Home Work: Lessons from Work-at-Home Parents. This series of Kidoinfo interviews with parents look at how they manage to squeeze in work time at home (whether working for someone else or running their own business) along with juggling kids, home life, and childcare (or lack of it).
Joanne and Matthew are the co-owners of Tortilla Flats Restaurant in Providence since 2006. Mathew is also a freelance illustrator (MattVincent.com) with diverse clients such as The Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine, YM Magazine and Scholastic Publishing.Â Today these busy parents share with Kidoinfo how they manage to run a restaurant, illustrate and raise a family at the same time.
Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?
Matthew: I have had a love of drawing my whole life and I also grew up in the restaurant business, my grandfather and then my father having owned a restaurant, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m in this situation.
How did you start your business?
Matthew: I got started sort of late with the illustration business.Â At 27 I ended up working at a bicycle shop that was, by chance, full of artists.Â I always thought that I would end up in the comic book industry, when my coworkers found out about this they recommend I meet an illustrator that used to work there, and so began my illustration career. I followed all his recommended steps for getting started and with my first self-promotional mailer I got a job with Spin Magazine.
Joanne: I had worked at Tortilla Flats for 13 years at the time we bought it. My boss had owned it for 20 years but spent the last 10 living in Vermont. I was responsible for all aspects of the business so when he was ready to “retire”, he gave me first option at buying it. Mat had waited tables there previously (that’s where we met!) so we both knew that buying “the Flats” was a great opportunity.
How do you balance work and family?
Joanne: We are very fortunate. Mat works from home during the day and I work at the restaurant at night so we are both able to spend plenty of time with our 3-year-old son, Cash. Some days it’s tag-team parenting between the 2 businesses, trying to squeeze in gym time, grocery shopping and whatever else comes along so on Saturdays we like to have solid family time where the three of us spend the day together going to the playground or doing something fun.
Please describe a typical day.
Joanne:Â If it is a day where both Mat and I are working, we get up around 8 (we’re lucky that Cash is not an early riser!) if Mat has a deadline he will go to the studio and start work, Cash and I will spend the day together, have breakfast, watch a little Curious George, then go to play group or maybe the play ground. I try to get out of the house for a while so Mat can concentrate on his work without being distracted. Around 3, Cash will have relaxing time (he doesn’t nap anymore) and watch Arthur or Curious George at which time I will try to throw some dinner together for them before I go to work, maybe get a load of laundry in.Â Usually Mat will finish work by late afternoon, if there’s time, we’ll take turns going to the gym, I’ll get in the shower, get ready for work and head to the restaurant for 5:30. Mat and Cash will spend the evening together, having dinner, reading books and playing and Cash is usually in bed by 7:30.
Do you have any timesaving tricks that you could share?
Joanne: We have a small backpack in the car that has a diaper, wipes, a few books, toys and a sunscreen stick in it in case we end up being out longer than expected or decide to go to a restaurant! If I have restaurant paperwork to do, I like to get up extra early before Mat and Cash do and get it done then. It’s nice and quiet and I can concentrate and get it done quickly.
If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Matthew: Trust in the process.Â If you are passionate about something and are confident you are doing what needs to be done to become successful, trust that it will happen. From a business point of view, pay bills on time; look forward to the future when it comes to your credit rating.Â Start saving at least ten percent of every paycheck.Â I also have a passion for real estate so I would have liked to have followed these steps and started buying investment properties at a younger age.
Where do you find inspiration?
Matthew: The world around me. How people move, dress, interact with their environment. To successfully create gestures and emotions of the people in my illustrations in a dynamic composition…artistically, there is nothing more satisfying.Â And of course none of this would be worth it if I didn’t have my family. What is better inspiration for life than to see your son grow on a daily basis or to see your stepdaughter attend her first day of college.
What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
Joanne: When Cash was smaller, we had a Kelty Kids back pack that we used all the time. Cash loved being up high and being able to look around, he could stay in it forever! We got more use out of it that than any other bouncy seat, swing, play pen or stroller we had!
What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?
Matthew:Â CD’s- Dan Zanes Family Dance and Bare Naked Ladies Snacktime.
Joanne: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I never get tired of reading that one!
What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
Joanne: Finger painting, Play-Doh, tent building, baking, go to the mall.
What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
Matthew: Any movie or book really. There is nothing I love more than being a dad but you need an escape every once in awhile, some alone time.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Joanne: reading People and Us Weekly on line everyday and ice cream sundaes, once a week!
If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Joanne: Yard work.
Matthew: Work on The Tortilla Flats van, a 1964 ford Econoline that will adorn the Flats logo when I am finished restoring it.
How has the experience and on the job training of being a mom/dad prepared or changed you in business?
Joanne:Â I have a daughter who will be 20 this year, when I started working at the Flats, she was 4! I think being a parent definitely helped me to be able to multi-task which helped me work my way up from waitress to floor manager to General Manager to owner! Being a mom also makes you an expert at finding things, 3 people could be looking for something at the restaurant and not find it… but I will!
Matthew: Without a doubt sensitivity.Â Becoming a parent is the most humbling experience. If you can show the people around you the compassion, tolerance, and sympathy you show your children your life, business or otherwise, will be nothing but a success.
What is next for you and your business?
Matthew: To watch your business grow because of the choices you make is extremely rewarding.Â So for the future I hope to keep learning, continue to see growth and remain excited about all the new experiences.
Photo Credit: Joanne and Matthew with their daughter, Zaidee.