These moms built empires by making family life work for them
Once a mom, always a mom. They gave birth to us, adopted us, fostered us, or in some other way took us into their hearts. However things go, they never stop caring, and they’re always thinking about their families. But there’s more to them than their identities as mothers. Believe it or not, they have entire lives outside of motherhood. Some of them run businesses in addition to everything else they’re juggling. Sometimes their search to be better mothers leads them to a million-dollar idea and a business that shares the finished product with other families. In honor of Mother’s Day, this month we celebrate a few of those mompreneurs (we promise we’ll use that word only once).
The founder and CEO of women’s workwear designer M.M.LaFleur (named, of course, after her mother) welcomed triplets of a unique sort in 2020. Born with a rare genetic condition that caused her body to develop only one fallopian tube, she learned from doctors that conceiving could be difficult. She and her husband tried in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy, and both were successful. LaFleur gave birth to a boy in August, and twins (a boy and a girl) arrived via surrogate in September. The changes her body underwent during the IVF process, in addition to bandages on her arms from constant blood draws, inspired her to create new designs for women taking on the same challenge.
The actor founded The Honest Company soon after the birth of her first child. Alba herself suffered a series of physical maladies growing up and didn’t want her daughter to experience the same. So, she set about to create a line of products that are both safe and effective for families. The company’s NO List includes more than 2,500 chemicals and materials that are not welcome in its products, which The Honest Company devises in an in-house lab. While kids are still the focus (Alba has three now), the company also has a line of beauty products for moms and anyone who wants to treat themselves.
Like most new moms, Hirschhorn didn’t know exactly what she was in for, and she was learning on the fly with her firstborn. As she learned, Hirschhorn decided to help prepare others, and Frida was born. The company’s Frida Mom line helps mothers care for themselves so they can care for their babies, with products to put in hospital bags, products to help make breastfeeding easier and less painful, and products to help the post-birth healing process. With products like the Windi gaspasser, Frida Baby helps with those not-so-cute things babies get up to. Frida has run into obstacles when broadcasters, most notably the Oscars, have rejected ads that give a frank portrayal of what postpartum life is like, but Hirschhorn remains on a mission.
When she founded VMware with her husband and three other partners, Greene was pregnant with her second child. “My original plan was I was going to get the company going and bring in a CEO,” she has said. Instead, she became the CEO. Since her decade in that role, Greene has sat on the board of Google and other tech titans, served as CEO of Google Cloud and co-founded Bebop and VXtreme, donating her shares worth $148.6 million when Google bought Bebop. Before motherhood and her tech career, Greene was a naval architect and national women’s dinghy champion.
In 2006, Drummond started a Typepad blog about her life on a working Oklahoma cattle ranch, raising and homeschooling her kids. About a year into the project, she posted a step-by-step tutorial on how to cook a steak. Complete with brilliant photography, the post was a hit. Within a few years, The Pioneer Woman blog was winning awards and racking up millions of hits. Drummond made her TV debut when Bobby Flay traveled to the ranch for a special Thanksgiving throwdown. Less than a year later, The Pioneer Woman show debuted on Food Network, and the rest is history. Drummond keeps life simple on the ranch, and when the pandemic necessitated creative production, her kids took over shooting the show on iPhones.
Katelyn Goodnough-Johnson & Nicole Goodnough
These cousins got their love of puzzles from their mothers. Trouble was, after so many puzzles conquered, they couldn’t find any that were challenging enough for them. The quartet took to creating their own vibrant, eye-catching designs that are challenging enough to stimulate the brain but not so overwhelming that you toss it away in frustration or it sits unfinished for months taking up valuable table space. Their company, Puzzledly, shares those creations with other puzzle-loving families. Their timing was great, as they dreamed up the company in 2019, mere months before we were all at home doing puzzles.
Being on the road four days a week with a baby at home wasn’t working for Park, so she landed a job as director of new ventures at Starbucks. From there, she founded Julep, blending traditional Korean skincare methods with innovative sales methods, becoming an e-commerce and subscription box pioneer. Her latest project is Tokki, which makes sustainable gift bags and wraps. Not only can gift-givers be eco-friendly, they can record special messages and videos for the recipients, accessible via QR code. In all her ventures, she strives to make her employees’ home life amenable to quality family time.
“The beauty and chaos behind our blended family is the inspiration for the precious hand-knit dolls of Red and Olive Co.,” writes Conner, who founded the company with her stepmother, Lita. The dolls draw on Peruvian traditions and are made with love by Peruvian artisans the pair know and love. Some of the design details even come from Conner’s kids’ features. Ten percent of sales go to The Starlight Children’s Foundations. Each doll, made from natural materials, comes with a matching hat for the child to wear so the kids can look just like their doll BFFs.
Most parents — unless you’re lucky — know the frustration of being sleep-deprived and dealing with a baby who won’t go to sleep. One night, Gangan decided to place her hand on her baby’s chest. When he went to sleep, she replaced her hand with a stuffed toy. The pressure kept her son asleep. She knew she was on to something. After consultation with pediatric pulmonologists and lots of testing and research, Gangan’s new venture, Nested Bean, had its first product, a gently weighted swaddle. The Zen Sack soon followed, for babies too old for swaddles, and weighted footies and onesies. With more than a million units sold, Gangan has parents and babies all over getting a good night’s sleep.
Moms are usually pretty concerned with how their kids eat. Curtis wanted her trio to start eating healthily from the beginning. So, she started Once Upon a Farm with Ari Raz, making organic, cold-pressed food for babies and toddlers from whole fruits and vegetables. Soon, actor and mom of three Jennifer Garner was on board as the company’s chief brand officer, setting the vision for what Once Upon a Farm can be. The farm-to-family blends and dairy-free smoothies contain no added sugar and no artificial ingredients. “As moms, we make a promise to help our children reach their fullest potential. Food plays a huge role in that, which is why we carefully craft each nutrient-dense recipe with your little one’s future in mind,” Curtis pledges.