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The Baby Planners

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If you've been reading my posts over this last year, you know I am obsessed with women who have turned their motherhood identity shift into something amazing and inspiring. For me, as a mother of young children who took a detour from the career I spent so long building, I am gratified to meet moms who have capitalized on newfound strengths, insights and passions to chart a fresh course in the hopes of achieving a better work/life balance. I admire moms who have taken the bold step of going out on their own. It takes a lot of sweat equity, creativity and downright courage. Thank goodness for these "mothers of re-invention." I think we can learn a lot from them. This is what led me to talk to two women who have figured out how to cash in on their maternal instincts.

You've heard of wedding planners - those managerial mavens who see that every detail of the big day runs smoothly and just the way you always dreamed. Now meet The Baby Planners, two Los Angeles moms who've suddenly become the go-to gals for maternity matters.

"When you are pregnant, it is so overwhelming. We are here to hold everyone's hand and to give people the reassurance they would need," explains co-founder Melissa Gould of The Baby Planners' extensive concierge and consulting services.

Their clients' needs run the gamut. There was the expectant mom with an unlimited budget and a nursery to be designed who handed over her credit card to Gould and co-founder Ellie Miller and said, "See you in nine months." Another woman pleaded for their deciding vote on a baby name. Then there was the call from the lady who wanted to talk about baby-proofing the day before her labor was induced.

Miller and Gould say they were always used to giving out "mom" advice since joining the club themselves nearly a decade ago. 40-year-old Miller has two children, an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. 40-year-old Gould has an eight-year-old daughter. But it wasn't until Gould was fielding questions about baby gear from some friends, that they realized they could actually turn all of their mom instincts and tips into a viable business.

"As soon as you become a mom, you become an expert. We wanted to take that expertise to a whole new level...to the business of baby," says Miller, who once worked as a news producer and writer for CNN and Channel One.

And big business it is. The book, Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul estimates the booming "mom market" nets $1.7 trillion dollars every year. Think of all of those fancy "must-have" strollers, diaper wipe warmers and designer layettes and it isn't difficult to comprehend that figure. After researching their idea for more than a year, the partners discovered that busy moms, especially full-time working mothers seemed willing to pay big bucks to outsource some of the preparation and planning.

"In our initial launch phase, no one had ever heard of this idea. We really are the founders in the industry," says Gould, an award winning television writer whose work has appeared everywhere from NBC to the Disney Channel.

The a-ha moment came at a time when both working mothers were feeling very conflicted about their professions outside the home. Gould and Miller had successful careers. But when they met by chance at a child's birthday party, they forged an instant bond around the difficult tug between work and family.

"I think both of us were very career driven. But having children changes your life," says Gould reflecting on the decision to become an entrepreneur.

After an appearance on The Rachael Ray show last fall, the calls started coming in. They received more than a thousand emails and decided to expand their concierge services, which command a minimum of $500. Now they even offer gift certificates and on-location consulting.

Of course, success has its trade offs. Now that The Baby Planners have landed some more well-placed national media attention and attracted a couple of celebrity clients, (Mary Lynn Rasjkub of "24" and Marissa Jaret Winokur of "Dancing With The Stars," and the musical, "Hairspray" on Broadway), the friends still struggle with the same old work-life balance issues they were looking to improve.

"We thought we would have more time. But now there is not a moment of the day we don't want to be on the computer," admits Miller as she laughs about the phone ringing all the time - even at the school Halloween fair.

What's different they say is that at the end of the day, the work they put in is accountable to the business they are building rather than someone else. And that ownership keeps them going.

"I think we have found a way to be creative and be businesswomen and be moms," says Gould.

For more stories and tips on motherhood and the pursuit of wellness in mind, body and spirit, please sign up for The Well Mom weekly email. Sign up by June 24th and enter to win a stylish and eco-friendly messenger/baby bag from Sheri Gayle Couture.

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