One of the reasons I started my website is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. We women need to know that we don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing us -- that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story is about an overwhelmed mother of four who desperately needed to organize her life. She dreamed up MomAgenda to solve her problem and struck a chord. Mothers around the country are snatching up her organizational tools, which have already earned her over a million dollars in revenue. -– Marlo, MarloThomas.com
By Lori Weiss
With four children under the age of seven, Nina Restieri was a Mom on a mission. She’d begin each day, promising herself that she’d make sure everyone got to their appointments and lessons on time, but inevitably, by the time evening set, she'd realize something had slipped off the family's agenda.
“I was terrible at juggling schedules,” Nina laughed. “I was late for appointments. I missed play dates. Doctors would bill me for not showing up. I even went to my friend’s house for book club on the wrong night! After a glass of wine, I asked her where everyone else was and she said, ‘What are you talking about? Book club is tomorrow night!’”
There was nothing Nina wanted more than to organize her life -- so much so, that it would keep her tossing and turning all night. Then one morning, she woke up blurry eyed and told her husband about a dream she’d had -- a dream that she believed she could bring to life.
“It was about wedding planners,” she recalled. “I was in a bookstore and looking at hundreds and hundreds of wedding planners, and I realized when I woke up that I put on a production every day and I needed a planner for it.”
"I’d been thinking about going back to work. I missed that part of my life. But I wanted the flexibility to be a Mom first. I’d call my husband every week with a new business idea and he’d just say, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ But when I told him about this, he agreed I was on to something.
So, at some point that day, Nina carved out the time to go to Staples to see if anything existed for Moms like her -- a planner which would allow her to keep track of five different schedules.
“What I saw there was interesting. There were definitely products for Moms, but they all had cartoon characters on them. And I thought, 'Just because I’m a Mom doesn’t mean I want bunnies on my day planner.' But then I noticed an appointment book for a doctor’s office. It was broken down into 15 minute increments and there was a column for four different doctors. And that’s when it hit me -- I needed separate columns for each of my children.
It wasn’t long before Nina was conducting market research -- literally in the market. She’d talk to moms while running errands, while on play dates or over coffee while the kids were napping. She spent nine months asking women what they wanted and finding the right people who could help her put it together -- nine months, as she put it, to give birth to MomAgenda.
“I found a family business on Long Island, that had been producing day planners and calendars for 30 years. They had their own business to run, but somehow I convinced them to work with me. And they believed in the idea so much, that they ordered extra space at The National Stationery Show and gave me a corner of their booth.”
“I thought that maybe I’d sell 30. But by the end of the show, I’d sold every single one -- 6,000 MomAgendas. I was expecting that printing to last all year and it was only May!”
So the manufacturer found the time to fit in another run of 5,000, thinking that the Stationery Show was a special situation and that Nina couldn’t possibly sell out again before the end of the year. But no one could have predicted what would happen next.
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“I got a call from the people running my website,” Nina remembered, “and they said something is going on. You’re getting so many hits, we think you’ve been hacked. And then I got an email from my cousin, saying that she just saw MomAgenda on The Today Show!”
“Real Simple magazine had included us on a holiday gift list and the editor was on the show talking about it. There was a table full of products and Katie Couric just happened to pick up mine and said, ‘This helps Moms get organized.’ And once again, we sold out of everything!”
By the time Nina reached her second year in business, she’d also reached a million dollars in revenue -- all the while, keeping her own busy schedule on track.
“I found a small office right across from my children’s school and hired a babysitter for the younger ones a few hours a day. My home, the office and the school were all within a one mile radius. So if one of my kids needed me, I could be there in minutes. I also outsourced as much as I could -- the website, the fulfillment. And I brought in my friend, Maureen, who had all the skills sets that I didn’t, and eventually she became my business partner. My profits were lower, but it was completely worth it, because my kids needed to come first.”
“I was also strategic about all this. I knew there would be copycats and that it was important that I got the word out about MomAgenda early on. I wanted everyone to know this was a small business created by a Mom -- and other Moms supported that.”
Today, MomAgenda has expanded to include planners and organizing tools for women who aren’t necessarily raising young children, but are simply living busy lives, scheduling the needs of elderly parents or the many different facets of their own hectic days.
Nina no longer has to worry about her website crashing. While the stylish day planners are still sold online, they’re also available at retailers like Staples and The Container Store. And as her venture has grown, of course, so have her children.
“When my daughter, Jenna, was just nine, she drew a picture for my office -- a picture of herself as a grown-up, designing clothes and there was an award in the background. She was visualizing herself doing what she wants to do and succeeding and that made me so proud.”
“We talk a lot about how important it is for all of us to do something in our lives that makes us happy. I love being a Mom more than anything, but you can’t stop living or growing as an individual. You need to keep exploring new things. 'Cause if Momma is happy, everyone is happy.”
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