If you’ve ever thought about starting an at-home business, come be encouraged by this mama who has already done it. Learn how building a WAHM business blooms naturally from the Mosaic Life!
Y’all are in for a TREAT today! If you’ve been around Scattered Woman for a while, you’ve heard me talk about this concept of a Mosaic Life – how we moms don’t tend to have perfectly linear career paths, but by gaining experience in various fields and environments we eventually land in work that is meaningful and fulfilling for us.
It’s a journey, to be sure. And it’s not always easy.
So, today I want to introduce you to a woman who has lived through the multiple, varied jobs along with raising a family stage and has come out on the other side!
After many years in a wide variety of customer service jobs, Annie Vandendriessche is now the owner and designer of LBWear, a company that creates custom exercise apparel for both men and women.
She also happens to be my aunt! 🙂 If anyone can give us struggling mamas some hope that all will eventually turn out well, it’s my Aunt Annie!
Let’s dive in and see what tips & encouragement she has for us today!
As a special bonus, Annie agreed to do a Facebook LIVE interview with me! You can watch the full interview with even more stories & tips here:
Not sure that starting your own business is the WAHM route you want to go? No worries! Check out the other WAHM options we discuss here on Scattered Woman!
Hi, Annie! Welcome to Scattered Woman! How about you start off by telling us a bit about yourself? You can tell us about your family, work, faith, whatever you’d like readers to know about you by way of an introduction.
I am a mother of three beautiful children: Nicole – 25, a Pet Trainer for PetSmart in Blaine, MN; Chloe – 23, a Beauty Consultant at Kohl’s in Monona, WI; and Patrick- 21, a Junior at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee studying finance and accounting.
I am a spiritual person and believe God’s plan is how I got to where I am today. I have had to fight for everything in my life starting at birth as I was premature and was very tiny, but I was mighty — and am still that to this day. Anything [put] in my way as an obstacle I find a way to jump over it or go around it and I come out much stronger and a better person for it.
I guess this is why being an entrepreneur has worked for me and managing my company by myself has lead me to success.
As we’ve talked over the past month or so, you’ve shared how you have really lived out this whole Mosaic Life concept we talk about here on Scattered Woman. So, walk us through your work history and how it brought you to where you are today.
As a young child, I watched in awe as my mother sewed and created some of the most beautiful garments for herself and for me and my brothers. I do remember she made a pair of pants for your Dad when he was in Med School — with a zipper and everything. They looked so professional!
I wanted to be just like her (what little girl doesn’t aspire to be like their mother?!), so I would take her scrap pieces of fabrics and create clothing for my baby dolls and Barbie Dolls.
Then as I got older she taught me how to sew – I believe I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time. I was in a singing group in high school and made my own dress/costume. I felt pretty proud that I made it myself.
Now that I think about it, your Dad bought your Mom a sewing machine and I helped her make her first dress when you were a baby.
I worked retail as a high school and college student, so I learned the ins and outs of what retail meant.
I then worked for an Insurance Company and learned a lot about how a business is run by listening and watching my boss at the time.
After working with the insurance company, I moved onto audio-visual where I helped companies/hotels rent their needs for meetings and conventions being held in the Kansas City area. Learning customer service skills and different businesses all over the United States as Kansas City was a big hub for conventions.
I then went into Hotel Sales where I learned more about customer service and sales. My boss called me a barracuda because I was able to book at 100% capacity for weeks at a time.
When I moved to Des Moines with my future husband, I started working as at Kelly Services (it truly was a great way for me to get to know the city and the companies in the area). I was placed as an administrative assistant to the VP of Manufacturing for Meredith/Burda. They hired me within 3 months and I worked in the Traffic area where I assigned the Trucks to pick and deliver the magazines we manufactured. I also was in charge of making sure they were delivered. So once again I was given the opportunity to learn about a new aspect of business and manufacturing.
I was then moved to Purchasing to help while a worker was on maternity leave. This helped me land the job of Customer Service Representative, where I first assisted the CSR for Better Homes and Gardens and then my own magazine, Traditional Home.
While working there we were acquired by RR Donnelley and Sons, so I experienced a changeover. My duties as a CSR was to filter the information from the Publisher to the manufacturing plant to make sure the magazine was printed the way Meredith Corp. wanted it published and shipped to its final destination — wholesalers who then distributed them to the retailers. I had to learn every aspect of manufacturing in order to complete my job.
I had to leave this job and move to Atlanta, so once again I worked at Kelly Services for employment. The nice thing about Kelly Services is they do offer training is you need it. I found myself working for many great companies. A mortgage company and UPS. Once again, I learned how to navigate the city in a new area by working for these companies.
I never took any full-time positions as we started a family right away. But I found after 6 months of being a stay at home mom it was ok for me to get out and work some. We were members of the YMCA, and they needed a part-time salesperson. I received free child care and was able to work out for less as well.
I also met a mother and daughter who were starting their own company designing Ice Skating Costumes and I worked with them for about 4 years. Two of my children figure skated.
When I moved to Wisconsin, I took the knowledge they gave me and started making compression shorts as my daughters traded in their figure skates for a volleyball. I started advertising the shorts on eBay and soon had a huge customer base and ventured into gymnastic leotards and wrestling singlets. Today, the Wrestling singlet is still my number one seller.
I have come in contact with so many different customers…. pro wrestlers, a surfer (who is a character actor), water ski teams, dance teams, and I even met my very best friend in life through eBay. He was one of my first customers!
You really did work all over the place – not even just in various customer service capacities, but around the country, too! And all those different experiences helped you land in the career you have today. It’s amazing how everything works together!Do you have a bunch of random work experiences? Your Mosaic Life might just lead you to a WAHM business! Here's one such mama success story! Click To Tweet
So, let’s chat a bit about building your WAHM business and what it’s like now. What is your mission?
LBWear was founded in 2009 as a means for me to be a working single-mother as I knew I needed to leave my 20-year marriage. I started my business so I could care for my daughter who has some special needs. I knew I couldn’t be available to her and give 100% to an employer so I decided to start my own business. I fully believe that being available for her and the school system was an integral part of her success as a student. I also had two other children that needed care as well.
The mission of my company is to provide affordable, comfortable and unique exercise apparel. I offer customization on every product, so it fits your body and personality.
Are you a one-woman shop or do you have employees, as well?
I have had employees throughout the years and at times I employed women who needed a job for whatever reason — they were the only ones able to work, or they had a career change and needed a place, or they were between careers and had the skills to help me out.
Sometimes I paid them before I paid myself, but I always knew God would provide as He always has for me.
At one point, I had 5 women working for me doing various jobs, but for now, it is just me in Florida until I can hire someone to assist me. However, I do have a young woman who designs and runs the shop in Wisconsin.
I have a unique situation where my shop is in my home, so I have to be extra careful who I employ. Right now, I have a friend, who is in the same industry as I am, helping me with orders.
Being a one-woman shop is hard work as a blogger – I can’t imagine having to handle all the online components as well as creating the designs and orders, PLUS handling customer service! It’s a LOT!
For many WAHMs and entrepreneurs, one of the hardest things is to answer the question, “so what do you do?” We wear so many hats – just like you were talking about. When asked what it is you do, how do YOU answer the question?
I design and manufacture custom exercise apparel. For both men and women.
Short & sweet! I really need to learn how to do that! ?
Speaking of what we need to learn, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself and your work over the years?
I have learned I can do anything when I put my mind to it. It has given me such great self-esteem and I know I can help others through my creations. When you give, you receive twice as much.
I am clothed in strength and dignity, and I laugh without fear of the future. Many times, it has been uncertain if I will be able to make the money I need to survive, but it always happens to be there for me in the end.
That not knowing if we’ll make enough to survive piece is TERRIFYING for moms! It’s one of the big reasons so many of us struggle with the Mosaic Life concept – especially if it leads to starting our own businesses. It’s just scary sometimes!
So, let us learn from you: what is one thing you would have done differently in your work life, if you could do it over?
I wish I knew more about the accounting side of the business. That is probably what I am lacking the most. But there is always an opportunity to learn it, which is on my plan for 2018.
AND I wish I had more time for social media. I need to hire a young person who can run my social media campaigns. I just don’t have the time, since I do everything for my business right now.
There are a LOT of WAHMs breaking into the Social Media Manager field right now, especially with Instagram taking off and Pinterest driving so much traffic. It’s KEY to know how to navigate those worlds when you’re running your own business! I’m betting we could find you some help! ?I have learned I can do anything when I put my mind to it. ~ Annie Vandendriessche of @LB_Wear Click To Tweet
While most of the Scattered Woman Crew has young kids at home, you’re now in the empty nest phase! From that perspective, what lessons about work do you hope your kids have learned from watching you over the years?
If you work hard and believe in what you can do, you will be successful. Doing what makes you happy will bring you wealth (and sometimes wealth isn’t necessarily money).
Positive thinking, a strong work ethic, and believing in yourself are HUGE lessons we can pass on to our kids as they watch us pursuing purpose through a Mosaic Life!
The Scattered Woman Crew is made up of a lot of SAHMs who know they will need to transition back to the working world at some point. If you could leave these ladies with ONE piece of advice or encouragement about this Mosaic Life we moms tend to have, what would it be?
Finding a balance between work and family is very difficult, but if you find something that brings you happiness and makes you feel complete, it will help you be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, or friend in life. Happiness is truly the key. My son gave me a picture I have hanging in my shop that defines happiness as “liking what you do” and that is anything in life.
Liking what we do does make a huge difference in our outlook in life, for sure!
Do you have any business tips you’d like to share for those of us interested in the entrepreneurial route?
Be a sponge in everything you do if you want to learn how to run your own business. Watch how other people handle their business — I watch a lot of Shark Tank. If I enjoyed reading, I would read more books about how to run my business.
I know I could be more successful if I could become more social media savvy, but I do what I can and as far as I know my customers are very happy.
Customer Service to me is the way to maintain customers. I know everything has become automated, but in the end, having that personal touch is so important to be successful in any relationship whether it be business or personal.
If you’re interested in learning more about building and growing your own WAHM business, be sure to check my new quiz to decide if starting an at-home business really IS the best career move for YOU!
Do you have any other parting thoughts for us?
Thank you, Laura, for allowing me to share my story. I do hope it is helpful to at least one person who aspires to be an entrepreneur. There are so many opportunities available nowadays to help you achieve your dreams and goals.
Good Luck and know I am available anytime to answer any questions or help you in any way. My goal is to help foster women in any way I can — my field is a dying art, so I am always willing to train anyone who wants to have a career in design or constructing their own creations!
Thank you, Annie, for taking the time to chat with us! If anyone has follow-up questions or is interested in learning more about your business, where can they find you?
I have my own Website, Etsy store and Ebay Store, Facebook Page, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. But it is very difficult to keep up with everything. So, pick a couple of avenues that work best for you.
So, there you have it, ladies! A mom who has been where we are, lived the Mosaic Life, and is now pursuing purpose in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling for her!
It CAN be done! ?
Don’t forget: you can watch the extended version of this conversation in this video and hear even more stories and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs and women living the Mosaic Life!
Are YOU interested in building your own WAHM business? Have you already joined the entrepreneur club? Tell us in the comments!
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.