This Mom Turned Packing School Lunches Into a Business Helping Families Prepare Affordable Healthy Meals

Laura Fuentes wanted her kids to eat healthy. Little did she know she'd create a business around packed lunches called MOMables that would change her life in the process.

When Laura Fuentes became a mom in 2006, she took a hiatus from her corporate job. Little did she know that giving birth to her first (of three!) children would be the start of an entirely new career path.

But let's back up.

After earning a degree in economics and getting an MBA, Fuentes started a career in the corporate world. But when she got pregnant with her first child in her mid-twenties, Fuentes and her husband decided that she'd take five years off from working to fully focus on being a mom.

The new family had to adjust to relying on one income rather than two, and their mortgage and student debt at the time required them to take a hard look at their finances.

After she left the corporate world, Fuentes contributed to the household finances by working a variety of side hustles, like freelance writing and creating a food blog (more on that in a sec). But one day in 2011, her daughter sparked an idea that ended up becoming the business that would later change her family's life.

Fuentes always felt passionate about providing healthy, home-cooked meals for her kids, while also sticking to her family's financial goals. On a grocery shopping trip, her daughter pointed out a Lunchables, saying it was all her friends ate for lunch at school. The truth: Her daughter really wanted a lunch that had different compartments with various foods in them, so Fuentes created her own.

Afterward, her daughter came home from school and said, "I really loved my MOMable today." That's when Fuentes knew she was onto something. "I knew that I made something that looked like what everyone else was eating, but with healthier ingredients," Fuentes says. "And then [my daughter] just carried on asking for a MOMable daily."

Fuentes began to create content for other parents so they could replicate her method. Since then, MOMables has grown and now boasts a community of more than 2 million parents, a substantial YouTube fan base, an affordable subscription meal plan, and several e-courses related to family meal planning.

It's safe to say that Fuentes has learned a lot in the process of creating these resources. Here, she shares her top lessons learned about finances, entrepreneurship, and motherhood.

Take stock of your monthly commitments.

"I think the most important thing for moms to really understand [is their] monthly financial responsibility," says Fuentes. In other words, it's key to get a clear picture of your monthly expenses as a family. Not just your mortgage, rent, or car payment, but also insurance, food, activities, lessons, and so on.

From there, you can figure out the minimum income the family needs to bring in each month to cover expenses—and make a financial plan to ensure the family's needs are always met. Though this can be difficult, it's one of the smartest ways to plan ahead financially.

Fuentes credits this simple practice with helping her family get through tough financial times.

Sometimes, financial risk is worth the reward.

When she started MOMables, Fuentes did something unorthodox. She cashed out her $28,000 retirement account for startup capital and used it to cover child care and getting her website set up.

Her husband was initially not a fan of the plan, but Fuentes felt strongly it was the right move. "What I was really saying was, 'I'm going to invest in myself because I believe that I can make that money back—and then some,'" Fuentes explains. "And that's really where a lot of my success has come from: the belief that I could get it back."

Your time is just as important as your money.

"It's important to plan your finances, but it's also important to plan your time," says Fuentes. And in many ways, these two concepts go together.

"A lot of people think that all moms grow their businesses from home between naps, and that's not the case," Fuentes says. "As kids grow, naps shrink, and then they don't take naps." There's work, answering client calls, and meeting deadlines, but working parents also have to make sure their kids are getting fed and taken care of.

When Fuentes was getting her business off the ground, she realized that the four hours she spent on housekeeping each week would be better spent working on blog posts, developing recipes, and growing her network on social media. "So I hired a house cleaner, not because I didn't want to clean anymore, but because those hours were better spent growing a business." Financially, it just made sense.

This concept of making choices about what to outsource is something Fuentes wants her kids to learn. "By being organized with my time, it helps teach my children what to do with their time. That's something we talk about a lot in our house."

Being an entrepreneur and being a mom do not have to conflict.

Fuentes says that because she built her company around her life, she's able to spend time with her family, work, and live out her values at the same time. "For example, a big draw of being an entrepreneur is that you can work from anywhere if it's a digital business. So my husband and I chose to homeschool our three kids for about four years to travel, because my job gave us the opportunity to go places."

"To me, this entrepreneurial lifestyle has gone hand in hand with growing [the business], and I've involved my family in the process," says Fuentes. "Our family has shaped the evolution of where MOMables is today because I've been able to merge those two and create the lifestyle that we want to live everyday."

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