Mum’s the word for these Valley startups created for and by mothers.
Any mother will tell you she wears many hats – chef, housekeeper, chauffeur, therapist – frequently all at once. More and more Valley moms are adding “entrepreneur” to that list. They constitute part of the nearly 70 percent of American mothers already working outside the home (according to a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report), or they may be stay-at-home mothers branching outside the domestic realm to help with family finances or find professional fulfillment. The common thread uniting the Valley’s latest batch of mama businesses is their target demographic: other moms.
“When I was pregnant, I subscribed to Birchbox and BarkBox and I was like, ‘There is nothing for pregnant women. There’s a box for every other person in the world, why not pregnant women?’” says Mandy Holmes, founder of Mama Boxes, a subscription service that delivers curated beauty products, healthy snacks and other treats for expectant mothers in hand-packed boxes, one for each trimester ($22.99 per box or $59.99 for all three, mamaboxes.com). “I just am a mom and I saw a need for a product for other moms and I’m passionate about it and that’s kind of where it was all born from.”
Necessity was also the mother of invention for Julie Leach. She and her husband, Arizona Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach, struggled with potty-training their son and daughter (now 9 and 7). “Going through those frustrations with both of our children and talking with other parents that were having trouble with potty-training, we really thought that potty-training was probably the toughest thing in the toddler stage as parents to go through,” Leach says. They looked for a product that combined education with fun to teach their kids how to “go” sans the bribery methods pediatricians caution against, but found nothing. They took matters into their own hands and, with the help of the NFL’s Player Development Department and its Consumer Products Boot Camp, created
Potty Pals, singing and dancing stuffed animals (accompanied by stickers and a colorfully illustrated book) that cheer on the toilet-trainee ($34.95, pottypals.com).
According to a 2012 Forbes article by Nielsen NeuroFocus CMO Caroline Winnett, moms influence 85 percent of all purchase decisions and possess an estimated $2.1 trillion in spending power. Leach has seen that influence on a local level with the scope of mom blogs. The Phoenix Valley Moms Blogs Group alone has 47 member blogs, and the Scottsdale Moms Blog averages more than 40,000 monthly views. “It’s incredible how many people they reach, how much they help other moms,” she says.
Tisha Pelletier is harnessing that online power with The Mom-E Club, a full-service club for mom entrepreneurs that provides resources, networking, monthly meetings, support and an active web community (mom-eclub.com). Pelletier has a degree in broadcast journalism and worked in marketing for years before she started her own marketing company and event planning firm. She belonged to entrepreneur groups before she had children, but after, she couldn’t find the right fit.
“Being a mom, you just don’t have a schedule anymore. You’re not sleeping, you’re just working when you can. I felt like a lot of the networking groups I belonged to really didn’t mesh with my schedule,” Pelletier says. “On the flip side, I’d gone to some groups that really were more for stay-at-home moms. When I went in there, I’m like, ‘I don’t belong here either.’ I really felt like, ‘Well, I still like the entrepreneurial side of things and I’m a mother now, but I’m not quite sure where I fit.’” Pelletier started the Mom-E Club in 2010 and it has since expanded to six Valley chapters and six across the U.S.
Expansion is less practical for hands-on seamstress Sarah Maresca, a Valley native who got a degree in fashion and worked for Betsey Johnson and Levi Strauss & Co. in New York. Maresca is not a mom yet, but her love for kids and their apparel – “I can’t make tutus for women,” she says with a laugh – inspired her to start a clothing line for infants, toddlers and small children. Mariette Market debuted in 2013 and, despite its popularity at local pop-up shops, farmers’ markets and online, Maresca still designs and hand-sews every item, from baby bow ties to dresses (prices range from $4.50 to $30, mariettemarket.com). Her siblings’ and friends’ kids serve as her models until she has her own wee Gisele.
“I think it’s a huge business,” Maresca says of the mommy market. “I feel like moms spoil their kids more than themselves.” Spoken like a true mom.
Other mother-approved Valley businesses:
Active Moms – a monthly guide to family-friendly events with a circulation of 10,000, published by mom Katrina Sherk (free, activemoms.com)
GoGargle! – all-natural salt gargle with a proprietary blend of honey and herbs formulated by mom and nurse January O’Connor ($5.99, gogargle.com)
Mama’s Cold Brew – artisanal cold brew and coffee creamers hand-crafted by mom Jennifer Rzepecki ($5-$35, mamascoldbrew.com)