The Stay-At-Home Mompreneur
Entrepreneur: Mary Uzzolino
Degree: Graduate of the DuCret School of Art
One Word That Describes You: Innovative…but her husband says relentless!
How We Met: A mutual friend connected us. Thanks, Donna!
The Case Study: Young career-driven women often wonder, “what the heck happens once kids come in the picture?” so when I was connected to Mary, a stay at home mom building her own business, I knew I had to feature her.
In 2004, Mary graduated from art school and was fortunate enough to find work as an entry level graphic designer immediately after graduation working for a company called Transistor Devices. From that point on, she started expanding her resume by learning layout design, package design, product photography and product development. In 2006, she switched industries and entered into the beauty sector. After only a year, it was evident that Mary had great potential and she was able to work her way up to Creative Director. Her strength was in product development where she had both a passion and natural talent. She loved seeing all of the pieces that had to come together to build one finished product.
A few years later, in 2008, Mary switched industries once again and began working for a fantastic housewares company where she was only one of two in the creative department and took the lead as Senior Designer. She absolutely loved that job, but life got in the way when she got married and had to move north, so unfortunately she had to find work elsewhere. From there, she moved on to her next company, where within a year she was promoted to Creative Director once again. I’m sensing a theme here. Unfortunately, in 2013 she was laid off due to being pregnant. Why is this so common?
After her son was born in March of 2014, she laid low for a while to enjoy being a mom, but Mary laying low didn’t last very long. While she was enjoying time with her son, her brain just wouldn’t turn off and she started creating things again. She began by posting her creations on Facebook, and people would ask where they could purchase some for themselves. Due to popular demand, in 2015 she started her own Etsy shop called “The DIY Mama” and began dreaming of creating her own book. Her second child, her daughter, was born in 2018 and now in 2019 she finally released the book, Goodnight Mom, she has been dreaming of since 2015. Goodnight Mom was both written and illustrated by Mary, and takes you on a mother’s journey through the ups and downs of bedtime with her kids. It is written specifically for mothers, by a mother, and Mary’s goal is to make others laugh.
Mary is constantly swapping out products in her Etsy store, but she has seen great success from her part time gig. She has done countless freelance projects and sold about 500 products through Etsy. She is also a fine artist so she tries to get in as much painting as time, and kiddos, allow. Recently, she has expanded into resins and has been creating and selling resin paintings from her Facebook page. She loves creating, and especially loves incorporating special, personal touches into her paintings. For example, you’ll often see sharks in her paintings as a small dedication to her son who loves sharks.
Nature vs. Nurture: The question is: what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Are some people born to be successful entrepreneurs or did they learn the skills necessary to make it?
Naturally, Mary has a knack for product development. Once she gets an idea into her head, she feels consumed by it until she brings it to life which has lead her down a successful career and entrepreneurial path. Mary is also naturally a perfectionist. She believes that quality is of the utmost importance so if something isn’t done to her high standards, it doesn’t get sent out and she will do it over again. When you put your heart into your work, it shows, and that is why Mary is passionate about putting heart and effort into each project she works on.
On the flip side, a lot of her inspiration comes from nurture. Since becoming a mother, she has used it as her motivation to create motherhood inspired products and wants to make parents laugh since it’s the only way to survive raising kids, according to Mary. The influence of her children and her experiences as a mother can be seen in almost all of her products and creations.
Adversities: Mary states that she has been generally lucky, lives a terrific life, and hasn’t faced many adversities, but switching from the role of Creative Director to full time mom was tough. The same daily routine of being a full time mom put Mary into a very real depression. Thank you, Mary, for being honest and open about this as so many mothers go through the same struggle! Mary was always on the go as an Art Director, and going from that to hanging out all day with babies made her feel like she lost a little bit of her old self. Starting her own business, while still continuing her daily role as a stay at home mom, gave Mary the chance to find her identity again. While the time management part of doing it all is difficult, Mary makes the time. She works during nap time, after they go to bed, and any chance she gets. It was also a hard transition for her husband, but Mary states that once he realized that building this business was an imperative part of Mary being herself, he has been incredibly supportive and helps her juggle being a business builder and mother of two. She feels like she has finally found her balance and is doing it all successfully!
Advice: Mary encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to know your product, and make sure you put the effort into making it the best it can be. She also recommends to focus on the product more than the money because sometimes you have to sacrifice a few pennies in order to keep customers happy and coming back, which will ultimately make you more successful in the end. Pay attention to the details that will make your customer feel appreciated and know that you put thought into all aspects of your product down to the package it comes in.
“Stop being scared. Stop thinking 'what if'. Just go for it,” advises Mary.
Long Term Goals: Mary’s long term goals are quite similar to her current goals. She wants her shop and products to spread laughter, love, and peace, and to bring moms together. Motherhood is hard, and Mary wants all of her creations to make the world a better, more beautiful place. She would also love for her book, Goodnight Mom, to get lots of exposure. There is too much mom shaming on the internet, so Mary’s goal is to unite mothers and make them laugh and realize that all parents are doing the best they can!
Gwenalysis: In my humble opinion, seeing Mary build a business while being a stay at home mom is an inspiration to anyone worrying about balancing career goals and kids. The first thing that brought it all into perspective was when Mary had to postpone her first crack at this interview because her son’s fish died so she had to host a fish funeral and paint fishy headstones. Luckily for her son, Mary is an extremely talented artist, so it was probably the best fishy headstone this world’s ever seen. RIP Mr. Fish. Aside from fish funerals, Mary is tackling two challenges at one time. Being a stay at home parent is a tough challenge in itself, and I admire anyone doing it. Plus, she’s simultaneously building up her own business. Her natural talent, drive and determination led her to being honest about what she needs in her life to be not only the best person she can be, but the best mother. That required having some type of entrepreneurial outlet, and I think that is an incredibly ingenious option for a lot of other people out there that may not have the ability to dedicate 100% of their time to a business, but still need that outlet. This shows that you can build a business part time, you just have to find your perfect balance like Mary has. I am personally touched by this story as I have always been concerned about how children would affect my career, but after interviewing Mary, I have hope that the perfect work/motherhood balance does exist, it just may not be an easy road. Thanks, Mary, for giving us all some inspiration by showing how you manage to be a superwoman that does it all!
Mary’s Online Store www.etsy.com/shop/thediymama
Facebook www.facebook.com/thediymamashop/ @thediymamashop