"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.
Why don't women support each other? A question that I often ask myself, and is not easily answered. I keep reading articles about why women should support one another; and I'm sure many do, but more than likely, not enough. I have typically not had that experience, I wish I did more, because I enjoy the banter between women; I have a lot of female friends, and four sisters. I relish in supporting other women; I have mentored teen girls, and loved doing it; to the point where some of the teens I have mentored, to this day, still keep in touch with me. It makes me feel really good, and this is why it is so vital to everyone concerned.
A few women bosses I have had in the past, seemed to have their own agenda. I had seen, of course, bullying. And other behaviors such as being set up to fail, and as in my previous article; being followed to the bathroom, constant monitoring, given unreasonable expectations, belittled, and treated as a subservient. One former boss even suggested I take former convicts in my car, to help me move boxes; was that for real? These behaviors have lasting effects on a person's psyche; not at all fun! Why do other women want you to feel inadequate and incapable? It makes me sad when I think about these things. It's really a win-win situation to support one another. Working as a team promotes healthy work relationships and is conducive to work being accomplished in the workplace.
I may come across as biased, but it seems to me in my experience that is is easier to work for a male. Just about every single male boss I have had, was upfront, approachable, and did not have a hidden agenda. I tend to think with a man, "what you see, is what you get" (but as with everything else, not 100% of the time; because I was told by someone close to me that her boss ( a man was "the devil"). However, I can honestly say, that I did have the pleasure of working for some wonderful female bosses who possessed the same qualities. But in considering the length of my career, not too many. When I think back, I only have fond memories of these women.
I enjoy it when friends, acquaintances, or one of my sister's tells me that she has a good woman boss; it am so happy to hear this. I say to myself that they are fortunate and to embrace it. Today's women have so many expectations on them, and working a full time job as a boss, can be intimidating I guess in several ways. They feel they have to work harder, longer, and have more to prove; they want to look good for their boss, and the company they work for. I have felt that as well.
As I feel as with bullying, employees who bully (in general; or in the workplace), must not feel very good about themselves. I feel secure enough in myself, (I genuinely like myself as a person), so I would not engage in these tactics. I have seen so much "nonsense", as I call it in my working career thus far. Game playing, you name it. It really makes me wonder what is going on? One former boss in particular, would weasel their way out of doing just about anything. They were paid enormously well, knew just how to manipulate people working them to somehow do their job, and make themselves look good in the process. They took pleasure in holding you back; not letting you ever get ahead. Gave their staff a hard time when it came to time off, but they would take a month off to travel overseas.
As I said before, there was an agenda. They were all about themselves. But the good news is, that after they left the company, all was discovered, along with many other infractions, and they would not be allowed to return to the company. I have said this before, and truly, truly, believe it, "what goes around, comes around", This person was very much disliked and consistently used big words to make everyone around them, seem as if they were stupid; and they were superior - please! What a way to go through life!.
When I had a 'not so nice' boss (in general), I actually felt like I didn't want to do my work, and well while I had to, didn't care because I wasn't being supported or heard. Which is not good for the company you work for, or for yourself especially if you are one who takes pride in their work. You often end up leaving your position (transferring to another department), getting another job, etc...what a hassle. When I've had bosses who actually listened, cared, and supported me I did better work and in general felt good about myself and the work I was doing. Makes sense, right? I wish more women would think about the way they act and treat others. It would be so much easier, and more pleasant. Working is hard in itself, and to go to work everyday, and not be listened to or supported really stinks. So, after all is said and done, it really is better to be kind, understanding, and actually listen to your co-workers. So much good and so much more can come of it. I know when I was in charge of being the boss of other women, I always paid attention, cared for them, and was understanding and never set them up for failure. I hope again in the future, I do have a women boss, and I hope she will show me the same respect as I would show her.