Mom of 5 and United States Marine Corps Vet turned farm-wife, Nancy Sunderland, had been babywearing for years and volunteering as a local babywearing group co-facilitator in Vermont when she decided to start her own woven wrap business from her family's farmhouse. "I saw a hole in the market for classically designed, American-made woven baby wraps and slings at reasonable prices. I wanted to bring the textile industry back to Vermont a little bit at a time [and] I wanted to do my part to spread the babywearing love, specifically the love of woven wraps."
Because Nancy's parents are from Québec, Canada, she named her business Poésie Tissée (woven poetry) as a way to incorporate her family's French heritage when the brand was established in July 2013. In May 2014 Poésie Tissée was changed to Poe Wovens (a bit easier for people to say) and the wraps have been the talk of the town since. But like any business owner, Nancy has had her share of ups and downs. Keep reading for an insider look at how Nancy runs her own mom-to-mom business with 5 kids and a dairy farm.
Q: What was the first thing you did when you got the idea for your business?
Nancy: The first thing that I did was research and choose a business name, then secure the domain name, file with the Secretary of State and all social media user names. Intellectual property is key in a startup. Ironically, two months after our launch we re-named and re-branded the business, so never say never!
Q: What was the hardest obstacle in creating your business?
Nancy: I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, I would say I have three. The first was in securing funding for an unproven “startup." Cyberbullying and trolls were the second (and that it happened within the babywearing community [in] groups on Facebook made it all the more difficult to stomach. I had no idea how downright vicious other mothers could be.) My third biggest challenge was/is finding a good family vs. work balance. Since my office is off the living room, and inventory and order fulfillment happens in the lower level of our farmhouse, carving out uninterrupted time is difficult.
Q: What advice do you have for parents interested in pursuing their own business?
Nancy: First and foremost I suggest garnering the unwavering support of your spouse/partner and if your children are older, let them know that some changes are coming. Secondly, my advice would be to take 3-6 months to write a solid business plan. Do the research. Interview entrepreneurs. Talk to experts in your field. A business plan is not something to be written, pitched to investors then sit on a shelf. It should be revisited and adjusted quarterly, if not monthly.
Make family time sacred. Work will always be there, so learn when to shut down the laptop and unplug. A lesson I am still in the midst of learning and relearning."
Q: How long did Poe Wovens take from conception to opening?
Nancy: July through April was my incubation period, and we officially launched with a full product line mid-May, so almost 10 months. The lack in funding was the major delay. It was a year of hurdle and hoop jumping, triumphs and defeats.
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
Nancy: I find my inspiration from classic textiles, fashion, art, and the landscape around me here in rural Vermont. I think weaving is poetic and wearing your baby is poetry in motion. I love exploring how the warp and weft can come together to create beautiful, usable, wearable art. Pintrest is a great resource for curating your own style. I love finding ways to utilize pattern and design from one medium and bringing it to textiles, specifically, woven baby wraps.
Q: Do you have a work habit (good or bad)?
Nancy: My good work-related habit is keeping a notebook with me and jotting down tasks and how long they take me. It helps me to be realistic when planning my day. For example, I might like to think checking email takes only five minutes, when in actuality it takes closer to 30 or 40. A bad work-related habit I have is getting side-tracked on Facebook. My New Year's resolution is to cut that time in half in fact.
Q: What's your favorite app right now?
Nancy: My favorite app right now is Twitter. I know it sounds boring, but I have read amazing articles and tips on everything from de-frizzing hair to content marketing and strategy. There is some great free content out there if you know where to look.
Q: What's your favorite story from a customer?
Nancy: I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one. I love seeing the pictures of moms and dads wearing their babies in my wraps, happy or sad, wide awake or sound asleep. I love seeing how babywearing allows a mom or dad the ability to comfort a baby or toddler all the while having their hands free! Babywearing empowered me as a young mom and I so want that for other parents.
Q: How has this adventure changed you as a mom?
Nancy: This adventure has changed me as a mom in many ways. What started out as a whim and a hobby grew to a passion and a dream, and now to a job. Unfortunately, there is not much glamor in entrepreneurship. I have had to pivot in the face of adversity and my children (and husband) have had to adapt to mommy not being as available. I have become more willing to delegate chores in the household as well as work tasks to business associates. I’ve become more efficient and more realistic about what can actually get done in a day when you have five children. I want my children to grow up seeing that it’s not just men, but also women who can run a business. Having four daughters, I think it’s important for them to see examples of women succeeding on both the home-front and the work-front. The takeaway for me is this: Make family time sacred. Work will always be there, so learn when to shut down the laptop and unplug. A lesson I am still in the midst of learning and relearning.