Free Enterprise Staff  | May 4, 2016

Startup mom: What it’s like running a small business with my 9-year-old daughter

Rozalynn Goodwin never dreamed she would be running a small business with her daughter. And she certainly didn’t expect it to happen before Gabrielle—Gabby to her friends and family—finished elementary school.

So much for expectations.

A few years ago, Goodwin, a healthcare executive, started to become frustrated with the run-of-the-mill clips she used on her then five-year-old daughter’s hair. By the time Gabby returned home from school at the end of each day, most of the clips were nowhere to be found.

During one particularly frustrating braiding session, Gabby suggested that her mom should make her own barrettes instead of wrestling with store-bought brands. The idea struck a chord, and together, they began sketching out designs on the kitchen counter.

In 2014, the mother-daughter duo officially launched GaBBY Bows and its signature product, what the Goodwins refer to as a “double-face, double-snap” barrette. It features two clips (instead of just one, like on most barrettes) that snap together, preventing it from falling out of an adult or child’s hair.

Today, GaBBY Bows are sold online and in 25 stores across the country, and the Goodwins’ thriving small business has been featured in newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. So far, they have shipped bows to customers in 45 states and 8 countries.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we spoke to Goodwin about her inspiring story, her entrepreneurial daughter, and how other mothers can make the entrepreneurial leap just like they did.

What was the “aha” moment behind GaBBY Bows?

After a bi-weekly trip to the beauty supply store to replace barrettes that disappeared from Gabrielle’s hair, I took to social media to vent. Many moms lamented with me. My pastor saw the exchange online and replied, “sounds like a market you need to break into.”

My first reaction was, “say, what?” As an accomplished healthcare executive, wife and mom, my plate was full. But I greatly value his guidance so I replied, “I’ll get right on it.” Then I jokingly prayed, “God, if there is something here, you will have to show it to me.”

Frustrated styling Gabrielle’s hair with barrettes the next morning—knowing she would return home from school with only half of them—I mumbled, “there has to be a barrette that works.”

My five year-old heard me and almost leaped out of her seat, exclaiming: “We’re going to make a bow, Mommy?”

I don’t recall what I said to just get her to settle down, but I thought the conversation was over once I dropped her off at school. But she came home that day and every day after that asking, “When are my bows coming? When are my bows coming? Or we’d be grocery shopping, and she’d ask, “Mommy, are my bows going to be sold in Publix?”

It was that broken record in pigtails and her dream to see them in stores that pushed me into entrepreneurship when I didn’t think I had the skills or the time.

What were you hoping to accomplish when you started?

I thought it would be a science project that taught her the lesson of nothing being impossible. My wildest dream was that we could sell the idea to an established company and get them to name it after her. Gabrielle and I sat at the kitchen table and studied and compared barrettes for months, and then the idea came. She picked out the colors and drew designs. When we were not able to sell the idea to a company, we started our own company when she was seven.

Did you ever imagine that it would become such a success?

No, I never imagined this success. We’ve filled online orders to 45 states and 8 countries in just two years of operations, Gabrielle was named a 2015 SC Young Entrepreneur of the Year (the youngest to ever receive this award), GaBBY Bows was named one of 15 national finalists in the US Small Business Administration InnovateHER Competition and a 2016 SCORE and Sam’s Club American Small Business Champion. We’ve been featured in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and several other sites, and television and radio platforms.

The funny thing is that someone recently asked Gabrielle this same question, about whether she imagined this type of success. She responded, “yes.” Evidently, my quest to demonstrate that nothing is impossible is working.

How do you maintain a work-life balance when you work so closely with family?

I don’t believe in “balance.” It sets up the unrealistic expectation that priorities receive equal attention or weight, and that’s impossible. Our family works to “blend” instead, supporting, adjusting to, and flowing with the needs of one another. GaBBY Bows presents the perfect opportunity to blend our worlds of family, business, and parenting. We’ve learned lessons on perseverance and diligence and grown together through the disappointments and triumphs of our business. These and others are business lessons, but they’re life lessons, as well.

What is the best part about working on the company with your daughter?

It has been most rewarding watching the growth and development of Gabrielle’s confidence over the past two years. I’ve watched her grow from a reserved and hesitant girl to a bold little lady who can speak at a school career day, kindergarten graduation, or an audience of hundreds at a trade show seminar.

She’s now the self-proclaimed President and CEO of GaBBY Bows, handling inventory, serving as the lead saleswoman at trade shows, helping with sales taxes, and writing personal thank you cards to all of our customers who order online. I’ve also watched her develop in her care for others. Gabrielle started the GaBBY Play Date to teach girls in children’s shelters about entrepreneurship. At GaBBY Bows, we pride ourselves [on] inspiring confidence and youthful creativity—one barrette at a time.

How does being a working mom and upstart entrepreneur impact you on a day-to-day basis?

Being a working mom affords me the opportunity to not only tell my daughter and son that nothing is impossible, but to demonstrate it. I keep a picture of my children in front of me on my desk, and I frequently gaze upon it for inspiration and motivation to keep pressing forward for a better life for them.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mom-preneuers who want to follow in your successful footsteps?

Open your eyes to the help around you. We often try to handle everything on our own, but when we humble ourselves—admit we need help and request it—we’ll be surrounded with the assistance we need for our home and business. I’m no longer afraid to request help from my husband, children, extended family and other entrepreneurs who can assist me in managing my home and business. You’ll be surprised by how many people genuinely care about you and are waiting for the invitation to help.

What’s one tip you would give to all entrepreneurs, parent or non-parent?

Become numb to “no” because “no’s” will surely come. Entrepreneurship requires grit, perseverance, and faith-fixed laser focus on a vision greater than what is visible to your natural eyes. As you push through the tests and trials of business, those “no’s” will evolve into “next opportunities.”

There has been a 74 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2015, according to a recent report by American Express Open. Why do you think more women (including mothers) are launching their own business these days?

I believe the generation of children we are raising now is fearless and pushing us to believe in something greater. Contrary to what we sometimes hear in popular culture, our children are not life interruptions. They are life enhancers and enrichers. Their unadulterated faith can propel us into purpose and the realization of impossibilities if we are open to listening to them.

Mothers are also more motivated today to raise children who are economically independent. What better way to ensure that than to live this principle before them?

How did motherhood help prepare you to run a business? Any skills or traits that carry over?

I’m a better business owner because I am empathetic, not easily moved by challenges, able to manage and “be present” in multiple projects, and nurturing—our business is our baby figuratively and literally. Mothers are also amazing managers of time and priorities. I often say, “When you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t have time to waste time.”