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."
Job title: Founder and CEO, TheGroceryGame.com
Advice to entrepreneur moms: "Learn to ask for things your way, and expect it that way as a businesswoman."
Gault was a Web pioneer, hatching the idea for TheGroceryGame.com, a membership site that aggregates printable grocery coupons by location, in the late 1990s. "I found myself at a point where I had to do something to make more money, and the Internet was starting to really pick up," she told Kiplinger. Back then, Gault was working part-time as a professional singer and raising two sons, while her husband, Greg, worked as a stunt coordinator for TV and film. When Hollywood unions went on strike in 1999, he was out of work, so the family had to adjust.
Gault began to clip coupons and watch sales cycles. She knew she was onto something when regular trips to the grocery store started to cost her only $30 for $100 worth of food. Gault registered for a free Web development course and began building the site, which launched in February 2000.
The biggest issue for her family was the severe change to their daily routine. "I was working from home, and they had to learn how to respect that space. My kids had to adjust to their dad doing things for them I could no longer do, because I was running a company." By 2003, Gault had 26 franchise locations and hired her husband to help run the business. In 2011, the company earned a reported $12 million in revenue. Today, she has franchise locations in all 50 U.S. states and seven foreign countries.
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Gault advises moms who are starting businesses to stand their ground: "Learn to ask for things to be done your way -- and expect it that way as a businesswoman. As mothers, we're often used to pleasing other people; in business you have to wear the pants."
Job title: President and designer, Pamella Roland
Advice to entrepreneur moms: "Learn not to sweat the small stuff."
A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., DeVos worked for ten years in corporate marketing and public relations, followed by a brief stint living abroad with her husband, Dan, and their three children in Japan. When they returned stateside, rather than going back to the business world, DeVos decided to pursue her longtime love of fashion. In 2002, she launched her clothing line, Pamella Roland.
"Fashion is a tough business," DeVos told Kiplinger, "and it typically takes a number of years of investing before it becomes a financial success." Luckily for her, the clothing line got picked up by Neiman Marcus in its first year. In 2003, the brand won the Gold Coast Fashion Award, a prestigious industry award recognizing the best new design talent. In 2010, DeVos was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America. For 2011, the company reported annual sales of nearly $10 million, close to double from the previous year.
For the past decade, DeVos has split her time between the family's home in Michigan and her offices in New York City. When she's out of town, DeVos makes it a point to check in with her husband and kids every day. Her two daughters are in their early twenties, and her son is still in high school. DeVos reminds other women that it's important to "Learn not to sweat the small stuff. This isn't always easy because mothers put pressure on themselves to always make everyone else happy. . . . If you know you're working hard and trying your best, cut yourself some slack."
Job title: Founder, The Corcoran Group, "Today" show contributor and author
Advice to entrepreneur moms: Build "time walls" to help separate your personal and professional lives.
Corcoran started her real-estate company in 1973, overcoming self-doubts about being one of the only women in the male-dominated New York market. It wasn't until the late 1990s that The Corcoran Group started to make million-dollar profits. She sold the company in 2001 for $66 million.
Corcoran became a mother at the age of 45 in 1994 -- 21 years after becoming an entrepreneur. "Looking back on it, I know there's no way I could've juggled starting up a business and motherhood at the same time," she told Kiplinger. "It's a hard thing to do now, even when I'm not as busy as I was then." Her son, Tommy, is now 18; Corcoran adopted her daughter, Katie, now 6 years old, in 2005.
Nowadays, she serves as the resident real estate expert on NBC's "Today" show and is an investor on ABC's reality show "Shark Tank." She has also written three books. When it comes to finding that perfect balance between home and work, Corcoran believes it's good in theory, but she has yet to find it. She does, however, believe strongly in keeping both worlds separate. "When I go home at night, I'm focused on my family. If I'm away traveling for business, I'm on Skype with them at dinner time. I build these 'time walls' so that the minute I walk in the door at home, I'm not texting, e-mailing or taking work calls."
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