Entrepreneur Spotlight: Grandpa Joe's Sugar House

One of my favorite entreprenuers (and dear friend) is living the sweet life. Literally.

Ben McKenney and his family—owners of Grandpa Joes' Sugar House in North Baldwin, Maine—are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their maple syrup farm this weekend. What started out as a science fair project in 1986, became a career and a lifestyle for Ben, Jen, and their grown daughter, Cassidy, and younger daughters, Emma (age 10), and Myla (age 4),   Ben's start-up story is unique, and well, as sweet as they come..... 

...In 1986, I did a science project on how to make maple syrup.  I won the Baldwin School Science Fair.  Shortly thereafter, my father, Steven, and I started making maple syrup in our front yard with a homemade barrel evaporator that he built.  It was made from an old barrel and scraps of metal left over from the farm.  

I saved up money from washing dishes at a diner in the summer of 1993,  and purchased a used 2×6 Leader evaporator with English tin pans....


Fast forward 25 years, and I'm pretty sure you can't go anywhere in Maine this weekend without hearing about Maine Maple Sunday—local celebrations across the state honoring all things maple. It's a big weekend for my dear friends and one that takes quite a bit of planning and preparation. Jen has been busy making all of the homemade ice cream, candy, Needhams, and other maple treats while Ben handles the maple syrup production and organizes the event's food, music, and contest. Their girls play the part of, as Ben says, "the quality control team."

Here are all the details you'll need to know if you plan on heading over to Grandpa Joe's this weekend:

If you aren't local, you can order Grandpa Joe's maple online! It's truly the best maple syrup in the US. 


Artist Spotlight: Emmy Vesta

Emmy Vesta is not only a talented photographer and artist, she's one heckuva strong, amazing woman.

She has endured a lot in her life and makes it her mission to stand up for what's right. She's changing the world with her voice and her artistic talent.

Her photographic and artistic focus is on conceptual fine art, specializing in awareness in education. She is a champion for those who can't speak for themselves and an activist supporting transgendered youth.

Check out Emmy's work below....

Emmy Vesta

To contact Emmy and/or learn more about her work, go to:

Emmy Vesta:  Facebook Page
Emmy Vesta | Flickr

Thank you, Emmy, for all you do.

You are an inspiration. #truth #authenticity #stopabuse #equalrights



Over the years, I have met the most amazing people—international artists with more talent in their little finger than I have in my whole body! 

I want to share these fabulous folks with you and am starting with a new friend I met through Instagram. Not only is she an amazing architect, interior designer, and product designer, she's really such a beautiful human being in every way. 

Maria Luisa Perri Drago

Maria Luisa Perri Drago and I started chatting a few months ago after connecting on Instagram. A native Italian from Calabria, she earned her Master's Degree in Architecture from Reggio Calabria in 2010.  Sustainability is important to Maria Luisa as illustrated by her major in bio-sustainable architecture (Rome, "La Sapienza", 2015). She worked as a stagist at the "Dipartimento di Programmazione e Attuazione Urbanistica di Roma Capitale", as a tutor at "Mediterranea" University of Reggio Calabria (2010-2012), and as a researcher at WWF "Ricerche e Progetti" in Rome (2011). 

In addition, Maria Luisa won the "DesignFOR 2014" contest for her Cafe Table called "Circles in Motion." 

Her designs are inspired and her work ethic is phenomenal.  I'm very lucky she is bilingual as I know very little Italian.  It's such a gift to connect so much with someone I've never met and feel such admiration for her work and who she is as a person.  

When asked if she knew she always wanted to be an architect from a very young age, she said, "I either wanted to be a medical doctor or an architect from the age of four." Clearly, she's gifted enough to do anything she wants but her design work is top notch and a gift to the architecture and product design worlds. 

Did I mention she is also a photographer and does fashion design work?  Seriously, this lady has it all! 

A few of her designs are below.....

Cafe Table - Circles in Motion - Winner of DESIGN FOR 2014 contest.

View Maria Luisa's work at:




What's your business partnership with Mod Life Collection?

Yesterday morning, I received an email from a vendor saying, “Congratulations on all of your success partnering with Robert Petril.” And several others have inquired about my affiliation with Mod Life, which led me to the realization it’s something I really need to address.

Essentially, the question is, “What is your business partnership with Mod Life Collection?”

Let’s go back to High Point, NC in 2014.  After my licensing deal died with Stanley Furniture, I met Robert, a freelance furniture designer, and partnered with him on two fronts—personal and business.

After meeting Robert, he offered to come on board Mod Mom to help me scale the company (because I was now out of a licensing deal) and then shortly thereafter, suggested he hold the title of President—in name only—until the business ramped up, then he would get some kind of compensation.  That made sense to me since Mod Mom was at a standstill at that point.  His extensive experience in the furniture industry and our affinity for one another made it seem like a match made in heaven. I stopped looking for licensing opportunities and we started down our “mod dream” road.  

We pursued getting Mod Mom produced in large quantities through a contact we had in North Carolina, since I was in need of a new manufacturer.  It became apparent that it wasn’t going to be possible so the conversation switched, with Robert on board, to producing his upholstery in the US.  It’s much easier and more lucrative to manufacturer sofas in the States than it is case goods (hard goods like Mod Mom).  Our contact is part owner of an upholstery factory in North Carolina, so it seemed like a great way to go.

Robert came to the table with renderings of multiple sofa and chair designs and one design he produced through another company already, as well. With this opportunity at hand, he suggested we build up the upholstery brand in order to then help fund the kids’ furniture side that I had built out of my garage. We gave it a lot of thought and decided that capitalizing on the Mod Mom brand was a good idea.  After all, there was the continued press and multiple re-airings of my Shark Tank episode and that would only help the sofa collection. Instead of using Robert Petril Designs for his line, we decided on Mod Life Collection—ultimately his entity because it’s his line of upholstery.  I designed the logo to look similar to Mod Mom and we bought a website, and off we went. It became our focus and was considered part of the Mod Group we dreamed of building. 

Mod Life is not legally part of Mod Mom in any form but it made sense to promote it as an off-shoot of Mod Mom and to think more globally about how we could grow in multiple areas of home furnishings, independently and together, as a couple.

  • Living room/home furnishings = Mod Life (Robert)
  • Kids line of furniture and hopes of growing into other categories = Mod Mom (K)

In addition to Robert’s designs, a very talented designer in Spain, named Ari Signes, had partnered with Robert prior to he and I meeting and created the 3-D renderings he shared with our contact. They collaborated on a few designs but she also designed a few on her own called Aria, Sia and Suri. Ari created all of the gorgeous 3-D renderings for all of the designs “on spec,” meaning she didn’t get paid for them upfront and agreed to wait until his designs took off to get paid. She’s still waiting.

We managed to secure a production deal for the upholstery line and part of a showroom in 2015 in High Point, NC. The samples were built and the showroom was set up and off we went into what looked to be a very bright future.  We geared up to pre-sale around the country.  Robert pulled himself out of the running for a big design director job in San Francisco because this looked to be the ticket the future he’d been working towards since he left China in 2008. He put all he had into Mod Life. I think at that point, I’d probably sunk about 10K into us and Mod Life, my parents invested 8K, and my dad jumped in to help us at Market and be a Mod Life representative. That Market, we sold 13 stores which is a good start; however, production took 33 weeks and the manufacturing partnership dissolved. As you can imagine, that stopped Mod Life dead in its tracks.  I was barely keeping Mod Mom going and appreciative of my dad, who helped find a new manufacturer for Mod Mom in Ohio.

We were back to the drawing board with Mod Life.  Robert partnered with a California manufacturer through a friend of his in January 2016 and this time, things looked more promising.  In order to better support us, I got a full-time job as a writer for the local university and rented an apartment for us, where Robert would be able to stay and work out of as we were re-launching Mod Life with the second manufacturer. He worked different jobs as well while he led Mod Life.  This happened at the end of March 2016. I worked my 9-5 job and did a lot of PR/marketing for Mod Life, kept Mod Mom barely alive, and worked some contract gigs to help pay bills.  The plan was for me to keep my job as long as was needed and he would go out on the road and sell Mod Life until I could join him and we could continue with our grand plan of building Mod Life, then building Mod Mom.

The Vegas Market came around and we were so excited.  We were very kindly given a showroom space by our manufacturer for Mod Life and scraped together money to eat and sleep, as well as outfit the showroom. The Market came and went and despite press and accolades for Robert and Ari’s designs, the line didn’t produce sales after Market.  We lacked swatch racks, which are apparently needed to sell custom upholstery. And sadly again, a few months after Market, that manufacturing partnership went up in flames for a number of reasons.

We recently split up personally (and professionally) which means a lot of changes are happening.  I’m going to re-tool Mod Mom and create a resurrection plan for my little garage company/brand.  While I believed in the grand plan of Mod Life first, then Mod Mom, it’s my own fault for taking my eye off the ball and not continuing to build my own brand over the last three years.  I figure if I can build an international brand out of my garage with zero carpentry or design skill, I can figure this out!

So what is my role in Mod Life now?  It’s non-existent. He is sole owner of his collection, as it should be. They are his designs (and Ari’s, of course) and his life’s work. From what I hear, he is re-launching all of the designs as Mod Life Collection by Robert Petril.

I’m going back into the garage and am looking for a manufacturer locally, as well as talking to a few companies about licensing the brand.  I’m also in the process of writing a book.  Turns out, Shark Tank wasn’t the bravest thing I’ve had to do in my life, and I’m excited to tell the story.   

I will make sure my parents get their investment in Mod Life back.  They are far from wealthy, as two retired teachers, and invested because they believed in my belief in us.

I’m thrilled for what the future holds and if I’ve learned anything in my 43 years, it’s to continue to follow my heart, work my tail off, believe in myself, and trust that even when the road looks crooked and long, there’s a reason for it.  There’s always a bigger picture that we can’t see in the moment and lots of lessons to learn along the way.


Intuition in Business

Boy, have I been SLACK on this blog!  I used to write weekly back when I started Mod Mom. I guess that's what happens..life sometimes gets in the way.

I miss it.  I've always enjoyed writing.  So I'm pledging to do more of it.

It was an outlet for me and a bit of a diary. It's fun to look back on all that's happened since 2007. My then-nine-year-old son now has a beard and is 6'2".  That whole "time flies by" saying is really quite true, isn't it?!?

As I write this, I'm devoting time to work on a keynote speech I'm giving in Sedona, AZ next week for the NAWBO Sedona Chapter (National Association of Women Business Owners). http://www.nawbosvv.org/  Their mission is to promote the excellence of their members and vibrant women entrepreneurs growing businesses.

I'm very honored to have been asked to speak about Intuition in Business, a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.  It was intuition that led me to start building furniture and I continue to trust it in all aspects of my life.  I've had to learn, and am still learning, to differentiate ego/fear from intuition but the more I really tune into myself and listen to the small voice...the physical cues...the more I learn to distinguish one from the other.

As Einstein says...

I think it's time we started to truly honor and understand the gift that is intuition.  Not only in our personal lives, but in business. It sure worked for Steve Jobs!


See Mod Mom on CNBC TONIGHT at 8pm/10pm EST time!

Watch Mod Mom on SHARK TANK on CNBC at 8pm/10pm EST tonight!

If by some chance, if everyone in the country tunes in at the same time, and our website crashes, please know we will get it back up ASAP!

Catch up with the latest on Mod Mom here....



Listen to Kiersten and TJ Hale talk about Shark Tank, growing a biz, and life as an entrepreneur!

Q&A with Samantha Cobos of PUREMod, Director of Mod Mom Furniture's Upscale, Custom Offerings

Samantha Cobos (LEED AP, Allied ASID), of PURE Inspired Design, and Kiersten met several years ago on social media.  As self proclaimed fans of each other's work, they watched (and cheered each other on) as their respective businesses grew.  One day, while talking about expansion, they hatched a plan to put their heads together to design custom, luxury, organic soft goods and upholstered furniture that blended well with Mod Mom's existing lines.  And so PureMod was born!! 

We are proud to have Samantha on board as our Director of Textile Design and our in-house interior design consultant.  If you are looking to create a mod look for your home and would like to discuss custom design options for any room in your house, please reach out to us at info@modmomfurniture.com and Samantha will get back to you.

To shop PUREMOD, use the menu options above and to the side or click here:  http://www.modmomfurniture.com/pure-mod.html


How did you become a designer?
Becoming an interior designer was a career change for me.  After spending 8 years as a computer programmer, I slowly became unsatisfied and started studying interior design.  There were clues since childhood that I was meant for a more creative career, but necessity and the fear of the unknown lead me down the safe technical path of computers.  After studying interior design and starting my own design firm, I again became unsatisfied.  I got involved in “eco-friendly” interior design and could not find the products I was looking for in the current market.  I started sketching patterns and furniture designs, which lead me to designing my own line of organic pattern fabric, eco-friendly upholstery, and wool rugs.

What steered your design aesthetic towards modern?  Did you grow up with modern furnishings or just grow up liking the mod look?
I've always love color and modern patterns.  I grew up in Northern Minnesota before HGTV, I didn't even know interior designers existed.  While in college I became interested in all art including modern art.  I actually spend my breaks painting abstracts in both acrylic and oil.  One break I even taught myself how to batik.  I ultimately turned towards a modern aesthetic because of the clean, beautiful, simplicity of the designs.  I find modern more pleasing to the eye and modern patterns come to me very naturally, so it just feels right.

Tell us about your custom design work (Furniture, whole rooms, textiles, etc)...
Since we create all our products on demand we can give our clients exactly what they want.  For example, if they like one of our existing patterned fabrics but want it in a different color or scale, we can easily do that.  We can even go a step further and create a custom pattern specifically for a client and supply a test swatch.  The same can be said for our rug.  In addition, we apply the same process to our upholstery, we can change any of our existing styles by making it wider, deeper, higher, or we can design and build a total custom piece.

The beauty of our on demand design process is that it allows us to customize a total room where all the pieces coordinate perfectly!

Do you have any design tips/tricks when it comes to interior design?
  • I prefer upholstered furniture pieces to be a solid more neutral fabric and add pattern and color with pillows.  This way it is easy to change out your accent colors by just swapping out the pillows.  I also always do a mixture of square and rectangular throw pillows – it creates a more layered look.
  • Plan out your space before shopping so you don’t order items that are too big or too small
  • Lamps not only add light but they work like pieces of art or sculpture.
  • Rugs help ground a room and add warmth to a space.  And they can be placed over carpet!
  • Mixing textures adds interest to rooms – leathers (faux or real), heavy wovens, canvas, and soft chenille all add texture.
  • Larger accessories always look better than a bunch of small accessories, plus they are easier to dust.


Shark Tank Success Blog: "Mod Mom Furniture Update" - 11/2013

Thanks so much to SharkTankSuccess for this fantastic update based on the People Magazine article....


Mod Mom Furniture after the Shark Tank

Modern Toy Boxes - Season 2 - Episode 203 - Update
Mod Mom Toy Boxes from shark Tank Season 2
Mod Mom Kiersten Hathcock on the
Shark Tank Show
  The more I keep learning about Kiersten Hathcock and the Mod Mom Furniture Business the more I'm not even sure where to begin about this incredible small business started in the garage and now known around the world. Sure a lot of Entrepreneur's start small businesses in their garages every day that never make it to the Shark Tank, but whats so unique about Kiersten and the Mod Mom Furniture Business that's propelled her to a level she could of only dreamt about just a few years earlier? If you could break it all the way down into a single word, it would be pure "Determination" that's led to the Mod Mom's Success that continues to grow to this day.

 Like most "true entrepreneur's" out there, we are a stubborn bunch that does not like to take no for an answer. The saying "Failure is NOT An Option" is ingrained in one form or another into every successful person's subconscious mind to the point you will "ALWAYS" get the right answer if you only "Believe" that statement with every part of your being. Kiersten Hathcock is one of those rare individuals that have put this statement to the test on many different levels and to the point "Success Would Become the ONLY Option" from her sheer determination to succeed.

To see how far Hathcock and the Mod Mom Business has grown since being one of the first contestants featured in Season 2, I figured a good place to start would be with Her Shark Tank audition tape. The answers to a lot of questions where the Mod Mom Business was at the time is in this video which also clearly shows Kiersten's motivation and determination to accomplish one major goal.....

Click here for the rest of the article:   http://sharktanksuccess.blogspot.com/2013/11/mod-mom-furniture-update.html


People Magazine's Shark Tank Article: More on what happened after Shark Tank...

I am so thrilled and honored to have been included in People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue! Not a bad edition to be in if you ask me! :)

Back in early March, I received a call from People about the "Shark Tank: Where Are They Now" article which was to run sometime in March.  I spoke with the very kind Johnny Dodd, a phenomenal writer of crime books who is also a writer for People.  We had a fantastic hour-long conversation and continued the chatting sporadically over the past few months as it looked like the article was set to run again.  With all that has been going on in the world, the article kept getting bumped for world events and tragedy, as it should have been!  This week I heard from the editor who said it was finally running but was cut down in size to just one page.  I was so happy it was finally running but I did recognize this likely meant the more in-depth story would be shortened quite a bit.  With that said, I thought I'd take opportunity to tell you the full story of life after Shark Tank and share what Johnny and I talked about for the article. 

So here goes....

My experience in the Shark Tank was relatively painless compared to some folks I know.  I felt the Sharks were kind and open with me while I was filming.  There were some lessons for me along the way about trusting my own gut when it came to producer's view versus my view that you can check out here if you'd like. If you've watched the episode, you know that I received two offers: one from Kevin O'Leary and one from Robert Herjavec.  I chose Robert's deal because it was a better deal.

I was so excited when I left the Tank and so hopeful I'd hear from Robert's camp within the next few weeks to get everything lined up.  We filmed in October 2010 and I ended up hearing from him in January 2011.  I refreshed him on who I was and what our deal was and then ultimately, I ended up hearing from him that I was still too small and to come back in six months.  I chose not to come back in six months.  My episode aired in April and finally, at that point since the cat was out of the bag that I got a "deal," I could be open about what happened.  Several friends and family invested small amounts which helped tremendously and I just thought, well, I can do this.  I've gotten this far with sheer will and intuition. 

I plugged along for about a year growing the brand and out of the blue received a message from a true angel investor in the San Fran area who had started watching Shark Tank on Hulu.  He asked if I was still looking for investors and how the deal went with Robert.  I told him what had happened and we talked two other times via phone.  Once we decided on the investment amount in exchange for equity, which was much better than what I was offered on Shark Tank, he literally wrote me a check and put it in the mail!  It was unreal.  It's common for many to go through a long due diligence process that takes many months.  Mine took about a week and a half.  I am forever grateful to my investor who I believe is an Angel on Earth in every sense of the term. He is one of those guys who truly believes in the "angel" part of giving.  As a man who has done very, very well in business, he believes in Mod Mom and wanted to help give us a a chance to really make it what we've always known it could be. 

We've been able to make HUGE strides with the company because of that investment and are now in licensing negotiations for the Mod Mom brand in several product categories!  It's incredible to think that a small company started in my garage (by someone who didn't even know how to design or build furniture!) is now at the point where we are in talks with major manufacturers!  Due to confidentiality, for now, that's all I can say, but I can share a few things I've done over the past two years in my life after Shark Tank:
  • Filmed How To Videos for Kin Community: Wood Toy Bin, Step Stool, and two food videos!
  • Represented the Cabot brand in How-To videos using their new all-in-one finish
  • Partnered with Columbia Forest Products to ensure the wood we're using in our current manufacturing is made in North America and has zero formaldahyde --safe for kids and adults!
  • Honored with the Future Leader in Home Furnishings award by industry leader, WITHIT 2013
  • Expanding into the pet market - Mod Mom Pets!
  • Partnered with the amazing Samantha Cobos, our Director of Textile Design, to offer more soft good designs.
  • Brought my husband on in a bigger way to help with design, expansion, and just in general, my sanity!  Thank goodness I don't have to pay him! :)
  • Included in international design books for toy box design.
In addition, I founded a non-profit organization near and dear to my heart called The Little Light Project. We have an amazing staff of medical professionals, certified holistic healers, and business leaders who put their heart and soul into helping highly sensitive/intuitive children and grieving parents.  Our mission is to bring a balanced mix of Western and Eastern philosophy to helping kids and parents who are highly sensitive and to offer holistic healing services for parents whose children are now in spirit. As a highly sensitive person, I know first hand how hard it can be to feel like you fit in.  You can read more about The Little Light Project on our website: www.littlelightproject.org.

So in a nutshell, even though the deal didn't work out with Robert, I have been very blessed by what followed and the generosity of folks who believe in what we're doing.  I've always been a big believer that everything happens for a reason and I'm so thrilled it worked out this way!  And I have to say, that learning to follow and trust my intuition along the way has made all the difference in the world in terms of company growth.  Many of my counterparts that started back in 2007 are now out of business.  The sky is the limit for Mod Mom and I'm so proud that even through the blood (biscuit joiner cut), sweat, and saw dust, I didn't give up.  Believe me, there were days I wanted to but intuitively I knew I just needed to keep moving forward.  Can't wait to share what happens in the next chapter of Mod Mom!  I hope so much you'll come along for the ride with me!

Thanks for all of your support over the years!! Without out, this Mod Mom would have likely put that hammer back in the tool box years ago! 

P.S In honor of the People Magazine article, we are having a "Sexiest Toy Box ALIVE!" sale on all of our furniture on www.modmomfurniture.com 20% off all furniture until 11/25! 


  MOMtrepreneur: Mod Mom Furniture
Video (Kin Community)