Home Sweet Home Business

Balancing family and her whimsical business brought her happiness.

by - Posted on Sep 1, 2005

Charlotte Fowkes, mom of two and pregnant with her third child, thought her employers would understand when she asked for time off. It was for an emergency, after all. She had to take care of her daughter, who was recovering from a burst appendix.

Instead, Charlotte got fired. She looked for another job but had no luck. No one was eager to hire and train a new employee who would soon be taking maternity leave.

Out of desperation more than inspiration, Charlotte decided to start her own business from her Arvada, Colorado, basement. She would make and sell the shower gifts she'd appreciated most: "baby cakes," cloth diapers rolled up and decorated with toys, bottles and other baby products to look like cakes.

She tweaked the designs, adding more items she knew a newborn (and new mom) would need, then posted the cakes on her website. "I just hoped it would pay for groceries," she says.

Baby Cakes has done that and then some, thanks to good word-of-mouth and a mention on the TV show The View. The business has since bloomed from Charlotte's basement into a 5,000-square-foot warehouse and store, with a much-expanded product line.

Charlotte makes a point of employing other moms and moms-to-be and having flexible, family-friendly work schedules. She's organized a networking group called Moms for Moms, where members pool funds and ideas to help grow their businesses.

The best thing about her unplanned life change is having more time to spend with her kids, all of whom help her make cakes. "I love making my own schedule," Charlotte says. "I can pick up the kids from school and take them to soccer or take care of them when they're sick. I work hard and I might work late, but it's definitely worth it."

Charlotte's Tips

1. Network.
It's the best way to market your new business and meet others who can offer advice or help.

2. Find your niche.
You can compete with bigger businesses by being more available to your customers and providing a personal touch.

3. Don't sit around wishing you could be doing what you love.
Research it, then get out there and do it! No more regrets.

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