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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Michelle Tunno Buelow | Bella Tunno
Company: Bella Tunno
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Children: Two daughters, 3 and 6 â¢ Age: 35
Inspiration: Six years ago, Buelow was happily climbing the corporate ladder at a North Carolina ad agency when life jerked the rug out from under her. Her brother died after years of dealing with drug and substance abuse. She took a leave from work, then found out she was pregnant. With her salary cut in half, Buelow was figuring out a way to fund the doctorate study her brother completed and stay afloat as a new mom. To save money, she started making small things like changing pads for her daughter, which caught the attention of other moms. “[Parents] would ask, ‘Where did you get that?,’” she says. “That’s when the light started to flicker.”
Perspiration: Buelow spent two sleepless weeks making birthing cloths and changing pads to show local boutiques. When 10 out of 11 stores wanted one of everything she had, she hired seamstresses. By 2005, Buelow had made it into AmericasMart, one of the largest wholesale showrooms in the country, where she picked up accounts with 55 stores nationwide. By 2006 and 2007, celebrities including Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Nicole Richie were using her wares. Trouble struck in 2008 when the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act changed regulations on testing fabrics. “It was terribly expensive because every product had to be tested three times to prove that things like a diaper pad were safe. It nearly took us under,” Buelow says. Bella Tunno survived thanks to a few key deals like Nordstrom and Baby Gap.
Success: Bella Tunno rakes in over $1 million a year, maintains distribution partnerships in six countries and donates a portion of all sales to support drug and alcohol abuse, prevention and rehabilitation programs.