Big Inspiration from the Little Ones

Most moms and dads can attest to the fact that when their children first entered the picture, their lives changed forever and that they are constantly inspired by the little—and big—things their little ones do. Some parents are motivated to get second jobs so they can send their kids to college, some are inspired to take up a new sport so they can coach little league and some simply start eating better so they can be around long enough to see grandkids and even great grandkids.   

Others, however, are so inspired by their children, or a specific event in their children’s lives, that they actually start businesses. That’s right—some moms and dads are so moved by what little Timmy or Sally did that they decide to launch full-blown businesses. While this isn’t the case for all 66.2 million parents with children younger than 18 in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, it was for a large proportion of moms in the 2010 Leading Moms in Business contest.

Business owner and mom Erin Krex, 34, can vouch for this: “I would have a completely different life,” she confirms, adding that if she didn’t have her son Parker or encounter the need for a nanny, she never would have started her nanny placement agency four years ago. “While I wouldn’t have been a work at home mom forever, I probably would have pursued a graphic design career.”

But that’s just not the way it went when she had Parker in 2004. As many moms do, Krex needed a nanny, and so she set out to find one among the myriad of agencies near Chicago where she lives. The problem, however, was that many were underground or unlicensed; the reputable ones she contacted were rude and unwilling to help a first-time mom understand the process. So, she decided to take it upon herself to help other Chicago-area parents find high-quality nannies and babysitters and launched First Class Care (ranked No. 16).

Creating the solution

Kelly Mayes can also testify that having her son changed her life—and her career path. Where would she be if it weren’t for him or his severe allergies? Mayes, 45, has a degree in biology and her California real estate license, so she may still have been a work at home mom, just in another capacity. “I’m more comfortable in the ‘see if you can make it happen’ world,” she says. “I love being a mom, and I’m glad to know my efforts are helping others.”

These efforts she speaks of stem from a chain of events—or chain of tissues, rather—trying to remedy her son’s abnormally runny nose. At the time, the work at home mom was unaware that Tate had multiple sensitivities to environmental allergens, but what she did know was that he needed something more than his sleeve or mommy chasing him around the playground with a tissue.

One of her ideas was a sweatband that he could wear on his arm and that she would wash or throw away at the end of the day. It was on one of Tate’s sweatband-sporting days that the makeshift tissue did more than temporarily stop a runny nose. One of Mayes’ friends saw the creation and encouraged her to put it on the market. “It had never occurred to me to make this idea a product,” she admits, “but I wanted to make a better alternative for Tate, so I explored possibilities.”

After some intense research and test runs, a trademark and a website, she launched Sierra Madre, California-based Sniffle Buddies (ranked No. 74) last year. Although she’s had to spend significant efforts educating many allergy-free consumers on the need for her product, the bands have been well received among parents of young ones. “Not everyone will ‘get’ your product,” Mayes says, “but if you needed it, it’s very likely that someone else out there does, too.”

Inspiration to advocate

These days, the circumstances that these work at home moms encountered with their boys have been remedied and the businesses inspired by them are in full swing. In fact, Parker and Tate are now active in their mommies’ small businesses. “Tate is the first to hand out brochures,” Mayes says, “and he is explaining the dos and don’ts of Sniffle Buddies to his classmates.”

Parker is a spokesperson for his mom’s business, too. “He tells his friends ‘If you need a nanny, tell my mommy,’ ” says Krex. Little do these guys know, the very products they’re advocating are because of them. And because mom was inspired to launch a business, they’ll have jobs waiting for them. Adds Krex, “It’ll be several years, but I definitely think he’ll be part of the company.”

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