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The rise of the mommy economy

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Articles - May 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
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The rise of the mommy economy
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Mothers of invention
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0512_MothersOfInvention_LarsonTIFFANY LARSON
Simple Homemade

“In the last year, I’ve learned a lot more about making money on blogs. I used to do product reviews but if I subscribe to a blog, I don’t want to read a review every day. It makes for boring reading. I blog because I love to write and I want to be involved with a community of green-minded moms. To make money, I’m also looking at writing an e-book about homemade personal care and household products.”

0512_MothersOfInvention_PickensJULIE PICKENS
Little Busy Bodies

“If you have a product by moms and for moms, then it’s a pretty smart move to make that part of your marketing campaign.” That’s Julie Pickens’ take on being a mom business mogul. The 45-year-old CEO of Beaverton-based Little Busy Bodies, maker of Boogie Wipes, Pickens and business partner Mindee Doney created the saline wipe after looking for a solution to their kids’ runny noses. “This was going to be our little project,” says Pickens. “It turned into a monster.” Revenues last year reached $10 million, up from $6.5 million the year before, and in June 2011, Little Busy Bodies expanded into the teen and adult market. The company’s 15 employees all work on flex schedules, and company marketing focuses on “really talking to our consumers and moms and getting them behind the brand.” A self-proclaimed, and trademarked “Boogie Mom,” Pickens shares her business savvy through her Business of Being a Mom blog and is planning weekend seminars “to give moms marketing, sales and financing 101s.” Pickens says Oregon is a good place for women interested in starting up companies, citing the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network as a resource. Mompreneurship, she says, “is one of those things catching on everywhere.”

0512_MothersOfInvention_PeakeKELLEY PEAKE
Play Boutique

A former head of business development for KinderCare, Kelley Peake, 38, opened Play Boutique in Lake Oswego in 2006, and a second location in Beaverton opened this past February. Featuring an indoor play park, licensed school and a café serving beer and wine, Play Boutique aims to give parents and kids opportunities to play separately and together, says Peake, a mother of three. “Our whole premise is helping families achieve that work-life balance.” Local schools are the target market and word of mouth has built the brand in the community. “It’s no secret moms are a truly viral marketing environment,” she says. “They really spread the word.” A low-margin business, Play Boutique charges $7 to come in and play. But even in a down economy, the customer base is growing. Play Boutique, which employs 18 people, grossed $590,000 in 2011, and Peake’s business plan includes attracting investors, expanding into other locations and possibly franchising. A build-out costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It’s a great business, but parents are the pickiest customers you could ever have,” Peake says. “You’re dealing with their most prized possessions.”

0512_MothersOfInvention_ClearyNANCY CLEARY
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

A former graphic designer, Nancy Cleary got her start helping mothers who were entrepreneurs package their products, a career that evolved into “opening up the whole world of publishing to moms.” Named after her two children, Deadwood, Ore.-based Wyatt-MacKenzie launched in 1998 and was in the red for the first five years. “Now it’s amazing we are growing so fast,” says Cleary, whose 205 titles include Gina Bennett’s National Security Mom and Laurie A. Couture’s Instead of Medicating. “We give moms a place to publish that is outside of the big old-boys network with much more connection and relationship and mutual partnerships.” For many entrepreneurial authors, book sales are not the end goal, says the 44-year-old Cleary, who also has an author consulting division. “It’s about the opportunities publishing can lead to. Whatever that next step is, a book is a business card for an upsell.” All books published by Wyatt-MacKenzie are released on Kindle and Nook. Skype, teleseminars and other web technologies have also made it possible for Cleary to run a global business from a rural Oregon community. Not that there aren’t a few challenges. Says Cleary: “One of the first books I published didn’t want Deadwood on the title page.”

Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


 

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