You may not realize that Rachel Blumenthal was one of our very first mamas profiled on heymama. At the time, she was the Founder and CEO of Cricket’s Circle, a resource for everything baby and toddler which she started post Rachel Leigh, her best-selling jewelry line that she began when she was only 23. Savvy, smart and just plain fun, Rachel has a sixth sense for satisfying consumer needs and building successful companies from the ground up. (Apparently it runs in the family as her husband Neil Blumenthal is the co-Founder of Warby Parker). Now, with two littles by her side, Rachel has moved on as the Founder and CEO of Rockets of Awesome, a children’s apparel line that is hand-picked based on what your littles like (and don’t like!) and delivered to your doorstep. Now that is just plain… awesome. Read on…
Congratulations on the success of Rockets of Awesome! We’re big fans over here. How did your company get started?
Rockets of Awesome was born out of my own experience – when I became a mom, I was excited to shop for my son, but quickly found it to be a chore to find stylish clothes that didn’t cost a fortune. I had to either spend way too much time digging or sacrifice style or value. When I heard the same frustration from friends and the Cricket’s Circle community, I knew there was an opportunity to create a solution. Rockets of Awesome simplifies the process of shopping for kids and delivers stylish, high-quality kids clothes at an incredible value – taking an annoying task off of every parent’s to-do list.
How would you describe the company culture at Rockets of Awesome? What kind of climate do you set and how do you motivate your team?
Our passion for finding solutions extends to our team as well. We tap into everyone’s talents and passions to share with the entire team. For example, our office book exchange was born out of my New Year’s resolution to read more books, and we have weekly yoga classes in our office – taught by my assistant who’s a certified yoga instructor. We’re always on Slack sharing tips and tricks to get rid of that extra errand you have to run after work or take the guesswork out of finding a new lunch spot to break your rut.
You started in PR, moved to jewelry design, to starting Cricket’s Circle and now are running Rockets of Awesome. What were your biggest lessons that you now apply to your business that you took away from these experiences that have helped you to market Rockets of Awesome?
Be different – have a defined point of view for why you exist in the world and how you’re going to solve the problem you’ve identified – aligned with knowing and caring about your customer better than anyone.
Since social media is such a big part of all our businesses how do you juggle that with your family? Do you have any non-negotiables when it comes to you and your kids and technology and social media?
My schedule is incredibly demanding during the week so any time I spend with my kids has to be without distraction. I don’t check social media when I’m with my kids. But I am very guilty of taking photos and videos of them. My daughter in particular loves the camera – she’s pure entertainment and is always saying and doing the most outrageous things. I don’t paint a perfect picture on Instagram as that’s not who I am – I share unfiltered.
Talk to us about finding the right support both at work (hiring) and at home. What do you look for? What are the key roles people should look to fill first?
Surrounding yourself with the right people makes a vision become a successful reality. As an entrepreneur, you’re conditioned to think you’re supposed to do everything yourself. It’s often hard to know when to hire and how to navigate your own changing role. I always try to surround myself with people that are smarter and more experienced in their respective roles than I am. There’s nothing more gratifying than hiring talent who blows your mind within the first week of starting – you can usually tell pretty quickly if someone is going to thrive. I’m also always looking for team members who don’t accept the status quo, who are always questioning and pushing for the new and unexpected.
Separately, I couldn’t be successful at work without the support at home. I tribute that support to my husband, in-laws and incredible nanny (she’s been with us since my first was 2 weeks old!). My husband is also a founder/entrepreneur and being on a similar, yet different, journey with him is probably my greatest fortune. Not only do we understand each other’s lives implicitly (so we’re never giving each other a guilt trip etc.) but we also go through similar challenges – being able to look to each other for advice and guidance is incredibly valuable.
What do you do to spark new ideas in your office? Do you bring in outside consultants or is everything generated in house? What do those brainstorm sessions look like?
Our team is endlessly creative and knows the brand better than everyone so we’re frequently doing brainstorms within small teams. My favorite inspiration comes from when our team bring their kids to the office. The kids have no filter and let us know exactly what they think of the designs and always keep us on our toes — they’re our secret weapon!
How has motherhood impacted your career?
Motherhood forces you to prioritize. If you’re going to leave your kids every day then it better be rewarding. I’m obsessed with what we’re building so that part is easy for me. Beyond that it’s prioritizing my days – spending the mornings with my kids, taking them to school but then being heads down, at work, without distraction throughout the day. I tend to be pretty social at night – usually work-ish related – but I’m home at least 5 nights a week to read with my son (he’s in 1st grade and I’m his designated reading buddy) and have a mini dance party with my daughter before I go back out.
What do you think is more difficult: being a good boss or a good mom? Do you use some of the same skills?
Both are impossibly hard but there are definitely similarities. I constantly live convinced I’m going to f-up my kids so I tend to err on the side of not being a helicopter parent. Giving them space to be individuals (I usually find my daughter ripping apart my makeup drawer in the morning and then I get to watch her smear lipstick all over her face in pure joy), not sweating the small stuff (I don’t care if they put their napkins on their laps or wear the same underwear two days in a row!) – yet enjoying the small moments (whipped cream straight into the mouth, naked dance parties to Taylor Swift and picnics on my bathroom floor). Ultimately for both it’s being there, listening, providing guidance without dictating, providing feedback on the misses and celebrating the wins.
Heymama’s tagline is “The Juggle is Real.” Was there ever a time where this juggle got the best of you? What was that like?
At least once a week! As hard as I work to make it look like I’ve got it together, I’m frequently dropping a ball. I’ve sent my babysitter to pick up my son at school on days we kept him home because he was sick, my daughter missed 2 days of school this year because I messed up her days off on the calendar, I sent my son to school for picture day with toothpaste on his face and a stained shirt – the list goes on.
But truthfully, as a former Type-A freak, I kind of relish in these screw-ups. I view them as progress.
What’s your work style? Other than Rockets of Awesome (‘natch!), where do you like to shop?
Shopping is my guilty pleasure. It’s one of the ways I get inspired creatively for Rockets. I shop at Bergdorf Goodman, Zara and Net-a-Porter. If I had all the time in the world, I would get lost in The Container Store (my organizational dream locale).
If you had to give three reasons for why Rockets of Awesome is a great place for mamas to work, you’d say:
- We’re building a business that exists to make our lives easier each and every day.
- We all understand the challenges and joys of parenting – constantly celebrating and supporting each other.
- And we understand and live the need for flexible schedules.
Your offices are gorgeous. What is your best office perk?
We have an Awesome Committee that plans the best team events. My favorite is our annual Halloween scavenger hunt throughout the city – in full costume!
3 pearls of wisdom
You’ll never feel like there’s enough of yourself to give, so learn to give yourself a break.
Hire a flexible and loving nanny (or daycare center).
A special date with your kids doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. I take my kids on the subway or bus (their favorite mode of transportation). They’ll blindly decide when we are going to get off and we walk to the nearest bodega for ice cream and get back on the bus or subway to head home. There’s so much to see and ask questions about along the way, it’s pure entertainment for them (plus who doesn’t love bodega ice cream?!).