Many of this year’s Leading Moms in Business winners successfully started or have grown their small businesses during the recession. But we’ve taken note of a significant number of winners this year that actually help other people get through the recession.
If it isn’t clear by the name of her web-based toy-rental company, TOYconomy (ranked No. 75), Shannon McAfee is one of those mom business owners who saw a way to help people, particularly other parents like herself, make their dollars go further during a time when funds are limited. The online toy store rents out “gently used toys” for one to three months, with the option to buy. “I thought it would be a great service to offer the ability to cut down significantly on the money they spend on toys as well as the amount of clutter in their homes,” explains McAfee, 33, who was astonished by the masses of toys accumulated by her three kids. “Customers can save up to 75 percent or more, and we also provide storage totes during the rental period to help them stay organized.”
Mom business owner Amber Bloomer’s web store is based on a similar premise of cutting costs on more discretionary purchases. During her two pregnancies, she was “blown away” by how expensive maternity clothes were, especially when she’d only be wearing them short-term. At her local mom’s clubs she saw other equally frustrated women, who would often pass them on to other moms in the groups. Says Bloomer, 43, “I realized there was a reselling market for maternity clothes.”
So Bloomer launched Nine Little Months (ranked No. 16), collecting secondhand clothes from the moms in her affluent Orange County, California, area and posting them on her classifieds-type website. Word of the mom business owner’s concept first spread among her mom’s clubs and then to people they knew. “It was a win for everyone,” she says, “the sellers, the buyers, the planet and myself.”
Tending to Their Needs
Based on the growth of these year-old businesses, the need for help amid the lingering recessionary conditions is clearly there. But even though people are looking to save, both mom business owners had to work through the stigma often attached to secondhand goods. Admits Bloomer, “When people hear ‘used’, they have this idea that it’s not good.”
So she worked hard to quell those beliefs from the get-go by providing superior customer service and designing a modern, clean and organized website. “I don’t want them to feel like they’re rummaging,” she says. “Even if people don’t have the money they used to, shopping still needs to be fun.”
Because children tend to carry and spread germs easily, mom business owner McAfee had to address the concern of product cleanliness. As the rented toys pass from household to household, Glen Allen, Virginia-based TOYconomy disinfects them with a three-step process. The rent-to-buy option was added because parents were worried their kids might become attached to certain toys.
Says Bloomer, “We’re trying to help people understand that buying used things is OK. I’m as guilty as the next person; we all want to consume and have nice things. But we don’t always have to buy new.”
Just Part of Life
Where Bloomer and McAfee offer discount products, Jodi Furman offers insight on how to snag great discounts. Through her Live FabuLESS brand (ranked No. 5), the mom business owner teaches “how to live the champagne life on a tap water budget without sacrifice.” On her website, the self-proclaimed Olympic shopper shares information on how to use coupons effectively, cut household bills by 80 percent, find great deals online, cook cheap yet fulfilling meals and indulge without breaking the bank.
While several of our top mom business owners run daily-deal websites, such as BabyHalfOff.com and DailyDealsforMoms.com—a trend that dominated last year’s Leading Moms in Business contest—Furman helps people “get more bang for their buck across the board.” The 37-year-old started her South Florida business in 2008 before the recession really kicked in and says spending smart was simply part of her everyday life.
Adopting that type of lifestyle for good is something all three mom business owners agree on. Says McAfee, it’s a “lifestyle change that can benefit consumers regardless of the state of the economy.”
Retail analyst and blogger Nikoleta Panteva says even though the economy has started to recover, people are still shopping cautiously and may not return to their prerecession spending patterns for a while. “It’s like a paradigm shift,” she explains, “because we’ve been conditioned to save and look for good deals.” She also attributes it the extensive resources Americans have today compared to during past downturns.
Agrees Bloomer, “The market of people who don’t have a lot of money is strong right now, but that market will always be there. It may change, but people, especially moms, always want a good deal.” So because this larger budgeting bunch is here for the long haul, effectively and consistently providing for them is essential to these mom business owners’ success. And as moms increasingly become the CFOs of their families, these deal-finders by nature will look to the businesses that can help them provide for their families in the most efficient way.
Glen Allen, VA
Nine Little Months
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA