full circle

This week is a bittersweet one for me. Sunday night at midnight I closed the Natural Urban Mamas online boutique.

It was a decision that was a long time coming and one that was and is the right thing for me to do for myself and for my family.

But that is not what I want to write about today. Today I want to tell you about this journey, this chapter in my life and what it has meant to me.

In the summer of 2007, I was a new mama with a six month old (adjusted premature age) baby boy and I was struggling.

He was SO tiny and I was so new to this. I kind of knew what I wanted to do and what I needed to do as a parent, but I had no idea where to go for advice and support from like-minded mamas. Yes, I belonged to a new moms group through my public health unit and I did connect with a few of the mamas there (and I am glad to say that we are still friends 5 years later), but there was a part of me that didn't quite fit in and I didn't know why that was.

I started cloth diapering on a whim one day (I called a diaper service and had them start me the next day) and all of a sudden I needed a lot more diapering supplies than what I had on hand. So I headed out to the only baby store that I knew of that catered to cloth diapering mamas. And a funny thing happened. I found a sanctuary of sorts at this tiny little hole in the wall shop. And I started going there often. To shop, to hang out, to just talk to another person who could answer my questions and in a somewhat odd way nurture the budding natural mama in me. I would stop there when Little C and I where out and about to breastfeed him in the owner's old rocker in the back room and hang out for a while (sometimes a LONG while).

And it was at this shop that I met the first of many women who have changed my life. She was the store manager at the time and her son was 6 months older than mine. We bonded over some pretty weird coincidences. Our kids names were one letter away from being exactly the same. Her son was also a preemie. And for some reason she just seemed to get me. She was the one who invited me to my first La Leche League meeting. She introduced me to an amazing group of attachment parenting mamas, and a world of parenting possibilities that I had only read about before (The Dr. Sears Baby Book was my bible during and after my pregnancy).

It wasn't long before I started working part-time at said baby store (often with a baby on my back). It was there that I became somewhat of a cloth diapering expert. And I become way more proficient and knowledgeable about babywearing too. Mamas started coming to the store and asking ME for advice! Which kind of reminded me of that time in my Calculus 101 class at university when everyone was cheating off of me during midterms, even though I was the only one in class with no Math 31 skills to back me up! (If you have ever met me, you will know that Math is SO not my strong suit!)

With working at the store, attending my monthly LLL meetings and hanging out with my new group of crunchy friends, an amazing thing happened. I started to truly find my mama groove.

In December of 2008 after looking at my very long list of bookmarked parenting sites and natural products that I had on my computer, I had a stroke of brilliance. I approached my friend and asked her if she wanted to start a website with me. It was something we had kind of tossed around in the past, but this time I was serious. And so was she.

The original vision that we had for Natural Urban Mamas was that of a 'Mama Hub'. A central place on the internet that mamas could go to for information, support, and recommendations for products that we loved. And then even before our site went live, our vision grew to include our little Natural Urban Marketplace with natural parenting products that we just couldn't find anywhere else.

We started doing small trade shows and local events. I remember our first event, it was Earth day at Hawrelak Park, in April and it was -20 degrees Celsius that day. We toughed it out for 6 hours with my partners six month old strapped in a baby carrier and wrapped in a warm fleece babywearing poncho on one or the other of us the whole time! The Mayor even stopped by to check us out!

The Natural Urban Mamas Version 1.0 website had a LOT of information in it. Lists of the best places to shop for mama and baby in and around Edmonton, all the La Leche League meeting times, info on lactation consultants (that was a small list, and unfortunately still is), and contact info for every doula and midwife we could find!

And slowly but surely, our list of hard to find and unique products grew as well. We were the first store in Edmonton (online or otherwise) to carry baltic amber teething necklaces, we had the amazing Wisey Playmat Bag that is just plain brilliant if you ask me. We sourced out some pretty unique baby carriers as well, and helped popularize the awesome Canadian-made Pipa Pack soft-structured baby carrier! We found Annie Marie Padorie (AMP) cloth diapers and instantly fell in love, sold off all our own personal diaper stashes in favor of these amazing diapers and refused to carry anything else!

We started to get some press as well. Natural Urban Mamas has been featured on the cover of our local Edmonton 24 hours magazine a grand total of 3 times and in the Edmonton Sun and Journal as well. We were getting busy and noticed and it was starting to be a lot of work. But work that my partner and I loved and work that did not take us away from our families.

We hosted Natural Urban Mamas Park Days {holla, if you attended one of these early gatherings!} and would have big play dates at local playgrounds in and around the city. We would talk about all things cloth diapering and babywearing and breastfeeding and it was wonderful. We were doing what we wanted to do. Creating a community for open sharing, for learning and yes, for growing our budding small business.

All seemed to be going so well...

And then in October of 2009, something changed. I think it was primarily for me that things changed. I started to feel like the division of labour between my partner and I was not equal. We had originally incorporated Natural Urban Mamas Inc. as 50/50 shareholders. And in hindsight, and after reading MUCH about being in business with partners, I now realize that this was our first and perhaps our fatal mistake. There may be exceptions out there, but in general, in business someone always has to be 'the boss'. The one with the final decision-making power. The chair{wo}man of the board so to speak.

I don't want to bore you with all the legal details of all of this, let's just say that I wanted a 51/49 split and she did not. Neither of us would budge and in the end I ended up buying her out of her shares in Natural Urban Mamas. We tried to salvage our friendship afterwards, but it was never the same. We both went our separate ways and continued on our paths and I have always wished her the best for herself and her family.

In February of 2010 it became official and I was now the sole owner and Chief Executive Mama of Natural Urban Mamas Inc. I had our logo redesigned to reflect the change and started the process of upgrading the website to Natural Urban Mamas Version 2.0. By this time it had become a full-blown specialty online babywearing boutique and I was continuing to find amazing North American small mama-run businesses and manufacturers to support and bring to market.

It was also around this time that I started to meet some other strong, amazing women and would like to give them a shout out for helping make me and Natural Urban Mamas the success that it is.

To Connie Peters, the founder of Modern Mama. Thank you for including me in your first Pregnancy Awareness Month event and opening doors for me to meet so many others! And a HUMONGOUS thank you for dragging me to my first Tweet-up, where I met the likes of Erica Ehm, Tanis Miller and Tamara Plant just to name a few!

It was because of that brunch with Erica that I got to go to Toronto in June of 2010 and film a babywearing segment for YummyMummyClub.ca. And it was because of Connie that I really took notice of my twitter account and the possibilities that this social media platform presented for me!

To Carol McBee, the president and founder of Mommy Connections and the Bossy Mama network. Thank you for having me as part of your initial Mommy Connections groups. Getting to meet so many new mamas and introduce them to the world of babywearing was and is the driving force behind all that I do. You gave me a willing and open audience to educate and engage and I can never thank you enough for that.

It was also at a Bossy Mama event, that I once again got to hang out with the infamous Redneck Mommy, the one and only Tanis Miller. And on the other side of her sat this smart, sassy, and fast as lightning tweeter, one Jennifer Banks. You might know her better as @jenbanksYEG. Jen took pity on me and my lack of SEO knowledge and decided to make my little website her pet project. I can not ever thank her enough for all that she has taught me about the interwebs and done for me and I am so incredibly glad to now call her a dear, dear friend.

To Tamara Plant, the woman behind MOM Magazine and the new You Are Fierce website. We may not always see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I give credit where credit is due and it was you who first referred to me as a Lipstick Crunchy Mama. Little did I know at the time how much I would end up identifying with these words and I now carry them with me as a badge of honour and I am proud to call myself thus. Thank you for that.

To Erin Heard, the creative genius and super mama behind the Cosy Baby Happy Mommy baby carrier brand. We first met at the 2010 Mom, Pop and Tots show in Edmonton, me doing my first BIG trade show as a solo-preneur and you with a 2 week old baby R snuggled in a CBHM stretchy wrap. Who would have thought that two 'competing' babywearing businesses could have forged such an amazing synergistic relationship over the last few years. I appreciate so much about you. Your giving spirit, your incredible creativity and talent and your amazing ability to pull it all off with your three beautiful girls in tow! I look forward to many more years of great collaborations and friendship!

Seriously people, this list could go on and on and on and on and... let's just say that I know some pretty darn amazing people. Most of whom I call friends.

Running Natural Urban Mamas and becoming THE Natural Urban Mama has been the best 'career change' I have had to date. Being an entrepreneur has taught me so much. About business, about life, and most importantly about myself. Without it I wouldn't have found my writing 'voice' and discovered this passion within myself. I wouldn't have gotten to meet so many of my customers over the years and snuggled all their beautiful babies and shared my love of babywearing with them. I wouldn't have travelled to my first big blogging conference and met even more amazing women and truly discovered what I want for my future and the future of Natural Urban Mamas.

So here is the deal Mamas.

THIS is what I want. I want to write. I want to share. I want to educate and inform and advocate for the things that I believe in. I want to make you laugh and cry and know that you are ALL wonderful and amazing women and mothers. I want what my partner and I had first dreamt of years ago. A hub, a gathering place, a wonderful site to go to for information, resources, advice, to commiserate and yes, even to laugh (even if it is at me!).

This is the NEW Natural Urban Mamas blog. It is still a bit of a work in progress as I get everything sorted out and added, but this is my new home on the interwebs! I hope you like it. I hope you will stay awhile, subscribe, visit me on Twitter and Facebook, PIN things you like and recommend the site to your friends. The information lists will be up soon for local doulas, midwives and lactation support, as well as my top recommended places to shop (online and IRL) for babywearing gear and cloth diapering supplies.

Have a peek around and let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement.

Welcome to my new virtual Natural Urban Home... (the real Natural Urban Home is still about 6 weeks away from being done!)

... make yourselves comfy!

Much Love,

Natasha~

P.S. Even though the store is now closed, I am still available for group and private babywearing consultations and will continue to work as a Professional Babywearing Consultant for groups and retailers. More details on this will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, if you need my services please feel free to contact me at natasha{at}naturalurbanmamas{dot}com.

 

 

It's decision time....

As you may know, the past few months have been a struggle for me.

Personally, I have been dealing with my yearly seasonal blues demons and just barely keeping them at bay. It is getting better though and I have my fabulous little family and some really great friends (new and old) to thank for that. And a healthy dose of Vitamin D every day seems to be helping too!

Professionally, it has been a struggle as well. Working as a solo entrepreneur is hard work.  Actually, it is VERY hard work. And doing so while also being the stay-at-home parent to two preschool-aged children makes it even harder. Somehow they NEED me more now then they ever have before (more on this later) and finding the time to focus on ALL of my babies is getting harder and harder.

Please understand that I love what I do.

I love being able to introduce parents to the incredible world of babywearing. I love helping anyone who asks about breastfeeding, natural birth, and the many aspects of 'green' parenting that I have garnered some knowledge of over the years. It makes my heart happy when I see the look of sheer relief and the physical relaxation of a mama's shoulders when she puts her baby in a proper, safe and beautiful baby carrier. And I seriously almost want to do a happy dance of joy when said baby is asleep in under 5 minutes of being in a new carrier.

I also love being able to find great products from both local and not-so-local mama-made and baby-inspired small businesses. It has always been part of my mission at Natural Urban Mamas to support local Canadian manufacturers and mainly mama-owned or family run smaller companies in North America and Europe. I have stayed true to this throughout the life of my business and I am so honoured to now call quite a few of these manufacturers and mamas some of my dearest friends.

I love the community of mamas that I have on the Natural Urban Mamas Facebook and Twitter pages. All 3800+ of you!! This is simply amazing to me! I appreciate your comments, feedback, funny posts, beautiful pictures and all the questions that you feel comfortable asking me. I love sharing wonderful and informative posts with you and introducing you to some of my favourite blogger friends, cool sites and general internet happy places!  I also love how you all share so freely with me and with each other when questions are asked. This to me is a true community. We may not always see things the same way, but sharing ideas and learning from each other makes us all better! Thank YOU!

So why the struggle?

Running a retail company on your own (and on the internet) is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week kind of job. You are the CEO, COO, CFO, Marketing department, Sales force, Purchaser, Accounting/Book-keeping department, Shipper/Receiver, often the IT department and the SEO/Social Media/Communications department as well. There is always something that needs doing to keep the business running smoothly and often this involves an investment of time or money. It is exhausting and to be completely honest, most of the time I am running low of both time AND money!

Here's the thing. When my business partner and I went our separate ways in late 2009, for the sake of simplicity and to avoid the addition of more legal fees (and to keep things from getting ugly), I had to pay her out. I don't really want to get into all the ridiculous details of this transaction (because I will just get angry again), but essentially Natural Urban Mamas has not yet been able to climb out of the hole that this 'pay-out' created. And I don't see it doing so anytime soon. You know that old saying, "you need to spend money to make money", well, at this point, there is just not enough money to spend!

So at this point I am NOT loving the day-to-day running of Natural Urban Mamas, the business. And not just because of the financial factor. It is the time factor too.

Like I mentioned above, my children need me more now than they have before. Little C will be 5 years old in two weeks and he is more inquisitive than ever. He has questions that need well thought out answers!  LOTS of questions. Princess L is in the weird and wonderful transition phase from toddler to preschooler and is figuring out that she is not a baby anymore. There is a lot of independence and then very strong attachment going on at our house these days. I need to be there for my littles. It is not just my physical presence that they need, it is more of my mental and emotional presence too and I don't want to deny them any of this. Unfortunately, because I squeeze in work hours when and where I can throughout the day, I feel like I am doing just that.

And it is not just the kids, my husband needs me too.

We both knew that this year was going to be a tough one for us. Financing and building a new house can be rough on any relationship. And although yes, this is our third time doing it, I fully admit that it seems way harder this time around. I think we are both feeling a lot of pressure to really GET IT RIGHT with this house and have a lot of our heart and soul and hopes and dreams wrapped up in this little construction project. And a lot of the decisions about the house come down to me. I am the one visiting the site almost every day to ensure that our dream is taking shape as we planned. I am the one talking to the trades people (I am there so often, that the guys have all started calling me Nat, it's my site nickname). I am the one trying to keep us all on budget. So you see, I have yet another job to add to the list -- unofficial Construction Site Supervisor!

You can imagine that with all of this going on - the store, the kids, and the house - Natural Urban Dad and I don't get a whole heck of a lot of alone time together. And we NEED it! All marriages need this. For us we especially need our time together because of all that is going on! Even if it is just an hour a week at Starbucks or a walk through the mall holding hands, we need that time to reconnect and know that WE matter as a team, a couple and yes, as lovers too! (oh, he is so going to love that!) We are the foundation that all else is built on and we have to keep that foundation strong.

Over the past few weeks, it has become glaringly apparent to me that certain things in my life need to change. I need to change. I am no longer completely happy with the path I am on and I need to find a new way, a better way to keep living my purpose and my passion without losing my mind! This week I sought the advice of a fellow entrepreneur I recently met IRL and for whom I have always had mad respect for... and then she posted THIS! I swear to God, it was like she jumped into my head and then wrote her post. And I can't thank her enough. (Big Super Hugs for Alex from @Clippo!!)

And so here is what is going to happen now. I am taking a page from Alex's book.

Natural Urban Mamas, the store,  will be closed from December 12, 2011 until January 31, 2012. 

During this time I will be figuring out what is best for me and my family and also for Natural Urban Mamas. I will continue to write on the blog (I have a couple of carrier reviews coming up and some step-by-step carrier instructional posts too) and also keep the Facebook page current. I will be available for babywearing or baby carrier advice via Facebook or Twitter, but will not be running any babywearing workshops during December or January.

I appreciate your patience and understanding and your continued support while I work through this challenge and transition in my life and my business.

Thank you,

Natasha~