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'Mompreneurs' find new ways to balance business, motherhood

Kristen Jarvis Johnson developed Boy Story dolls after she couldn’t find a doll to help her older son adjust to the arrival of her newborn.

Courtesy of Kristen Jarvis Johnson

Kristen Jarvis Johnson developed Boy Story dolls after she couldn’t find a doll to help her older son adjust to the arrival of her newborn.

TAMPA — When Kristen Jarvis Johnson left her job in Qatar as a senior associate for the law firm Squire, Patton and Boggs in April, she wasn't quite sure what to expect.

The mother of Anton was expecting her second son, Miles, when she began hunting for dolls to ease the introduction of her second child to her first.

"In my head I had an image of a doll that would be good for my older son, maybe something like an American Girl doll but a young boy but not a baby," said Johnson.

After spending hours on the internet, virtually scouring the globe, she came up empty-handed.

That was when she decided she wanted to do something meaningful — create an age-appropriate action doll for her son and the millions of other boys who could benefit from such a product.

"My cup was overflowing so I had to put that idea on the shelf," Johnson said. "But I couldn't stop thinking about it and the gender inequality that existed all around me."

Johnson's legal knowledge helped give her a jump-start, as did design knowledge from her sister, Katie Jarvis.

The two put together a crowdfunding campaign and raised more than $28,000 to begin developing the dolls they deemed Boy Story.

In an instant, she became a mompreneur, following a new wave of women entrepreneurs: who balance motherhood and career by tapping into specific ideas and talents

•••

Quinn Reitz worked long hours as a self-described hard-nosed journalist for various television news stations across the country.

She'd spent years working to build her career and was determined to get back to work after having her son, Grant.

"I didn't know how I could create an opportunity for work without leaving my son at a daycare or with family," Reitz said. "My boss would hear me talk about how I wanted to get back to work and he would look at me and just say 'We'll see, everything changes when you have a child.'"

Reitz chose to breastfeed her son, but took issue with the unrealistic design of nursing-friendly clothes.

"I had just gotten home from the hospital and realized there weren't a lot of options for nursing moms," Reitz said.

Though she had no prior knowledge of clothing design or fabrics, Reitz decided to research the topics and even attended a expo in Miami with her son in tow .

She returned to her home in Tampa with a goal and in that instant became a mompreneur and founder of Nursing Queen.

•••

With costs of daycare rising, many women find it difficult and simply not worth it to return to work. Some join Multilevel Marketing companies or work-from-home customer service jobs, but others tap into their own creativity to make something for the greater good of their community.

That's what these two women aim to do.

Both Reitz and Johnson stepped away from their careers to create products that they hope will initiate change in their respective markets and have harnessed the power of social media to help promote their products.

"I just started joining local Facebook mom groups and seeing if there were women willing to give me feedback and test the different tops and hoodies," Reitz said. "There were at least 20 moms ready to help me out."

Johnson, who believes marketing is their biggest obstacle, has also relied on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Kickstarter to spread the word about the dolls.

To compete with the bigger stores, Reitz wants to tap into the minds of people who know nursing moms and let them know that, from someone who has been there, she gets it.

"Most nursing tops from bigger stores are tight rayon fabric," Reitz said. "Let's be honest, what new mom wants to wear anything tight?"

•••

Johnson not only wants to create a unique toy for children, but also to invoke social change and discussion about why boy dolls are missing from store shelves.

"For some reason these toy manufacturers decided the only appropriate 'doll' for boys is a G.I. Joe or some other muscular man with a gun," Johnson said. "Meanwhile young boys are missing out on pretend play that research says will help them develop empathy and other life skills."

Both have launched just in time for 'Small Business Saturday" and the holiday season.

"I am working to change the landscape for my kids and the rest of the future generation," said Johnson. "It is almost like an extension of my parenting, doing something that is not easy and that is a big sacrifice but that will give our kids a brighter future."

Contact Kelsey Sunderland at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

'Mompreneurs' find new ways to balance business, motherhood 11/22/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 5:56pm]
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