughing and swapping baby stories in no time! James and my little River are birthday twins and we can’t wait to find out if they are going to have similar dispositions.

Read on to learn more about FEED and this gorgeous mama who epitomizes the meaning of beauty both inside and out.

Lauren Bush Lauren

How many meals has FEED funded today?

I am so proud to say that we have been able to provide over 90 million meals and counting to children and families in need, thanks to the amazing FEED community. Every time someone purchases a FEED bag, that number increases. While 90 million is awesome, I’m blown away when I think about the impact of just one meal for one child. Each one truly makes a difference.

How many members are on your team? How do you manage to create such a widely successful and extremely generous business with so little people?

We have an amazing remote customer service and operations support team, but there are about 10 of us at the FEED HQ. The women who make this giving machine turn everyday are rockstars at what they do. I’m blown away by how much we have been able to accomplish with a relatively lean team, but I am also excited by the plans we have for the growth of the team and the business this year.

Tell us more about the FEED suppers and how our mamas can get involved. What is the Feed tool kit?

The short answer is that FEED Supper is an invitation to “truly share a meal.” What that translates to are some very special gatherings for good. From September 16-October 16th (World Food Day), everyone is invited to host a FEED Supper where hosts ask guests to make a donation instead of bringing the typical bottle of wine or dessert. Hundreds of FEED Suppers take place in those 30 days—it’s really fun to watch them unfold every night on Instagram with #FEEDsupper. I couldn’t be more excited about our third fall of FEED Supper, and want everyone in the heymama community to know they are each invited to host their own Suppers. We’ll be opening host sign up later this summer on feedprojects.com. After signing up, hosts can download or purchase a FEED Supper toolkit, which comes with great dinner party pieces like placemats and banners. We’re reiterating the toolkit a bit this year, but I’m not allowed to unveil any of our marketing team’s surprises just yet.

Lauren Bush Lauren

How exactly does FEED work? Once you raise the money what are the next steps to getting the meals distributed? Can you walk us through the whole process?

To answer this question, I’m going to give a little backstory. I founded FEED nine years ago as a way to support the World Food Programme’s school feeding initiative, which provides free and nutritious lunches to children in 63 of the poorest countries. I had been fortunate enough to travel with WFP in college and see firsthand the power of the school meals they were delivering to vulnerable children. I returned from my travels hungry to find an accessible and tangible way to get my peers involved in the issue of hunger. That’s when I had the idea for the first FEED bag. To this day, WFP is still our biggest giving partner. We know that by investing in school meals, we are also investing in education, and in the futures of little ones all over the world.

Beyond WFP, we also fund initiatives through the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Feeding America here in the U.S. There’s an entire section of our website dedicated to the full story of our giving for anyone who’s curious!

You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with many people over the years, like Judith Leiber and Whole Foods Market. Can you speak to how you choose collaborations and some the benefits of collaborating with other brands/people?

It’s true we have been very fortunate to have worked with some amazing people and partners over the years. Our approach to partnerships has evolved a lot since we started out. Early on, partnerships were the vehicle we used to get the word out about FEED– being in Whole Foods really put us on the map. At this point in our business, however, awareness isn’t as much the goal delighting our customers. The FEED community loved it when we launched a tabletop collection with west elm, for example, because it provided another way for them to incorporate FEED into their everyday lives beyond the products we sell on our site.

What are your top three tips for women, or individuals in general, who are looking to start a “give-back” company of their own?

First and foremost, find a cause you really care about, and identify a way you can help and truly make a difference. Second, identify what type of business model you think would solve the problem best. (There’s a reason FEED is a social business and not a non-profit.) Once you have identified this cross-section of cause and business model, pour your heart and soul into it. Starting anything takes a lot of time and passion, but I have found that centering your startup around giving back is not only a motivation for founders, but also for employees and customers.

What has been the biggest milestone thus far? Anything that has made you feel truly accomplished?

This might sound cliché, but I am being completely honest when I say that the moment I felt most accomplished was when we hit the milestone of having given over 90 million meals this January. It took me aback when I stopped to think about what that meant to the many lives around the world who, just because of they are born, don’t have access to something as basic as food. It makes me and my team want to work even harder to reach and surpass 100 million meals.

You’ve spent years feeding other people’s children around the world, and now you have your own. The feeling of having your own child is truly indescribable, but how has it affected your feelings about your mission.

As a mom, I know how much love and care goes into feeding my baby the best nutrients possible so he can grow and develop to his fullest potential. My heart breaks for all the mothers around the world who struggle to provide something as simple as a meal for their babies. Becoming a mom has definitely put the mission of FEED into a new perspective for me. I have never been more resolute to ensure every mother has the nutrition she needs to provide for herself and her children.

In light of Mother’s Day can you share the best advice your own mother ever gave you?

To not sweat the small stuff and to have fun with your baby, because it goes by so quickly. All so true!

Biggest surprise about motherhood?

Everything has been a surprise – mostly in the best of ways – from the rapid pace in which babies develop and start showing their personalities to the amazing bond you feel immediately with your child. Motherhood is a magical experience, and one that continues to evolve and unfold in the most unexpected and beautiful ways.

Any traditions or favorite memories you had with your own mother you are hoping to share with James?

My mom would often make us cookies after school and we would catch up in the kitchen before going off to do homework or whatever else we had to do. Having some time during the day that is set aside for relaxed catching up is something I hope to share with James as well.

What are you hoping or planning to do for your first mother’s day?

Sleeping, brunching, and lots of baby snuggles.

***

The FEED Supper program allows amazing mamas and individuals around the world to “truly share a meal.” From September 16th through October 16th FEED invites people to host a FEED Supper where the hosts request that their guests make a donation instead of bringing a hosting gift (aka vino). In order to host, sign up on feedprojects.com and then download (or purchase) a FEED Supper toolkit, which comes with fun dinner party decorations for your #GIVEBACK event! Happy hosting!