Dec 032013

Carol McBee Mommy Connections

Can you tell us a bit about the Mommy Connections story?
I started Mommy Connections in November 2009 when I was on maternity leave with my first daughter, Madelyn. I had been through the provincial health care system’s nurse-led “New Moms Network” and had really enjoyed meeting other new moms from my area of the city. Several months later, I found out that the New Moms Network program had been suspended due to needing the nurses and program rooms for H1N1 vaccinations. The program had been difficult to get into to begin with, so I decided I would start my own program out of a local church basement. Less than 8 weeks later, the first Mommy Connections Mom & Baby program ran in my community with 67 moms and babies! It was way too many moms, the baby chatter nearly drowned out the speakers and the room was packed, but it made me realize how great the need was for mom & baby programming as well as how many moms were craving connection. After that program, moms from all over started approaching me to find out how they could run a Mommy Connections class in their community.

Mommy Connections provides the platform that introduces moms to programs and services available within their neighbourhoods. Our class types have expanded over the last 4 years to include Mom to Be, Mom & Baby and Mom & Tot. The weekly classes provide a unique learning opportunity as well as a fun way to bond with their babies and other moms in a social environment. The classes offer fun and interactive demonstrations as well as informative expert speakers on a variety of topics. In a Mom & Baby class you might learn from a pediatric dentist about baby dental concerns followed by a fitness demonstration while baby wearing. Some of our Mom to Be classes even include prenatal yoga each week! The goal of our registered classes is to connect moms in a non-mom’s group and potentially stressful environment while learning and having fun!

In the first 18 months of business, the company grew to include 16 locations in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario; more than 2000 women went through our programs in 2011 and that number will grow to more than 5000 in 2013. We are proud to report that our programs are now offered in more than 22 locations across Canada. We view the 8 program weeks as an ‘informative icebreaker’ for all of the amazing connecting and support that will happen from week 9 and on!

The organization chart of the company has changed slightly over the years to include 2 Regional Directors that handle Eastern and Western Canada. Even after all of our incredible growth, the management team continues to be made up of a group of hardworking moms dedicating to educating and connecting moms in their communities while also providing an additional income for their families, working alongside their children. Mommy Connections has grown into an amazing family business!

What are some exciting new developments for Mommy Connections?
Mommy Connections has recently partnered with Fisher Price. Fisher Price has sent out more than 14 items with a value of over $515 to each of our locations. Moms to Be can check out the Baby Gear items such as the swing, highchair and jumperoo and our babies & tots will get to experience all the fun and developmental learning that comes with playing with amazing toys! We are also working on some amazing Survival Kits that each mom will receive in our programs – more details on the kits will be released soon!

What (or who) inspires you when it comes to juggling a busy company and career with parenthood?
My Western Canada Regional Director, Claire Weisse, has 4 children under the age of 7. She joined our team shortly after the birth of her third son. Since then, she has had a little girl. She runs an incredibly successful territory in Red Deer, AB. She is well known in her community as a leader. She gave up a career in nursing to run Mommy Connections and works alongside her children. Her enthusiasm, organization and charisma is very contagious. I simply don’t know how she does it, but I do know that it makes having more children and continuing to build Mommy Connections seem very possible!

Favorite mom or baby product?
I love my Bob Stroller! It has been to multiple countries, driven through snow, ice, sand and mud and has allowed me to shop in peace, take many walks and runs and has been the napping stop for hours upon hours for both of our children!

The 2 biggest pieces of wisdom you’d share with moms:
#1 – Just when you think you have things figured out with your kids, things usually change; you have to be super flexible when it comes to mothering!
#2 – They grow up so fast. I know – everyone says this and everyone has heard it, but you suddenly look at your elementary aged child and think “Wasn’t I just pregnant with you?” Slow down and enjoy as much as you can!

The 2 biggest pieces of wisdom you’d share with entrepreneurs:
#1 – Work when your kids sleep. Even if that means waking up crazy early, it will make you feel calmer and in control of your business throughout the day and trying to work while kid nag is no fun for anyone (and you don’t get anything done!)
#2 – no one is as passionate about your business than you. Keep that in mind when hiring out people to help you with your key messages, advertising, promotions, press and social media. You are always your biggest champion and supporter, and although we can’t do it all, you are often the best spokeperson for your business!
Mommy Connections
When they are older, I want my kids to most remember me as … someone who was fun and patient. This is something I have to work on as I am usually so busy planning and working, I sometimes forget what is most important.

When parents find out what I do, they often say: “I didn’t know that was you! My friend/sister/etc took one of your classes and loved it!” (This is where I beam with pride on what we have accomplished as a company!)

In my free time, I love to… meal plan (I adore Pinterest!) and work on digital albums and handmade scrapbooks. I have an entire room in my house dedicated to crafting and gift wrapping too!

I’m dreaming of … a vacation – I work to travel and am always planning the next holiday. Travel is the #1 thing our family spends disposable income on and I never regret spending money on a trip. Most of my favourite memories as a child were on family trips and I want to create that for my kids too!