Welcome to the Balance Feature! Each month Believe in Balance features an individual or organization striving to make a difference in the lives of the communities and the people they serve.
This month I spoke with Colleen Mook. Colleen is an entrepreneur, visionary, speaker, podcaster, consultant, wife, and Mom of 4!
I came to know Colleen 8 years ago when my son was born. I received a beautiful, personalized baby gift, and it came from her company, Baby Be Hip.
The gift, custom embroidered burp cloths with my son’s name, were right up my alley; practical and personal. I LOVED them and quickly became a regular customer. Baby Be Hip became my go-to anytime anyone in either my personal or professional life gave birth. This was the gift that WOW’d and the service was second to none.
I’ve gotten to know Colleen a little more since the launch of Believe in Balance, and she is no joke! She’s smart, strong, creative, kind, curious, generous and maybe even a little sassy. I know you’ll love her too.
Meet Colleen Mook…
Start by telling us a little about you.
I am a mom of 4 kids (18, 16, 13, & 9). I just celebrated my 21st anniversary to my husband, Brad, and recently sold my company, Baby Be Hip. I’m figuring out my “new normal” and am very excited to pursue other opportunities and passions.
Colleen Mook, her husband, Brad and their 4 children
You started Baby Be Hip, a personalized baby gift company, 17 years ago. Tell us how that company came to be.
I left my corporate career to be a stay at home Mom to my oldest daughter, Molly. After about 6-9 months, I started to get antsy and knew I needed to do something for me.
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I took $5,000 and decided to either play the stock market or start a company.
I chose to start a company as I wanted to build something from scratch. I was obviously in the baby world as Molly was my first child. I loved her name, and I wanted her name on everything and that was how and why it started. It started as a nights and naps business for many years and I loved it. It gave me exactly what I needed at the time.
What setback(s) did you encounter along the way and how did you get past them?
Oh, I experienced many setbacks. I think the biggest setback came when we were in growth mode for the company. I had just bought a $40K machine, rented a new space, invested in a new website, invested in a marketing budget and marketing team, and my 3rd child was born with significant special needs.
I went from being ready to scale this company to being in the hospital with my daughter and wondering how I was going to survive and manage this new life with 2 other children who were 4 & 2 at the time.
My sweet Angel Ellie and her health and developmental challenges were all-consuming for many years. This changed me for sure; I learned that in order for the business to survive, I needed good helpers that I could trust and who would understand my values and high standards so that they could continue to manage the day-to-day at Baby Be Hip.
I was still able to do “my thing” on the computer from the hospital or from home, and I was able to develop relationships with customers and make sure they were having a great customer experience since I wasn’t caught up in order fulfillment.
Actually, the business kept me sane for many years because it was an outlet for me to dive into when I couldn’t control the health of my child. I truly believe we had such great customer retention rates and repeat business because of our personalized service and products. Maybe the business didn’t scale the way I had wanted it to at the time but I think the service and relationships are what made the company special.
There’s a gift in every situation and I learned so much from this setback. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan but you just have to keep moving forward and pivot and, of course, adjust your priorities.
At what point did you realize you had something special in Baby Be Hip?
It was the first time I started getting orders from people I didn’t know. We got a few early press placements in national parenting magazines and then the orders started coming in (on the phone back then– imagine that).
Sometimes, I would have to hide in a closet to take an order but those were the days! And then when customers kept coming back and re-ordering. It was really a great feeling.
How were you able to balance your role at the company with your role at home as a Mom of 4?
It was challenging for sure but exciting too. I loved that my children all got to experience what it is like running and growing a business. They came to the shop with me lots. My youngest had a pack-n-play there and would nap there and run around the shop.
The kids learned what it meant to work hard, hustle and make things happen. My oldest was able to be on the TODAY! show with me and a mentor of mine, Nell Merlino, talking about taking our daughters to work and women entrepreneurs.
I learned the importance of getting good help at home (especially for my daughter, Ellie, who requires 100% help for all her needs) so that I could be present at work when needed.
I learned to outsource all the things I didn’t like to do or want to do (like my laundry folding) and my kids got used to crockpot meals (they’ve improved over the years). They used to come in the house and say, “Oh no, not the crockpot!” as I would throw whatever I had in the freezer or refrigerator in the crockpot. Ha!
Being an entrepreneur is great and I could get to most of their school events etc. but the flipside is that you are always “on” as a business owner. Orders would come through on my phone at all hours, and I would answer customer service questions as soon as they came in which ended up being a real differentiator for us too. Definitely pros and cons but it was such a good experience for all of us.
You recently sold Baby Be Hip. Why?
After 17 years, it was time. I started Baby Be Hip when my oldest was not quite one and she just went off to college at Villanova.
We had been through 4 e-commerce websites (not my love or forte as I’m not a techie), and we needed to build another website. This process entails a lot (new products, new photos, etc) and honestly, my heart hadn’t been in the business for years.
I knew the business needed a lot of time and energy and I wasn’t feeling it. If I did this next investment of time and money, I knew I’d have to stick with it. There were lots of signs from the universe though too and I always try to listen.
The great help I had for my daughter, Ellie, was retiring, my landlord wanted me to sign a 3-year lease extension and I said to myself “I do NOT want to be close to 50 and still doing this”. I was finding that I was doing things I didn’t want to do or that weren’t feeding me the way they once were and I had been out of the baby world for quite some time.
I didn’t have time to do the other things I was feeling called to do. I stayed in the game for a long time because I loved my customers, employees, and contractors. I loved everything I was learning and our products, and I loved my kids seeing what it takes to be a business owner, but it was time to let it go.
My hope is that under the new ownership it will soar and grow and new products and life will be brought to the company while maintaining the same high standards that we had for all those years. I am at peace with the decision and have no regrets whatsoever. I needed to do it for me.
What were the biggest lessons you learned?
Trust your gut, work really really hard, hustle, ask for help, figure out your strengths, love the one you’re with and be open to change. I could go on and on. I learned so very much.
What were the biggest rewards?
My sanity. Honestly, the business really kept me balanced and happy for many years. I also loved that I was constantly learning and growing and always challenged but also that I could still be the Mom that I wanted to be.
You’ve started a new chapter in your life. You’re a national speaker, you have a podcast, Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You, and a consulting business. Tell us a little about it.
I’ve done lots of speaking over the years but it wasn’t intentional, so now I’m focusing my time on being more intentional on this. I’d love to do more speaking on work/life balance and empowering women to be and do more. I’ve also spoken about my experiences raising a daughter with special needs and educating others about differences, respect, and tolerance.
Most recently a hot topic has been managing the mental and physical loads of motherhood/parenthood. That has been feeding my soul and I had to learn how to handle it especially once Ellie came along. I’ve also spoken on entrepreneurship, small business strategy and using customer service as a differentiator.
My podcast, Be Bold, Be Brave, Be YOU!, that I’ve had for a few years was on hiatus the last two years because my business and my life got so busy, but now it is coming back and I am excited about it. The premise of the podcast is letting folks know that we can create the life we want even when things aren’t easy, as well as being bold and brave in our lives and being authentically ourselves.
I get to interview amazing guests (like you Christine) who have all taught me so much. This is what I feel I am now called to do in my life. I also help small business owners with a consulting/coaching practice. I’ve done this a bunch over the years and I find it fulfilling to share and help others based on my experience.
I’ve learned that being intentional, upfront and honest with others has been important. I am currently working on launching a new personal website at which I hope to have up in the next month or so there’s a lot of good stuff happening right now.
If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?
Take time to sit quietly and ask yourself what it is that you really really want in this life and then just start writing. You will be amazed at what comes out because we all really do know the direction we want to take but many times we are not quiet enough with ourselves. And then take action!! You can do it! I believe in you! Life is way more exciting and fun this way.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Be Bold, Be Brave and Be YOU!!! You can create the life you want even when things aren’t easy. Remember that life is a rollercoaster ride but if you hold on and have fun and be yourself, you can enjoy the ride!!!
What’s next for Colleen Mook?
A happier and more balanced Colleen, I hope!!
How can our readers find you?
My website, ColleenMook.com
Via email at email@example.com and I’m on social too.
I hope you enjoyed reading Colleen’s story and that you found her as inspiring and gifted as I do.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you share it with your world.