Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When good ideas go right: Big City Moms and Collective-E's Meet the Mompreneur's Event

Last Thursday night I had the good fortune to attend the Meet the Mompreneurs panel hosted by Big City Moms and Collective-E, a membership-based organization that supports and promotes women entrepreneurs. The panel included local mompreneurs Carley Roney of The Knot, Bump and Nest empire, Katie Danzinger of Nomie Baby, and Marni Konner of Little Maestros. I expected to hear interesting stories of the trials and tribulations of launching a new service or product, but I didn't expect to be so inspired! Did I mention that these women started their businesses while simultaneously raising 2-3 children each? Lately I've barely been finding the time and energy to post regularly, but somehow these women have been able to launch multimedia powerhouses, create soft waterproof fabrics, and train musicians for a new branch in Dubai, amongst other things!

Carley Roney got into the wedding business at the right time when she and her partners embraced the nascent media of the internet to launch The Knot and reach a new generation of brides-to-be. Now considered one of the foremost wedding resources, the brand grew organically when brides moved into their first homes, began having children and needed new types of information and message boards. The Nest and The Bump were created to meet these needs. I can't deny that I have used all three of these resources as my life has moved through these stages! The Knot is now a publicly traded company with over 500 employees. And did I mention that one or Carley's partners is her husband? This women seriously know's how to make things work!

Katie Danzinger and Marni Konner did what most moms fantasize about. They saw a gap in the mommyhood world that needed to be filled and took it upon themselves to make it happen. Katie Danzinger, creator of Nomie Baby, got frustrated trying to remove the cover on her car seat after her daughter soiled it. She cut holes in a changing table cover to fit on her car seat and before long her friends wanted her to make them covers too. Viola, Nomie Baby was born! By no means an easy road, Katie has finally gotten her award winning car seat covers to market and they have quickly become a media darling. Marni Konner, founder of Little Maestros worked in the music industry, and after the birth of her first child in 2002 sought a quality music program to sign up for. Feeling that the offerings for music programs at the time were lacking, Marni got a group of friends together and hired a guitarist to play by the hour for their children in the basement of the church across the street from her apartment. From these humble beginnings Little Maestro's has grown into a multi-city program licensed through Kidville, employing numerous musicians and dominating the children's music class scene in New York City.

Besides sharing their awe-inspiring mompreneurs stories, these ladies shared some wonderful wisdom. While most of these thoughts are directed at entrepreneurs, they can be easily substituted as advice for new moms! Here are some of my favorite thoughts from the evening (and I hope I don't misquote anyone):

Carley Roney:
Starting a business
- You can convince yourself not to do anything
- Don't be afraid to look stupid or ask for help
Selling your product
- Persistence is key, you have to ignore the humiliation of rejection
- Be willing to do anything for your business
- Be passionate about your product, nonchalant doesn't work
Being a working mom
- Work when you are working and be home when you are home (compartmentalize)

Katie Danzinger:
Starting a business
- You need to ask yourself what you can do, what you can't do, and find someone to help you do what you can't do?
- You may have a huge list of things to do, but none of them have to be done at the same time
Being a working mom
- Don't draft an email while doing a puzzle or playing with blocks

But my favorite quote of the night came from Marni Konner when she said "I haven't had a manicure since my Bat Mitzvah! " Unlike the other two mompreneurs, she brings her toddler to work with her. I think it sums up being a mompreneur perfectly! As for me, I've only had two pedicures in the 7 months since Pooka's birth and I'm not trying to launch or run a business.

Thank you Carley, Katie, and Marni for sharing your stories and advice! And thanks to Big City Moms and Collective-E for organizing this fabulous event!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pooka's Chirstmas List # 3: Bla Bla Boogaloos

As an avid knitter I know that knitting stuffed animals and dolls can be a big pain in the butt, so I can appreciate when others do the work for me. Such is the case with the marvelous Boogaloo dolls by Bla Bla. Inspired by a French cartoon with blob like charaters, Boogaloos have a pear-like shape on the bottom and different crazy characters on top. It's hard to pick a favorite because there are too many cute ones, but if I had to make a list I would highlight Yoko with her pink hair and striped shirt and Johnny with his blue mohawk. Feeling nautical? Grab a Marlin Booglaoo. Love Sherlock Holmes? Then check out the Watson doll. Celebrate the advent of the snowy season with an Anouk doll. Or play cowboys and indians with Shane and Kaya dolls. They come in two sizes, the regular Boogaloos are 10" and the Minis are 6", perfect for the littlest elfs in your houses. They also do wonderful line of classic dolls that you can purchase with a permanent knit-on outfit or that you can add clothes to, and animal dolls (think extra-hip sock monkey). Like the Boogaloos, these dolls come in small (12") and large (18-22") sizes. Some of my favorites include Prudence and Wink Owl, Gigi the Giraffe, Squirrel "McNuttie" and the Billy Goat Doll.

Don't miss the other great Bla Bla items while shopping their site. Check out their rattles, finger puppets, and mobiles for which they are well known. They also do fun knit clothing, blankets and accessories. Keep your wee one warm with an animal hat and bootie set like the Monkey Hat and Booties. Whatever items you choose will give you that snuggly hand-knit feeling without having to spend hours (or days, or weeks, or months) making these items yourself!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pooka's Christmas List # 2: Baby Xylophone

For Christmas I am very excited to get Pooka started on a musical journey. Aside from playing the clarinet in middle school (poorly I might add) I am not musically inclined and neither is my husband. I would like Pooka to have a solid basis in the world of music and have been searching for the perfect musical toys to start her off right. They will also be a nice accompaniment to the music class we plan on starting after the holidays, giving her the chance to do her first homework (and by that I mean bang and shake things at home just like she will in class). I have seen lots of xylophone's out there but most are geared for the toddler set. I imagine this is because they are usually metal and could have sharp edges. Then I found this cutie on Giggle that is all rounded and safe for babies as young as 12 months. Baby still too young for this xylophone? How about the amazing Mini Orchestra set or Mini Rainboshaker for 6 months and up. Better yet, these musical toys are phthalate-free, BPA-free, and lead-free plastic so its perfectly safe if Pooka wants to suck on them more than she wants to play them right now. All of these are currently available at Giggle, so get them now before they sell out!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Luxe Life: Flora and Henri

Despite the French sounding name Flora and Henri is a homegrown enterprise. With stores in NYC and Seattle their beautiful collection offers european inspired clothing for the dear wee ones in your life. What most inspires me from their collection are the shoes and knits. How can you resist the incomparable cuteness of the Baby Ballet in soft lavender? Skip the Uggs and grab a pair of Wooly Baby Boots to keep those precious tootsies warm this winter! Or get ready for next summer and pick up a pair of bright blue Maryjane Scallop Shoes on sale. And don't miss their gorgeous sweaters in chunky cashmere. What I like about them is that you feel like your little one could still run outside and play in these, rather than just pose for a portrait or wear for the holidays. Have a look at the Luxurious sweater, Ideal sweater, or Lovely sweater. Their price points put them into the luxe category, but being a knitter I can attest that the yarn alone would cost a small fortune if you wanted to reproduce these sweaters. Be sure to check out the extra small sizes in some of the knitted and layette pieces, like the 100% organic Nona sweater. Flora and Henri is one of the only luxury baby brands I have seen that offers newborn size clothing (although some of the knits are small enough to fit a preemie too) in beautiful knits. And don't miss the super sweet Wool Laurel Leaf Bonnet! I love that Flora and Henri's clothes are timeless. They would be a fantastic choice for a cozy holiday portrait session!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fab Find: Momma Couture Diaper Bags

Being a mom is a pretty busy job, especially when you have more than one wee one under your roof. There's play dates, music classes, doctor's appointments, grocery shopping...you get the idea. Now imagine you are doing all of this with two kids and then decide to launch a brand new company. That is exactly what Rashmi Budhram of Momma Couture did! She's a Brooklyn mom of two who couldn't find a diaper bag that fit all her needs as an urban mom and still looked chic and un-diaper bagish. Rashmi has definitely accomplished those goals with her Momma Couture line of diaper bags. One of my favorite features is that all of her bags are insulated, and I don't mean just a bottle pocket, the entire lining of the bag is insulated. You might think this would make the bags bulky, but they are surprising thin and light. So go ahead and toss your bottle, sippy cup or snacks right into the main compartment of any of these bags and don't worry about them getting too warm! But that's not the only great thing about these bags. They are streamlined and purposeful, and not to mention they are really great looking. For quick dashes out and about, to throw in a non-diaper bag, or to hang from your stroller choose the Stash & Go which holds a sippy cup or bottle, a diaper and wipes. Or check out my favorite, the hilarious Stinky Bum bag (I mean you might as well call a spade a spade) that holds a diaper, wipes, a changing mat and all your essentials for running out (lip balm, cell phone, credit cards).

For longer jaunts try my favorite, the City Bag. It holds everything you need for a day at a compact 12" x 4" x 9.5" and is described as messenger style, but you won't find a front flap here. The City Bag is all business and has an adjustable strap so you can wear it cross body and be hands free or hang it from your stroller. This one is on my list for when Pooka is in the front carrier and one of our larger bags is too difficult to carry. Rounding out the collection are the spacious (and aptly named) Playdate and Satchel bags that are perfect for long days or even the weekend. And if you have older ones, check out the Momma's Helper that can be used to hold diaper gear on one side and drinks and snacks on the other side.The range currently comes in a lovely linen in Navy or Khaki, and will be available in a wipeable nylon in mid-March.

Life With Pooka readers can get a %15 discount at checkout by typing in coupon code: pooka15

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Watch those fingers! Maclaren Stroller Recall and Alternatives to their Strollers

By now you have probably seen the recall alert on all Maclaren Strollers made since 1999. It turns out the hinges are quite sharp and have amputated the fingers of 12 wee ones (yes, total shock an horror is an appropriate reaction!). Maclaren is offering a repair kit for all owners to fix the hinge problem. We have a Triumph that we love for its quality, durability and ease of use and will continue to use it once we receive the kit. For those of you yet to buy a light weight stroller or want to replace your Maclaren there are some great options out there. Just walk into any Babies R' Us and the selection will astound you, but here are a few of my current favorites.

First on that list are the offerings from Cybex, recently arrived from Germany. I had the chance to check these strollers out at Big City Mom's Biggest Baby Shower. I was impressed with their quality and design, and they are comparable to the Maclaren line in price and weight . Actually they are nearly a model to model match with their Ruby, Onyx, Topaz and Callisto strollers lining up with the Maclaren Volo, Triumph, Quest, and Techno strollers. They have some features that many might find superior to Maclaren strollers such as a one-hand adjustable harness, an insanely full recline, a groovy two position foot rest and car seat compatibility (with Cybex's Atom car seat) on all except the Ruby stroller. Cybex also has great color schemes that will set you apart from the typical light weight stroller, and I dig the white chassis (rather than the typical chrome finish). I'm sure it won't be long before these babies flood NYC sidewalks, especially after Sarah Jessica Parker was spotted with one a few weeks ago.

For Uppa Baby lovers there is the G-Light and G-Luxe lightweight umbrella strollers. Both strollers stand up when folded, and require only hands to fold (no foot action needed). The G-Lite is similar to the no-frills Maclaren Volo in that it is super light-weight at 8.3 lbs but offers no recline option. Their new G-Luxe, which Uppa claims is the lightest full-size reclining umbrella stroller on the market, weighs in at 11 lbs, offers a full recline and even comes with a cupholder. It is a Babble Best for 2009. I also appreciate that Uppa Baby is committed to being eco-friendly by recycling strollers, donating strollers to charity, and making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. A sign of this commitment is the organic lining that comes standard on their full size Vista Stroller model. Yeah for organic as a standard rather than a costly add on!

Quinny offers the Zapp, by far the coolest looking light weight stroller out there. With an incredibly compact fold (Quinny claims its the smallest in the world), a weight of 13 lbs, and car seat compatible (with Maxi Cosi car seats) the Zapp is the perfect travel system for quick getaways at a fraction of the cost of many luxury travel systems. It has the added bonus of including the travel bag as standard. If I lived outside the city I might consider this for my full time stroller. The only drawback is that there is no recline feature for napping babies!

So while I hate to throw Maclaren under the bus, this is an alarming recall and it's good to know there are other choices for high quality light weight strollers. I like Pooka's delicious little fingers right where they are! We plan to get the repair kit for our Triumph and keep rolling but I can't say some of these other strollers aren't very tempting!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pooka's Christmas List # 1: Olive Juice Kids Clothing

I've decided to create a new "seasonal" category highlighting the items Pooka would like for Christmas. Well, let's be honest. Pooka is 6 months old and can't make a Christmas list for herself, so it's really the things mama wants for Pooka for Christmas. Her list already has quite a few items on it which I will share with you over the coming weeks. First up on the list is clothing from Olive Juice Kids. I love them because their clothing is very classic, but also has an Anthropolgie vibe about it, particularly for older kids. First up on Pooka's list are the timeless Andrea Coveralls in Ruby, although I love the Champagne Polka Dot as well. The ruffles on the butt are just too cute and these are sure to be handed down to future kiddos or even generations! I'm also sweet on the Regent Coveralls in Rose cotton velveteen, which are also offered in a unisex corduroy. Both of these coveralls would look great with the Bailey Top or Piper Bodysuit underneath. Rounding out Pooka's list from Olive Juice Kids is the Duffy Topper, which we love in every color. Try it in champagne and silver for a unisex look. If you've got older children be sure to check out the new Holiday collection too. I can't wait until Pooka can wear styles like the Eloise Holiday Dress, Beatrice Dress, and Camilla Dress!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fab Find: Oeuf Alpaca Bead Necklace

If your baby is anything like Pooka then they are constantly grabbing at any accessory you wear and trying to put them in their mouth. Actually that goes for my hair too, as if I hadn't already lost enough of it! Dangly earrings are out for now. Just ask my mom who keeps insisting on wearing her big hoops (despite my warnings) only to have them torn out over and over again! And these days my necklaces are selected very carefully to ensure whatever ends up in Pooka's mouth won't injure her, and that the chain won't cut into my neck when Pooka yanks it. Enter the deliciously soft Alpaca Bead Necklace from Oeuf, who are well known for their beautiful furniture. Handknit by indigenous women in Bolivia, Oeuf's knitted accessories are Fair Trade and provide a sustainable income for the artisans who can now afford to send their children to school. If the beaded necklace isn't your thing, take a look at the Alpaca Flower Melange Necklace. When I first viewed these necklaces online I thought they would be a bit juvenile, but once I saw them in person at Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower I was completely in love! The colors are understated and elegant (yes, I called a knitted necklace elegant), and if your wee one wants to chew on your necklace you won't have to worry about their safety or yours! And don't miss some of the other great knitted accessories at Oeuf like the Peasant Hat for baby or you, the hilarious Bat Girl Hat, darling Alpaca Angel Slippers and Sweater, and the snuggly Neckies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Germaphobia: Keeping your house and hands germ free

Any which way you turn you are bound to run into something about H1N1, which may have you running scared. I know it has certainly been rattling our cage, and considering that Pooka has her third cold of the season I think it is time to redouble our germ fighting efforts. Luckily for us there are plenty of great products out there that fight germs without exposing Pooka to a slew of nasty chemicals.

The first line of defense in germ fighting is hand washing. You could purchase an antibacterial hand soap, but a regular soap can do the job just as well without using synthetic detergents or chemicals, or drying out your skin. Triclosan, the antibacterial agent found in many soaps and hand sanitizers, may contain dioxin and PCBs that I'd rather not expose Pooka to. My current favorite is California Baby's Moisturizing Handwash which uses ravensura, lemon, tea tree and coconut oil to be naturally antibacterial. It comes in a large 19 oz. bottle and will last for months. It's certainly not the cheapest out there, but it's packed with yummy smelling essential oils and like all California Baby products avoids synthetic detergents, fragrances and other baddies. Use warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds (I like to go for 30 seconds, and sing the ABC's to be sure I scrub for long enough) to eradicate germs.

Another favorite of ours is the CleanWell family of products. CleanWell claims to kill 99.9% of germs without using Triclosan, toxic chemicals, artificial colors or parabens. At home we use both the All-Natural Antibacterial Hand Soap in zesty Spearmint Lime, and on the go we love the All-Natural Hand Sanitizer. The sanitizer comes in a large size, which we leave next to the changing table, and a travel size that we put in the diaper, stroller, and car. It smells 100 times better than Purell and doesn't contain alcohol. EO brand also makes a great hand sanitizer with organic essential oils and 62% organic alcohol. They have a variety of sanitizers in Lavender, Peppermint or Eculyptus scent, in spray, gel or wipe form, and in a variety of sizes. They even have a canister with 210 wipes that you can use to fill your spare wipes case and keep in your diaper bag.

Around the house there are tons of chemical free choices these days, but I definitely have my favorites. We adore the Dapple line of natural-based products, especially the Toy Cleaner Wipes. They smell great and are moist enough to tackle several toys with just one wipe, or you try the spray cleaner. Don't forget to bring the wipes with you to play group! They also have a great natural Dish Liquid and Dishwashing Powder that really helps get rid of milk residue and doesn't make me panic about how well I have rinse after washing because there are no nasties in the ingredients list. Dapple products are biodegradable, and free of parabens, SLES, phthalates, synthetic dyes and fragrances. You can also keep your toys germ free with Fields Organics. Their non-toxic organic cleaners were designed specifically for homes with children. Their Toy Cleaner is perfect for any surface your wee one has contact with including car seats, strollers, and countertops. Other products for the house include a great Stain Odor Remover that we use to pre-treat clothes and clean breastmilk and spit up from the couch and rugs. We also use their Laundry Detergent for all of our clothes, and they have additional products as well so be sure to browse their site. All their products use organic essential oils for their antibacterial properties and refreshing scent and a portion of the profits from Field's Organics products goes to support the Children's Health Environmental Network.

So arm yourself with these products to keep your dear ones healthy and free of nasty germs chemicals. Now I have to make the time to keep all Pooka's toys and gear squeaky clean!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fab Find: Pure Baby Organic Denim Pinafore

I am in love with this delightful denim dress by Pure Baby. It can be worn in nearly every season. In warm weather wear it as is, or add a long sleeve onesie and tights to wear during the colder seasons. What I really appreciate about this dress is it's manufacture. Pure Baby is an Australian company that uses %100 organic cotton and is the first Australian company to have joined the Made By initiative. The Made By initiative requires manufacturers to prove that all stages of production use eco-friendly materials, and are produced in optimum working conditions. Pure Baby also strives to be %100 accountable and transparent in all of its production practices. Other favorites from Pure Baby include the Striped Ruffle Shirt, and Alphabet Shirt and onesie. The best part is that Pure Baby is very well priced for such cute organic clothing. Find Pure Baby styles at Finn's Finds, a great site based in NYC featuring clothes manufactured by environmentally and ethically responsible partners.