Mompreneur 101: Starting a Business with a Baby on Your Lap
First, mompreneur Wendi Berger had a baby. Then, on maternity leave, she had an idea for a business—and she hasn't looked back.
After her son was born, Wendi Berger left the corporate world to create her 100 percent natural, mama-safe fragrance line, Pour le Monde. I sat down with her to ask about following her dream, balancing family with business and whether she “has it all.”
How—and why—did you make the leap?
I started my career at Revlon and then worked in the fashion magazine publishing industry, eventually rising up to the role of publisher. Then I became pregnant, and on my maternity leave, I realized I wanted to be my own boss and create a schedule with flexible hours so that I could focus on being a businesswoman and a mom.
I’d always been a fragrance junkie, but I’d stopped wearing them when I was pregnant due to the toxins and petrochemicals in them; I couldn’t find any chemical-free fragrances that smelled good. When I told one of my good friends Lisa—who has MS and also can’t use products that contain chemicals—this, she said, “Why don’t you do it?” The idea was like a bolt of lightning: make 100 percent natural perfumes and have each one benefit a different charity. Lisa named the company Pour le Monde (For the World) and voila, we were born!
How did you go about getting it off the ground?
With my son on my lap, I just Googled and cold-called until I found a company that would work with me. The whole process took over two years. I could do it a lot quicker for a lot less now that I know what I know; there was a serious learning curve!
And how did you balance having a baby with starting a business? What did it look like—then and now?
At first it meant working at the dining room table in our apartment with a babysitter and an infant a few feet away… Not an ideal set up. When my son went down for naps, the babysitter would want to chat with me. When he woke up, that’s when the phone started ringing with people calling me back. I didn’t sound too professional with a crying baby in the background! Luckily, I found an office not too far from home. Even though my son is now in pre-school, it’s still a balancing act. I have so much work to do in the evenings, but that’s also prime family time. I usually un-plug until after bedtime, and then get back on the computer around 9 PM. When you have your own business and a family, there is no “me” time. I’m amazed that I can survive on so little sleep.
Do you think “Having it all” is a real thing moms can aim for? Are you there?
I think “having it all” is a real thing that you define for yourself. For me, it means having a wonderful, supportive husband, an amazingly funny, charming kid and good health. I don’t think I could ask for more than that.
What top three pieces of advice can you offer to moms who want to start a business or a brand?
First, be really open to what others say about your idea, but listen to your gut. There are so many naysayers out there who will try to prevent you from doing what you want to do. Once you get the product or brand out there—that’s when you really need to listen. Criticism can be hard on a person, but I value every word of feedback.
Second, develop an “advisory circle.” These are people that may have some knowledge of the business you are going in to—manufacturing experience, accounting know-how, social media experience, marketing shops, etc.—that you can ask for quick advice or guidance.
Finally, starting a business is like doing a home renovation; it will cost you more than you budgeted for, you’ll find cracks in the foundation and it will take much longer than you expected. Spend every cent like it’s your last, and look every bill over twice.
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