By Kate Lauderbaugh
The hardest thing about leaving paid employment for me was the money. I was working in a project leader role on a Year 2000 project, and my company was literally throwing money at people. I even got a bonus while I was on maternity leave. But I was burned out on the corporate world after 15 years of working, and I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my son and going back to 50+ hour weeks.
I was a bit bored at home, so I had my eye open for other opportunities that were more compatible with my new life. My husband and I live an active lifestyle in the Chicago area, and finding outdoor clothing to keep the baby warm was challenging. I finally found a magazine ad for a windproof, fleece-lined blanket and ordered one. I really liked it and got many positive comments on it from my new network of friends with kids.
I began an e-mail conversation with the woman who made the blankets out in Montana. I found out she also sold blankets suitable for picnics, camping, travel and outdoor athletic events. We agreed that I would be a distributor for her products. Although I didn't have any experience in sales, I decided to pursue this arrangement anyway, mostly because I knew I would learn a lot from the experience that would be valuable to me no matter what the outcome, and the initial investment required was quite low. Fortunately, we do not need my income from this venture to live on right now.
To market the product I have done a direct mailing and a street fair, and have called on local retail businesses. I have joined some local parenting organizations where I hope to meet more potential clients, and they also have newsletters that I can advertise in. My husband and I have made a web page and I am working on ways to market on the Internet. I see a lot of potential on the Internet, but there is also a bit more to it than I thought there would be. I am very glad to be learning all about it.
What I like most about the business is how naturally it integrates with my lifestyle. I work when my son is napping, as well as the occasional weekend street fair. I naturally meet mothers and families who might be interested in the products. I spend a lot of time on my computer and come across sites that most likely reach a client base similar to mine. And there are no artificially imposed deadlines, so I can work at my own pace and take my son to the pool if it's a nice day.
My advice to others is to be open to the opportunities that present themselves, and work toward finding ones that naturally fit your interests and abilities. There are many benefits and opportunities for stay-at-home moms . . . not the least of which is staying home with your kids!
Kate Lauderbaugh lives in Evanston, Illinois. She is a mother and a distributor of Windbreak™ Blankets.