an excerpt:
“Other careers such as law, or teaching or sales are relatively easy to explain. Careers in the arts can take many different forms. Annie Leibovitz is a photographer, but she is also Annie Leibovitz, which seems to be its own job title right there. Ellen Warner is not Annie Leibovitz and doesn’t have her career. ”

Call them ‘mompreneurs’
Some women exit the corporate world, find success in
home-based businesses

The Buffalo News
By Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Jean Fasanello, wearing a chunky glass-beaded necklace of her own creation, sorts through baskets of product lining the bright yellow wall of her kitchen. For five years, this kitchen has been the headquarters of Hip, a specialty line of belts, headbands, jewelry and watches she designs and sells from her Clarence home.

Fasanello is one of many moms who have left the corporate world behind for home business ventures that allow more flexibility for the care of their children.

“My career was so demanding, it was hard to do both well,” Fasanello said. “It was a hard decision, but we decided it was important for one of us to be home with the kids.”

It’s a choice that came with sacrifices, she said.

While her husband’s income as a pharmaceutical salesman provides a very comfortable lifestyle, Fasanello has taken a significant pay cut. Gone are the 10-day trips to Tuscany, the housekeeper, and the fancy dinners out. Now it’s homemade meals at a second-hand table, made in a kitchen the Fasanellos renovated themselves. Vacation is a two-day camping trip or a four-day splurge at Disney World.

Still, Fasanello said, she’s got it good.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely,” she said. “I feel very lucky.”

As a human resources manager for San Francisco-based Pottery Barn Brands, she regularly worked 70 hours per week. Now, she gets six hours of sewing, paperwork and phone calls in after putting her two kids on the school bus, two more hours after they’re in bed, and she still has time to go jogging and bake banana bread.

Hip is a successful income-generating venture while leaving Fasanello’s schedule flexible enough to accommodate last-minute science projects and calls from the school nurse. Hips products are available online at and at boutiques locally, elsewhere upstate, and in Utah and Arizona. In her book, “The Comeback: Seven stories of women who went from career to family and back again,” Emma Gilbey Keller writes that women like Fasanello are striking a hectic but rewarding balance in their lives. “Once working women become moms, their priorities change. They want to have that identity as a professional, but not at the expense of raising their children,” Keller said in an interview.

According to Keller, running a household and running a business are very similar, so it is a natural progression for many women to go from being the boss of their house to the boss of their own company.

In her research, Keller found that a woman’s confidence takes a sharp hit almost immediately after she leaves the corporate world. But, fortunately, that confidence returns when she starts earning money once again.

“For some reason, volunteering and [unpaid work around the home] don’t come with the same sort of self-confidence as getting that paycheck. There is something about the validation of that money that says you can hold your head up high,” she said.

However, being a stay-at-home mom can be an isolating experience, one that can even lead to depression, Keller said. Going into business can be a healthy way to keep moms available to their children while allowing them the adult interaction and creative problem solving that bolster a mom’s sense of well being.

Betwixt and between

Maura Hoffman, mom of 11-yearold

twins Cady and Maggie, worked in public relations for local advertising agencies before starting her own strategic communications and business development business from home. She struggled personally at first, because the working moms saw her as a stay-at- home mom, and the stay-at-home moms saw her as a worker. She felt she didn’t fit in with either group.

“I felt like a creature unlike any other in the forest,” Hoffman said.

As time has passed, though, both personal and professional contacts have caught on.

“They have a great appreciation for the worlds I’m straddling,” she said, noting her husband, John, chairman of First Niagara Risk Management, has been particularly supportive. “You can’t be a woman for the 21st century if your husband is living in the 80’s.”

Patricia Christian, a professor of sociology at Canisius College, said that as more women work from home, the challenges of the “funny kind of hybrid” of the at-home business mom become more relatable.

But it’s important that clients, husbands, and friends alike understand that business hours are for business.

“She has to be very clear — ‘I’m not doing laundry or cooking between 8 a. m. and 4 p. m.’ ” Christian said. “She has to be upfront and say ‘Don’t ring my doorbell at 9 a. m. and expect to have coffee. I’m at work.’ ”

Still, a woman needs to make time for those things as well. Being away from the office politics also means being away from an important source of camaraderie.

Networking helps

Robin Schulmeister, like many at-home business moms, has found great support among informal networks of women. Whether it is through church, professional organizations, or personal life, more and more moms are realizing the importance of connecting with their peers, and valuing the support to be found there.

Schulmeister, who has been running the tech company Early Bird Computing out of her North Tonawanda home for almost 10 years, said being home for her third child was the best decision she ever made.

As her software development business took off, she was able to contract work out, and by hiring other moms, she gave them the ability to work from home as well.

“One year, I got a card from one of the women thanking me for making her able to stay home with her babies,” she said. “That was the best gift I ever could have gotten.”

Last year, she got to experience some of that gratitude for herself when she decided to expand into her dream business of owning a used bookstore. A woman from her church group was taking a similar leap of faith by opening a tea shop on Main Street in the City of Tonawanda, so the two decided Schulmeister would open her Early Bird Bookworm Book Shop in the basement.

“I never would have been able to do it without her,” she said.

Part of it, Fasanello said, is that moms just want to support other moms.

Many of the shops she sells to are owned by corporate-dropout moms themselves. Mom-owned shops have referred her to other mom-owned shops, mom customers refer her to other mom customers, and word of mouth has been her most valuable source of marketing.

Still, Fasanello said, there are some days she finds herself missing the corporate world.

“But I’ve never missed it enough to go back,” she said. “It could never outweigh what I have now.”