For nearly all of us, Balance is the name of the game. It is what we strive for, what we rejoice in, and what we covet in other’s lives. My balance idol is SpitfireMom Alicia Rosauer, mother of two, pregnant with her third and co-owner of Pinterest-worthy Unison home décor. For ten years, she has worked as the Creative and Marketing Director at Unison as well as designing some of the products with her husband and other artists, building a very successful website and brick and mortar store in her native Chicago.
Her life is busy to say the least. But with the support of great staff and a nanny, she and her husband have worked out the ever coveted work/life balance. Her philosophy about making the important everyday decisions, and owning her choices is being true to herself and finding that balance within her partnerships. “Supporting each other’s decisions is really crucial; otherwise there is unnecessary stress.”
And now, with their third daughter on the way, Alicia is reevaluating her role within her company and her family. For Alicia, balance is not about doing everything all at the same time, but learning when it is time to work on the business and when it is time to be home with the kids. Balance takes place over a lifetime, and she is heeding the warning of people on their deathbeds who regretted ‘working too much,’ and finding balance in her life.
This is what this fantastic SpitfireMom has to say about being an entrepreneur and mom:
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur, and what’s one thing you wish you could change about it?
The best part is that we can decide whatever products we want to make or develop and be involved with every twist and turn it takes to get them made and marketed. We believe in adding to your style, and making our products versatile and timeless. We don’t push an idea that you have to buy into our whole look or style. We want to offer products that are of the moment, but that can also work with what you already have. The bonus is that Robert and I are almost always in sync with our ideas and interests, and that we are a husband and wife team working together.
The one thing I wish I could change about it is the challenge of being involved in so many levels can be overwhelming at times. There is also the aspect of continually growing the business to satisfy your own wishes, the company’s needs and staff support.
How did your approach to motherhood and your company change with the birth of your children?
With our first child I understood I had to return to work rather urgently because our staff was so tiny. Looking back I could have taken more time off – I only took about a month. And then one day our nanny did not turn up, and I had to take another month off to find a new nanny. It turned my life up side down for a while. I was not sure if this was a sign I should stay home and change direction.
Then with our second child, I hoped for maybe two months off, but again returned after one month. Both times I did not plan for my vacancy very well. My intention this time is to take at least three months off, with some work from home, and then return in another role, likely in product development and merchandising. I am ready to give up my current roles and find better people to command it. I still plan to direct and ‘call shots’ as a co-founder, but I have learned now how to manage work from home better, and also learned to invest in people to support our company.
I really look forward to being home for a while before our oldest moves on to full time school as well. Our kids have grown used to us saying good bye and see you at breakfast. As for family, Robert and I are equal parts chef, personal shopper, dresser, diaper-changer, consoler, listener, disciplinarian, reader, play mate, bath giver and best friend to our kids. But as for me, my mind and body need a break, and let’s see what it’s like to manage three kids under six years old. I am sure it’s a learning curve! Robert also would like to get back to some level of creative direction and involvement so we are looking to hire an operations manager to support his role as CEO. We hope to hire a new Creative Director, and both of these roles are direct reports to Robert and meant to support him and the teams so we can grow this company in the right direction. I have full confidence in Robert, and for a while I will be his sounding board until I’m back at work.
How has motherhood influenced your creativity? Your business?
When we had our first child we launched a line of baby and kids bedding and its own catalog. She was one of the baby models too. We were so proud as new parents and had many ideas of what we wanted Unison to offer to that market of baby and kids bedding. Of course being parents opened our eyes up to the possibilities. I still dream of a larger line of bedding, blankets, toys, art and accessories for kids, it’s just a matter of time to develop it all. Creatively, I am always inspired by the work of our oldest daughter who really excels in making art. Our youngest daughter is more into food and cooking and I try to encourage that interest even though she is only three.
My children remind me to spend time making things, but it really is a time issue for me. Gone are the days of entire days committed to design and development, at least at the moment. I am often late, but I set my watch five minutes ahead so at least I’m only five, rather than ten minutes late, usually. The hardest part is getting out the door on time in the morning, and our often traffic riddled commute. We always arrive after our staff does, but we always work nights, too, after the kids are in bed, which none of our staff does. Being a mother has made me more compassionate, and also quicker to resolve issues and move on.
PLEASE tell us your best time saving trick:
Drive fast. Just kidding! Productivity-wise, this past year we are using Basecamp more than ever to stay on track with projects and calendars and I try to avoid emails. Emails have been the biggest time sucker of my day.
Who is your biggest fan, and how do they support you?
Our oldest daughter claims I’m the best mother in the world, and just her saying that gives me a huge boost of support.
What would you say to a woman in your field who’s just found out she’s expecting?
Congratulations! And realize that now you are actually two people until the baby is born. You have to rest more, eat well, and plan with your partner. If you are offered maternity paid or unpaid you should take it. If you run your own company, I would recommend you still take some time off and gradually return to what you can handle. Sleep deprivation is really hard on the mind and body so you really have to rest a ton more in the first year of baby’s life. It just gets harder when you have more kids!
What’s next for you and your brand?
We want our one store to do better before we open another one or a larger one. As for me I would like to move more into product design and development and understand better what our customer wants. We want to get into furniture, but very slowly and test it out. I am trying to reformulate our social media to be more inspiring and grow our audience. In general, continuing to evolve, refine, improve, and staying happy doing it all are the best I can hope for. The moment you wish for something big to happen, I think, is the moment you lose your head. Everything is about trying harder/better for us, never conquering one big thing.
What do you think of the adage “women can have it all?”
“Having it all” is very subjective. Everyone has different goals in life – it’s just deciding those goals, starting true to yourself, and sticking to them. And then it’s realizing when you have gone too far in one direction or the other, and trying to find that balance again. I think not too many people have ever said: I didn’t work hard enough. More likely they said: I didn’t take enough time for myself or my family. I think with where we are at now we can strike a better balance. Some very successful people have had balance in the past, so I think it’s possible for anyone.
Any last thoughts?
I’m thrilled to be on SpitfireMom. At first I thought it meant a woman with attitude, but I think it means feeling free to say what you want. Coincidently, I think I learned this most from my mother, who is suffering a lot right now in the hospital, but her humor and her head is all there. She was an art teacher for years, and retired when I was in elementary school. I hope to be as much an inspiration to my kids as she is to me.
See why she’s my idol? Thank you for sharing, Alicia. Good luck and keep us posted on all your awesome endeavors.
Cassi, Heidi & Jenn
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