Anna felt torn between taking care of her son Charlie’s special needs, and her job obligations. Starting her own business let her provide for Charlie while always having time for him.
Merchant Stories: Real stories from real people – successes and struggles from the small business owner. Here’s Anna’s story of why she started her business.
Anna felt torn between being a mom and being an employee
Anna’s life changed when her son Charlie was born.
Charlie, photo taken when he was 7. Via Charlie’s Project.
At the time, Anna was working as a designer with a Fortune 500 company. Charlie was born with Autism and Down Syndrome, and required frequent therapy appointments and medical check ups.
For a while, Anna managed to keep going. But it was difficult to meet her job responsibilities, while still taking Charlie to his many appointments. Something had to give.
Faced with the choice, Anna picked Charlie. Charlie was her son, her priority in life. Anna wanted to take care of Charlie as best as she could.
She decided to start her own eCommerce business. That would give her the time and flexibility to take Charlie to his appointments. Anna could work on the business when Charlie was asleep.
Anna started a business to better take care of Charlie
Initially, Anna wanted to sell dresses for little girls. Anna loved children and fashion, and could make use of her design skills. Then, Anna noticed that Charlie enjoyed the feel of some fabrics, in particular her pantyhose. She discovered that Charlie preferred softer fabrics because of his sensory issues.
Anna designed a line of ‘Charlie-approved’ leggings, made with a fabric that was soft enough to put a smile on Charlie’s face. Anna saw that there could be demand for such sensory-friendly clothing.
Sure enough, business started taking off. Many of Anna’s customers had children with sensory issues who really liked wearing Charlie’s Project leggings. Demand started to grow, and orders came flooding in.
Mother & daughter in “Charlie-approved” leggings form Charlie’s Project (Source)
The growing business took up more of Anna’s energy and time than she expected.
Business grew faster than expected. Anna was unprepared; at the time, she did not have reliable fulfilment partners. Anna scrambled to ship orders, but this led to delays and unhappy customers. With no process or team in place, Anna had to address both fulfilment and customer complaints herself.
This led to long days with little sleep. It also meant taking time away from Charlie. Once again, Anna faced a situation where she had to divide her time between her business and Charlie. “There were days I had to remind myself why I started this business,” remembers Anna. But she had to keep going.
As soon as the busy period was over, and Anna had cleared the backlog, she set about to change the way she worked, and avoid another crisis. Anna made use of apps and hired specialists and found partners, all to make the business easier to run.
Even so, there was always the temptation to keep building the business. Anna set her own limits on how much time she spent working each day, and what time she would go to bed by. And most importantly, she always has time for Charlie.
Anna has found a happy balance between Charlie’s Project and Charlie
“The experience made me a better mother and a better business owner,” reflects Anna. Now, Anna has a system in place and focuses on priorities. She is also taking better care of her own energy.
Charlie’s Project continues to grow. Anna redesigned the leggings to have no clothing tags, making them even more sensory friendly. The leggings are extremely popular among children with special needs, and their parents are some of Anna’s biggest fans and most loyal customers.
Anna never lost sight of what was most important to her: Charlie, who is turning eight this year. Today, Anna is able to take the best care of Charlie.
A happy Charlie and a happy Anna. (via Latino US)
Anna started and runs Charlie’s Project (Facebook Page).
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