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MOMS' MEETINGS ARE BYOK

As in bring your own kid. Home-based workers form a regional network.

Lynne Oliver, 34, is a stay-at-home mother of three who juggles the responsibilities of family life with the demands of working for two businesses from her home in Spring Hill.

A few months ago, she found the support of other multitasking moms when she joined Working Moms and Little Helpers.

Tracey Coker, another work-at-home mom who lives in New Port Richey, founded Working Moms and Little Helpers on March 4 on the social networking Web site Meetup.com.

All of the group's members are mothers and businesswomen who work from their homes in Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. They meet to promote their businesses and exchange ideas about balancing family life with work responsibilities.

Today, members of Working Moms and Little Helpers will host their first vendor fair at the Sterling Hill clubhouse in Spring Hill to showcase their businesses, educate the public about the group and recruit members.

At the group's first meeting in March, eight to 10 women attended. Now there are 29 members. The growth in membership might be partly explained by the fact that all of the group's meetings are kid-friendly.

"Members are encouraged to bring their kids to the meetings," Oliver said.

Coker and assistant organizers choose locations for their meetings where the children can play while their mothers discuss business. They have met at Chick-fil-A, Barnes & Noble and the Citrus Park mall in Tampa.

The women meet twice a month and alternate among the four counties. They reserve one meeting per month for planning. They hope to organize more fairs and open houses, and by Christmas they plan to host a small expo at a local mall.

For the other meeting each month, members take turns playing host at their homes and talk about their respective businesses.

Most of the women work in sales - in such things as accounting, jewelry, Italian ice and cosmetics. At the meetings, the members can share business tips, pitch their products and make business contacts.

Oliver said her membership in Working Moms and Little Helpers opened new business opportunities for her. When she first joined the group, she was working for her husband's plumbing company. At a meeting, a member recruited Oliver to work for a cosmetics company.

Kim McDaniel, 32, of Spring Hill, a mother of two and one of the group's first members, said Working Moms and Little Helpers has proved to be a good social outlet as well.

"It's great to meet moms in the same situation as I am, who are trying to earn extra money and take care of a family," she said. "We share advice with each other and talk about what works for us."

Oliver said even her children enjoy attending the group's meetings:

"They feel important because they get to go to a meeting with Mommy."

A version of this story appears in some regional editions of the Times.

Fast facts

If you go

Working Moms and Little Helpers will host a free "Christmas in July" vendor fair from 1 to 5 p.m. today at the Sterling Hill clubhouse, 4411 Sterling Hill Blvd. (off Elgin Boulevard), Spring Hill. The public is invited to shop, as well as learn more about the businesses of group members, who are work-at-home moms. Refreshments will be available. For information, call Lynne Oliver at (352) 584-1375.

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