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Today’s profile comes from native Austinite, business owner and mom Sarah Stasica.
Sarah wanted to share her experience with finding MomCom, and the difference it’s made in in her life. And of course, we were happy to help! Here’s her story….
“For years I dreamed of starting my own business, but I didn’t take the first steps until I became a mother. With a new baby at home, I founded A Child’s Garden of Language, foreign language immersion classes for children from birth to age five. It was exciting, but as I started down the path of creating a new business, I was looking for resources and support.
When I heard about MomCom, I quickly registered for the summer 2012 conference. I loved the idea of spending a day with fellow mom entrepreneurs, because starting a small business as the mother of young kids is such a unique experience. I was looking for networking with like-minded women. I found that and more. MomCom, for me, was a game changer.
I attended my first MomCom event alone. I got lucky when I sat at the same table as Laura Shook, the owner of a local event venue, Soma Vida. I had met her once before, at a one-day retreat for business owners, and the opportunity to get to know her better at MomCom was really cool. The connection we made that day has benefited me tremendously. I now rent space for my classes at Soma Vida and I love it.
My second MomCom event was this past summer. I encouraged my mom, a local business owner herself, to take advantage of the opportunity to market her business. She agreed and I went along to help man her vendor booth. Once again, I was inspired by the speakers and met some really great women. The relationships I formed at MomCom that day have continued to develop in the months since the event, and have had a huge impact on my life, both personally and professionally.
On a personal level, meeting Lori Strong of Strong Little Sleepers at MomCom was a lifesaver. My newborn daughter was not a good sleeper and we were up every 15 minutes some nights. My husband and I were going crazy! Following MomCom, at the four-month mark of sleepless nights, we decided to give Lori a try. I have to tell you that our lives are like night and day now. I feel like a functioning human being and we are getting to sleep!!
On the business front, I met a helpful mom in an unexpected place. I attended MomCom without my infant daughter, so I was very happy to discover MomCom’s nice, large room for nursing mothers. I was bummed to miss out on one of the speakers to go pump, but I spent the time talking to another mom with a daughter just a month older than mine. My 20-minute pump session was over before I knew it because we were having such a great conversation. I could tell that she knew a lot more than I did about social media and asked her if she blogged. It turned out that she writes a local blog that I had frequented many times while looking for things to do with my toddler. I was like a groupie and said, “You’re Heidi!”
I reached out to Heidi about a month later to advertise on her blog and invited her to a class. She did a write up after attending my class and the response I got from her post was OVERWHELMING to say the least. I filled a free Mandarin class within an hour of the post! I opened up a second class at a discounted rate and that filled up quickly as well. I recently offered a free Spanish demo class that filled with a waiting list and our Spanish session is already halfway to capacity, and it doesn’t start until next week.
Attending MomCom with other business minded mothers provided both the inspiration and the connections I needed to take my business to the next level. If you are looking to recharge, get inspired, and grow your network, you need to be at the next MomCom event. I’ll see you there!”
Sarah Stasica is owner of A Child’s Garden of Language, a mom to a baby and a toddler and wife to a really great guy. She is a native Austinite and loves being able to raise her kids in the same town she grew up in. If you have questions about Sarah’s experience at MomCom, or would like to learn more about her business,
drop her a line.
Up until three and half years ago, I think the worst day of the year was the one when they put out the Mother’s Day cards in the stores.
Year, after year, I would stand there, reading through card after card, looking for one that would work.
“Mom, You’re Always There for Me….” Nope, I can’t say that. “To the Best Mom Ever…” No, not that, either. “Mom, you always take the time to listen to me and be there when I need you most…”
And then the tears would come. Because I couldn’t bring myself to lie and send one of those, no matter how much I wanted to. The mom in those cards was missing from my life, even though my mother was alive and well.
My mom was none of those things on the pretty cards. Or rather, she was some of those things once in a blue moon. For a moment, now and then, it would be good. And I would think maybe it could be okay. But then the reality would hit.
The name calling. The accusations. The swearing. The tearing up my thank you notes because they weren’t perfectly written. The dumping out all the drawers in my room because they weren’t perfectly neat. The rages when I brought home a “B” on a test or paper. Chasing my friends away with nasty comments and not-so-subtle hints that they could do a lot better than to be my friend. Or alternately, that they weren’t good enough to come in our house. And my dad did nothing to stop it.
It was hell.
But year after year after year, I would try. Always hoping for a card that said “I love you just because you’re my mom, and I sure wish you loved me just because I am your daughter.” Here’s a hint. They don’t make cards like that. I know. I searched.
In the end, I would send a generic “Happy Mother’s Day, Hope It’s Happy” card. And swear to myself that next year, I wouldn’t even try. But I always did.
I know I am not alone…but for years, I thought I was.
The truth is, there are other like me out there. Too many. You might be one. Or the woman next to you in church or in the PTO meeting or at work. So what happens to daughters who have moms who cannot or will not love?
They grow up in pain. They learn to not trust other women. They grow up terrified that they will turn out to be just like their moms. (You cannot imagine the pain when someone says, even jokingly, that we all become our parents in the end. It was and always will be my worst nightmare.) They worry that they will never be able to be the loving, caring, supportive moms on those cards.
And sometimes they get very lucky
In high school and college, I gathered a collection of “adopted” moms. Lots of them were Mormons with big families who really loved being together and really loved each other even when they argued or things fell apart. I savoured every moment, stocking away lessons on how to be that greeting card mom. I was in training for motherhood. But I was also teaching myself that what I had lived with wasn’t normal or acceptable.
And yet, every Mother’s Day, I was back at that rack, trying to find a card that wouldn’t require me to lie. And failing. I was not okay yet.
Sometimes your luck runs out
They tell me it’s classic. Someone who cannot get the love they need from a parent marries someone who treats them just like that parent did. I hate being classic, but there I was. I married a guy who treated me exactly like my mom did. And she loved him. But not me. I was the common target. They were united. And I was back in hell.
In grad school. Two babies in under two years. And never good enough in the eyes of the adults who should have loved me best. The loving mom I needed was still no where to be found. And the loving husband I needed was equally missing.
But my kids…oh, my wonderful, amazing, dream-come-true kids! Missing mom or not, I learned I could be like the moms I had “adopted” and learned from. I did not have to be my mom, although on some dark nights, that fear still haunted me.
And then after my third was born, I got brave. Somehow. Somewhere. I ended my abusive marriage. I moved back home to Florida. I supported my kids on a budget so tight I often stayed at awake at night computing the pennies and nickles that would get everything paid. I lived 12 miles from my mom, from the home where I had grown up, but she never saw me or the kids.
She ran charity organizations and sat on Boards of Directors and had her picture in society pages, but wanted nothing to do with us. And yet, still, I stood in front of the card rack, looking. Trying. Hoping. And failing.
My life improved. I got a better job. We moved into a beautiful apartment. I got remarried to a wonderful man. And then one day, three and half years ago, the call came from a cousin while I was in a meeting at work.
My missing mom had died.
And I cried. I cried for the little girl I once was, who couldn’t understand why mommy got so mad when she tried so hard to be good.
I cried for the teen I once was who so wanted to make her mom proud, but never managed to hear those words.
I cried for the young mom, who would have given almost anything to share those early days of motherhood with a brand new doting grandmother.
I cried my mom’s loss, for never really knowing her own daughter and grandchildren.
I cried for the scars I still carry. And I cried for all those years filled with beautiful loving Mother’s Day cards I could never bring myself to send. My missing mom would now never be found.
But I did find something through all of this. I found myself. A mom. And the knowledge that whatever I experienced growing up, my kids will never have to write about a missing mom.
Today’s guest post comes to us at the perfect time of year…at least here in Texas. The weather is finally cooling down enough that I can think about getting outside without melting, so it’s a great time to think about getting into (or in my case, back into) running.
Running seems straightforward enough. You just slip into some sneakers and head out the door, iPod in hand, right?
Not exactly! It’s not that it’s hard to get started…it’s just that you need to do it the right way. And lucky for us, we have mom and marathoner Nicole Scott to tell us what we need to know, whether we’re beginners or just need a few friendly reminders. And now, here’s Nicole!
Mamas on the Run
A friend recently told me she noticed there seemed to be a fad people were jumping on–the running fad. At first I didn’t like the sound of it because a fad is something that usually passes. But then I realized, with the obesity rate growing not only in adults, but children as well, I see this fad as people’s way of finding a way to fight this epidemic head on. And this running mama hopes it sticks.
I started running back in 2007, initially as a way to help lose the last 10 stubborn baby weight pounds (my daughter was already a year old by that point). And over time it grew into a passion of mine. I love the health benefits of running but I also enjoy what it does for me mentally and emotionally. I went from not being able to run a mile without stopping to running marathons and having my sight set on ultras. If you are considering getting into running, here are some tips to help you set off on the right foot. There is a ton of information out there on how to do it the ‘right way’ and I’d argue that you have to find the way that works best for you!
Shoes: Get fitted for a a pair of shoes best suited for you! One of the things that I asked all my runner friends when I started and something I always get asked by a new runner is: what shoes do you wear? What one runner wears may not work for another. Bypass chain stores like Foot Locker where it’s not likely the salesperson is a runner, and consider checking out a local running store. They are trained on how to analyze your gait and foot type and can determine the best shoe for you. You may have to try out a few pairs before you find ‘the one’ but many of these smaller stores have wonderful return policies which will allow you to exchange them for a different pair, if after a few runs you decide it’s not the right fit for you.
Sports Bra: A few years ago I went to a sports bra seminar (they exist!) where we were all fitted for the right sports bra. It turns out if you are smaller chested (a la me) you can get away with wearing the cheapy sports bras at places like Target. But if you are larger chested, you’ll want to make sure you get an accurate measurement and a supportive bra (without having to double up with sports bras!) Moving Comfort has a great line for larger chested women.
Tops and shorts: Look for fabric that wicks away the sweat and something that you are comfortable with. You want to be able to focus on running not worrying about how your clothes fit.
Jogging Strollers: Look into purchasing a used one on Craigslist, at a garage sale or from a friend. Most people will only use them for a few years. I recently sold two strollers, one I bought new and the other I bought from Craigslist–both sold for similar prices which made me realize the better deal is usually to buy used.
When I first started I had no idea there were programs out there to get you started on running. I just jumped on a treadmill and ran. And when I was finally able to run a mile without stopping I asked a runner friend: how in the world do you run 2? Her answer: you just run it. So I did. But had I known about a training program to ease me into it, I probably would have gone that route. Couch25k, Hal Higdon, and Jeff Galloway are just a few that you can turn to for guidandce. Runner’s World also has guides for new runners (and yes, even if you can’t run a mile, I’m calling you a runner!). Find a program that matches your needs and personality. I opted for Hal Higdon once I was able to run 2 miles because I preferred all running over a walk-run approach, but any plan will get you to your destination–whether it’s a 5k, 10k or more.
Hydration: Depending on the distance, I either run with a handheld water bottle or I wear a hydration belt. My husband on the other hand prefers to wear a Camelback. When I first started running, I was afraid to drink water because I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom. I quickly learned running during the summer means you have to have access to water to prevent dehydration.
Fuel: There are many options for fuel. Just as with finding the right shoe, you’ll have to experiment with different kinds and flavors to see what works best for you. My suggestion is grab a few different kinds at a running/sports store and choose one that tastes good and doesn’t upset your stomach. I don’t typically fuel for distances shorter than 6 miles, but again, every runner is different and you have to do what feels right for you.
Sometimes we need a little motivation to get out the door. Look into local 5ks, whether they are something like a Color Run, Obstacle Course 5k or a charity run. Knowing you have a deadline may help motivate you to get out the door. Also, reach out to friends who are also interested in running. Set a day where you will meet up for a run because it’s more likely one of you will encourage the other to lace up and get out the door.
I think the biggest mistake a new runner makes is they try to run too fast, too far, too soon. You aren’t in competition with anyone else out there. So if you have a friend who runs a 7 minute mile and you’re running a 14 minute mile, that’s ok! She is running her race and you are running yours. You want to ease into running to prevent injury. Expect things to be a little achy–when I first started my knees hurt and my chest felt like elephants were sitting on it. But that’s because I hadn’t run a mile since middle school. Friends and acquaintances will often ask: When does running get easier?
And I always respond with: It doesn’t get easier, you get better.
Above all, try to have fun and enjoy yourself on this new adventure. Happy running!
Back by popular demand, MILK, aka Mom’s I’d Like to Know, are the hostesses with the most-ess-es for MomCom 2014! After last summer’s incredible emcee debut and with the production of last year’s amazing MomCom video, we decided we couldn’t live without them as we transition from a local Austin event to an annual national conference. “Lauren and Claire didn’t just emcee the event.” says Trish Morrison, founder of MomCom and fan of MILK, “They entertained, engaged and really pulled out all the stops for us with their humor, quick wit, and BFF camaraderie.”
When the MILK maids are on stage they are your sisters, best friends, colleagues, drinking buddies and sympathetic mothers, all wrapped up in one beautiful blonde package and we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome them back to MomCom in January 2014.
But wait! There’s more! After intense negotiations involving a free cup of coffee, we’ve arranged for another funny blonde, Wendi Aarons, to join the MILK fun. Wendi is a humor writer, mother and raging Fanilow and she’ll be ready to pop on stage at a moment’s notice should the need arise. Wendi had the room roaring with laughter when she spoke at MomCom previously and we can’t wait to see what she and the MILK girls come up with this time.I’m ready to register for MomCom!
Today we’re thrilled to be profiling mom and business owner Beth Richard. Before I get into her profile, I have to say that just considering all this busy mom juggles made me want to…take a nap! I was exhausted just thinking about it!
But Beth, a University of Wisconsin graduate in Fine Arts, seems to keep all those roles in the air with style.
Were you ever a stay at home mama, or have you always worked?
I always worked from home so I consider myself a working stay at home mom.
You own your own business, what is it and when did you start it?
I do own my business. It started in 1996 with a sign to my house that read “Valentine’s Day Flower Sale”. I somehow landed the Sullivan’s Steakhouse flower gig and from there got The Driskill account. I would see all the top florists weddings there- which schooled me. Everything I’ve created- I have made from nothing. Now I do weddings, events and am the exclusive floral designer for Circuit of the America’s. I honestly don’t know how I became this accidental business woman. I’ve always been an artist and musician but about 8 years ago I decided that I wanted to be able to send my kids to camp, go on vacations etc. I upped my advertising and created a new website- be careful what you wish for mamas.
What was the most unusual floral request that you received?
A few things come to mind- scaling trees to hang flower balls- an arch on a yacht that had to stay up while the boat was moving, a flower dog… but I would have to say it was from the guy that ordered flowers for his wife and mistress on Valentine’s day. I should have refused- CREEP!
You are a small business owner, musician, and dancer. How do you fit it all in?
Barely- no matter what, you still gotta make the lunches, dinners and breakfasts- do the birthday parties, school and all that. The business has a ton of responsibility and I’ve got to do my passions or else I will die. My boys mean everything to me- so they come first. We’ve all had to make some sacrifices. I think that every mom feels “mom guilt”. All I can do is try everyday.
You are currently rehearsing for a Halloween show, give us the details!
It is called “Dragoween” It will be on October 26th at the school of the deaf. Last year it sold out 800 seats- My friend asked me to do it because it was a night of 1000 Madonna’s- All Madonna/ All night. That was me in high school. It is a benefit for the gay/lesbian AA sober group. I am not gay, sober or a ballet Austin dancer but somehow at 42- I have become a dancer. It was a total blast last year so I decided to do it another year. This year it is Frightmare on Glam Street- spooky and Haloweeney.
If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?
1. That my kids are safe and happy.
2. To be a rock star*
3. To always feel true love.
Beth’s company Exquisite Petals focuses on making wedding days exactly what the bride has always imagined. You also can find her on Facebook. Beth has had her floral work been featured on TLC, in The Knot wedding publications and on several leading wedding planning blogs.
*A last note from the MomCom team…in our book, you already are a rock star!
Today’s featured mom took her passion for fashion (she has a degree in Fashion from UT), blended it with the lessons she learned from her kids, and mixed in a good dose of business know-how. The result is a custom shoe company that lets tween girls find shoes that work for their age…or even design their own shoes. And for Austin native Tina Hambley, the result was even more than she expected.
I chatted with Tina the other day, and I loved learning about how this creative mom came up with her idea and what her her business, Valentina, means to her and her family.
What were you doing before you were inspired to start this business?
I grew up in a creative household, with a mom who was an artist herself. I graduated from UT with a degree in Fashion, then worked in the industry. After that, I worked for a software company doing design work. But I always wanted to return to my first love…fashion. This company IS me doing what I love best.
How did you decide on the age group for your company? Why not shoes for adults or teens?
As girls reach their tween years, say between 8 and 12, it gets harder and harder to find age-appropriate shoes and clothes that fit them. They grow out of kids sizes, but the adult things are too mature. Especially the shoes. I wanted give them a chance to have shoes that were right for their age, instead of just their shoe size.
So I looked for shoes girls would like, but in styles that didn’t look too grown up. I spent a lot of time sourcing the shoes to get them right for that vision. It’s a niche, I think. I don’t think any other shoe company is focusing on this age group. Kids, yes. But not tweens.
I see you have a new project going, where girls can design their own shoes. What inspired you to start this new design-your-own project for Valentina?
My inspiration came from my daughter’s artwork. Well, actually both of my kids’ artwork. I have a son who’s 9 and a daughter who’s 11, and they’re both amazingly creative. So it was their artwork that inspired me.
It was so colorful. And my daughter was especially proud of her creations. Creating her own designs seemed to empower her. I wanted a way to share that empowerment and encourage other girls to express themselves, and share their creations. Shoes seemed like a natural choice.
And the artwork just fit in with that. It’s an expression of who they are right now, at this age. Girls at that age need to feel like they can create something worth sharing.
It’s a challenge having kids and a business. How has Valentina impacted your family?
Well, of course there are the hours. And the stress. I spent two years researching the industry and working on plans for Valentina before I launched the company. We ran focus groups, and there was travel time, too. All of that was hard, but we did a lot of it together.
When we launched in 2011, my daughter was 9 and my son was 7. So they’ve grown up seeing me face challenges, overcome obstacles. They watched me build a business from scratch. And we’ve celebrated the milestones together. They’ve learned that in business, sometimes things go well, and sometimes they don’t. I think that’s all helping them develop their own creativity. It’s very empowering
Do you have any plans to expand into a boys’ line of shoes as well?
Yes! I would love to have a boys line, too! That’s something we’ve talked about, and plan for in the future.
What’s on your plate right now?
We’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the create-your-own design launch. If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a way for small businesses to get funding from small donors who believe in what they’re doing. Everyone chips in a few dollars, and new ideas come to life. We want to use these new shoes to empower girls, so instead of someone else saying what’s a fashionable design, they get to decide. But we only have 18 days left on our campaign, so we’re down to some serious nail-biting!
How can people reach you and learn more about your projects or Valentina?
Probably the best place to start is on our Valentina website. We have all our social media links there, too, so you can see what we’re up to.