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Home Work: Lessons from Work at Home Parents

I would like to introduce a new Kidoinfo series, Home Work: Lessons from Work-at-Home Parents – interviews with parents who take on work at home in addition to the work of raising a family.

Like many of us, these parents juggle kids, work, and childcare (or lack of it), but their unique situation requires that they squeeze in worktime at home, whether working for someone else or running their own business. Hearing how these parents manage to make it work along with the challenges they face may help the rest of us with our own home work.

Talia-DanielleAn Interview with Danielle Bahr Eason from Myself Belts
and Maura Keating from Kidoinfo.com.
Photo of Danielle (right) and sister, Talia with some of their children

Sisters Danielle Bahr Eason and Talia Bahr Goldfarb grew up in Providence. Danielle graduated from Wheeler in 1994, and Talia graduated from Lincoln in 1990. Danielle and Talia are also the inventors of one of the most innovative, yet basic products for kids on the market today–the Myself Belt. I reviewed the Myself Belt for Kidoinfo, but I still had questions, so Danielle graciously accepted my invitation to be interviewed for a new regular feature–a series of interviews with parents who take on work at home in addition to the work of raising a family.

Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?

Danielle: My sister and I invented Myself Belts after becoming moms and discovering that there were no belts on the market that kids could use on their own. My sister’s son was thin and without the bulk of his diaper after being potty-trained, his pants kept falling down! We needed a solution that would keep his pants at his waist and allow him to get his pants down quickly when it was time to use the bathroom. Allowing kids to be independent and feel proud of themselves was most important.

We created a unique patented belt closure that enables young children to fasten and unfasten their belt independently. Kids have an “I did it myself!” moment, and parents have a solution for pants that don’t quite fit right! Myself Belts solve a common parenting frustration while promoting the independence of young children.

How did you start your business?

Danielle: Myself Belts launched in September 2004 and word has spread about our fashionable and functional accessory and problem-solver for parents. We patented the design to protect our idea and had prototypes made to test the design and sizing. Once the belt seemed perfected, we took a leap of faith and started selling them to stores and through our website. Myself Belts are sold on the Web and in over 600 stores across the country and internationally. Myself Belts have been featured in Parenting magazine, USA Weekend, Cookie magazine, and Child magazine, among others. We even have celebrity fans like Cindy Crawford, Felicity Huffman, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Sarah Jessica Parker!

How do you balance work and family?

Danielle: It’s hard! Typically we do the bulk of our work while the kids are at school or in the evening when they are asleep.

Please describe a typical day.

Danielle: Take my daughter to preschool; come home and return calls and e-mail (sales, marketing, PR follow-up); grab quick lunch and pick my daughter up from school; more of the same in the afternoon as I can catch a few minutes. In the evening I do more of my to-do list.

Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?

Danielle: I attempt to stay as organized as possible. I leave e-mails that need responding to ASAP unread so that they stand out, and I keep a list of to-do’s in a notebook so that I can always look back at something if needed. I also keep paperwork that needs attention in an “in-box” on my desk.

If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?

Danielle: Take a leap of faith and just go for it! There is never a perfect time to do or start anything.

Where do you find inspiration?

Danielle: Reading about other small companies making it or getting great press recharges our batteries and makes us work even harder.

What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?

Danielle: The simplest products are the ones I could not live without . . . sippy cups, potty seats, step stools so that my daughter can be more independent. I just discovered “Goodnites,” which work perfectly for my daughter at night-time as she still needs a pull-up.

What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?

Danielle: We love Laurie Berkner’s songs and are big fans of children’s books that instill self-confidence. We have started to sell these books on our website.

What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?

Danielle: We are members of our local aquarium and children’s museum and frequent them often. We all do much better getting out of the house on a rainy day!

What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?

Danielle: Loved Juno — smart, quick wit. A story that anyone can relate to. LOVED the book Eat, Pray, Love — inspiring and makes you want to step back and take a breather every now and then in order to refocus.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Danielle: Chocolate — but I am 7.5 months pregnant so I am allowed to indulge!

If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?

Danielle: Get an extra hour of sleep, get to nos 10 through 15 on my to-do list, or have a leisurely lunch with a friend without feeling rushed!

Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and a mother?

Danielle: Selling belts is such a part of my daily life that my three-year-old asks me, “Did you sell a lot of belts today, Mommy?” when I pick her up from school. It’s very cute.

How has the experience and on-the-job training of being a mother prepared or changed you in business?

Danielle: As a mom, you quickly see that you have to be flexible and realize that it is okay that you may not be able to get everything accomplished in one day. Just as being a mom is a 24-hour job, owning your own business is much the same. It is hard to turn it off and have traditional hours when you work for yourself and are trying to grow a brand.

What is next for you and your business?

Danielle: Myself Belts were initially developed for children ages 2-6, but after realizing that Myself Belts could help people of all ages with hand difficulties, we decided to extend our sizing (leather belts are offered though size 48″). Children and adults with cognitive difficulties or physical impairments can benefit from Myself Belts. We have as many requests for Myself Belts for adults and older children, and we are excited to meet this need. We now work with individuals and occupational therapists dealing with stroke victims, those with Alzheimer’s, autism, and Down’s syndrome among other ailments. Our larger sized belts will be a big focus for us in 2008.

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