Giving Mompreneurs a Boost with The Zoe Report’s Box of Style

Tuning in to The Rachel Zoe Project on Bravo was part of my early curiosity around the inner workings of a #momboss. Fast forward a decade, and the glamorous mama mogul is now supporting other mompreneurs in The Zoe Report’s Box of Style.

Each season, a new set of emerging beauty and style brands – powered by female founders – are featured in a luxurious package that’s convenient enough for busy moms to feel pampered too.

Women Helping Women Succeed

After arriving in my Spring 2017 box, this foot-loomed Tribe Alive handbag – warmly tagged “Made in India With Love” – became my carryall for everything from notebooks and charging cords during the week, to diapers and wipes on the weekends.

Tribe Alive Handbag from Box of Style

For Tribe Alive CEO Carly Burson, The Zoe Report’s Box of Style has helped expand her brand’s mission to empower female artisans around the world to raise themselves out of poverty.

“We were able to reach a large audience of women through this collaboration and were thrilled over how well the design was received by Box of Style subscribers and how the mission behind our brand resonated with so many,” Carly says.

“Our team at Tribe Alive is full of hard-working moms and we all act as one support system,” she says. “We take on extra work for each other when one needs it, we offer to help with each other’s kids, and we understand that sometimes schedules need to be flexible. We work really hard to foster a culture that allows working moms to be successful in their career while also feeling successful at home.”

“Our team supports each other every step of the way so that we can accomplish all things in all areas of life,” says Carly.

Forever India. Forever changed. 📷 @erinloechner

A post shared by Carly Burson (@carlyrburson) on

“I’m honored that my ‘village’ is full of the women who sit beside me everyday to help me build a brand that in turn allows women all over the world the opportunity to care for their families.”

How this Mompreneur Makes it Work

Helping women succeed comes full circle for Carly: “My support system is my life line. I could not do what I do without the Tribe of women who hold me up.”

“I work with so many amazing women who help guide me through the balancing act of being a female entrepreneur,” Carly says. “Most days it feels like an impossible job, but I surround myself with colleagues and mentors who share about the true struggles of being a business owner and a mom.”

“Some of the women and friends I look to for guidance are Erin Loechner from Design For Mankind, Liz Bohannon of Sseko and our own [Tribe Alive] Brand Development Director, Reagan Shedden.”

Stay tuned for more stories of the mompreneurs featured in The Zoe Report’s Box of Style.

Fall 2017 Box of Style

Here’s my hyper-speed unveiling of my Fall 2017 box, which just arrived last week: ​ ​

This navy GiGi New York clutch converts into a laptop case…Be still this working mama’s heart!​​

img_6380

(To get $10 off the Fall 2017 box, use promo code FALLBOS10, or to get $20 off an annual subscription, enter promo code BOS20 at Box of Style.)

How Working Moms Build and Lead with Limited Time

In the age of startups, #hustle, and productivity gurus, never has so much emphasis been placed on the relationship between hours and success. Typically, this results in a frenetic work ethic that’s not sustainable for working parents and other groups that are responsible for the livelihood of family members.

It’s been five years since Anne Marie Slaughter nailed it on the head in “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” challenging “the belief that more time equals more value.” Sadly, her words still ring true: “the culture of ‘time macho’—a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, travel around the world and bill the extra hours that the international date line affords you—remains astonishingly prevalent among professionals today.”

This precedent is in direct conflict with the realities of parenting: kids get sick, daycare isn’t always available, and doctors offices have limited hours. It’s time to be more transparent about the demands on working mothers, and elevate examples of leadership and entrepreneurship that don’t lead to burnout – or workforce dropout entirely.

For this series, I’m going to focus on working moms for two reasons:

  • While there’s been a lot of debate about the gender gap, examples of how women are building or leading companies – while actively raising children – aren’t typically part of the conversation. Without these stories, young women won’t have examples to inspire their early career choices, and women who are going through the life-altering transformation of becoming mothers will too easily feel defeated.
  • As a toddler mom, I’ve become somewhat of a cultural anthropologist on this topic for the last few years. I believe working moms are in a unique position to reshape corporate leadership and dispel the myths that perpetuate cut-throat startup culture. Stories from female founders who are simultaneously building companies and families are innovative by design.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

How Do You Build or Lead with Limited Time?

I’ve been fixated on answering this question for years, starting long before I became a mom. I was intimidated by the idea of working motherhood, so I read voraciously like any type A person would. From I Don’t Know How She Does It to I Know How She Does It, and Lean In, I couldn’t guzzle down stories about working moms fast enough.

While these gateway stories were inspiring, I finally felt empowered when any notions of super mom flew out the window. By talking to other parents with the same sleep deprivation or childcare struggles, it released the pressure I was needlessly putting on myself to return to my pre-maternity leave pace.

The way Sarah Argenal from the Working Parent Resource put it into words really resonated with me: “As an overachiever in my life before kids, I was used to learning new skills and then mastering them. To put it bluntly, I was used to being good at things in my life; and one of the hardest things I had to do as a parent was realize that I was never going to be perfect at it. Our kids change all the time, and it was really disorienting to have to adapt and adjust to every new developmental stage that my child went through.”

The same can be said for how I previously spent work time. I was used to saying yes to every opportunity, traveling on a regular basis, and spreading my time across a lot of different projects and people. I had to completely rethink how I used and valued my time as a mother.

By surfacing stories about how working moms are building businesses or leading organizations, we can address “time” as a major contributor to the gender gap.

How Working Moms Make the Most of Limited Time

No matter the method, these stories – and the resources that follow – are about placing a premium on the hours you have available, rather than treating your time as a never-ending commodity. It’s also about recognizing your limits and making adjustments when you need to.

Whitney, founder of SproutFit, juggles a corporate job that requires frequent business travel, her new adjustable baby clothing start-up, and a 3-year-old: “It’s a lot of prioritizing, a lot of asking for forgiveness of friends and family members when I can’t go to events because I’m traveling, or when I need to take a me day,” says Whitney.

“My biggest thing right now is truly prioritizing, and learning what can be priority A, B and C,” she says. “Being able to communicate with my husband; with his traveling job and my traveling job, we have to make sure we’re keeping everything in check. It’s a lot of communication, a lot of priority checking and a lot of saying no.”

“I wasn’t always good at saying no,” says Whitney. “But, I’m pretty good at saying no now because it’s to protect, my family, my sanity and my future… our future.”

Sarah, founder of Piperoos, is going through “a phase where the balance of juggling Piperoos, and family and my day job has shifted in favor of family and day job.” In addition to a new role at work, she’s had to temporarily prioritize “the logistics of moving our family, and figuring out school, the new ballet class and swimming” over her environmentally conscious baby brand.

This isn’t the first time Sarah has had to rethink how she spends her time: “I struggled a huge amount after having my daughter. My identity had been so tied up in my career for so long.”

“Even if you have a really supportive spouse at home, even if you have a company that has set up structures in place that are supportive, you still end up facing a burden from a career perspective that you wouldn’t as a male in that situation,” she says.

Tips & Resources

  • Get a reality check on how many hours you have available: In the book I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, there are actual calendars of working moms with leadership positions and high pressure jobs. Many of the women interviewed overestimated the actual time spent on work, which helps debunk the myth that everyone else is putting in more hours than you.
  • Figure out what your unique contribution is: Find the sweet spot between the work you’re most passionate about, what others perceive your super power to be, and your impact on the bottom line. Once you do, it becomes very clear how to prioritize your precious time and help your team stay focused. It also makes the logistics of how you get your work done less of an issue, because the value you deliver is ultimately what matters.
  • Get into alignment before tackling your most important work: This is about creating the conditions to tap into flow, which allows you to create quality without a lot of quantity (as measured by time). It’s a popular topic in podcasts like The Lively Show. Don’t be discouraged by morning rituals, which can be difficult when you’re trying to get kids out the door. As an alternative, you can pinpoint optimal pockets of uninterrupted time in the day for your most important problem-solving or creative work.
  • Cluster your hustle: As someone who works primarily from home, I arrange for one 12+ hour day per week to travel to and from the office, when extended childcare can be covered by family. I make the most of the long train commute, respond to emails while hopping from train to bus to Lyft, and then I can be fully present with my team in the office. Same goes for major customer events or conferences. The other days of the week, Zoom, Slack, texts and calls make it seamless to stay connected with my colleagues, and then I’m available for my family in the morning and evening.
  • Bring in reinforcements: There are likely many things you don’t need to be the one to do, in order to make room for the things that only you can do. In today’s sharing economy, there’s no reason you can’t preserve precious parenting time outside of work by outsourcing grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning, your wardrobe, and more. By creating income for others, you can carve out time for you – and your family.

There’s so much more to say on this topic! If you have experiences to share, I would love for you to be part of the conversation. Please pipe in, either in the comments below, or by reaching out to me directly so we can chat.

Toddler-Friendly Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Eureka! I have stumbled upon a vegan pumpkin muffin recipe that’s crumb-resistant, dairy-free, low-sugar and toddler-approved. It’s the unicorn that will make serving up healthy breakfast on weekday mornings that much easier.

I say resistant because just like sunscreen, there’s no truly crumb-proof muffin; however, even my spirited toddler couldn’t take these down in a crumbly blaze of glory. I attribute the “glue” that binds these together to my food processor. I’d imagine a blender would produce the same result.

IMG_6337

Combine the following in a food processor or blender:

  • 2 1/4 cups oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (equals about 8g coconut sugar per muffin, so I might half this next time around)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice

While blending, add the following:

Bake at 350 degrees until a fork comes out clean from the middle of each muffin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Note: I started with the foundational elements of Healthy Helper’s Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (who adapted the original recipe from the Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook – as featured on Blissful Basil) and subbed out or modified some of the ingredients to make low-sugar muffins for breakfast.

Multigenerational Moments with Sesame Street

I sense that the comforting presence of this wholesome classic in our house is coming to an end. Cars and trucks have replaced Elmo and Cookie Monster, much to my chagrin.

I’ll mourn the cleverly named spoofs like Orange is the New Snack, House of Bricks, and The Spy Who Loved Cookies. I’ll miss seeing how gracefully Gordon and Maria have aged, and Barkley making a comeback.

 

Through Amazon Video or HBO Streaming you can watch episodes going all the way back more than forty seasons. I was hit by a major dose of deja vu seeing Grover dance in a disco and a little girl with pigtails and knee socks playing jacks in the Burroughs.

While I’m a little sad this chapter may be over, I’m so glad I got to share it through a second set of eyes.

Mama Maker: Kristen from Color Cloud Mill

American Made Baby Brands

Up the north coast of California in a breezy seaside village lives an unflappable mompreneur who’s just as sweet and authentic as the namesake of her American made organic cotton clothing line, Color Cloud Mill. Kristen makes thoughtful choices for her brand, whether it’s the name inspired by the nickname her son gives to sunrises and sunsets on the way to and from school, or her deliberate fabric choices.

Color Cloud Mill Organic Childrens Clothing Color Cloud Mill Organic Children’s Clothing The Color Cloud Mill shirt pictured below was my favorite for my son’s first year given how soft it was and how it simultaneously made him look like a teenager and a (tiny!) toddler at the same time.

Color Cloud Mill Organic Tshirt Our First Color Cloud Mill Tshirt I’ve since upgraded our collection to 2Ts (and will soon need 3Ts), although I still squeeze him into the original for bedtime when a bare midriff is no biggie.

Color Cloud Mill Organic Tshirt Color…

View original post 449 more words

The Working Mother’s Dilemma: What to Feed Baby

It starts when you return to work after maternity leave. How often do you pump during the workday? What do you do about business trips? How long can you keep it up?

The dilemma continues into the world of baby food jars and pouches. Which ones are the most nutritious? Which ones will my baby actually eat? Lead and BPA free? Least amount of sugar?

Pumping as a Working Mama

I made it through one month of full-time pumping and part-time work, which I was fortunate to have as a transition period, followed by full-time work and part-time pumping. That first month back started with an awkward series of pumping sessions amidst an overnight business trip that involved:

  • enough clean, spare pump parts and a portable battery pack for rushed airport mother’s lounge stops (and the sweetest Alaska Airlines lounge attendant ever)
  • runs back to my hotel room in between meetings and networking events which made me arrive late to everything
  • an incognito cooler to carry that precious cargo through TSA and all the way home
  • a poncho, the pumping mama’s wardrobe hack!

IMG_1436

The Long, Slow Wean

My first month back to work full-time was less motivating. I started looking out at the horizon to a 3-night business trip, which coincided with the 6-month mark, and it felt like the right time for me to start a long, slow wean. It was hard to find resources on weaning over a 4-week period, but fortunately I found a post that showed me the ropes.

I dropped one feeding at a time every few days (starting with workday pumping) until I was nursing every 12 hours (first thing in the morning; right before bed), then every 18 hours, then once a day, every other day and so on. The grand finale was one last nursing session after I returned from my work trip where I had made it three days without pumping. It was also the night before my son turned 6 months old.

I think the decision to wean is entirely personal and I admire the working mamas who keep it up through the first year and beyond. You are true warriors!

Formula for On-the-Go

Sometimes formula is the only option and I found early on that my hungry little guy needed to supplement the real thing. I did a lot of research and found Baby’s Only to be the closest to mom, with the cleanest ingredients:

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce

However, when I figured out that there was a room temperature option, that was also portable, organic, and didn’t create a powdery mess, I made the switch to these handy pre-mixed 2-oz containers:

Similac Advance Organic Infant Baby Formula, 48 Bottles, 2-Fl Oz, Ready to Feed

I eventually discovered auto-shipments directly from the manufacturer were the most cost-effective and mom-brain proof. They were perfect for the first few months at daycare, trips to the gym, and traveling.

IMG_2661

The Best Baby Food Jars & Pouches

I left behind any notions of making my own baby food, despite how much I like to cook, when time became precious as a working mom. Our weekends were for rest and play; I didn’t envision myself in a baby-food making frenzy. So I searched for the closest thing I could find: jars with the purest organic ingredients.

Stage 1 favorites included:

Earth’s Best First Apples, Og, 2.50-Ounce (Pack of 12) ( Value Bulk Multi-pack)

Earths Best Organic First Beginner Food – Pear, 2.5 Ounce — 12 per case.

Stage 2 favorites included:

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Stage 2 Apples and Apricots — 4 oz

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 2, Corn & Butternut Squash, 4 Ounce Jar (Pack of 12)

Earth’s Best Harvest Squash Turkey Dinner (12×4 Oz)

IMG_2259

Then we graduated to pouches, which were even easier to feed on-the-go. Favorite pouches for stage 3, 6 months and up:

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 3, Pumpkin, Cranberry & Apple, 4.2 Ounce Pouch (Pack of 12) (Packaging May Vary)

Plum Organics Baby Food – Organic – Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon – Stage 3 – 6 Months and Up – 4 oz – Case of 6-95%+ Organic – Wheat Free-

Favorite toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples & Butternut Squash + Super Chia, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples, Spinach, Peas & Broccoli + Super Chia, 4.22 oz (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Toddler Food Plus, Kale Apple & Mango, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

I’ll admit when I first started feeding solids, I was focused on ingredients and wasn’t yet thinking about sugar. Later in the toddler stage, I searched high and low for the least amount of sugar and it came down to these two.

Lowest sugar toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Baby Food, Love My Veggies, Zucchini/Pear/Chickpeas & Kale, 4.2 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressured Wild Rumpus Avocado

Safeguarding Against Contaminants (and Mom Guilt)

And then this morning, while I’m trying to enjoy a few sips of coffee in between chasing my toddler around, I hear that lead and other contaminants were detected in 20 percent of baby food. Lovely. Just what this paranoid mama bear needs to hear.

I double checked that all of the formula, jars and pouches mentioned above made a list of “clean” baby food in an independent study conducted by the Clean Label Project, and/or were verified directly with the brand (in the case of Happy Baby and Once Upon a Farm).

Avoiding overly processed, packaged foods is always a good idea for babies and adults. Also, the reality is that soil contains lead and other contaminants, so when in doubt, check to with the baby brands directly to see if they conduct testing.

When mom guilt rears its ugly head, we have to remember we do our best for each moment. Hopefully my research can give busy mamas back some time and peace of mind.

Mama Maker: Whitney from SproutFit

American Made Baby Brands

As new mamas know all too well, babies basically live in onesies and leggings for the first 6 months of their life. Whitney of SproutFit wants to extend the life of this starter set of nostalgia-inducing clothes through the first year (and beyond). She’s producing organic American made baby clothes that your little ones won’t outgrow until they’re celebrating another birthday.

SproutFit’s adjustable baby clothes come in 0-12 months and 12-24 months so you don’t need to change out your baby’s wardrobe every few weeks. With their flexible sizes and colors, you can build a baby “capsule” wardrobe for any body type (something I appreciate as the mom of a tall and lean toddler).

sproutfit adjustable american made baby clothing Image courtesy of SproutFit This isn’t Whitney’s first rodeo. She started her first company at 13 years old in the natural foods space and sold the company 9 years later. She went straight into a corporate…

View original post 466 more words

Mama Maker: Diana from Wil + Frida

American Made Baby Brands

I wanna be a Wil and Frida baby when I grow up. Dressed in beautiful bohemian, organic cotton crop tops and ruffled bloomers, these mini models are festival ready and an Instagrammer’s dream.

Behind the fashion forward baby and toddler attire is an inspiring story of women helping women. Wil and Frida founder Diana has built a burgeoning fashion line through a pay it forward community of mompreneurs, seamstresses and content creators.

Wil and Frida american made baby clothes
Image courtesy of Wil and Frida

Women Helping Women

“After having my girls I felt like there was a need for something different and I was really inspired by other moms who started off the same way,” says Diana.

Wil and Frida began as a creative outlet for Diana to make clothes for her daughters, just as her grandmother did. “She was a great inspiration to me, I was very close to my grandmother,” says Diana.

Feeling inspired…

View original post 352 more words

Breakfast bars of champions

In search of a toddler-friendly breakfast option for busy mornings that’s not too crumbly or sugary, I went to good old Pinterest for inspiration. 

Unfortunately a lot of the easy recipe options called for honey or other sweeteners. So I took a cue from the deliciously simple, classic combo of oats and smashed bananas. 

(Plus peanut butter, but any nut or seed butter will work just fine.)

I hand mixed the following ingredients and then baked it in a muffin tin at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

You can also cut down on dishes by folding the ingredients together over parchment paper in a baking dish and then cut it into bars afterwards.

1 cup oatmeal

1 banana

1/2 cup peanut butter


Hacking Sun Basket for Leftovers

I recently started ordering the family plan from Sun Basket, which provides enough ingredients to make dinner twice for two adults and two children.

This was helpful for providing bigger portions (we nearly eat it all between the two of us) and only having to cook twice was more realistic for my schedule than three times a week.

Even better, I started ordering two of the same recipe and now only have to cook once! We have plenty of leftovers, saving me from cooking or wracking up dishes on another busy weeknight.

(See below for the 8 servings of fajitas we’ll have for dinner two nights this week, and maybe even lunch.)

Use this code to get up to $35 off your first order.