Mompreneur Profile

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-Jennifer Strom-Simonte is doing it all. Owner of maternity mini-chain, Belly Dance Maternity, Jennifer is also a wife and mother to twin girls. -I think the biggest secret is you just have to be comfortable not doing anything 100 percent because if you're bouncing too many things at once, then some things are gonna fall through the cracks so that takes a little bit getting used to. You always have multiple things on your mind and I think that's something you have to learn how to do. At the same time, I'm worried about what color lollipop to bring my kids when I pick them up in school. I'm worried about the stock market crashing and what's going to happen to my business or reordering the new hot item into the store. So you always have four, five things in your mind and they're all different types of things and you just figure out how to balance them and focus on one, get it done, and just keep going. -Jennifer opened the first Belly Dance Maternity store in Chicago in 2002; a second Chicago area location and a website in 2003; and in 2005, she brought her business to New York City. -Starting Belly Dance Maternity was for me, it's just about starting a business and I was starting to see a trend of celebrities in the media who were pregnant and to me, more was on the cover of vanity fair and at the same time, designers were starting to introduce maternity clothing lines which was something that hadn't been on the market so much before. So I had been in a corporate world and I had been in an internet startup world and I was looking to start something on my own so it seems like a place in retail which is what I knew that made sense to focus on and that's how it started. -Jen didn't have any kids when she first started Belly Dance Maternity, but by the time she opened this New York City location, she was pregnant with twins. -I actually had kids the same year that I opened the New York store so I was pregnant at the New York store opening or before the New York store opened and I went on to bed rest sort of later after because I was pregnant with twins. So I was working from a hospital bed. -But the bed rest paid off and Jennifer gave birth to two healthy baby girls. -Bouncing life with the twins was definitely something that took some getting used to but it's like anything else, you learn it and you figure out how to do it and make it work. And for me, being with the kids was as much a priority as working so you find times in your day to do both. It shifts-- you know, they were obviously at home a lot as babies and now they're at school. So you find different ways to prioritize your days. But it's just a balancing act, like anything else. -She says becoming a mother has given her a better understanding of her business and inspired her to begin carrying baby products under the name Belly Dance Baby. -I obviously understand a pregnant woman's body more and why certain things wouldn't be practical or wouldn't fit right. And expanding the business into the baby category is obviously really relevant 'cause there are things that I love that I wanted to bring to the market. It also helps me understand just kind of how people's needs shift from going to not being a mom to being a mom which starts throughout pregnancy, not after you have the baby. Really, during the pregnancy, how your needs kind of shift and your focus shifts away from you and to having little baby or babies growing inside of you. -And Jennifer says her little ones are still making a big impact on her life. -They influence me every day. I think the best way in which my kids influence me is just they're so fun and funny and it's allowed me to take a focus away from everyday stress of work. So, you know, when you're so frustrated that an order didn't ship that you really needed to get or that something's going wrong with the computers and it-- or the phone lines and everything all at once-- so the air conditioners break in the store. It allows you to take a step back and realize, you know what, this is just clothes. It's just work. There are more important things to focus on and everything will keep going and will move forward.