Top 50 Mompreneurs, 2011
They cook, they clean and, between naptimes, they run kickass companies. For those who run their own mom-centric firms, the responsibilities of motherhood are only half the battle. Babble is running our first ever salute to the top 50 mompreneurs who pull all-nighters, suffer enormous financial set-backs, and balance business and baby every day to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. Here's how they did it.
- Christina Couch
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Aileen Chen | Belly Armor
Company: Belly Armor
Location: New York, New York
Children: Daughter, 14 months â¢ Age: 35
Inspiration: Chen got the idea for Belly Armor last year when she started planning for her own family. She wondered about the potential impact her travel and cell phone use could have on a child. “I did research on what experts were saying, and the more research I did, the more concerned I got,” Chen says. When she couldn’t find anything designed to shield her growing baby against radiation, she decided to make it herself.
Perspiration: Through her vast network of resources, Chen found an industrial engineering team to create a breathable textile that would also guard against radiation. Then she had a baby, and everything changed. “I was working long hours before, but not like this,” Chen says. “It’s a tradeoff because I get to be there and feed her at night. I would never be able to do that with a corporate job.” While Belly Armor played well with focus groups, Chen received strong online criticism when the product launched earlier this year. A particularly scathing article in the UK publication The Register called the product “nothing more than rebranded and seriously overpriced anti-body-odor fabric.” Time magazine even ran a critical article. “Some criticisms, particularly the emotive articles that do not provide an objective view for their readers do get me down at times,” Chen says, adding that Belly Armor issued a rebuttal to Time. “The criticisms are often due to insufficient knowledge about the existing research showing health risks or about the precautions that world health organizations and even the cell phone companies themselves advise…I try to remember that while there will always be skeptics, many people benefit from the information and products we provide.”
Success: Despite the skeptics, Chen’s company is doing well. In less than one year, Belly Armor has expanded from a U.S. operation to one with strong international sales in Australia, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Mexico, Korea and Singapore.