Women in Business: Q&A with Danna Lyons, Owner and Co-Founder of Milk Money

In 1999 Danna Lyons conceptualized, created, and operated innovative children's consignment shop, Milk Money, promoting an eco-friendly and cooperative store environment, while serving as a vibrant community resource and social outlet for local parents, caregivers and children.

In 2005, formed a separate business entity, Unique Experience, to replicate this unique business model through the sale of Milk Money franchises. There are currently six franchises in NJ and PA. She provides ongoing training, consultation and support to franchisees.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've had an eclectic mix of life experiences which all have come together making me the leader that I am today. My motivation to be the best mom I can be, to be an integral part of a community, and to do my part to help the earth, all went into my current role as owner of Unique Experience, franchise company of Milk Money consignment shops.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Milk Money?
I've had a few careers in my life--actress, mother, artist, retail proprietress and meditation teacher. I would say that owning Unique Experience and being able to offer the opportunity to create a healthy work/family balance to other moms is the culmination of all of my life's varied paths.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Milk Money?
From the day we got the keys to our first store, my best friend /business partner and I were committed to ensuring that our business would be a place where we could happily watch our little babies grow into big kids. Where we could give to each other, our community, the environment and the world. Utopia. Well, not always utopia. Many a day was spent catering to a wailing infant, a toilet-training toddler, and a store full of shopping and consigning customers (with their own infants to comfort and pull-up clad toddlers!). Our store did quite well in accommodating everyone who ventured in. Milk Money became the preferred local shopping hub - and not only for high quality recycled clothing and bargain prices we prided ourselves on offering. Rather, it became clear that the business vision that guided us was also a strategic marketing draw. Those who frequented our store were treated to all of the comforts and pleasures that occur when children are an integral part of the mix. That strategy helped our business grow and thrive, but even more important, it has made our respective family lives infinitely stronger and richer. Helping to create sustainable families, sustainable communities, and a sustainable planet is the biggest and best contribution Milk Money offers.

Why did you want to open a franchise?
We wanted to help others to partake in the joy and challenge that we had found via Milk Money. And we wanted other communities to share the benefits of being home to a local treasure.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to become a franchisee?
Our franchise business is a socially responsible one; we stand strong in our resolve to educate consumers about the global benefits of recycling and reusing textiles. Without exception, everything about our business model is family-friendly. And while we may never become millionaires from this line of work, the joys of owning and nurturing this business have been priceless. Through Milk Money - you have the joy of becoming one with your kids, your community and your planet.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are countless women who struggle on a daily basis over how to achieve the ever-elusive balance between family and work. That struggle defines how our company came to be and how our earth-friendly business continues to evolve.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire my mom, for her strength and courage. She left an abusive relationship when I was only three and raised my brother and I on her own. Her love of her children, her determination and her tenacity will always stay with me. She also ALWAYS shopped consignment and thrift - so it's from her that I get my extreme love for bargain shopping. I admire my business partner and friend Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. Her boundless energy never ceases to amaze me. This company wouldn't be what it is now if not for her loyalty and dedication. She recently decided to return to her first love, the world of non-profit and left the reins of our business in my hands. It is an honor to continue to strive for our mission, but not nearly as fun without her. I also admire every single Milk Money storeowner. Their love for their families and communities shines through in each and every one of their stores and I am so very proud of each of them and to be a part of their strength and beauty.

What do you want Milk Money to accomplish in the next year?
I want Milk Money to grow and grow. I want to continue our mission to create local havens where conservation, creativity and community shine through.