I’ve been dreaming about featuring two creative business partners who are also both moms here. Enter Lee Clifford. Lee and I met when she attended the Spring Forth salon. The theme was focused on how creative women work together and a mutual friend mentioned Lee ran a jewelry business with a friend.
That business is Altruette, a philanthropic jewelry line that raises awareness, and moola, for fabulous causes. Once I heard Lee was a mom ,too, I suggested we feature her here. And when she mentioned her business partner, Julie Schlosser, was also a mom I knew I’d found my two-fer. Lee shared some of her working-with-friends wisdom which just affirmed these were the gals we wanted to hear from.
Lee and Julie were journalists for the first part of their careers, working together as editors at Fortune Magazine in New York. After nearly a decade they were both itching to do something new and, knowing how well they worked together, decided to quit together and start something on their own. After kicking around a bunch of different ideas – all products with a charitable angle, they finally landed on charms that each benefit a different charity.
As their businesses have grown, so have their families. And with Lee in Illinois and Julie in New York, there’s the added fun of time differences (something Heidi and I have to work around too).
Lee says mornings have always been her best time to work, so since her daughter was about a month old a babysitter comes at 8 and stays till noon. With that block every morning, plus a few hours in the afternoon while the kids are napping, she finds that she can squeeze in a pretty full workday while still getting to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with her kids.
Julie does the same thing schedule wise, so the mamas try to jump on a morning call each day around 10am (which they say was easier when each had one child). Now that there’s driving the older kids to preschool on opposite days, they just have to stay in touch via text message/email and make sure to get a daily call in. Both agree keeping in constant contact is important since they live in different states.
Here’s what Julie and Lee had to say about being SpitfireMoms.
How does being a mom influence your work?
It gives us perspective. We often give a quick kid update before we dig into work on our call and it’s really fun to have kids around the same age. We have lots of laughs about what each of our kids are up to.
Each phase passes so quickly. It’s the same with the business. Something might go really well or fall through, but before you know it, things will change again. Same with the kids.
The most challenging thing has been not being able to travel more – there are so many conferences we’d love to go to, field visits to our charity partners we’d love to participate in, and events where we’d love to have an Altruette presence. We’ve squeezed in a few business trips here and there, but arranging childcare to be away for more than a night or two is really tough.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We tend to take our cues from the people we’re working with. If it’s another mom who seems eager to chat about family life, we love to talk/commiserate/share stories. However there are plenty of times – meeting with editors at a teen magazine would be one example that comes to mind – where we definitely keep our mouths shut!
We know SpitfireMoms like Lee and Julie have tips to share, so we asked for their best time saving trick:
Lee: I only do laundry on Sundays. I start in the morning and change loads throughout the day, but if it doesn’t get done by the time Sunday is over, then it waits till the next week. It sounds silly but not having the stress of doing laundry the six other days of the week frees up that mental space for much more important things!
Julie: Marrying someone who is a great cook. He’s so much faster at getting meals ready. It gives me more time to play with the boys in the evening.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
How to do more events. We love doing Altruette trunk shows and events but with two kids it’s a challenge. We’re really excited because this spring we’re rolling out a program called Altruette Ambassadors. It will allow other amazing women to host events on our behalf and raise funds for their favorite charities.
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, the ladies of Altruette say:
Work hard now. We were lucky to have fairly easy pregnancies and both found ourselves full of energy. Julie especially seemed like she could work round-the-clock! It was a great place to focus our energy. Building a business that encompassed everything we love—charity, fashion – was a much better use of time than spending way to much time on baby websites or worrying about things we couldn’t control! Also, we both loved doing prenatal yoga. It’s a good break from work, if you need one, and a perfect place to meet women going through the same amazing journey.
Philanthropy, pretty things, partnership, passion projects and parenthood. Julie and Lee, y’all got it going on. Friends, go find a charm-ing piece to support your favorite cause or find a new one to aid (and, yup, I have one that supports literacy!).
Julie & Heidi
Know a fabulous, creative mompreneur? We want to hear about her (or YOU)!