Bringing Up Baby and Business - Operating a Business Around a Newborn
By Victoria Pericon

Running a home-based business is one thing. Running a home-based business around a newborn is another. Across the country, moms are starting to work from home as a result of new additions to their family and many are producing very successful businesses.

For countless reasons, thousands of moms are deciding to work from home while raising a newborn. Whether it is due to the long hours they would spend at the office or the rising cost of daycare, home business ideas are sprouting in homes that recently welcomed a little one. Some new moms saw an opportunity to fill a need in the marketplace while being able to raise their newborn. Others didn’t think it was financially feasible for their family if they stayed at their previous job. Many disliked the lack of time they would be able to spend with their newborn.

Here are some profiles of women who were able to balance their business and family life all while raising their babies.

The Need to Succeed

While her husband was still in medical school, Suzi Prokell, founder of Prokell Publicity, a public relations firm in Aledo, Texas, started to work from home as a publicist. As the only source of household income, Prokell says, “I did not need any motivation to stay focused…I was the sole bread winner, so I had to succeed.” Initially, Prokell priced herself just under everyone else so she could grow her business. She always did what she promised and got the jobs done on time or sooner; she also did a lot of networking in chat rooms on the Internet. Prokell has been nominated for PRWeek’s “30 Under 30", a list of the 30 most influential public relations professionals under the age of 30 and has implemented public relations plans for Polaroid, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

Charlotte Fowkes, founder of Colorado-based Baby Shower Cakes, was fired for missing too much work after her daughter was hospitalized. Pregnant with her third child, Fowkes waited until her daughter came home from the hospital and then started to sell diaper cakes as alternatives to baby gift baskets because she had to find a way to earn more money. Baby Shower Cakes have been sent to Clint Black, have been seen on “Sex and the City,” and the producers at “Oprah” even came calling!

Fill an Empty Spot in the Market

Walk down the street of any metropolitan city and you will see Cozy Rosie, a product of Sew Beautiful, Inc., a company founded by Jeanette R. Benway, a stay-at-home mom in Mount Pleasant, New York. And it all started with cold feet. Benway’s daughter, Elizabeth Rose, complained that her feet and legs were cold while being pushed in her umbrella stroller during the many walks they would take around their neighborhood. The blanket Benway used often dragged on the sidewalk, as it was too bulky for the stroller. Noticing a lack of a quality stroller accessory, Benway created a Polartec stroller blanket that is now sold in major stores and has received many awards.

When you turn on QVC or HGTV, you may see some of the designs created by Becca Williams, founder of WallNutz, an Oregon-based company that creates paint-by-number mural kits for parents to use when decorating children's rooms. Williams wanted a mural for her daughter’s nursery, but found that hiring a professional artist was beyond her budget. She created a design and figured out a process that was foolproof to transfer a large image to her walls. After receiving so many compliments on the idea, Williams followed up with some market research and was inspired to take to market what she had learned.

This was also the case for Kay Green, owner of My Precious Kid, a web site that sells child safety ID kits and products. After adopting her fourth child, Green needed an ID card for her daughter since it took 10 months to receive her birth certificate. After scouring the marketplace for something suitable, Green decided to create one herself. Determined not to “miss those precious once in a lifetime moments with my children as they grew up,” Green enlisted the help of her sons to put together the ID kits and now has over 400 sales representatives working for her company.

Have a Clear Vision

Years ago, many of these women could only imagine walking into a bank to deposit a five-digit check. That happened recently for Nancy Cleary, publisher of Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing in Oregon. Six weeks after giving birth to her daughter MacKenzie, Cleary was up late finishing the design of a catalog for a client, while Wyatt, her 15-month old son, was shredding folders in the corner. Cleary had just spent over 70 hours on the project, and amidst all the juggling she realized she wasn't building anything for her children. So she turned her home office, located on a farm sixty miles from the nearest town, into a publishing company that provides a legacy for her children.

Embrace Support

Rebecca Cutler and Jennifer Krane, founders of raising a racquet, an online maternity fitness/lifestyle apparel store had the support of their spouses when jumping into their business. While both Cutler and Krane live in Connecticut, their husbands work in New York City and frequently took product samples to vendors on the way to the office. Raising a racquet is now sold in over 400 fitness and maternity stores internationally and can be found at Bloomingdale’s, Pea in a Pod and Mimi Maternity — all in just a little over a year.

Amy Power, founder of Power Public Relations, a public relations firm in Texas, landed her first client, a McDonalds in West Texas, while in labor. She later employed her mother-in-law to help care for her baby during the day while she worked on client projects. Luckily for Williams, it was rare when she met someone who didn’t want to pitch in and help WallNutz succeed, whether it was something as simple as telling a friend to go to the web site or as involved as volunteering to help at tradeshows. Even Williams’ father-in-law, a very successful businessman, helped package some kits for a big tradeshow.

Handle Phone Calls like a Pro

Although Geri Grobman works in a room dedicated to Language Littles, her New York-based bilingual doll company, there are times when chatter and cries are heard. Grobman explains to the caller that they are hearing the in-house tester, and people usually understand. Benway has been known to lock herself in her bedroom while on an important phone call. Cleary presses the mute button while she creates another distraction, snack, or challenge for her children.

Think Creatively

Don’t have a dedicated room for your business? No problem. Michelle Rathman, founder of Impact! Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in St. Charles, Illinois, and Benway both used their dining room tables for their businesses. Power, who set up her office in her master bedroom and then moved it upstairs into the playroom, has had more than her fair share of meetings at Starbucks. Krane’s office is also the guest room, which has now been reorganized and has shelves designated just for raising a racquet. Initially, Williams’ business was everywhere around the house with no way to get away from it. She created an office in a spare bedroom, stored inventory in her garage, and also manufactured the kits on her dining room table.

Several of these moms grew their home businesses with the financial security of keeping their day job, while other moms jumped right in with support from their family and sometimes loans. These successful women come from different backgrounds and live in different states. Some of these women have MBAs and law degrees, some just barely finished high school, but what they all had in common when starting their home businesses was the key ingredient to success — drive. HBM

Victoria Pericon is a freelance writer living in New York and savvy mommy to Natalie. She can be reached at vpericon@nyc.rr.com.

Thinking of Working From Home Around a Newborn?

Here are three tips that can be used to help a home-based business succeed:

1. Invest in a telephone with a headset and mute button. This will keep your hands free and allow you to quickly quiet the abrupt noises that may fill your workspace.

2. Put visiting hands to work. Have friends and family that are visiting your newborn pitch in with bottle warming, diaper changing, and bath time duties. Try to schedule your most important phone calls when you will have support to help you with your newborn.

3. Use e-mail instead of the phone whenever possible. E-mail is a time saver when juggling tasks. You won’t have to worry about newborn wails if you are asking or answering questions via e-mail. It also shows that you respect the recipient’s time. HBM

“No man is a success in business unless he loves his work.” – Florence Scovel Shinn