Ladies Who Launch
These moms mean business
The Wilton Moms Club may sound like a typical stay-at-home moms group, but closer examination reveals it to be as much a small business incubator as a social organization. In the past year, the club has spawned no less than four “mom-preneurs”.
According to previous WMC board member Jeena Choi, most of the moms have past lives in the corporate world. “They are a bright, driven bunch,” she explained, “so when the kids go off to school, their entrepreneurial side comes out.” Choi, a former public relations executive, launched Babycat’s Q. Tea in May 2010, just three weeks before her second daughter, Lucia, was born. She had been sitting on the idea for hand-blended, naturally caffeine- and preservative-free herbal teas for two years. After receiving a diagnosis of gestational diabetes during her second pregnancy, she eliminated caffeine and sugar from her diet. She started drinking an herbal tea blend her husband, a co-owner of a premium tea company, created for her. At the same time, she was dealing with her preschooler, a finicky eater and drinker. She attributes these events, combined with a third trimester energy surge, and hormones for bringing her idea to fruition.
While Lucia can take credit for the company’s launch, her older sister validated Choi’s idea that there was a market for teas adults and kids could share. “Isabella loved fairy tales. I would read a page, then she would take a bite of her meal,” laughed Choi. “She noticed the stories always included tea parties, so she wanted to try some of ‘mommy’s’ herbal tea. She liked it, as did her friends who came over for tea parties.” Choi’s first blend was “Ruby Slippers”. Since then, she has created three additional blends, and is working on more. “Parents, as role models, can think of these teas as alternatives to sugary drinks for their kids,” she said.
Choi and her sister-in-law, an illustrator, designed packaging with a Beatrice Potter-like background. She built a website, Babycat's Q. Tea, and holds tasting events and contacts publications to promote her teas. “Word of mouth helps too,” she added. Now, while Isabella is at pre-school and Lucia naps, Choi hand-fills tea satchels, puts the home-printed labels on the packages, and mails out orders.
Like Choi, concern for children’s health was the catalyst for another club member, Beth Lambert. She put her experience in the healthcare industry and as an educator to work by founding the non-profit organization, “Parents Ending America’s Childhood Epidemic” (PEACE) in 2009. She also authored a book, A Compromised Generation: The Epidemic of Chronic Illness in America’s Children, published in September 2010.
Lambert, the mother of two girls, ages five and three, and a nine-month-old boy, has spent hours researching her children’s chronic health problems, which include food allergies, a sensory disorder and inflammatory bowel disease. When she discovered the causes, she made it her mission to share her learning with other parents. “That is why I wrote the book and started PEACE. An unprecedented number of children in this country suffer from chronic conditions, but there is little information out there about these conditions,” said Lambert.
PEACE sponsors a web-based project called Epidemic Answers that provides information and resources for parents who want to learn about and help their children recover from everything from autism to eczema. The organization is also building a library of educational materials, developing an online provider directory of physicians and other healthcare professionals with expertise helping children with these conditions, and planning parent and physician outreach events.
For Mikaru “Miki” Shichi Lasher, children’s psychological health issues led her to launch her private practice, Beacon Psychological Services, this past summer. After five years of staying home with her now five- and seven-year old children, starting a practice was a natural progression from her professional experience. Her work had involved conducting neuropsychological evaluations with children and evaluations for developmental issues like autism and ADHD, and an internship in pediatric psychology. She earned her doctorate just three weeks before her first child was born.
“I do evaluations of children of all ages, but I specialize in assessing very young children, particularly for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD),” she said. “Assessment of ASD can be done as young as 18 months, but often children are not diagnosed until much later because professionals are either not aware of the early symptoms or the referral process can take a long time.”
Lasher did her postdoctoral training several years ago, conducting ASD evaluations for the Early Intervention program in Westchester County. She was impressed with the resources available there for children diagnosed with ASD. She then investigated what services were available in Fairfield County. What she discovered was an opportunity. “It is difficult to find a psychologist in this area who evaluates children at a very young age,” she said. “I decided to fill this gap. When children receive early services, they can develop the fundamental skills needed for later learning. This can have a huge impact on their social and communication skills.”
In her effort to spread the word about early intervention and her practice, Lasher is networking with other professionals in psychology/mental health services, pediatrics, and child development. She is also starting a group focusing on child development and parenting issues within the Wilton Moms Club.
Club member Denise Worst’s experience in sales and product development for an accessory company motivated her to sign on as a Stella & Dot Stylist in March 2010. “I sell celebrity coveted, affordable jewelry at in-home trunk shows,” she explained. “As a stay-at-home mom with twin girls, I had begun to want something more. I was not ready to jump back into a full-time or regular part-time job. I needed flexibility so I could be here for my family. I attended an informational meeting and instantly fell in love with the jewelry. From that point on, I knew this was it for me.”
She invested $199 in business supplies and several pieces of jewelry to start her sample collection. As she sells jewelry, she receives credits to expand her inventory. “Stella & Dot provides all the tools necessary to help me succeed in my business.”
Whether creating a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, forming a nonprofit information-sharing organization for children’s chronic illnesses, starting a private practice focusing on children’s psychological assessments, or converting a passion for accessories into selling jewelry from home, these moms mean business.