Being an entrepreneur comes with lots of responsibility. So does being a mom.
This Mother's Day, we celebrate women who have succeeded in both roles, simultaneously nurturing a growing family and an emerging business. Following in the footsteps of iconic women entrepreneurs such as Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics) and Debbi Fields (Mrs. Fields' cookies), most of the six women featured in this slide show did double-duty from the beginning -- while one waited until her business was well-established before becoming a mom.
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"Mothers have all the critical skills they need for running a business," suggests Tamara Monosoff, entrepreneur and author of Secrets of Millionaire Moms. "They are simultaneously the family manager, the bookkeeper, the organizer, the planner . . . all of these skills are transferable to business."
Here, these women share how they’ve managed to balance their work and home lives, while building multimillion dollar companies.
Job title: Founder, Airborne; currently CEO of Pine Brothers, LLC
Advice to entrepreneur moms: "Never, ever listen to naysayers."
In 1997, Knight-McDowell, then a California schoolteacher, started developing an herbal remedy with her husband, Rider, to prevent her from catching colds from her second-grade students. Through trial-and-error, she was able to come up with a formula of natural ingredients to support her immune system. "It was my husband's idea to market this concoction, which we christened Airborne," Knight-McDowell told Kiplinger.
From the outset, time management was a challenge, because she was still teaching while running the business on the side. In 2000, Knight-McDowell quit her teaching job to run Airborne full-time and to care for her newborn son. She praises motherhood for having helped prepare her for the more overwhelming moments: "As a working mom, very little about the business world could faze me, because it was less important than any family dramas," she says. By 2004, Airborne was on the shelves of well-known drugstore chains such as Rite-Aid and CVS, and Knight-McDowell had appeared TV shows such as "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil." By 2005, annual sales hit a reported $100 million. A year later, Knight-McDowell sold the company to a private equity firm.
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Today, she and her husband own and operate Pine Brothers, LLC, a Philadelphia-based throat drop company, which they acquired in 2004, and they are raising their three "very active" kids. To other working mothers who have dreams of becoming their own boss, Knight-McDowell says, "Follow your intuition . . . If you have a negative person or influence in your life, get them out of your life."
Job title: Founder and president, Liz Lange Maternity
Advice to entrepreneur moms: "Believe in yourself and forge ahead."
Becoming a maternity-wear designer wasn't really on Lange's radar when she graduated from Brown University in 1988 with a degree in comparative literature. The idea blossomed in 1996 -- after having worked a string of jobs in magazine publishing and design -- she'd constantly listen to her pregnant friends complain about the lack of stylish clothes for mothers-to-be. "I got the idea that maternity clothing needed to be fitted instead of oversized, and fashionable instead of baby-ish," she told Kiplinger.
She launched Liz Lange Maternity in New York City in the fall of 1997. Shortly after, Lange and her husband, Jeffrey, also launched their family -- their son, Gus, was born in October 1998. "Being a mother probably taught me a fair amount about managing employees," Lange says. By 2000, the business was doing so well that she launched a catalog and e-commerce site, as well as a second store in Beverly Hills. In November of that year, she gave birth to a daughter, Alice. By 2007, Lange had partnered with Target, Nike and Nikon, and annual sales had reached a reported $200 million. She decided to sell the business that year but stayed on as president. Today she also designs a women's wear line for HSNtv and runs the consumer-based Web site Shopafrolic.com with her sister Jane.
Through it all, Lange values quality time with her family. "I delegate [work] at home and the office. It's a constant juggling act . . . but I do my best and definitely don't sleep a lot." If you're an aspiring entrepreneur with family commitments and wondering if you've got what it takes, she says, "The truth is before someone does something new, no one thinks it's a good idea. Put on blinders, believe in yourself and forge ahead."
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Job title: Founder and president, Carol's Daughter
Advice to entrepreneur moms: "Turn the mirror on yourself."
Price worked as a writer's assistant and script and production coordinator for the NBC series "The Cosby Show" before leaving the TV industry to focus full-time on her beauty-product business, Carol's Daughter, in 1994. She started out small, mixing and packaging her lotions and body butters in the kitchen of her New York City home before opening her flagship Brooklyn storefront in 1999.
In the early days, Price says she did practically everything on her own -- from accounting to sales to shipping -- while raising two young sons with her husband, Gordon. Steady growth allowed her to develop a loyal client base. Customers eventually included celebrities such as Will and Jada Smith, who became investors in the company. Projected sales hit $50 million in 2011, aided by distribution deals with Macy's and Sephora.
Price admits that running a successful business and being a good mom isn't easy. Her sons, Forest and Ennis, are now 16 and 14, and the newest addition to the Price family, her daughter Becca, is 5. "I'm always reminding myself that no one is perfect," she told Kiplinger. If you're a mother embarking on entrepreneurship, Price advises, "[When you're] working with a slew of other people, it's easy to place blame on others when things don't go quite right. But if you're the constant in the situation, you need to be able to turn the mirror on yourself to see how what you're doing or not doing is affecting the outcome around you."