LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — A mompreneur is a female business owner balancing her role as a mom with her life as an entrepreneur. These Long Island women fill that bill — and they’ve all chosen endeavors that cater to other moms, as well.
— Nappie Sack
REBECCA COHN, 38
CHILDREN Daughters Harper, 7, and Phoebe, 4
HER ADVICE “There’s always a way to look at your product at a different angle. It’s OK to re-evaluate each of your decisions.”
“When I had my first baby, Harper, I was looking for a product like Nappie Sack,” Cohn says. She wanted a mini diaper bag that would fit inside whatever stylish handbag she was using that day. The diaper bag would be portable, and she could just lift it out of one purse and put it into another. At first she made it just for herself, revamping it to make it exactly what she wanted, with compartments for diapers and wipes and bottles and a folding changing pad. Then she took the leap to sell them to others. She named the two color choices of bags — gray or black — the Harper and the Phoebe after her daughters and has been selling them on her website, nappiesack.com, since November. They’ll also be for sale at buybuybaby.com starting this summer.
— Sippy Cups Cafe in Seaford
DANIELLE BRACCO, 36
CHILDREN Twins Madelyn and William, 3
HER ADVICE Lean on your support system of friends and family. “I was able to bounce ideas off of them, they were encouraging, they helped me get through some of the hurdles emotionally.”
“I was always intrigued by the coffee-and-play concept,” Bracco says. She loved her job working in advertising in Manhattan, but it required a lot of late nights and travel. “There definitely was a desire to have a different type of work-life balance.” She left her job in 2016 to open Sippy Cups Cafe, a play space for kids younger than 6 where mothers can also socialize and relax. The play space includes an indoor playground with two slides, a pretend grocery store, Legos, a train table, as well as a reading and puzzle nook. There’s also an outdoor play area. “It was hard, it still is hard. It’s a big sacrifice for your family and for you. But I was at the point in my life where I was either going to make the leap or I won’t. I just decided to do it.” It took her six months to find the right location and nine months to go through the permitting process. Sippy Cups Cafe opened in November.
— Howell Media House, a social media marketing company
OLIVIA HOWELL, 33
CHILDREN Sons Weston, 4, and Wyatt, 1
HER ADVICE “It takes time to build a business. Don’t give up.”
Howell taught Latin for eight years at the East Woods School in Oyster Bay. She gave up that regular paycheck in 2014 to launch her social media consulting business, which currently has predominantly women clients, she says. “It was a huge risk,” she says. But she says she knew she had to do it after her first son was born. “It was really hard for me to leave my son to teach other people’s kids,” she says.
Gugu Guru is one of Howell’s clients — she originally connected with guguguru.com owner Monica Banks through the Huntington Moms on a Budget Facebook group. Howell writes all the site’s blog posts. Howell is also one of the administrators for the Long Island Mompreneurs Facebook page, as well as the Huntington Mompreneurs Facebook Page.
Gugu Guru, an advisory service for parents
MONICA BANKS, 43
CHILDREN Son Rory, 7, and daughter Fiona, 5
HER ADVICE “Always trust your gut. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my entrepreneurial journey were when I ignored that inner voice telling me something wasn’t a good idea.”
Banks’ former full-time job working with packaging consumer goods was taxing. “I was fairly high up in the agency, and I was flying all over the country all the time and commuting to the city,” Banks says. “When I was on maternity leave, I started planning my exit and my entry into entrepreneurship.”
While first consulting for companies in the pregnancy-baby industry, she says she realized parents-to-be were overwhelmed by the sheer number of products. “They walk into a baby superstore, and they completely have a breakdown,” Banks says.
One day, Banks was online and noticed quizzes to predict, for instance, which Disney character you are most like or what state you should live in. “That’s when I had my aha moment,” Banks says. She launched Guguguru.com — with Gugu being a modernized way to spell the “goo-goo” baby sound — with a free quiz she created to help parents narrow the choices.
Questions cover, for instance, how organic parents are, how active they are, and then give recommendations for their baby registry. In January, she also revamped and launched a concierge service that matches parents with a real-world maternity consultant to further advise them.
“For example, if you’re a very tall parent, there are certain strollers that are better for you because of the handle height,” she says. Separately, Gugu Guru also worked with Domino’s Pizza to develop dominosbabyregistry.com, where parents register for packages such as “Newborn Lockdown” for after the birth when they don’t want to cook.
In the photo: Monica Banks, left, with Olivia Howell with their children, from left, Fiona Banks, 5, Rory Banks, 7, and Weston Howell, 4. Banks’ husband, Chris, 54, works in software marketing and sales.
SUSANA NIKRAVESH, 37
CHILDREN Daughter Lia, 4, and son Lucas, 2
HER ADVICE The creator of the online children’s clothing boutique mylittlepeach.com and the business strategy website ystrategize.com says: “Do something you’re passionate about. Starting your own business takes a significant amount of time and energy. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it will be harder to make it a priority.”
Nikravesh worked as a marketing manager for nine years, but the hours were really long. Starting her own businesses allowed her to be more available to her kids, she says. “It’s a bonus that I can help other moms doing the same thing,” she says of YStrategize.
As for My Little Peach, she started that because she wanted to find unusual clothing for her children. “I tried to find clothing that wasn’t in every store, not your big box-store clothing that every kid at the park was wearing,” she says. “I built out that website. I package it, I ship it, I’m customer service, all of it.”
— Ash Hot Yoga Studio
KELEE ZACCARDI, 38
CHILDREN Daughters Michaela, 13, and Gianna, 11
HER ADVICE “Doublecheck everything. I found I had to stay on top of everyone — the contractor, the heat guy. I had to go to the town, and talk to the plumbing inspector. Even though you delegate, at the end of the day it’s your responsibility.”
“I had a good job, I was comfortable,” Zaccardi says of life when she worked in sales and marketing for an IT firm for 11 years in Manhattan. “But things in my personal life were a mess. I just kind of hit a wall. I was depressed.”
A friend suggested that she try hot yoga, where positions and stretches are done in a room heated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. Zaccardi already went to spin classes, lifted weights and was a runner. “Why would I even try it? It sounds awful,” she thought. But on the way to her office she passed a yoga studio that offered a free trial. “I thought, ‘Let me just go stretch, it’ll be easy.’
“It was very hard. It was not what I was expecting. Within the first few months, I knew I wanted to teach it. I thought, ‘I have to do it.’ I started thinking, ‘I want my own studio.’ ” Zaccardi left her job in the city; financially it was hard, she says, but her husband, Michael, was supportive. Zaccardi went for nine weeks of training in India — her mom swooped in to watch her kids while she was away — and worked through the details of launching a small business.
She opened Ash Hot Yoga in June 2017, with the logo of a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Her clients are primarily women who want to destress.
— Gaia’s Essence Women’s Wellness Conference
FARRAH LA RONDE-HUTCHISON, 38
CHILDREN Son, Ethan, 7, and daughter, Ava, 1
HER ADVICE “Prepare for success. You have to have the mindset and believe you will be successful.”
Farrah created Gaia’s Essence, a health and wellness company that offers loose teas and various spices and just turned 11 years old. She also started the Gaia’s Essence Women’s Wellness Conference, meant to empower women to live healthier lives. On Sept. 15, it will mark its 10th year on Long Island. Gaia is the Greek goddess of the Earth. The conference usually draws about 65 exhibitors, more than 10 professional speakers and last year drew 1,500 people, La Ronde-Hutchison says. (La Ronde-Hutchison’s son, Ethan Hutchison, is a child actor who is starring as Blue Bordelon on OWN’s original TV series “Queen Sugar,” now taping its third season in New Orleans, so she’s been running her team remotely from there until the family returns to Long Island this summer.)
— MomTime Events
CYNTHIA LITMAN, 43
CHILDREN Son, Colby, 11, and daughter, Casey, 10
HER ADVICE “When you start hitting walls and obstacles, don’t force it or get scared. Take a pause because it’s a good signal that something is off. When everything flows easily and the timing is right, the stars align, the right people come on board and the magic happens.”
Litman, who used to work full time as an entertainment lawyer in Manhattan, wanted to stay home with her children, but she also wanted a career.
“I first launched Momma’s Pearls,” Litman says, an inspirational blog that’s still active. “I started building a community through being a blogger.” She started doing workshops for mothers on self-care, making vision boards, for instance. She started MomTime Events in 2014 to help Port Washington-area moms carve out time for themselves and meet other moms and mompreneurs.
She runs about 10 events a year, including MomTime movie events that started with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon. Women mingle in the lobby beforehand with hors d’oeuvres provided by local restaurants and product displays from small businesses. “I do want to expand and help different communities start doing this as well, especially the movie events,” Litman says.
Her next movie event comes full circle — on May 17. MomTime Events is hosting a premiere showing of “Book Club” at Port Washington’s Soundview Cinemas. The film is about a book club that reads “Fifty Shades of Grey” and members try to incorporate its ideas into their personal lives. Litman also advises new local businesses and organizations on breaking into their local markets.