This is a guest post from one of the amazing owners of Simple Diaper & Linen. She is not only a successful businesswoman and mother, she is also one of the dynamic, strengthening forces in Holyoke! Her diaper service is green, local and mother-owned!
I started my business because I wanted to stay at home with my small children while they were young. The idea of putting them in full time care and the cost to go along with it all seemed less than ideal in the sweet few months postpartum. Well, actually, they weren’t all that sweet, as I struggled with postpartum depression, feelings of isolation in the hilltowns, and the logistical qualm of my husband working full time in a town 20 minutes away taking our one and only car to get there. I am a social creature, and the need for community in real time was gnawing at me. I had just had my second child, and my oldest was 4. The idea to start a diaper service seemed natural as I was washing diapers anyway, and it would connect me with other families with young children and that was something that felt necessary as I was navigating the world of parenting. When I told the idea to my midwives I was greeted with overwhelming excitement and encouragement to do it! We were supported by family to make the move to Northampton and to get some seed money to start a small business.
By the time my baby was about 8 months old I had created the framework for the business, met with business advisors (at the Valley CDC, Mass Business Association, and also grad students from the Isenberg school of Business) and developed a business plan and projections. In time I had insurance, a business certificate, as well as inventory and equipment. By the beginning of 2009 I launched in my basement with just 2 clients! Now almost 5 years later business has moved to a commercial space in Holyoke MA. We became a worker-cooperative and service over 75 diaper & linen clients. Looking back I can remember the ease of things as well as the struggles. I don’t think any small business owner is without either of those. However, as time has gone on I have really valued and appreciated insights from business leaders who share a similar sentiment about family focused, mindful living, best practice business relations and adamant self-care.
I know one of the most important keystones with working at home with children is finding a way to incorporate them and their curiosity and having patience for learning (for yourself too)! Sometimes just finding a small task to make them feel like they are participating and helping (even if it is something you will have to undo later), as long as they are mimicking the type of work you’re doing. Plus they have so many questions! Even taking a few extra minutes to explain what you’re doing and why can satiate their need for connection.
Creating a routine and rhythm for your work day will help both you and your children’s expectations. Maybe there is a special activity that they do when you’re doing a certain activity. For me it was letting my son scooter in the basement when I was doing the laundry. I would wait to do the majority of my focus work when the little ones napped. This might change as your children grow, and naps are no longer a power block of time to get to the brain work. If you know there are some tasks that don’t require as much focus and attention, save them for when they are present. It gives you the opportunity to show them work ethic and incorporate them if possible.
Set aside specific time each week (or each day) to make progress on your big vision list. Development is about frequency no matter how small the steps made, as long as you keep chipping away. It takes time to make things happen. It’s not going to be overnight. Put your goals and visions on paper and chart your progress so you truly recognize that it is being made. Pilot businesses start small and work out their kinks and processes as they go along. Then getting into the limelight doesn’t feel meek or meager but bold and beautiful.
Take breaks and be sure to stoke your own fire. Self care is key. This is one of those instances where asking for help is shameless. Finding a mother’s helper or a neighbor to supervise and engage with your little one while you get in your groove, or do something non-work related to enrich your experience. Don’t be shy to ask for help. We are not an island, and people generally feel good when they can offer support, don’t you?
Be involved in your community and build your network of support. The more you tell your story the more people know about what you are doing and your vision. You grow your connections and build validity in your story. It’s actually happening!
This idea of networking with others goes beyond just the local community but with other business owners who do what you do. This could mean a phone call to a similar business, finding a listserve or online forum where stories are told, questions are asked, and support is found.
Take a trip! Visit in person one of these places that models after what you are building (likely best in a non-competitive location). Meeting face to face really builds that connectivity as well as leaves strong lasting impressions for your vision. Ask your questions, get your hands in the work, offer to help, and follow up to keep a lasting relationship. They likely started from an idea too!
There are a lot of unknowns in the process so hold tight to your curiosity, it’s an important virtue in staying motivated and not getting burnt out. Find a mentor, either in person or through literature. Here are some of the resources I treasure:
*Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumers Culture: Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. Reading this book was like hearing my story told! Shannon Hayes
*Manage your Day-to-Day: Build your routine, find your focus & sharpen your creative mind:: edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. An incredible gem of a book that I keep going back to.
*99u.com: insights on making ideas happen.
*Zen Habits: Zen Habits features articles on simplicity, health & fitness, motivation and inspiration, frugality, family life, happiness, goals, getting great things done, and living in the moment. Leo Babauta: http://zenhabits.net/about/ to subscribe.
*The Lioness Group: The Lioness Group is a full-service media relations firm based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founded by Natasha Clark in 2009 and is the umbrella company of Lioness, the leading digital magazine for female entrepreneurs. www.http://thelionessgroup.com
Angie Gregory has been a valley resident for about 5 years after relocating to Western MA from traveling the country. She lives in Northampton with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton, and organizing the Northampton Herbal Meet-up Group. She started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. The business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.