Home Work: Lessons from Work-at-Home Parents. This series of Kidoinfo interviews with parents looks at how they manage to squeeze in work time at home (working for someone else or running their own business) while juggling kids, home life, and childcare (or lack thereof).
Today I interviewed Amanda Suzzi. She describes herself primarily as a homemaker, wife, and mother of two girls. The rest of her time is devoted to being a freelance web architect, a professional blogger (Ebook Guru, Momma’s Review, Providence Daily Dose, and her personal blog, funkEpunkEmonkE), and indie crafter. What she manages to cram into a day can make your head spin.Â Her latest venture is a line of aprons under the Suzzi Homewrecker moniker that is set toÂ launch on May 29, 2009. Her aim is toÂ move fromÂ a boutique that sells other artists’ designs toÂ a manufacturer of beautiful aprons inspired by pinup and tattoo culture.
Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?
Amanda: I was inspired to start my own business by the lack of anything cute to wear in Providence. I’m really into pinup and rockabilly clothing, and it’s a niche that needs to be filled better locally.
How did you start your business?
Amanda: I started little by little. I made the website first, and got a few clothing designers on board to let me put products up before I had them on hand. As customers ordered, I filled the minimum order for these designers. Soon, I had so much merchandise in my tiny office that I opened a retail location. Customers spread the word on the shop opening and I did great. I had a second child in August 2008 and closed the shop in order to travel moreÂ and do craft fairs. Traveling is more my style and allows me to work at a slower pace with spurts of energy scattered throughout the year.
How do you balance work and family?
Amanda: Balancing work and family is never easy. I keep a tight schedule, but I’m not afraid to break it if it’s a gorgeous day and I need a beach break or to climb a mountain. It helps me to focus on one project for fifteen minutes and then take a break to spend time with the kids.
Please describe a typical day.
Amanda: I wake up at 7 a.m. to my cupcake (second daughter) crying. She sits in her high chair and eats finger foods while I make coffee and breakfast for the rest of the family. When my pumpkin (first daughter) wakes up, she usually spends a while in bed and then transfers to the couch with a cup of juice and a waffle. Cupcake goes in the bouncy seat (entertainment center thing), and the television goes on for an hour. By then, I’ve had breakfast, done any lingering dishes, vacuumed any place that’s visibly messy, and I run to check my email and respond to anything urgent. My husband wakes up around 8:30 (sometimes he does the morning routine and I get to sleep in), eats, showers, and then checks his email. From about nine or ten until noon, the kids run around the house and drive my husband nuts while I’m either sewing, working on a website design, or writing an article.
Noon is lunchtime – typically turkey sandwiches. After lunch, I beg my husband to take the girls to the playground. If it’s raining, all hell breaks loose. When it’s winter, the television goes on more. While he’s dealing with that, I’m either sewing, working on a website design, or writing an article. It’s usually not the same as what I was doing in the morning unless I have a deadline approaching. Sometimes I play hooky and go to the playground too. Cupcake takes a nap around 2:00, and I’m going to start making pumpkin have quiet time then. I typically work until dinner.
I usually make dinner, but sometimes my husband takes over, which makes life a little easier for me. We only eat things that take less than thirty minutes to prepare, so lots of pasta and broiled meats. After dinner, either my husband is off to class, or I have practice for roller derby. Thursday and Friday nights we spend together as a family. Saturday nights we spend with friends. The kids get a bath together and are tucked in by 8 p.m. If there’s something good on television, then I watch. If not, I’ll catch up on reading (rss feeds, ebooks to review) on my laptop. On the nights I’m at practice, my husband does whatever it is men do when their wives aren’t home. I’m usually in bed by 11:00.
No, I don’t get to shower. I have a pile of unread magazines that would make you cry. I’ve lost five pounds this week because I skip meals without noticing. Sometimes I think my kids are being raised by the television. My husband getting laid off might have been the best thing to happen for me.
Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
Amanda: Time saving tricks? No. Do you have any? I couldn’t get by without giving the girls a bath together, cutting all designs and patterns of fabric out before sewing a batch of aprons, and skipping meals.
If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Amanda: Don’t make drastic decisions while pregnant.
Where do you find inspiration?
Amanda: Mostly I find inspiration in nature and old movie stars.
What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
Amanda: I could not live without a fenced-in backyard. I’m finding that I also can’t live without a proper desk–the buffet table that I’m using is driving me nuts.
What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?
Amanda: Pumpkin loves Goodnight Moon, though I have nightmares about it from reading it over and over and over again. Cupcake is really too little to hold an interest in books, though she ‘sings’ along with Matt Nathanson in the car. Personally, I love the classic fairy tales, and can’t wait to get Pumpkin the big book of Grimm for her birthday.
What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
Amanda: It depends on how many days it rains. The first day, I can get away with plunking them down in front of the TV with movies. By the second day, I usually don’t get any work done while I entertain the kids.
What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
Amanda: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – the book. It reminded me of those neverending nights chasing a dream when I was younger.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Amanda: Gorging myself on sweets and then doing situps until it hurts. Taking a nap with the Cupcake so that I can stay up later and work while my husband’s in bed. My guiltiest pleasure of all: gardening. It’s the one thing I do that’s just for me.
If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Amanda: Shower and dive into that magazine pile.
How has the experience and on-the-job training of being a mom prepared or changed you in business?
Amanda: Being a mom brought out the business woman in me. Without my girls, I wouldn’t have started to sew rompers. I wouldn’t have been complimented on my fabric choices and designs, and I wouldn’t have started making them for other people. I would still be a Web and print designer. I would’ve still joined roller derby. I definitely would still be a writer and travel as much.
What is next for you and your business?
Amanda: I’m just taking it one day at a time. I have my apron line launch soon, and I’m really focused. I have a bunch of craft fairs that I’m scheduled to attend this summer to promote the line. I’m going to pitch the aprons to a bunch of boutiques nationwide. How many orders I get determines how big of a manufacturing run I do. That’s my light at the end of the tunnel. I have no clue what the future holds after that. All my other ventures are steady – it’s the sewing that can morph into something more.
Photo Credit: Krzystyna Harber Photography