Two sisters who run a company together while living 3,000 miles apart are a true testament to the true willpower of momtrepreneurs everywhere. And how could you not love their product? They’ve Saved The Tatas in a whole new way!
What business did you start up?
My sister and I founded and run Belmama & Cherub™ and are the creators of The Shower Hug™. The Shower Hug is a bandeau wrap worn around the bustline of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to support, soothe and protect sore breasts and nipples associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Moms wear it inside or outside of the shower to provide a myriad of soothing benefits.
What motivated you to do it?
Oh-so-sore boobs after having my first son! I never would have imagined that showering would become so difficult and uncomfortable after the arrival of baby or that my breasts would hurt so badly! Lingering in long, hot showers is a favorite retreat of mine, but the force of the shower spray hitting my tender breasts was too painful to tolerate in the days after I gave birth to Jackson. My breasts were engorged and tender and my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I had looked forward to the solitude and serenity of a long, hot shower all day, but as soon as I stepped in, I was hurrying to get out. My doctor advised holding a towel over my chest when showering, which was not practical and made tons of extra laundry. I tried dodging the shower sprays by keeping my back to the streams, which did not allow me to easily shampoo, shave, etc. And, I shopped and shopped and shopped, looking for a product that would help me. My search revealed there was no such product to treat this problem, one that so many mothers quietly struggle through.
As the saying goes “necessity breeds invention” and as a born problem-solver, I was determined to create a solution. I founded Belmama & Cherub and began production of the Shower Hug in 2006, just one day after my son’s first birthday.
How many children do you have, and how old are they?
I have one little boy, Jackson, 4, and one little girl, Maria, who just turned 2. They are the light of my life and joy of my days. My sister and partner, Alaina, has three beautiful and spirited girls, Femia 8, Rea, 6 and Veronica 2. Can you imagine the noise in the background of our phone calls!?!
How long have you been running your business?
Three years…since April, 2006. The first 10 months or so were solely dedicated to research and development. We introduced The Shower Hug to market in February, 2007.
How long did it take you to start becoming profitable and/or successful, however you choose to measure success?
The Shower Hug is profitable, although we choose to re-invest the great bulk of our profits in order to grow the business, advertise (advertising expense adds up quickly… ad costs are large, and from what we have learned, require repetition to bear the desired results), etc…
How did your family react to you starting your own business?
The fact that my sister became my partner is probably enough to answer this question! They could not have been more supportive. My Mom actually came up with our trademark name “The Shower Hug.”
Easiest part of your job?
Working with other moms, women who have “been there” and “done that” – even right down to our customers! There seems to be an innate understanding.
Hardest part of your job?
My sister and I both work from home offices. Alaina’s is in NJ. Mine is in CA. Geographical distance and a three-hour time change can sometimes be difficult, especially when you add maintaining the schedules of 5 children under the age of 8 to the mix. This is simply a logistical hiccup and a reality of being moms, but we make it work! More seriously, the thing that is toughest about being a small company is being able to source quality materials made here in the USA (one of our goals is to remain “Made in the USA”) that are cost-effective and competitive.
What skill would you most like to improve?
I am a Wharton grad and CPA. The fine art of “sales” is beyond me. I have not mastered “the pitch” and doubt I ever will! Thankfully, this is an area where Alaina excels.
What, if any, tools or advice do you wish you knew then that you know now?
The advice I would share with new mom entrepreneurs is two-fold:
1) Don’t begin your venture until you have done your homework – research your idea, your market, your competition, your potential suppliers, your potential customers and your potential costs and profitability. Create prototypes and test them! Use them in a way your future customers will. In this way, you will validate your idea/product/service and you will also identify weaknesses/flaws that may need tending to. This provides a solid base of factual data upon which to build your venture and the peace of mind in knowing that you are well prepared for the journey ahead.
2) Keep your initial focus narrow enough to be manageable. Mom entrepreneurs often deal with limited resources in terms of finances, time and energy. To successfully achieve our goals, Alaina and I keep short “to-do” lists that are highly prioritized. Realize that although you may be a supermom, you still need to sleep at night.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
Without a doubt, the greatest “things” I ever created are my children. My heart is so full of emotion and pride as I watch them grow, learn and become good little citizens of our world.
Favorite part of a typical day?
My favorite part of a typical day is the quietude of early morning – just before dawn. I am rested, energetic and excited about the adventure and promise of a new day! I take great pleasure in my morning ritual of opening the shutters and windows, making coffee and checking email. I do this all by my lonesome in a house that is quiet and still. Nirvana! Admittedly, I also cannot wait to see my children when they awake shortly thereafter, with tousled hair, groggy voices and abundant hugs and kisses for Mama. It’s like Christmas…every morning. Then all hell breaks loose…in a good way!
A few more questions, just because American Express should be featuring more momtrepreneurs…
Childhood ambition…. I always wanted to be an Entrepreneur – I actually wrote a paper on it when I was 12 years old. I also love to write.
Fondest memory…. I am blessed to have many fond memories competing to be included here. One such memory is being part of a really special group of girls made up of my two sisters, a few other friends and me. When we were young, we all summered at a little beach town in NJ called Lavallette. Lavallette was the kind of beach that had really thick, granular sand that stayed warm long into the summer night. It was so soft, that you would sink in ankle-deep when you walked on it and it made a cushion if you fell in it – just like powdery snow. The girls and I loved to meet at the beach in the evening and make pyramids (the kind gymnasts do by climbing on each others’ backs). We would see how long we could last and how tall we could go and inevitably tumble down into the forgiving sand…happy times.
Indulgence….deep tissue massages and iced mochas!
Last purchase…..supplies for my 2 year old’s upcoming birthday party favorite.
Inspiration….my Mom. She is amazing.
My Life…..this story is still being written. There proves to be lots of surprises with every new chapter. Just when I get comfortable…ouch! Enter a growing pain.