The typical mom-and-baby groups weren't working for Amy Lundy.
She and her husband, Adam Lusthaus, and their newborn daughter had moved from Tampa to New York shortly after Alexandra was born in October 2010. They stayed a few months before returning to Davis Islands last March.
Eager to meet other moms, Lundy tried social groups in both cities. She was frustrated by what she found.
Some groups included mothers who already knew one another, and Lundy didn't feel she fit in. Some exceeded her budget as a stay-at-home mom. Others featured fun classes, but she didn't like going to the same activity each week. She also wished for time just to chat with other parents.
She started thinking about a way to provide what was missing, to create a one-stop shop where mothers could sample several activities and have time to develop friendships.
Small Fry Society was born.
That was in September. Now Lundy, 32, is working to make the group accessible to more parents by branching into North Tampa and creating a partnership with the Jewish Community Center.
Small Fry Society is a series of socials for mothers and their children, infants to preschool. Moms get together about once a week for breakfast and an activity they can do with their kids. Time is built into each meeting for the mothers to get to know one another as well.
The group works in sessions, or terms, that extend for a set amount of weeks. The first two terms lasted about eight weeks and activities took place mostly in South Tampa during the day. Lundy heard from women who lived in other parts of Hillsborough County who wanted to participate but couldn't always get to South Tampa. She also knew that the daytime schedule was tough to impossible for women who worked outside the home.
The third term, which begins Tuesday, will be different.
"This term is the right kind of combination of the educational and social and fun activities," Lundy said. "It's so inclusive."
She dropped the price and added more socials, going from eight to 10, spreading them over 11 weeks. For $150, moms and children can experience yoga, music, museum trips and a photo session on weekday or Sunday mornings. A special girls' night out gives moms a chance to hang out, while the kids stay home with dad or a sitter.
Lundy also joined with the Jewish Community Center preschool to include four sessions with an educational bent that dads can attend, too. Two of those sessions will take place at the center's main campus off Gunn Highway near Carrollwood; the other two at the center's South Tampa preschool. Guest speakers will talk about children's health, nutritious meals, financial planning and picking preschools and kindergarten. JCC workers will babysit the children in a different area while parents listen to the speakers.
The arrangement fits well with the JCC's mission, said Leni Sack, executive director of early childhood education.
"It's a way for us to reach new families and, at the same time, provide some parent-child experiences," Sack said. "It's a good partnership for us."
The center already provides programming for parents, but Sack liked how Lundy tapped into mothers' interests in meeting other parents and making friends. The topics are designed to appeal to parents regardless of religion.
Mirna Skinner, a mother of two, recently said she planned to sign up for the newest session. It will be nice to bring her husband to the educational sessions, she said, adding that they each need to learn about planning for their family's financial future and schooling options.
Skinner runs a concierge business out of her Riverview home. Although she meets a lot of clients, she often feels isolated working by herself. She wanted to meet more mothers but wasn't crazy about the kiddie classes she found.
"I have always been the type of mom where I'm still me," she said. "I liked the social aspect, going to a different place, getting to know the different moms and not singing Twinkle Twinkle for an hour."
She attended the first two Small Fry terms and felt she had a lot in common with the other moms. And as someone who spends her life making plans for other people, she loved just showing up at the socials, knowing Lundy had taken care of all the details.
"I didn't have to do any of the work," Skinner said. "She's taken care of everything."
Lundy worked in marketing, communications and event planning before deciding to stay at home with Alexandra. Her background came in handy as she canvassed Tampa, looking for businesses that wanted to tap into the mommy market with a product or service her clients might enjoy.
She knows that asking families to spend $150 on her socials — $115 for a half-term — is a lot these days. She's hoping the moms who sign up feel like they get a good value. The cost covers meals and services, and the different days and times should make it easier to fit into hectic schedules, she said.
Lundy also said she has screened the businesses to make sure they were family-friendly. If not, they didn't make the cut.
"I don't want to waste anybody's time or money," she said.
Reach Courtney Cairns Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.