Running a business can be like having a kid. You’re trying to make the best decisions you can for it, like where to host your website and choosing what social media to focus on. You’re investing in it and providing it with the best tools you can, like hiring an accountant or springing for a photographer. It’s a lot of work and it can be a little overwhelming, but ultimately, it’s pretty rewarding. You know what else is like having a kid? Having a kid! When people opt to take on both tasks, it can seem like a Herculean feat. How do they do it?
“We’re all doing our best, not only to keep our kids alive some days, but to help them thrive!” says essential oils educator and mom, Lauren Gitlin (@legitoils). Lauren, along with candle maker, Diana Ulke of Brighter Days Company (@brighterdayscompany), and illustrator, Cassie “Bees” Bernardini (@cassiebeesstudio) took some time out of their undoubtedly busy schedules to talk about how they manage to business, family, and everything in between.
What They Do (Besides Being Great Moms)
Diana - My love for burning candles started a long time ago, but I got turned off and grossed out when I read about how many harmful chemicals and toxins companies put into their candles. I immediately ran to A.C. Moore, picked up a candle making kit and started making my own natural soy candles. It started off as a hobby, but eventually I was selling them to family and close friends. Since I had a full time job and was finishing school, candle making was put on the back burner. Some time went by and we were blessed with amazing news that we would be expecting a little boy! I eventually stopped working at my full time job, which meant that I would have some free time on my hands before the baby arrived. My husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is it. We have 4 months to launch this business and make something out of it’ and that’s what we did. We googled how to create a tax ID, build a website, and everything else you need to run a business (which I had NO IDEA about). We started making candles in our kitchen, launched our website and had our first pop up market in Asbury Park, while I was very VERY pregnant. Fast-forward two years, we moved from our tiny apartment and opened up a collaborative studio space in Point Pleasant Beach, called “B + B Studios”, with my dear friend Ashley from Be Free Creations. Our brand has also expanded from soy candles to several home fragrance products, such as essential oil diffusers, reed diffusers, soy melts, and many more products planned for the future!
Cassie - I am in the business of being a freelance illustrator. After my son was born I decided I needed to do everything I could to make a living while staying home with him. Jennifer Chavez offered me a table at one of her markets around this time and I decided to put myself out there. I made a bunch of cards, sold a bit, and learned a lot. The rest was just being a yes person and getting it done. I’m thankful for every job I get, big or small, because it helps me spend my days with my little monster.
Lauren - I was looking for a more natural way to keep my kiddos healthy. The day before my daughter was born I got a kit of the top 10 oils that (from what I had researched) would be able to help boost all of our immune systems for when my Gianna arrived. Little did I know that little box of oils and diffuser would change our lives. Once I experienced essential oils for myself and felt empowered to make my own choices with a natural alternative, I simply couldn’t stop talking about it, and still can’t. Education is key when it comes to using essential oils. That's one of the things I found was missing with buying oils off the shelves at the health food store or local market. Becoming a part of the dōTERRA community immersed me in the world of natural health solutions and provided a ton of resources I can turn to when I'm looking to learn or try something new. Soon I discovered that sharing it with other women was my calling. I launched my company, Legit Oils, to empower women with the knowledge of how to use essential oils to care for themselves and their families through interactive workshops, virtual classes and one on one consultations.
Scheduling, Balance, and Naps
Moms play so many roles, at home and in their business, that they could give Meryl Streep a run for her money. We asked how they keep organized, and how they maintain balance between work and everyday life.
Diana - Since Brighter Days is a one-woman show, sometimes it means working overtime and answering emails at 1 o’clock in the morning when everyone else is sleeping. Prioritizing time is BIG. This was something I struggled with for a long time (I sometimes still do), but I learned that more things get done when time is managed correctly. With deadlines, meetings, baby appointments, practices, play dates, and all the things that go with being a business owner and mom, your planner/calendar will become your best friend. I have one that I carry in my purse, one hanging in my kitchen, and one hanging at my studio. Remembering everything in my head gets very overwhelming and I tend to forget (a lot), so writing things down and making lists help me stay organized. I plan out my week, day by day and every day I create a to-do list of what I need to accomplish.
Cassie - Finding the time to work and be there for my child has been an obstacle. There have been a lot of late nights and early morning painting sessions while he sleeps. It’s all about figuring out the best time for certain projects, which one can I work on when he’s napping or sleeping and which ones do I have to hire a babysitter for. Scheduling days or evens hours off to spend with your family seems cold, but it’s totally necessary.
Lauren - I don’t think any of us can ever truly achieve “balance”, we’re bound to be off kilter, if even just a little bit. It took some time, but I’ve found that I can focus on my business during Gianna’s nap, (How many of you know about that nap time hustle? - It’s a killer!) or staying up a bit later or getting up earlier for that uninterrupted work. There are days where this is still a struggle for me if she won't nap or decides that she and Vin want to wake up at 5:30am. I just have to go with the flow.
There are more dedicated times throughout my day that I have blocked for work time. If I try to sneak in answering an email while the kids are eating and talking to me, inevitably I end up ignoring them or getting upset when they “interrupt” me. I think it’s important for us to feel present and connected to our children when we are together during that non-work time and for them to see that we are giving them attention, not just always focused on work. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s majorly important that they also know that Mommy is working her butt off too, but hopefully not at the expense of quality time.
Support, Appreciation & Rewards
Every entrepreneur encounters a little bit of skepticism from well-meaning friends and family, who may not understand what is involved in building a business. Moms are no exception. However, there’s an extra layer of scrutiny from others, simply based on the expectations of being a mom. With so much pressure, from the inside and out, it helps to look at the rewards of being a parent and running a business. These moms tell us what they appreciate most about doing both and how they find support for their work.
Diana - The most rewarding thing about having a business as a mom is being able to make my own schedule and spend time with my family. I like to include my family in my work life, so they understand that I also have dreams and aspirations. When he can, my husband helps with the production, while my son will “help” with packing and unpacking glasses (or he’ll just make a complete mess). Involving my family in my work life helps familiarize them with my work surroundings and understand why they aren’t getting as much time from me.
Cassie - I know my son is going to be proud of me and I feel proud of myself. I love being able to get these illustration jobs without taking time away from being with him. It’s all possible as long as you have a great support system. Being good at multitasking and scheduling helps too, but I couldn’t get half of the things I needed to be done if I didn’t have friends and family there to help care for my son while I worked.
Lauren - In my particular business I’m lucky that I'm primarily connecting with and helping other moms. We’re all doing our best to not only keep our kids alive some days, but to help them thrive! The impact that my business has on family’s lives is such a beautiful thing and it lights me up when I hear story after story from moms about how essential oils have helped their family. Along with that, our kids are seeing the hard work that we put in and know that someday they can help Mommy or Daddy and impact other people's lives. Just this past Mother's Day, Vinny wrote my job is a boss at using oils and that I'm a teacher - which made my heart smile. We may not always realize it, but they are totally watching all of the awesome things us mamas have going on!
Boundaries and Being Selfish
With all the responsibilities moms have, it can be hard not just to find time for themselves, but to justify it. These moms insist that setting boundaries is an essential part of self-care.
Diana - My biggest tip is: Do not overwhelm yourself! It is ok to say “no” to certain projects, especially if it's not going to help your business grow. There are times where I completely shut off my phone and focus on my family, because at the end of the day, they are what keep me going and help me stay motivated.
Cassie - Don’t forget to be selfish and schedule time for yourself. Your work and family will pull a lot from you so getting to cater to yourself once in a while is completely necessary.
Lauren - Saying no is something I'm still working on, truthfully, but that's one of the best pieces of advice I have received as not only a business owner, but a mother. There are a lot of things that we say yes to over and over again and these things may not be serving us in the slightest bit. A sense of obligation or what we "should" be doing may sneak in and make us feel guilty for saying no to that playdate or dinner with friends or signing our kids up for 4-5 after school activities. To do my best organizing and staying in line with the various areas of my business I say no when my gut reaction isn't an immediate yes.
Taking the Plunge: There’s No Right Time.
Having children is a huge commitment, so is having a business. Moms considering doing both may have heard it’s better to wait until their kids are older. These mamas have a little advice for those who are hesitant to take the next step.
Diana - My advice is not to overthink it! A lot of mamas end up talking themselves out of starting because it’s not the perfect time. To be honest, there will never be a perfect time. Start small, set realistic goals for yourself and focus on one goal at a time. When things seem impossible and I feel like giving up, I just look at my son and remind myself that I am doing this for him and for our family’s future.
Cassie - I was one of those people that always thought, “Someone can do what I do and probably better”, so I never put myself out there to sell my stuff. Once I had my son though, I had this new confidence. Having a baby gave me a sense of, I just made a human with my body so yeah I can paint your dog as an old sailor. I think you just know when you’re ready. When you go through your list of excuses why not, then look at this child you want to provide for, then that list kinda disappears.
Lauren - Don’t try to do it all, all the time. You will go through seasons in your life where you need to buckle down and take all the meetings and clients, etc. and others where you need to slow it down. I would say pregnancy and the newborn phase is a time where you need to give yourself some grace. Our bodies are capable of amazing things and we need to honor that and slow down as needed. There is no perfect time to have kids, just like there isn’t really a perfect time to start a business! We’re all just learning as we go along so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I like this quote - "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished". ~Lao Tzu