Moms Who Mean Business: Part One

{ Transcript }

Erica Kuntz greets us from the cluttered front porch of her Lakewood townhouse that serves as both her office and her home.

Erica: (invites Vivian in) -- The house suffers quite a bit. A housekeeper, I'm not.

Viv: Well, something has to give.

Viv: In the last year, she's grown a home based web business. She is now keeping 500 accounts. And she takes care of a husband, an eleven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old daughter, and two-year-old Oscar.

Erica: One of the ways I've been able to accomplish that is to adjust my routine--how I work and sleep and stay awake. I stay awake after the kids are asleep and that's when I'm most productive.

Viv: Do you want to nurse now?

Erica: You don't mind?

Viv: Not a problem.

Erica: We are talking about flexible schedules--I never have to make arrangements unless I want to. It gives me that opportunity. You know, last year I was a girl scout leader for my oldest daughter and still was able to take her to ballet class--and ya know, it's a great thing to have that flexibility.

Viv: Five-year-old Ceilia tries to be flexible and patient too when mom's working on the phone.

Celia: I just wait until she's finished. So I don't make her really angry. Because if it's important business...

Viv: Erica worked for 8 years in product management at American Greetings. Then she had Celia.

Erica: After I had her, I just, something clicked in my mind. I didn't want to leave home. I didn't think we could afford it. I really didn't think we could. I never really looked at it. I never really sat down and looked at it on paper. Once we did that, we thought well, maybe it would work. At that time, I had no intentions of working at home. All throughout this time, I was interested in the developing Internet at the time. I had been able to network--more like building community, building friendships with women on-line. Because I had my technical background, it followed naturally. All of the sudden women wanted help with their web sites. It was something I could easily do, to help. It was really great.

Like Erica, Suzie Little and her husband, Lynn, saw an opportunity for Suzie to stay at home with her kids and have meaningful work, too. She makes baby and maternity clothing out of hemp.
Suzie: I noticed that the eco-clothing that was out there for kids was outrageously expensive. Onesies were running $25 a piece. I started to realize that there was a really big market. So we started the whole baby hemp line. We have hats, onesies, t-shirts, you know, that kind of thing.

Viv: What was it like getting started with kids underfoot?

Suzie: Ah, boy...confusing.

Lynn: Kids first. I come in third.

Suzie: Somewhere the house got in there.

Viv: How do you cope, Lynn...

Lynn: I wasn't just some young kid when I got married. I was 32 when we met. My whole focus--well, I loved Suzie--but I wanted to love children. This allowed to me have this opportunity. It has given me a situation that I know my kids are safe. To be honest, daycare would have driven me nuts. I would always be wondering where they are at and what they are doing. I'm glad Suzie decided to stay home.

Anne Perusek takes care of three teenagers and works from her home as an editor for a monthly magazine. But unlike Suzie, she has no help. It's been four years since her divorce.
Anne: When I travel, it makes a big difference. That is the trickiest part of my life. So sometimes it's my mom--you know, stop by sometime in the afternoon. Make sure people have eaten--doing their homework. It's a little different because I have colleagues that have spouses--male colleagues that have spouses...that say, "Oh gee, I don't have to worry about any of those things."

Viv: Anne left a high pressure corporate job because she missed being with her two-year-old son. She had just started freelancing from her home when she became pregnant again.

Anne: Then as the pregnancy progressed, I found out that I was having twins. Had I stayed at my old job in the corporate environment I don't know how I would have gotten through that pregnancy as well. You know, working and pacing myself in the way that I did, I could rest. I could take a nap. I had time for my toddler. It was really a great way to work. I mean, intellectually, I still have to be stimulated, and I think I'm a better mom because I have the challenges and creativity that my job gives me.

Viv: And while she can watch the kids, they can benefit from watching her at work.

Anne: A magazine comes out, they see it. They know I did it. I've heard them talk about my work to other people and I've noticed they seem very proud of it.

It was for her kid's sake that Suzanne Hawkins abandoned a promising career as a speech pathologist. Now she's a sales consultant for a publishing company.
Suz: My number one reason was for my children. I had spent five years working outside the home and couldn't do it anymore. I was leaving a crying child every morning in childcare.

Viv: Do you remember the last straw or what happened on the day you made the decision?

Suz: I just decided when he had a crying fit and I was literally peeling his fingers off my pants leg. And that was it for me. I said that I can't do this anymore.

Viv: Her new sales job lets her work from home. But what happens when the kids are underfoot and she has to take a business call?

Suz: They know my signal. I hold a finger up and that know exactly what that means. When they were younger, they didn't know what that meant. But I had a set of toys that they could only play with when I was on the phone, so they never saw it as a problem. They waited for me to get on the phone so that they could get into that box of toys. But now they understand and they work with me.

Understanding kids, supportive husbands, they help mothers work out of their homes. But where do these mothers find cooperative bosses and understanding customers? We'll look into that next week in "Moms Who Mean Business: Part Two". I'm Vivian Goodman, WKSU News.
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