Leading Moms are Leading Business into the Future

When we launched the first annual StartupNation Leading Moms in Business Competition in 2009, we knew the contest would be a hit among the dynamic, driven moms that run families and businesses. And we were right: moms entered the competition by the thousands. What we didn’t expect was how popular these mom business owners would be with their peers, family, friends, social networks, mom groups and more—together, the contestants generated more than 620,000 votes.    

In 2010, the StartupNation Leading Moms in Business competition has grown even bigger, from the number of mom businesses participating to overall votes cast in their support. From May to August, the thousands of self-nominated entrants managed to bring in a total of 709,000 votes.   

Women represent an increasing proportion of the nation’s small business owners. And as they embark on motherhood, they quickly acquire skills enabling them to multitask, organize, manage, budget and more, making them supremely qualified candidates for entrepreneurship.

Leading the pack

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So what mom topped the list of winners this year? Taking the No. 1 spot, up from No. 3 last year, is Nina Rodecker, founder of Tasty Clouds Cotton Candy Company. Rodecker is a prime example of the entrepreneurial dynamoms described above. Not only is she a full-time mom, but she’s also heading a burgeoning business. And over the past few months, she managed to encourage voters to support her Los Angeles cotton candy company, earning a whopping 87,374 votes—more than 50,000 votes ahead of the No. 2 mom business, Hugga-Bebe.

Incredibly humble, the 34-year-old credits her “very loyal and vocal fan base,” adding that maintaining strong ties with her customers and community helped earn their support in the competition. Rodecker reached out to her friends and peers, social networks, past and current customers and extensive, globally dispersed family members. The mom business owner says adding photos and links to social media posts about the contest attracted more readers and, thus, voters; and that starting early on in the competition gave her an edge.

When asked what it means to be the Leading Mom in Business, Roedecker is, again, humble, referencing the mom business owners that she looks up to as well as the other 199 ranked in the contest. “There are many other moms in this competition who I respect, and it’s a great honor to be included with them,” she says, before finally turning the spotlight onto herself. “It’s rewarding to see all the hard work I’ve put into the business receive recognition. And more importantly, it helps put me in a position where I can help other [mom business owners] achieve their goals.”

Thinking of others

Rodecker’s desire to help others is actually characteristic of many of the Leading Moms. In fact, that was one of the big themes we noticed among the 2010 winners. Whether it’s starting a business that helps others (see Mission-Minded Moms), launching an eco-friendly product (see Extremely Eco-Minded Mom Entrepreneurs), giving back to the community or partnering with charities and environmental organizations, a sweeping number of mom business owners have made the needs of others and making a difference priorities.

After volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dee Dee Fanning was inspired to take her work with kids to the next level and launched Letz Talk Inc. (No. 43), a business that encourages communication between kids and adults through its product line and program. Says the mom business owner. “I love making a difference in the lives of children.”

Eco-minded Megan Crowell launched her campaign-based web community, ConservingNow (No. 98), to further her commitment in “providing future generations with a healthy environment [and to] do something that would create positive change in the world.” Crowell’s son is just one of the 6.9 billion people on the planet that the mom business owner hopes to help through her organization’s efforts and products, which are currently focused on minimizing plastic bag use and waste.

Led by inspiration

Another trend evident among our 200 mom business owners was what led them to start their businesses. While some launched because of a lifelong dream of pursuing entrepreneurship, a significant portion were so inspired by some event or aspect in their lives that sparked them to start a business.

First Class Care (No. 16) founder Erin Krex was moved to start her nanny agency when she couldn’t find a good nanny through her city’s existing agencies, which were either illegal operations or reputable ones with rude staff unwilling to help a new mom. Kelly Mayes was also inspired by her child (see Big Inspiration from the Little Ones) to start her mom business, Sniffle Buddies (No. 75). Her son’s abnormally severe case of runny nose pushed her to create a washable cloth wristband that he could wear to wipe his nose on that would keep him from using his sleeve or touching his face.

Others winning moms were so dissatisfied with the lacking markets and poor products they encountered that they set out to fill their unmet needs by inventing new and superior products (see Busy Moms are “Mothers of Invention”). AboutOne (No. 25) founder Joanne Lang took her experience in software and created a program for managing family schedules and important events and information. And Kendra Kroll invented the innovative PortaPocket carrying case (No. 40) for the more than 82 percent of people who have cell phones (or at least small things they need to carry).

And others, still, eschewed their high-level positions working in “corporate America” to instead take the entrepreneurial path in life. Feeling unfulfilled as executive moms (see Leaving Corporate America to Run Your Own Show) for one reason or another, moms like Oana Hogrefe and Tobi Kosanke left their high-profile careers and launched their mom businesses, Oana Hogrefe Photography (No. 136) and Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products (No. 8), respectively.

Creating their space online

The last overarching trend we noticed among the winning mom business owners was their significant presence online and, more specifically, their intense use of social media (see Social Media Savvy Moms) and their love for deal-a-day websites (see Leading Moms in Bargains).

Heather Ledeboer of Mom 4 Life (No. 52), Michele Trotter of IzzyBelle’s [http://www.startupnation.com/leading-moms-in-business/contestant/7949/index.php] (No. 63) and Lucy Mashua of Mashua Voice for the Voiceless (No. 73) are all active on Facebook and Twitter, networking with potential and existing customers, sharing information with their followers and establishing a positive web name for their mom businesses. The Social Networking Nanny Lanae Paaverud is so involved and versed in social media that she made it the basis of her company (No. 30), which helps small-business owners leverage the valuable marketing channel.

Recognizing a mom’s desire to find the best deals, especially in a down economy, several women launched coupon and deal-a-day websites. In fact, this mom business idea was so popular this year that four of these web companies ranked within the top 15 Leading Moms in Business.

Remarkable women

While we clearly noticed a lot of similarities among these moms and their businesses, they all share one common trait: an amazing ability to efficiently run a family and a successful business. Many people can manage and build families and many people can manage and build businesses. But only a small percentage can do both, and these 200 exceptional mom business owners (and the thousands of entrants) represent a great portion of that percentage.

As the number of women- and mom-led businesses grows year after year, we look forward to the number of competition entrants growing, too. And as it does, we’ll continue tipping our hats to and recognizing these remarkable women.

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