Entrepreneur: the owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profit.
Parentpreneur: See above, and also juggles the day-to-day demands of parenting, provides income for one’s family and attempts to live out one’s dreams.
Parentpreneurs: How Do They Do It?
by: Jen Wainwright
She had previously worked as a lab optician and in direct home health care before becoming a stay-at-home parent.
And then…she bought a business.
Meet Coleman resident and Parentpreneur Michelle Karl, owner of LoCoMaMa Designs LLC, and parent to Hannah, age 8, and Jacob, 22 months.
Through LoCoMaMa Designs, Karl creates “fancy and functional accessories for adorable children and their crazy mommies”. With Baby, Women, For Your Car and Little Guy lines, LoCoMaMa Designs offers an impressive array of funky, fun, handmade items ranging from “Lovie” blankets or Lil Guy bowties to useful items for moms including checkbook covers, trash bags for cars, chap stick holders and camera straps – to name a few.
LoCoMaMa Designs recently released uber-cool drool scarfs (in place of bibs) for fashionable girls and boys, and the company will release Lil Guy suspenders this fall.
“I’m feeling really good about the business, especially after coming out of a successful summer [generally slow time],” Karl says. “I feel like we’re really on the verge of something big.”
Karl had no plans of becoming a Parentpreneur, or of ever owning LoCoMaMa Designs. As a stay-at-home parent, Karl happened to befriend two women who initially started the company. Experiencing more positive demand than the women could handle, Karl offered to help in 2009. Sewing headbands and other items as needed, Karl became a part-time employee of LoCoMaMa Designs.
“I had no machine, and I didn’t even know how to sew,” says Karl. “They trained me.”
Karl eventually worked her way to becoming a lead sewer for her friends’ company, learning how to create more intricate items and also traveling to various craft shows. She enjoyed the work and occasional travel – until the fateful day in 2012 when her friends informed her that they no longer wanted to operate LoCoMaMa Designs. Two busy mothers themselves, the women planned to close the doors of the web-based and craft show-operated business.
“I was like, ‘No!’” says Karl. “I loved the sewing, and I never even knew I loved sewing! I loved it all…I was like ‘How about I buy it?’”
Karl says she discussed purchasing the company with her husband, a full-time optician at Bay Eye Care. Together, they prayed for weeks. They knew next to nothing about running a company, but the former owners were avidly willing to help…Their income was stable with his optician pay, but not ample enough to be reckless.
“We felt like the doors of opportunity had opened for a reason,” says Karl, “and I’ve always felt like LoCoMaMa Designs could be really, really successful.”
With her husband’s support, Karl became a business owner – purchasing the web domain, company name, supplies and existing inventory of LoCoMaMa Designs in October 2012 for $6,000 to be paid in $100 monthly payments to the previous owners over the course of 6 years.
“It was a big deal,” Karl says. “I was so excited, and I didn’t even know what was coming.”
What was coming?
Karl had purchased a company that earned approximately 75 percent of its annual profits from September through December during “craft show season” without a single show lined up, and, having recently enlisted to become foster parents, Karl and her husband were given a 7-week-old infant boy to care for just three months after purchasing LoCoMaMa Designs.
It Takes A Village
Suddenly caring for an infant as well as her then-6-year-old-daughter, Karl says she found herself scrambling to book and attend shows, care for her children with her husband and somehow meet the demands of sewing each and every item.
“At that point, I was sewing 12 hours a day,” says Karl. “It was…a little stressful. I never felt like I wanted to quit, but I knew I needed to figure out how to do it all.”
Her sister and niece entered the scene out of love, and the three women tackled the logistics of LoCoMaMa Designs together while Karl’s husband took the lion’s share of household duties and childcare during shows. Circumstances led to Karl and her husband joyously, permanently adopting their son, Jacob, and with two children and a growing business – Karl says she knew she needed a larger team.
Karl hired a total of seven family members and close friends to round out a team of sewers for LoCoMaMa Designs — the position Karl, herself, began in. Each team member is responsible for sewing specific items, and Karl still creates many items herself. She estimates that each employee works part-time hours, more or less based on need.
“I’m happy and thankful to know that my company is helping to support other moms and their families,” Karl says. “As it grows, it should get better and better.”
Just The Facts: How Does She Do It?
Entering into her third craft show season this fall of 2014 as owner of LoCoMaMa Designs, Karl says the business has yet to become a significant impact on her family’s income. She says outside of paying for necessary supplies and her sewers’ compensations, she has put most of her profits back into the business.
Yet with her team in place and her displays and signature items ready, she said LoCoMaMa Designs looks forward to more monetary success in the future.
- LoCoMaMa Designs is a web-based and craft show-operated business. Karl sells her items at shows around Michigan, through a web-shop on Etsy and on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. LoCoMaMa Designs does have a website – but it simply redirects traffic to her Etsy shop.
- Karl says craft shows are her best venue for sales, with Etsy being second and Facebook third.
- Employees work from their homes, are paid as contract employees and sew items based on need. Karl utilizes an Excel spreadsheet for inventory management, and Dropbox to keep sewers informed of what items are needed and by when.
- Karl’s daughter is in school full-time, and her son goes to a daycare one- to two days a week to allow Karl time to work. She sews in the evenings as well, especially during craft show season.
- Karl’s husband’s full-time income is the main income for their family, though Karl says she hopes that LoCoMaMa Designs will eventually bring in more income.
- Karl’s husband assumes full house and childcare duties while Karl attends shows, sometimes as little as a one-day show and others as long as a Thursday to Sunday event.
“It’s hard sometimes, and it’s a sacrifice at times,” says Karl, “but we have a good balance. Being home with my kids is still my first priority, and sometimes the business gives me a nice break from being home all the time.”
To Aspiring Parentpreneurs:
Karl admits she didn’t know what she would be getting into when she ventured into Parentrepreneurism and purchased the company back in 2012, but says she would do it all again.
She loves being her own boss, having the ability to make her own hours and spend quality time with her family – and having her children witness her and her husband working as a team for their family.
Speaking of their “team”, Karl says her daughter, Hannah, 8, helps out wherever she can, and has said more than once, “Mom, when LoCoMaMa is my company someday…”
Jen is a freelance writer, parent to three, and she’s been a stepparent for over 15 years. She is well-equipped to discuss and write about the great, and the not-so-great, details of all-things-parenting. Along with spending quality time with her family, Jen enjoys music, chocolate, camping and relaxing. And laughing!