Mompreneurs explain what led them to launch businesses while working from home and raising families

Friday, June 6, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 23
By Hollie Deese

Running a business with children underfoot is no easy task. From piles of plastic toys on the floor to interrupting toddlers to business meetings that clash with the school play, here are a few behind-the-scenes stories from local mothers who are also entrepreneurs.

Nancy McNulty, 51

Co-owner of Franklin’s Forest Home Media. A journalist, she had previously built her PR business McNulty Communications while at home raising two children.

“When my second child was born, I stayed home permanently. I set up a little corner of the house with my computer.

It was actually in the kids’ playroom, surrounded by plastic Little Tikes toys. I would be working around their sleep schedules and stuff like that. I’m an early-morning worker, so my husband would work with the kids while I was writing, and you just do it. It was great. It gave me a creative outlet, and I loved it.

“As I got older, I just continued to transition into something more. You definitely feel guilty. My biggest lesson that I have come to terms with is that no matter what you are doing, try and be in that moment.

We’re still struggling with this because my kids are older, but my [business] partner’s children are in middle school.

“What is nice for me is that I’m working with a lot of working moms and dads. The freelance reporting world is such a big part of the news industry now, so I do whatever I can to make it easier when working with another freelance writer. We all understand what we’re up to.”

Kia Jarmon, 29

Owner of the MEPR Agency, expecting her first child in June

“I’m going to take some time off. I haven’t decided how long that time is, so right now I’m working on the transition phase.

I just brought on a project administrator, but I also contract out a lot of my work. I have a writer, an editor, a designer and a website person. All the people who do what they do really well, it works for this kind of lean practice and keeps the overhead low for clients and for us as a business.

“I’ve been making sure that I’ve been transitioning more of the work and responsibilities to those people. Interestingly, they have been saying ‘Please send me more stuff to do.’ So that it’s been a huge help so that I can make sure that I can spend the time with my family.

“Because it is always a challenge when you are an entrepreneur, and now thinking about how you can take care of a little person who requires so much of your time, and thinking about the people who you are working for – it is going to be a transition.’’

Jennifer McInerney Erdman, 39

Independent Brand Partner for Nerium International, mom of seven children ages 17, 13, 11, 8, 6, 4 and 2.

“My 4-year-old goes to mother’s day out two days a week, and it is usually those days that I try to do most of my meetings and things like that so that I can still be home. Because that’s what I want to do. I want to be home. It’s been hard for me to balance the housework and all that in addition to working, but we have come up with plan and a pretty good system.

“The other thing is that I don’t want to have to pay for child care so I can work because that kind of defeats the purpose. So the older kids have had to step up to the plate and, occasionally, be the babysitters and just understand that when mom and dad can’t be there because we are working, there is a good reason. We’re doing it for the family. So we’ve had a lot of family meetings about that, and it is an adjustment.

“I like to say it is chaos added to chaos, because we already were chaos. There’s no doubt about it. Don’t get me wrong, I have some point every day where I sit down and go, ‘What I’m doing? Am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing this? Is this going to be the long-term benefit for the family that we need? Is it worth it for me to do this?

“It always comes back to the fact that I am showing my kids that you can be successful. I want to be a good role model for them. I don’t want them to think a stay-at-home mom just stays at home and is at your beck and call.

“When I meet people, and I mention that I have seven kids, the first response is ‘Are you crazy? How do you do it?’

“A lot of days I ask myself the same question so I’m not surprised by that reaction at all. But it is balance. If the kids have a band concert, that’s what I’m doing. If there is a business meeting that is super important and I can get one of the other kids to babysit, then that’s what we are going to do.”

Brittany Joy Cooper, 28

A self-employed content creator, writer and editorial consultant who lives in East Nashville. Mother of a 2-year-old and expecting her second child.

“I think my friends have been given the baptism by fire of what my life actually looks like. I had a preconceived notion about it – what it would be like. I’m the oldest of five so I should’ve known better.

“The biggest thing for me is that people talk about naptime as being this time where you can catch up, or read, or clean, but I don’t have any of that time because I am working. The second she’s down I’ve got my laptop out.

“All of those other things have to fit in the periphery of your life, and that’s the part that is really hard. It is not separate. People either leave for work, or they keep a home, and both are enough to keep you busy full-time.

“I have to realize I have to have grace for myself because I am choosing to do this. I’m choosing to be involved in this. And the homemaking side doesn’t always look like I wanted to look. Right now my house is a total disaster. We just can’t do it all, but I think that’s what we’re led to believe. I’m home, but I have to remind myself that I’m not fully home. It’s a blessing and a curse.”

Peggy Keel, 63

Owner of the 31,000 Sports Village in Lebanon, a business she built while home with her two children. Now adults, both children work for their mother.

“The first three years were very, very difficult. As an entrepreneur we have great ideas, but sometimes carrying them out is difficult. There was a lack of knowledge back in those days because there were not a lot of places like this.

It was just trial and error, and it took me about three years to figure it out and to get it where I felt like it was viable. After the three years it’s been great.

“Both of my children continue to work there. Jeff is my son and he is the facility manager. Laura manages the payroll and takes care of the social media and the website. They’ve done an exceptional job of trying to take care of me and helping out.

“It wasn’t hard for me when they were younger because it was kind of nice that they could come to work with me. They grew up over there and that was actually kind of fun. And [the children] being five years apart – that helped.

“There are always challenges, but I think the pros far outweigh the cons. I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have been able to do these things in a small community.”

Margaret Ziegler, 57

Stay-at-home mother of two turned decorative sign builder and owner of home-based Mom’s Sign Company in Franklin.

“One of the things that is really warms my heart is that I may be in the store putting some stuff up, and a mom will come in with a little kid. I’ll tell them that this is my stay-at-home mom business and get in a conversation. They say they want a niche, but they haven’t figured out what they want to do. But they stay home, and they know they can do more.

“I let them know not to give up. To keep dreaming, keep trying to figure out what you like and how you can grow into something. Just go for it.

“Don’t extend yourself out there where you get loans, but figure out a way to do it small and grow it. See what happens. It may work, and may not work. But you’ll never know until you try.”