Work of the Heart: Local Moms and the Businesses They Built
Whether you call it parental instinct or unconditional love or a combination of both, if you notice your child has a problem or struggle, you’ll do everything you can to fix it. Sometimes the “fix” is a conversation or life lesson. Sometimes the “fix” is tough love and letting a child learn to problem solve on their own. Sometimes, though, the “fix” doesn’t exist. So, what’s a loving, dedicated parent to do?
Take the lead from these moms who, when the solution wasn’t on the market, took it upon themselves to create it. Learn about five Atlanta-area mom-trepreneurs and the businesses they built inspired by family life.
Founder of Cristina’s Curls, cristinascurls.com
Natural, organic and handmade children’s hair and skincare product company, Cristina’s Curls, started with Courtney Smith’s daughter, Cristina.
“When Cristina was about 3-4 weeks old, she was battling eczema, dry skin, sensitive skin and cradle cap,” Smith says. “I went back to my roots, which was esthetics, to work with ingredients and essential oils to help cure her ailments. I was given a lot of prescriptions that I didn’t think was best for a baby, so I decided to make her products myself.”
As this was during the pandemic, people were spending a lot of time online, and Smith started posting before and after photos on Facebook and Instagram. Viewers would send her messages asking her to make products for their children and sending photos of their baby’s issue.
“When I started getting orders, I thought, ‘Let me take this more seriously.’ I started thinking about a website and business name,” she says.
Named after her daughter, Cristina’s Curls products are organic, handcrafted and paraben-free. Now, the company sells an average of about 8,000 products per month.
“I was a stay-at-home mom before I started, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose that. I have the flexibility to be present with my children and run my business. All of my employees are women and moms,” Smith says. “Cristina is 3, and she loves that it’s named after her. She always wants to help with packages and at the warehouse. My 9-year-old son helps with the business as well. This is what we’re pouring into as a family business.”
As her children help her with the company, Smith hopes they learn a great work ethic from her. “If you’re going to do something, give it your all,” she says. “See it through. I also want them to know you can be both. Often, we feel like we have to choose between a career or being a stay-at-home parent. But I want them to see you can do both, you just have to have balance.”
To maintain a work/life balance herself, Smith delegates tasks. “When I first started, I was doing everything – emails, social media, packaging, shipping. Delegating takes a lot off your plate. I work four days a week. At work, I’m focused, and when I clock out, I’m focused on my children and home life.”
Smith loves reading messages and reviews. “My sole purpose in creating this was to help my baby. When I see my products are helping other children, that is very rewarding to me.”
Co-Founder of Winnie + Crew and The Giving Crew, winnieandcrew.com
Atlanta-raised Claire Pack gave birth to her daughter, Winnie, in October 2020. Pack enjoyed dressing her in cute outfits, but was having a hard time finding clothes that were both comfortable and stylish. With a background in marketing and social media and her husband’s background in sourcing, she thought working together to find a solution would be exciting.
Winnie + Crew launched in May 2021. The baby and toddler clothing brand focuses on cute and comfortable clothing for everyday life. “I wanted to create high-quality clothes that are comfortable and feel good on babies and toddlers. They can be worn every day for all the things kids do. You can throw them in the washing machine, and they can be worn again and again and hold their quality,” Pack says.
As one of many women who gave birth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a community was an important part of the brand. “I had a desire to create a brand focused on more than just selling things,” she says. “I wanted to connect with other moms and get to know other parents.”
In February, the company launched The Giving Crew, an initiative to give back to deserving parents by gifting baby clothes for a year. Recipients are nominated.
“We want to give back to moms, dads, foster parents or grandparents who are raising children and in need of extra assistance, or they’re doing an awesome job and need to be celebrated,” she says. “We want to give back as much as we can by lightening the load and making them feel appreciated and seen.”
Winnie will be 3 and Pack’s son, Jude, will be 1 in October. “We wanted to create something we could do together,” she says. “It’s important they both see us working so hard. They know our whole family is involved. And for my daughter, it’s important for her to see a female-owned business. If you put your mind to things, you can make them happen. You’ll make mistakes, but they can be fixed. These lessons are happening every day right in front of her. As they get older, they can be a part of it if they want to be, and there are other opportunities in business they can be exposed to.”
With the birth of her daughter, E., Caryn Shender found her purpose. “Being her mom is my greatest joy and inspiration. Thanks to her, I have discovered my passions personally and professionally. She’s created my entire career as a sleep coach and author.”
At E.’s two-month appointment, she was unable to proceed with vaccination due to a fever. The situation quickly escalated to her Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) diagnosis and subsequent surgeries and months in the hospital. “When she was in the hospital, I looked for resources to explain what she’d been through. I didn’t find any books that specifically talked about being proud of your scar, so I wrote it,” she says. “While the book — “My Scar is Beautiful”— is inspired by CHD, it isn’t a book about CHD; it is for anyone with a scar. It’s filled with affirmations empowering readers to wear their scar with pride and confidence.”
Returning from the hospital, Shender had to learn how to parent a 6-month-old. “E. was never fussy. She was a happy, easy, smiley baby, so when she’d cry at night, I worried it was her heart.” As a heart mom and a first-time mom, Shender had to decipher what behavior was normal. “I dove into all things sleep and taught her to sleep through the night,” she says. “Once she slept better, her development and my mental health improved drastically.”
Shender became a certified pediatric sleep consultant and started Sleep Tight Tonight. “As a sleep coach, my goal is to equip parents with the knowledge necessary to teach their child to fall asleep with ease and without external support, so the whole family can feel rested,” she says. “I strive to meet a family where they are, assess their unique situation, find a solution they are comfortable with and craft a custom sleep plan.”
While E. continues to inspire Shender, she also hopes to instill inspiration in her daughter. “I hope she knows she is an inspiration to me and so many others.”
Founders of QUADSis, shopquads.com
In second grade, Janet Ward’s daughter, Brooke, started wearing shoes in the women’s department. “The market had nothing designed for her age,” Ward says. “She was embarrassed to wear something that didn’t look like her friends’ shoes. She was frustrated, I was frustrated, and she wasn’t feeling very confident. As a mom, you don’t want to see your child going through that, so I thought, ‘Let’s start a shoe company.’” And, she did — teaming up with long-time friend and fellow mom Stephanie Guido.
The pair wanted to create a strong name for their brand. “The quadriceps are one of the strongest muscles, and quad is four; we have four girls between us,” Guido says. “Four is also associated with confidence, self-esteem and strength. We wanted the brand to be about these values that you want to impart to your children.”
Their daughters — Brooke, 14, Katherine, 11, Caroline, 12, Blakely, 7 — continue to inspire QUADSis. “Our girls are absolutely a part of everything we do,” Ward says. “They pick styles, colors, functions. With the ages of our children, we have opinions from the entire age range of the market we’re serving. It’s been extremely helpful.”
Each style of shoe takes into account movement, comfort and style. They feature a girl’s name, and the girls get to pick the name, as well as which style they want named after them. The back-to-school line launched on August 4, and both Brooke and Katherine introduced their shoes.
The duo loves to see young girls’ confidence bloom when they find cute shoes. “This age can be hard and awkward with all the changes,” Ward says. “You can see the confidence in their bodies — they stand up a little straighter, smile a little more. You feel better when you look good.”
Their families are the force behind the brand. “Our family drives the whole thing,” Guido says. “Janet and I are really close. We do life together in a lot of ways, and there’s a lot of comfort in having open conversations as you run a business when you’re more like family. The kids are watching us create this from nothing. We are able to show them if you see a problem, you can do something about it.”