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:




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)


My Intuition Story About Prepping for Shark Tank

“Trust your gut.”

I’ve heard this my whole life. But it’s only been in the last year I really pay attention and recognize when something is coming from my gut (aka my intuition). Growing up, I was always known as the sensitive kid. Sensitive on all levels — scratchy clothing drives me mad, my ears are super sensitive to loud sounds or specific low tones, I’m sensitive to how people are feeling around me, and am highly sensitive to smells. From the time I was a kid to now, I’ve always been intuitive but there were times in my life when I ignored it or let my cognitive mind take over too much. I’ve never fully shut it off but I know I’ve used it more in the last 2 years than I have in probably any other time in my life.

Without risking going off on a New Age deep end, I want to share with you how I know when something is my intuition. It’s helped me in business and in life and I’m hoping it might help you as well.

When something isn’t right: I get a feeling of pressure just below my rib cage – upper stomach area- that feels heavy. For example, when I was prepping for Shark Tank, I had to present my pitch to producers before I presented to the Sharks and all week long, I had that heavy pit feeling. The time comes to pitch (what had been my script originally but then was heavily edited by producers), I bombed it. REALLY BOMBED IT. I couldn’t even remember what I was supposed to say…about my own company?!?!. Talk about embarrassing! Now coming from background in public speaking and even teaching public speaking, I knew it had nothing to do with being nervous about presenting. That pit in my stomach was my intuition telling me that I needed to go against producer’s directives and say what I knew I wanted to convey to the Sharks in my own way, my own voice. So I told producers I was re-writing it which wasn’t exactly supported but who could blame them.  They know how to make good TV and that's what they were attempting to do with my pitch. Two days later, the doors swung open to cameras, lights, Sharks, and a nervous production team. I pitched my heart out NOT using what we’d worked on for weeks, but what I came up with in the one day between pre-pitching and filming. I’m confident the only reason I got offered two deals was because I stayed true to what my intuition was telling me. To be honest, be real, and speak from the heart. And ya know what? That pit I had in my stomach was non-existent the day I pitched to the Sharks. Sure I was nervous, but I was confident. Big difference.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the body’s energy systems (think Eastern medicine) and the very place I felt that heavy, pit in the stomach feeling was a place called the Solar Plexus. Here’s the description for it…

“The Solar Plexus Chakra, located above the navel and below the sternum, is the home of the ego. Your own inner confidence, your will, your self-esteem, and your voice are all traced from the energy of this bold yellow chakra center. Manipura is the Sanskrit word associated with this chakra, and translated it means “lustrous gem.” It is this shining aspect of your personality that allows you to step forward and say ‘I can do it’ in any situation. The way you view yourself as a capable and praiseworthy person is a reflection of this resilient chakra center. In a way, the energy springing from the Solar Plexus Chakra is like sunshine, lighting your way in the world and empowering you to make yourself heard.”

It was clear from the way my body was reacting, I didn’t feel confident in what I was being told to say in the first pitch but it’s hard to go against authority so I pressed on. The defining moment when I bombed what should have been a piece of cake was the push I needed to listen to my intuition which was screaming all along. It’s the same place you feel that kick in the gut feeling when you’re told really horrible news. It affects the energy of your body significantly.

Learning to acknowledge what that feeling is when I have it about deals, partnerships, investment opportunities, and people in general has made all the difference in the world. If something lingers in your mind to where you feel paralyzed to act and/or you feel that heaviness in your solar plexus, take a good hard look at what you’re about to do. Even if it goes against what everyone else is telling you to do, your intuition is telling you what is right for you.

Religion has nothing to do with this. While I’m the first to admit that I very much believe in the afterlife, spirit energy, and a higher power, this is more about learning how the body reacts in times of stress and uncertainty and learning to trust your own internal voice. And that, I’ve found, has EVERYTHING to do with making good decisions. Decisions that are right for you as an individual or a business.