When I decided to start Aristelle, an upscale bra-fitting and lingerie store in Burlington, VT, it was not without some trepidation. First there were the stereotype perceptions, if not warnings, of ‘retail’: long hours, no holidays, inventory, and the hiring and daily management of full-time and part-time staff. As a self-confident multi-tasker, these factors alone did not terrify me as I had done my homework, developed a solid business plan, and I was optimistic about the success of the business.
But as a mother of a 20-month old who had been rarely apart from me, I was apprehensive about how I would juggle the demands of starting a new business I was passionate about, and spending enough quality time with my enchanting new daughter. Not to mention with my husband and other family, and friends too. And, would I have time to eat, sleep, shop, and exercise?
It’s been three months since opening the doors of Aristelle and I can say – with much relief – that a happy work-life balance is achievable. Here are some tips and tactics that helped me find equilibrium:
- Time management. A benefit of Church Street retail is that stores don’t have to open until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., allowing almost a full morning for toddler activities. I’m home by 5:30 and don’t have to do long business trips away. I do work a lot of post-bedtime hours at home, sending emails, ordering inventory, reviewing financials, etc., but increasingly I’m able to do this while also watching movies! Such flexibility would have been impossible in my prior career and in so many job situations. I do have to admit though, that now, it’s not only the 2-year old who tries to delay bedtime – it’s me too!
- Employees. I consciously included in my business strategy a plan to invest extra in hiring enough employees to allow some time off. As such, I have avoided the sweat-equity syndrome and excessive hours in the store by hiring more staff than I might otherwise need. At least some of the additional investment has been justified by reduced childcare costs. I’ve also been careful, and lucky, to find wonderful employees whom I can trust to manage the store without me.
- Technology. The internet, being able to order online late at night (and a great POS system by Retail Edge of Rutland) is my savior.
Having a supportive husband has helped tremendously; his consulting business is run mostly from home, allowing us additional flexibility.
While there is still some sacrifice in aggregate time spent with family, I make it quality time and have an even more intense appreciation of every second with my daughter. And when I’m at work and sometimes missing her, I’m comforted by the belief that growing up with a business-owner mom will impart inspiration, independence and empowerment. My biggest hope is that my daughter will be proud of me when she grows up… despite maybe a few years of embarrassment in between because her mom owns an ‘underwear store’.
Among the many satisfactions of my work is helping women feel more comfortable with their bodies and, also, chatting to the soon-to-be-moms about those first few months.
[typography font=”Delius Swash Caps” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Written by Andrea King[/typography]
Andrea King lives in South Burlington, Vermont, with her husband and daughter and is owner of ‘Aristelle’, a bra fitting boutique specializing in lingerie, nursing and maternity, designer swimwear and sleepwear. Aristelle represents a career change for Andrea, a Canadian from St. John’s, Newfoundland, who worked for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, the World Bank in Washington, DC, and the European Bank for Development in London, UK. She has worked in 20 countries and travelled to over 50. In addition to an Executive MBA from the London Business School, she holds a Masters in International Affairs (Carleton University) and studied at Science-Po in Paris.
Andrea has been involved with women’s rights programs and causes, both professionally and personally. At the World Bank she worked on projects to improve access to finance by women entrepreneurs in Asia and Eastern Europe, did volunteer work in London with a group helping formerly trafficked women start businesses and, most recently, has been active in Vermont with ‘Give Way to Freedom’, which helps support and provide victim care services to the survivors of human trafficking.