[Thirteenth installment  – If you are new to this journey, start at the 1st chapter in my 8 months pregnant with 2 broken legs journey as chronicled in my book Say Bump and Take a Left, How I Birthed a Baby and a Business after a Huge Bump in the Road.]

My lack of drive and subsequent decrease in income when I returned to Blue Ribbon was masked by the fact that I had switched to part time, and my husband took over the financial security of our family.

I couldn’t stop thinking of this new idea, and by the fall of 2002 couldn’t stop talking to my husband about it.  Duane is not a big financial risk taker, so it took a long time and a lot of solid research on my part before he started warming up to the idea.  The internet was almost as old as Evan, and I couldn’t find a single novelty maternity company, let alone product that came up in my Google searches.

My obsession grew stronger.

If no one was there yet, I could be the first, and have a competitive edge.  My husband’s interest warmed further.

“But I don’t know anything about starting a business,” I told myself.

“How would I do it?”

“Where would I run it?”

“Where would I get the money?”

“What about Blue Ribbon?”

“My kids are too young – they need me!”

The prospect of starting a novelty maternity company produced the same kind of shock and disbelief as when the E.R. Doctor told me “Well, you did it good, you broke them both.”  Only, the tornado swirling around me now was fear mixed with excitement rather than depression.

If I could handle that original cyclone, and get through that situation of broken legs while pregnant, I told myself, I know I can do something as simple as start a business.

The lies we tell ourselves when we are naive first timers allow for many people’s brains to expand and form budding entrepreneurs.

My profession at the time gave me an incredible advantage.  If I wanted to start an internet business, internet techies were readily available.  I started calling some of my most trusted placements, and asking their advice.  My brain and confidence expanded further.

I learned about the creation of a website and credit card processing.  I came up with a name based on the book I read to my boys every night – ‘Mama Loves’.  I thought that people would be confused about which spelling of ‘Mama’ to use, so I changed it to ‘Mommy Loves’, and my obsession became a business – a home based business.

The next question I needed answered was, “Where am I going to get some money?”

Once my In-Laws heard what I was contemplating, and saw what I had created thus far, they offered me $5,000 to start the business.  My Father-in-law was very fatherly in his advice, and my Mother-in-law again praised me for my creativity.

Ever since I met Jean in 1979, she has praised me for my creativity by way of belittling herself for her supposed lack of it.  I have played the Cello since junior high school, and my In-Laws bought me a Cello a year after meeting me.  Anytime I played music, cooked a delicious meal, created a greeting card for a friend or did some other fun, creative thing, Jean would respond in the same way:

“Wow!  I wish I was as creative as you are!  I must have been standing in the wrong line for the wrong door when they were handing out creativity, because I didn’t get any of this when I was born.  You have more creativity in your little finger than I have in my whole body!”

Almost 30 years later now, I can confidently say that she was wrong.  Playing music, cooking and having fun with a computer are all nothing compared to creating a nurturing, responsible, loving human being.  And, anyone can force themselves out of their comfort zone, and try something new and different.  I dare you to do just that.   Jean created this amazing man for me to marry, and I just hope I can do the same for my future Daughters-in-law.

In March, 2003 I applied for a business license, advertised for a fictitious business name and secured the domain MommyLoves.  That day was one of the most exciting and humbling I have ever experienced beyond childbirth.  The mixture of arrogance and insecurity that was required when I used to fool myself into believing I was in control at all times was lifted by my ‘broken legs while pregnant’ experience.  It was replaced with peace, confidence and a healthy dose of fear, and my mind was now open to the amazing possibilities.  Since then, I have been flying between 1 and 10,000 feet in my own plane of business called MommyLoves.  Sometimes I have to slow down long enough to see the forest of beautiful bumps for the shirts.

My husband’s support meant everything.  I couldn’t raise our kids without his help and I certainly couldn’t run a home based business without it.  The day I secured the business license and the domain name bore the lightest steps along this road to self employment.  The next eight months were filled with very few days of sunshine and smooth travel, even though I navigated the beautiful Northern California summer and early fall.  Most of the time I felt as if I walked through muck and mire wearing full combat gear.  Actually, this turned out to be the best test and training for my new career.  The virtual bricks and mortar that set the foundation for MommyLoves were formed by the following:

Finding a manufacturer for my shirts that did not require a minimum order of 20,000 pieces of each size.  This took at least five months of daily searches, emails and phone calls.
Finding a credit card processor that would not charge me additional fees I would then have to pass on to my customers.
Finding a good silk screener who could also produce high quality products in small quantities.
Designing and building the entire website, including the shopping cart, by myself with no previous internet or programming experience but a lot of help from some amazingly giving souls.
Securing a business address that was not a P.O. Box or my home address.
Finding a good marketing person who could produce a blossoming brand with my little seed money.
All this was accomplished while I was still working as a Head Hunter and taking care of my home and children.  Riley was 18 months and had stopped taking naps three months prior.  Evan was almost five.  By November 1st, I was ready for launch.  All that work had taken me 8 months – almost as long as another baby.  I was now ready for the real work – filling orders.

I kept envisioning that old IBM commercial where a small band of workers at a startup were huddled around one computer as one of them pushes the key to publish their new website, and they all watch as the visitor tally rises exponentially.  I was scared to death, and prayed to God that wouldn’t happen to me.

It didn’t.

There are countless books, video tapes and courses telling budding entrepreneurs how to become millionaires by following some formula.

This is certainly not one of them.

The path outlined in this book is worn by millions of successful choices, not dollars.

I was familiar with setting realistic and stretch goals, and had really only one strong desire for the reward of this business:  To provide a reasonable income to replace my day job and enable me to stay home to raise my boys.  I would plan for the “millionaire status” when my sons were raised and out of the house, because I have realized throughout my life’s journey thus far that we can all have only one master.  It takes time, energy and mastery to become a millionaire.  It also takes time, energy and mastery to raise caring, productive young men who can hopefully make a difference in the lives of those around them.  Fooling myself into believing that I could build a millionaire business and raise my sons the way I want would actually fulfill my mother’s definition of “having my cake and eating it too!”

I had to choose, and I knew which path was most important to me.  I chose to stand in the very short line, as my Mother-in-law would put it, for the door that opens for people who make their children and family their priority, while also continuing to broaden their own experiences.  I specifically built my business to fulfill my one goal – independence that would allow me to become a Work At Home Mom (aka WAHM).  January 1, 2005 saw the achievement of that goal.

~Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom