After years of living out of state, I moved home to New Orleans when I was six months pregnant with my first child. I did not think I would have much luck finding a job in my field at that stage of pregnancy, so the plan was to have the baby then figure out the work situation. After my son was born, I wasn’t quite ready to leave him, so my husband and I decided that I would stay at home with him until he started school. I was lucky to be a stay-at-home mom. It was definitely the right choice for me, but after a while, I started to get a little antsy.
A dear friend introduced me to the New Orleans Moms Blog, and I joined them as a writer about four years ago. It was a blessing to have this experience, not just because I could flex my creative muscles again, but also because meeting so many wonderful moms who were building businesses and working in our fabulous city inspired me immensely. Almost five years (and another baby) later, I am still at home with my kids, but my days look a lot different then they did in the beginning because I am now a work-at-home mom / small business owner.
How The Business Started
Last August I had an idea for a business. Some of my favorite and most utilized baby items were swaddles. They are so multi-functional, and I love how light-weight they are for this crazy Louisiana heat. I also love locally-themed baby clothing – I mean, there’s not much cuter than a onesie with a beignet on it or a dress smocked with streetcars. My idea was to combine my love of Louisiana with my must-have baby item, swaddles. I wanted to make swaddles that represented Louisiana babies, full of crawfish and streetcars, red beans and magnolias, oysters and pralines! I spoke with my husband, bought a domain, and the seed for Little Hometown was planted. Then came the hard part.
Working With Toddlers
With a three-year-old son in school part-time and a one-year-old daughter at my feet full-time, I operated on very little sleep during the first few months. I probably could have balanced my time a little better, but I wanted to launch before Christmas. Starting this kind of business required a lot of research. There were many late nights researching manufacturers, packaging options, distribution channels, etc. Then came the design work. I had a shoestring budget, so when it came to the swaddles, the package design, and the website, everything fell into my amateur graphic designing lap. Speaking of laps, that’s where my daughter sat most of the time when I was designing. There were several instances where she punched the keyboard at the exact wrong moment. (How do babies always manage to find the one button that can destroy everything?) There were many nights when I was so pooped from, y’know, wiping poop and cleaning up behind two toddlers that I wanted to just forget about the whole thing, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Advice For Other Moms Who Want To Take The Leap
I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t scary to put myself out there and launch Little Hometown. Not only was I worried about losing money, I was worried about failing publicly. What if people thought my ideas were dumb? What if they thought my designs were ugly? What if NO ONE bought them and I was stuck with a storage unit filled with thousands of swaddles and the guilt of having wasted money my family could have used? Those “what if’s” were scary, but the other “what if’s” were scary too. What if I don’t pursue this? What if someone else has the same idea and executes it before me? What if this is what I am supposed to be doing? What if I regret not taking the leap?
So, what advice would I give to other moms with ideas looking to take a leap?
- Use Your Family and Friends as Focus Groups: At the very beginning of launching my swaddles, I created a Facebook group and invited my family and a few friends to give me feedback. I had about 20 ideas and they helped me whittle them down to a few and gave me useful feedback on the designs.
- Be Prepared to Work Anywhere: In the months before I launched Little Hometown, I carried my laptop with me everywhere. I actually designed our “Crawfish Tails” swaddle in my driveway because my one-year-old fell asleep on the way home from the grocery store. She didn’t transition well from the carseat to the crib so if I wanted to get work done that day, it had to be done in the car.
- Join Your Community: Social media is a great resource, not just for promoting your business, but also for connecting to other local entrepreneurs. I am a member of a Facebook page called Nola Mompreneurs. It’s nice to be able to reach out to and support other local moms running businesses.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small: When I launched Little Hometown with just a New Orleans Boy swaddle set and a Louisiana Girl swaddle set, I was nervous about only having two products. “Is it weird to have a website with only two things on it?” I asked myself. And, in fact, the question I got asked the most when speaking with retailers was, “What other products do you sell?” I would say that it was just two products, but I was hoping we would grow soon. I had so many ideas to start out with, but my bank account and sanity are happy that I started with just two.
A year later, I am glad I took the leap. Little Hometown is available in over forty stores across Louisiana and has grown from two products to six in the first year. I was even able to hire another local mom to illustrate one of my new design ideas! Hopefully by the end of next year, we will have tripled our product line again. It could grow faster if I weren’t at home with my kids (and if our team consisted of more than just me – and sometimes my husband as the delivery man!), but I’m glad I’ve been able to keep a foot in both mommy worlds. I am not going to be on the Fortune 500 list anytime soon, but it feels so satisfying to have built something from scratch and to be earning money for my family. I am proud to say I’ve got two children, but three babies: Ben, Margot, and Little Hometown.