“I still wanted to do challenging, high level work”

Q&A with Charissa Fitch

I was recently introduced to a working mom rocking the start-up scene by our mutual friends at Werk.

Charissa is an attorney turned inventor and entrepreneur. Like many of today’s working moms, she left a job that no longer worked for her in pursuit of building a company that would provide the solutions to her own career concerns: her desire to give her kids the time they deserved with their mom, while also putting her smarts and skills to good use in a professional setting.

And she’s on her way to doing just that! Charissa envisions a company where highly ambitious women {and men} can experience flexible schedules and benefits, while working for a dynamic, fulfilling business. She’s on a mission to support parents with great experience that may have “stepped back” from work for various reasons and are now hoping to re-enter the workforce on their own terms.

Now that’s a company I can get behind!

Self-promo time. Tell me about your business.

WileyRoo is a parent products company. Our mission is to create innovative products that make parenting and caregiving easier. Our first product offering, bababutler, is a solution to the hassle and chaos created by pumping and breast milk storage. bababutler is a flexible band that fits on most bottles, bags, and containers. It has a timer and thermometer that track the usable time and temperature of breast milk {or the content of the container}. bababutler is smart enabled and communicates with your smart phone or device via an application.

For example, once you put a bababutler band on a collection bottle you can set the time for 8 hours {for room temperature breast milk} and the alarm will sound once that time has expired. At the end of 8 hours if you haven’t used the milk you can leave the band in place and reset it to 120hrs {5 days} and put it in the refrigerator. bababutler is also great for anything you need to remember: medication, supplements, birth control, time sensitive food. Because the alarm is on the item it’s a terrific way to ensure that you, your nanny, daycare, or school remembers to administer medication or supplements to children. bababutler remembers for you!

And you’ve got big plans for growth, too.

My goal for 2017 is to continue to build a dynamic team and to surpass our first-year sales goals.

The idea for bababutler came from necessity. Any tips for pumping/nursing moms?

I had a hard time nursing my daughter. Not only did we have problems latching, but I also struggled with my milk supply. I found fenugreek and oatmeal to be very helpful with supply. Also, as much as I loved the handsfree nursing bra, I found that messaging my breasts while pumping increased my production. The most frustrating part for me was milk storage, which is why I invented the bababutler. My hope is that bababutler eliminates the chaos that surrounds breast milk storage and helps moms to pump and breastfeed as long as they want. New moms could use one less thing to stress about!

Before WileyRoo, you were an attorney. Why’d you step back out of the corporate scene?

Practicing law wasn’t working for me anymore. My husband’s company relocated us three times in six years and during that time we had two babies 17 months apart. I wanted to be home with my kids as much as possible, but “reduced hours” attorney positions can be difficult to find. So, I decided not to practice after our last move 18 months ago. I still wanted to do challenging, high level work, but I didn’t want to put in the {inflexible} hours that litigation can require.

What has been the best part about being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur has been amazing! I work when I want to and that allows me to spend more time with my family. Running a start-up is crazy, hard work, but it feels awesome to create something and see where it goes. I think my favorite part is learning so many new things. Running a company is very different than practicing law, so it has required me to learn many, many new skills. For example, I’ve learned how to use Adobe Illustrator. I’m definitely not an expert, but after fumbling around over and over I can use it if necessary; that is much more than I could have said a year ago.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

There are constant surprises! I’m surprised at how long everything takes. I’m surprised at the wonderful response we’ve received so far. I am surprised when our nanny quits, out of the blue, a couple of weeks before I leave for a 5-day work trip. The surprises keep rolling in.

wileyroo

What do you hope your children take away from all of your hard work?

If nothing else, I hope my kids learn that you are responsible for your own happiness in life. I wasn’t happy with a traditional career path, so I’m trying my best to create a company that will give people {myself included} the flexibility they need. I think many women {and men} probably feel this way once they have a family. Also I hope my daughter sees that you can be a mommy and a supportive wife and still be a badass boss lady, because they are not mutually exclusive. It just takes creativity.

What’s your best piece of advice for working moms?

My advice is… you’re doing fine. We are all too hard on ourselves. If you’re worried about how you are doing as a mom, then you’re probably doing a great job. Useful advice: hire help. If you can afford to pay someone to do something you hate {ie: laundry, cooking, etc.}, then do it!

What keeps you sane?

My faith and my family. I’m very “high strung” so I tend to stress easily. Fortunately, I have always had a close relationship with Jesus that helps me through many hard times. Prayer keeps me at peace with what is going on around me. My husband is also a big help; he can talk me down most of the time.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

I struggle with trying to have it all. For me it means being happy with my marriage, being happy with how I’m mothering, and being happy with where I am in my career and personal ambitions. Those things never happen at the same time for more than 10 minutes! If I’m snuggling with my two-year-old on a rainy afternoon, then I’m neglecting something that needs to be done for WileyRoo. If I’m going on a date with my husband on Saturday night, my kids are sad that I’m not saying their “night nights.” You can’t have “it all” because you can’t “do it all”- not at the same time. I think I have more than I deserve and more than I ever imagined!


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Growing my Business through Peaks and Valleys

Growing my Business through Peaks and Valleys

It’s been several weeks {okay, over a month…}, but today I’m writing to you from a mountain.

Okay, I’m not literally sitting on top of a mountain with my computer plugging away on this blog post. It’s more like a “Cloud 9” kind of mountain. I’m in a good place. A great place, actually.

My business is finally rocking and rolling down here in Houston. I’ve actually had to turn a few opportunities down. This solopreneur is even considering hiring someone part time!

How did I get here?!

Climbing this mountain took a while. Longer than I was expecting actually, and with a lot more setbacks. After months of transition and not feeling so great, I thought I was ready to go after some new business. The problem is I went about it all wrong. I was going after what I needed {cash money} instead of what I wanted {partnerships with companies that excite me}.

I knew I was making desperate choices instead of smart ones. Our move drained our savings more than either my husband or I had anticipated. The cost of living adjustment was also out of line with our Google research before the move. Add some blown out tires, a broken water heater, and a dead refrigerator to the list {have I mentioned those baby doctor bills?} and we found ourselves in a valley.

The pressure – whether real or imagined – was on me to guide our family out of the valley and begin climbing our mini-financial mountain of debt.

We already use coupons, don’t eat out and follow a pretty scaled back budget. So if I didn’t grow my business, and soon, I might as well set up camp down here in the valley and get comfortable. I could easily take my kids out of preschool and save a ton of cash. It’s our {like most working families} second largest monthly expense after our mortgage. Surely I could manage my current workload during naps and after hours like a lot of other work-from-home mamas do. It was an option.

The other option was to increase our income. My income. I had always intended to grow my business once we got settled, but for some reason {ahem, morning sickness} it just hadn’t been a priority until it became a necessity.

Since I work at my computer all day, I started online. I joined several freelancer websites, built out my digital marketer profiles online, and I found projects quite quickly. The problem was that, for me, the work was both temporary and uninspiring. And frankly, I wasn’t going to be paid what I was worth since many of these jobs could have just as easily been outsourced overseas.

I have no doubt that eventually I could have climbed a mountain like this, but it would have been the equivalent of circling the mountain at a very low incline. Around and around I would have gone slowly accumulating height along the way, but I would have been exhausted. No, I know the quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line.

It was time to reevaluate my approach to how exactly I planned to grow my business.

I took to cold calling on local companies. After a lot of research online of companies that I would want to collaborate with, I picked my favorites and approached them with how I could improve their online presence. I actually got a handful of responses this way and even a face to face meeting. Unfortunately, budget became an issue and the longterm potential for us to partner together seemed unlikely.

I felt stuck as I looked up at this mountain I so badly wanted to climb.

grow my business

Do I start walking around the base of the mountain? People have made much worse sacrifices to help support their families than working for less than they’re worth.

Do I acquiesce to a life in the valley? Pulling my kids out of school would take a huge line item off of our expenses every month.

I seriously considered it, but ultimately I knew that this mountain mama and her adventurous kiddos probably wouldn’t be happy down there for long.

And so I decided I was going to lean on the small but mighty network I had developed since moving to Houston.

I told my new mom friends bluntly what I was capable of and that I was looking to grow my business. I actively solicited referrals at my monthly FemCity events. Within just two weeks I had 6 prospects, and three of those turned into clients.

It’s been a a few weeks and I’m still adjusting to the air up here out of the valley. It’s been a whirlwind of success, and I’m excited that my door keeps getting knocks!

The truth is, we always have choices. But when you’re down in a valley looking up at that mountain it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m proud to be in a position where I’ve been strategically climbing towards that peak and am now blessed with different routes for how to get there.

My current view tells me this mountain range is quite long with many peaks to climb and a vast valley down below. As a business owner, I will always be growing my business through peaks and valleys. I will constantly be faced with new opportunities and new challenges, and some of those will be unavoidable.

I think it’s important during our highs and our lows to remember that it’s only temporary, something I wish I had told myself earlier when camped out in the valley.

For my business and my family, it seems the hike has just begun.