Mompreneurs Give Kids Early Lessons In Business Savvy

By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) We love to hear stories about mothers who had the inspiration and guts to launch a business. These so called “Mompreneurs” are now empowering women everywhere to take a chance on something they believe in. As we all know, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. Thank you moms for inspiring us all!

Detroit Free Press

The recent rise of entrepreneurialism can be seen in the Novi homes of Maria Dismondy and Carly Dorogi.

It’s in Detroit, where Danielle North is on the verge of opening her own business, and in the Plymouth Township home of Kelly O’Donnell.

These women — all mothers — are leading a slice of a national trend of small business startups, so-called mompreneurs.

While most moms are getting gifts today, these women are working hard to build their businesses to ensure not only financial stability for their families, but also to create a future for their children, teaching and showing them how to be business savvy, and to think in an unconventional way about what the future might hold.

Since 2007, the total number of businesses in the U.S. rose 9%, but among female-owned firms, the increase was 45%, — five times the national average, according to the sixth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. by Womenable and American Express OPEN.

“My grandma was a business owner,” said O’Donnell, who launched her online company, Tiki Cards, in January. “She had her own company for 26 years. … I grew up thinking I could own my own business. I think without having that example of a woman in your family who’s done that, that might not be the first thing you think of.

They include their young kids in their start-ups, so they can see that they aren’t limited to traditional career fields.

“My hope is that for them, I’m modeling the idea that your ideas are important, and have meaning for the world,” said O’Donnell of her company, Tiki Cards, which are colorful nail stickers with fun designs that peel off a tradeable card, like Pokemon cards. They look like nail polish, but without the mess.

Her daughters, Tess, 9, and Kate, 6, help her with the marketing and give their opinions on the colors and styles the company sells. “I want them to think that you should follow through and have an impact with those ideas, whatever they are.

“Even if they never open their own business, it’s an important part of being in the workforce, solving problems and thinking innovatively and being entrepreneurial, no matter where you are or what you do. So they’re important lessons for our girls no matter what.”

O’Donnell got the idea for Tiki Cards in 2014, when a roomful of little girls were struggling to do their nails. They were trying to use Jamberry nail wraps, which are applied with heat and sized for adults.

She dreamed up an idea for a kids nail product with the trading card concept and bounced it off Tess and Kate. The business launched online early this year, and there are now 36 different designs. Each order is randomly assorted into a surprise blind pack of cards. Though the finished nails look like fancy manicure designs, it’s simple enough for girls to do on their own. Tess and Kate help with marketing videos and give their opinions on the colors and styles the company sells.

Kidz Kingdom
Driving the surge in growth of female-owned businesses are women of color, who now lead 44% of all female-owned companies, according to the State of Women-Owned Businesses report. Their numbers have more than doubled to almost 5 million since 2007.

One of them is North, 33, who plans to open her business, Kidz Kingdom, an indoor playhouse for children in the Rosedale Park neighborhood of Detroit, later this month.

“Being in Detroit, some people say it’s a sacrifice,” said North, who left her job with Detroit Public Schools last year.
“It’s not a sacrifice. We want to be here, but we do know that comes with challenges. … We have a beautiful community and a nice neighborhood, but not enough businesses that reflect the residents here.”

With a custom-made tree house and rock — climbing wall inside, Kidz Kingdom will offer an indoor play space for kids in a part of the city where there’s a dearth of activities for children.

North became cofounder of the Detroit Women’s Leadership Network in 2014 after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s provocative book, “Lean In,” which fueled her entrepreneurial ambitions.

“That book didn’t resonate with some people because it was too elitist,” she said. “But for me, I flipped that around and said we just need to have a group of women of all races, ages, life stages and phases and getting together to talk about issues that affect us,” North said.

She already sees the impact it’s having on her eldest son, Eugene Jr., who is 6.

“He frequently makes statements like, ‘I’m so happy we’re starting a business together.’ He said, ‘Mom, am I going to have a badge? I want people to know I’m a part of it, and I helped start it.’ He sees everything that’s happening, and he calls himself a junior entrepreneur. He named himself that. This is something that I’m investing in my children and doing right before their faces. It’s real, and so accessible and so attainable. He can say, ‘I watched my mother do that. I know this is real.’ For Preston, it will be the same.”

The notion that we can rear children to think in a way that inspires creativity and entrepreneurship is one that has taken off in educational circles nationally. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s theories, written in a best-selling book “Mindset, the Psychology of Success,” suggest s that praising children for being inherently smart, artistic, or creative, and discouraging mistakes can backfire. It creates the impression that people either are born smart, or not, that those traits are fixed and not changeable, and that making mistakes should be discouraged.

Children with this so-called fixed mind-set don’t try as hard to succeed, don’t acknowledge mistakes or try to fix them.
Rather, parents and teachers who tell children they can accomplish their goals — whatever they are — by working hard, learning from their mistakes, being resilient and persevering even when the work is hard — leads to a growth mind-set, and kids who try harder to succeed and become leaders.

For Dorogi, formerly a curriculum coordinator at Bloomfield Hills Schools, it was really important for her daughters, Avery, 6, and Mila, 4, to see that modeled in her own life.

“When I was a kid, my mom owned a custom sweatsuit business and sort of bedazzled 1980s-style sweatsuits,” Dorogi said. “So we had, my sister and I, for every holiday, every birthday, Valentine’s Day — whatever it was — a sweatsuit for it.

When she was pregnant with Avery, Dorogi was searching for a simple and cute way to mark her baby’s milestones.

“I said to my husband, ‘I wish I could make a monthly shirt for the baby like my mom used to do. But I can’t even sew a button on a shirt. I cannot do that. It’s not going to happen,” she said. “I wish there was a way to put it on the shirt, take a picture, and take it off after. So you could put it on the shirt, but it would look like it was a custom, appliqued shirt.

“So he said, ‘Why don’t you come up with something?’ ”

Dorogi did just that, inventing Sticky Bellies, the round monthly milestone stickers that parents now ubiquitously place on their infants’ onesies to take a picture of each month and post to social media.

“I think the timing was imperative to our success,” she said. “The product first immediately addressed a need, and second, it required no advertising. Parents took a picture of it, and advertised it for us on Facebook. It was perfect. All the things that needed to happen for the brand to take off happened.”

At first, she kept the stock on her dining room table; she and her husband hand-packed every order.

“We are constantly problem solving and trying to come up with a better way to do things,” Dorogi said. “It’s as simple as that, the impact that entrepreneurs have on their kids. It impacts who they are and how they learn. It makes them flexible in their thinking, and they’re problem solvers.

“To me, the greatest lesson for them is that your degree you get from college doesn’t have to be the end all be all. I loved my career in education, but another opportunity became available and because I had this other set of broader skills of problem solving and creativity, I was able to be successful in something else.

“Your path might go one way, but if you don’t focus on one job-based skill… you can be successful in anything.”

Her brand has grown with her children, and offers other milestone products to document kids’ lives such as customizable growth charts, blocks, and birthday posters along with the original belly stickers. Avery helps with marketing and product development.

“She’s always giving her opinion on improving the company,” Dorogi said. “She’ll see the packaging and tell me if something’s not clear; she’s very opinionated on advertisements, what they look like and the content. She’s quite the critic.

“She recently wrote a letter to the Shopkins company all on her own because she found a typo on their product insert. So, she’s definitely a critic. I think she’s been trained to think that way, not on purpose, but because she’s always looking at my stuff, and being critical of it in a very good way.”

Book publishing
Maria Dismondy built on her own experiences as an elementary school teacher and mom of three to write and publish books with kindness, multiculturalism and anti-bullying at their core.

“I saw a need for more books that had realistic characters that kids could relate to,” said Dismondy, not teddy bears or giraffes or monkeys or zebras. “You need to have real kids with relationship problems so they can open the book and say, wow, that character is just like me.”

Her first book, “Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun,” is among the most popular. It’s about a girl who is relentlessly teased by a boy at school. When the mean boy needs help, the main character, Lucy, responds with kindness.

“Initially, my inspiration came from my students,” said Dismondy, 37. “But now I have my own children to inspire me.” Ruby, 7, Leah, 4, and Dexter, 2, give her great material.

“They’re going through it every day,” Dismondy said. “Dexter has a food allergy. … He has a serious allergy to sesame seeds. And we were at a restaurant the other day, and I started getting ideas for another book. Families have to deal with this everywhere they go and it’s life threatening.”

Dismondy makes it a point to include children of nontraditional family types along with kids from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds in her books.

“That’s the real world,” she said. “I think that in children’s literature, when they open a book, they need to be able to relate to the characters in the story. Just as in our community here in Novi, and where I used to teach in Plymouth-Canton, there is so much diversity. I thought, this is what I am living. This is what our kids are seeing. I wanted to make it as realistic is possible. There are children with disabilities in my books, children from different types of family groups. For example Lucy, from “Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun,” you don’t ever see Lucy’s parents. That’s a question that comes up with kids. They say, well ‘Where are her parents?’ I want kids asking those questions because not all kids live with their parents. I wrote it with the sense that her grandfather is raising her.”

She has a new book coming out in June that’s cowritten with Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch called, “The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination.” In it, the main character is raised by his mother, and she’s a single parent.

“His story is really great and aligns with my whole theme of empowering kids,” Dismondy said. “So his story is about everyone telling him he was too small, not smart enough, not fast enough. And he made it happen.”

Her job is rubbing off on her children, too. Ruby and a neighbor have been doing a little writing themselves.
“Me and my friend Natalie, she’s one of my neighbors, me and her once writed a story together,” Ruby said. “It was a story of friendship.”

And that, said Dismondy, is what it’s all about. “Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun” has been turned into a stage play and is making the rounds nationally. Dismondy speaks at schools and libraries around the state, and does Skype visits and virtual tours nationally. And she’s started her own publishing company.

“I think it’s inspiring to other moms, too, to know that your job doesn’t have to be the typical 9-5 go to the office. It can look very different.”

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