Introduction: The babies in my mommy group all were born between September and December and are progressing through the same stages of development. Since we began motherhood within weeks of each other, there’s been some chatter as each new mother figures out what she will do when her maternity leave is over – whether it’s daycare or a nanny, extending unpaid leave, or not going back to work at all. Most of the mothers dread the end of their maternity leave – who ever feels ready to leave their baby after three months? However, I recently met two mothers in my group who aren’t taking an undisturbed three month maternity leave at all: these mothers run their own businesses that rely on gift giving during the holiday season, and that means being active now! While most of us are trying to catch a few hours of snooze when we can, these moms are working at home to get their businesses through their busy season. Here’s a two-part series of what I learned from these mothers.
Allison loves giving and receiving presents so much that she started a gift-giving business, VelvetCrate, with her sister Amy. A VelvetCrate is a box of curated goodies that you can order online for your loved ones for any occasion. Using VelvetCrate makes giving gifts easy and quick – there's a rotating selection of packages available in a number of themes: Holiday, For Him (new!), Just Because, Celebrate, and Love. While the themes stay the same, the contents change up seasonally to include new combinations. The Crate options range from $50-85 (including shipping) and come in a pretty little package with a custom message so that all you need to do is place an order. Since the items have a hand-selected touch and come from small shops it makes a great present for that friend who spends a lot of time on blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram drooling over everything.
Allison's sister Amy oversees the shipping and operations out of Kansas while Allison runs the marketing – including web management, sales, photography, email marketing, and social media (@VelvetCrate) – out of her apartment in Brooklyn. She also has a heavy hand in product selection, which sounds like pretty much like the BEST JOB EVER as it takes her to major markets around the country to source new items and has her spending a lot of time learning about cool new boutique businesses. Recently, since Allison now lives in Brooklyn, some of the “crates” have included some local Williamsburg favorites such as Liddabit Sweets and Salty Road Taffy. VelvetCrate also produces a number of corporate orders – in fact, their first corporate order for the holiday season happened the day Allison went into labor with Rose, her little 10 week old daughter!
Here is my Q&A with Allison:
Q: Product sourcing sounds like a lot of fun! How do you keep the packages fresh?
A: You’re right! Product sourcing is one of my favorite parts about VelvetCrate, although it does take a lot of work. We keep our selections fresh by updating gift packages and the brands we use every season. Of course, there are some gifts that remain timeless and popular, such as candles and notecards, so we try to find the most up-and-coming brands to use for those products. We also create fun special-edition themed crates that change frequently too, like the FOR HIM VelvetCrate we recently launched. When we first started VelvetCrate, our packages were all very similar, but over the past year we’ve worked to have more variety with the gifts, and in our price points. This summer we launched The VelvetCrate Shop, where you can now customize your gift package too!
Q: The holidays are a busy time! How do you manage with a newborn at home?
A: It’s been a challenge, but I am making it work! The holidays are definitely our busiest time, but it’s fun and the adrenaline rush (and coffee!) help keep me going. For the past year before Rose arrived, I worked hard to create and maintain a work-at-home schedule since working at home even WITHOUT a baby can be hard, but that schedule has now gone out the window now that baby is boss. When Rose is napping during the day, I use that time to be as productive as possible, and in those few hours here and there, I work harder than I ever have. Like most entrepreneurs, I work at night and on the weekends too.
Q: Your first corporate order came in the day that you were in labor with Rose – tell us all about it!
A: She was born in mid-September, and in retail world, that’s pretty much when the holidays start. Shortly after I was induced that morning, we received an inquiry for a large custom order, and we had to move on it fast. Since I couldn’t use my computer from the delivery bed, I was texting with my sister like crazy from my phone. I had an epidural, so fortunately I was able to work right through those early contractions. Luckily, everything was completed and approved hours before Rose arrived later that night!