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).
Maura Keating says,
We love UPPAbaby and we just can’t say enough nice things about the G-LiTE, their fabulously light umbrella stroller. So when I heard that Lauren Monahan, one of the company founders, was a mom who worked from home AND that she was somewhat local, I just had to know more. UPPAbaby is an American company– the strollers are thought up and produced in nearby Massachusetts. With three children and a growing, successful business, Lauren Monahan is an inspiration.
Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?
Lauren: My husband had been in the juvenile industry for almost a decade and had experience in all aspects of product development, sales, and marketing. We had ideas about some terrific products that either weren’t being done, or were being done in ways we thought could be improved. I was supposed to be a silent partner, but just couldn’t keep quiet! My marketing and product licensing experience turned out to be a great complement to Bob’s expertise.
How did you start your business?
Lauren: Bob started by working from our house, but we quickly learned we needed to grow and add people and space, and he found it very difficult to work while the kids were nearby. We hired a director of sales (now a VP), and we just forged ahead from there.
How do you balance work and family?
Lauren: I spend the majority of my time working from home, although it’s hard making sure I’m focused on the business and still carving out enough time for the kids. I have a computer in the kitchen, so I’ll often check e-mails while the kids are eating their meals. I also work a lot at night after their bedtime. I have activities that I take the kids to where we participate together. The temptation of checking e-mail or using my cell phone isn’t an option on the ice at hockey or sitting in a circle at music class! Bob and I make an effort to carve out non-work time together. Whenever we’re home for the weekend, we’ll go out alone or with friends for date night on Friday or Saturday.
Please describe a typical day.
Lauren: Wake up at seven, bring the puppy out, check e-mails, wake the big kids up at 7:30 and make their breakfast, get the baby from his crib, help dress the kids as needed, get all three in the car and to school by 8:30. Spend the morning at home or at an activity with the younger one (or two) until 11:30 or 1 school pick-up. I’ll usually jump on the bike or treadmill while the kids are playing unless I am motivated to get up at 6 and do it before they wake up. Make the kids (and puppy) lunch then put the little one in for his nap. My sitter comes one morning and 3 afternoons a week for 4-5 hours. I’ll go run errands, go to power yoga class and/or go by the office on 3 days, shuttle between different kid activities on one afternoon, or just stay home with the kids while the baby sleeps on the day that I don’t have a sitter. Give the kids dinner around 5:15, tubs every other day, a little movie time before bed, then teeth brushing, PJs, story time, and lights out by 7:30. Figure out something for Bob and I to eat for dinner, check e-mails, maybe watch a show on TiVO or TV, aim for bed by 10. Bob usually makes it, but I’m often cleaning up, finishing e-mails, or doing laundry until closer to 11.
Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
Lauren: I wish I did! I could use some. My husband encourages me to keep e-mails brief.
If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Lauren: Try to set up good organizational systems, so that when life does get busier, you know where to find old bills, business cards, medical forms, etc.
Where do you find inspiration?
Lauren: I’m inspired by moms who are infinitely patient, people who are well-rested and drink enough water during the day, and friends and associates who are happy, pleasant, and helpful on a daily basis. I try to do all of these things, but I have room for improvement, especially when it comes to taking care of me. I do make working out at least 5 days a week a priority and I think that helps a lot with everything else on my mental list!
What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
Lauren: Of course, my UPPAbaby strollers!
What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?
Lauren: All I am allowed to listen to in the car are Music Together song collections. I have sold the kids on Seal (I think they just love his name).
What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
Lauren: We have WAY too many toys and games. They’re also pretty into coloring, crafts, and workbooks. We went to see Horton Hears a Who recently, and we all loved it.
What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
Lauren: The book Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. I really believe in karma or connectedness. I find it reassuring and inspirational, both in a greater sense and on a daily basis.
Do you have any favorite web sites or blogs?
Lauren: I don’t really have much time for either at this point on a recreational level. I am on many children’s sites for work, and I do most of my professional and personal research online. The sites vary depending on the project I am working on.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Lauren: Chocolate and People magazine.
If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and a mother?
Lauren: Last spring we took a trip to Disney with our three children (aged 10 months, 2 1/2 years, and 4 Â½ years). We were excited to take them for their first trip, and we also saw it as a terrific opportunity to wear test our strollers. Walking the kids around the parks for at least eight hours a day was just about the most rigorous stroller workout we could think of! The baby and our oldest were thrilled riding together in the Vista with a prototype of our piggyBack ride-along board, so we knew that would be a big hit. Our little girl loved her G-LiTE. We did notice that after a full day, she’d generally nod off at some point in the afternoon. We could see the value in adding an umbrella stroller with recline to our line at some point in the future. The strollers traveled extremely well on the planes, buses, boats, and monorails. Their compact folds and light weights were key when negotiating all of that travel and running around with three children under age five! All in all it was a terrific family vacation that also gave us an opportunity to test our products in a VERY high use setting.
How has the experience and on-the-job training of being a mother prepared or changed you in business?
Lauren: It has really been the foundation of our product and business direction. Knowing what parents really need, what they value, and what is just unnecessary stuff that you can get by without. Also, we know how important it is for new parents to be properly educated about the products they buy, and to feel like help is just a call or e-mail away. Parents are just trying to do the best they can for their children. We aim to provide products that offer both parent and child the best solution available. We don’t think anyone in the family should sacrifice when it comes to quality, value, aesthetics, or function. Our goal is to make life better for the whole family!
What is next for you and your business?
Lauren: We’ll always look to add value and make life easier and better for parents and their children.