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Despite tough times, tight budgets and low spending during the recession, our Leading Moms in Business have managed to start, run and even grow their businesses to lead better lives. The few mom entrepreneurs featured here have not only done that, but have also devoted a significant amount of time and money to helping others. Whether starting their businesses to benefit a cause or joining up with charities after the fact, these mom entrepreneurs have successfully donated extra time and meaningful money during a time when many people don’t have either for themselves.
During the recession, growing unemployment levels and low per capita disposable income caused people to curtail personal spending significantly. So much that US aggregate consumption fell for the first time since 1980, dropping 0.2 percent in 2008 and 0.6 percent in 2009. Unfortunately, this hesitancy to spend means people have been even less likely to donate to nonprofits and charities.
Although mom entrepreneur Holly Bartman had always donated to the Make a Wish Foundation, last year she was one of those people who couldn’t send a check. It wasn’t because the former special-education teacher and her husband were broke, though. Instead, it was because the money was going toward something else: launching Superfly Manufacturing Co. (ranked No. 20), a producer of children’s and adults’ superhero capes. “Money was tight when we went from two incomes to one when I was starting my business,” explains Bartman, 38, who still wanted to donate. “So I contacted the local [Make a Wish branch] and said ‘I don’t have money, but I have capes.’ ”
In Kind Donation
Livonia, Michigan-based Superfly donated 25 capes last year and 50 this year. And as fast as business has grown over the past year, so have its charitable donations. The mom entrepreneur has already shipped thousands of capes this year, both purchased and donated, and debuted a line of tutus. Bartman also joined forces with the Heart Heroes Foundation, providing capes to children born with congenital heart defects; the Superhero Foundation, which helps victims of child abuse; the Center for Exceptional Families, which works with children with developmental disabilities; and local children’s hospitals and programs.
Like Bartman, mom entrepreneur Emily Holdridge donates a share of her company’s products to charities. Parma Heights, Ohio-based Happy Blankie (ranked No. 29) makes blankets with smiling animal faces on them. For every blanket purchased, the company donates one to a child in need, creating a valuable yet tangible way for Holdridge to contribute to an organization’s cause and simply make a child happy.
That desire to make a child happy started with her son David, though, who was seven at the time and came up with the concept of melding a stuffed animal with a blanket. “David’s eyes lit up as he talked and I could hear the passion in his voice,” says Holdridge, 35. “I instantly understood how powerful this could be for both children and their parents.” So with his help, the serial mom entrepreneur launched the business in 2009.
Although Happy Blankie’s original mission to make children happy has stayed the same from the beginning, the mother-son team expanded that goal with a charitable-giving component shortly after launch. The company’s One to Love, One to Give program allows the buyer to register his or her blanket and choose what organization to donate the second blanket to. Holdridge and her team, which grew to three moms and nine kids total, collect that data and ship out the donated blankets. She says the registration rate is currently at about 80 percent and climbing, but even if “someone doesn’t register, we still send a blanket.”
If You Build It . . .
Like the exponential growth that Superfly is experiencing—in business and in giving—Happy Blankie is also growing by leaps and bounds. The company, which is transitioning to a parent brand called Everything Happy, recently launched a line of T-shirts and is working on plush toys.
Though ecstatic about the success, neither of the mom entrepreneurs started working with charities and donating for the financial or status benefits. It was just a natural addition to their businesses and an aspect they were happy to cultivate. “We’re not doing it to receive any sort of recognition,” Bartman says. “I believe it’s my responsibility to support my community and the good things that are happening here. And the happiness our product brings to a child is so much more valuable than what we would have been able to put out there monetarily.”
Adds Holdridge, “If you focus on the greater good or giving to others, making money will come on its own. And when you have that community focus, [as a mom] you can feel better that your child will grow up happier, more successful and not selfish.”
Superfly Manufacturing Co.
Happy Blankie LLC
cell: (330) 441-1694
Parma Heights, OH