Straight and Narrow Career Path

Grace, Me and Noah in 2006 -- The year I started Mod Mom Furniture
Lately, because of Shark Tank, a lot of people are asking how I went from corporate to carpentry.  I always have to condense the evolution because if I told the entire story, you'd need the time it takes to finish two beers. So go grab em'!

I know lot of couples who've faced the same thing we have who've had to think up very quick ways to make money without shelling out money. And we were no different....

1995-March 2003:  I worked various corporate jobs like training Manager/Director, Curriculum Development Specialist, Sales and Marketing Manager, Sales Planner and Integrated Marketing Manager.  In March of 2003, I left my marketing job with A&E and The History Channel  because Scott got a job offer from a company in Cincinnati, Ohio and it would mean we'd be closer to family and I'd be able to spend more time with our little ones. Our kids (then 5 months old and 4 1/2 years) were in full-time daycare from 6:30am-6pm while we both worked in downtown Chicago.  They were happy and well-adjusted and I loved my job but like all moms working full-time, it's super hard to not be buried under a mountain of guilt. I was nervous about leaving my corporate career because we all know how hard it is to get back in after you've been out but I was feeling like I wanted to give it a try and by moving to a city that was less expensive, we could live on Scott's salary alone.  I won't lie and say I wasn't torn about leaving a successful career. I was.  But I also felt that if I had the opportunity to be with my kids more, I should take it and then figure the rest out. We moved to the Cincy area from downtown Chicago in March 2003.

October 2003:  It's now October and the company that hired Scott has now lost or dismissed half its employees including the CFO which happened within weeks of Scott taking the job.  Not a good sign.  We were bamboozled.  Little did we know, he was being hired to save a sinking ship and we didn't know it was sinking...and there was really no way to save it.  Another round of lay-offs occurred and there we were sitting in a new house we'd just built with no income, severance, or healthcare.  We had a to act quickly.  Since we had both been in the media world, we knew we needed to move back to a market where those jobs were plentiful and it wasn't Cincy.  I reached out to media companies in Chicago again and he reached out as well.  I was really torn because I was just getting used to being at home full-time with my kids which is an insanely hard job with no accolades (as we all know) so when Scott started getting interviews and lots of interest from LA, we knew we had some decisions to make.

February 2004:  We sold our Cincy house quickly (before the market crashed) on New Year's Eve 2004 and made the hard decision to go where the jobs were (which meant away from our parents).  Scott was getting lots of interest but the offers weren't coming because we were in Ohio.  That was what made us decide we needed to sell almost everything we had, pack the little that was left in a POD, and move across country to LA on our own dime.  We went from a brand new 4000 square foot home in the Midwest to a 1000 square foot, 1948 rental home in LA.  It took two months for Scott to get an offer from a large media company.  We were so happy but obviously, LA is pretty expensive and while he brought in a good income, it still wasn't enough for a family of four in California. I had to think quickly so I tried to get as many freelance marketing gigs as I could.  But it wasn't steady enough.   We needed a steady income and the cost of childcare outweighed what I was going to probably make going back into an industry after losing a year of experience not to mention turn my kids world upside down again after a big move to a new city.  I would have to go backwards career-wise.  So I wracked my brain -- what would allow me to still be home with the kids and make money (immediately) at the same time while still focusing on the kids.  They were still so little.  While I love kids, I was scared to death to put the add on Craigslist for me to be a babysitter. What experience other than motherhood did I have, really?!?  I knew I could market myself and just trusted that my mothering skills would be enough. It was the only thing I could think of that would work for both my kids and my pocket book.  I babysat two precious babies for two years and still did freelance marketing work.  I settled into my role and LOVED those little ones-- they became part of our family while they were in my care.

Mid-2006: This brings us to the start of Mod Mom.  My babysitting was looking like it was ending with kids going to preschool and such and Scott had climbed the ladder to VP position with a media company so things were getting easier financially for us but we still needed my income.  Once I realized there was a need in the mid-mod kids furniture market, I calculated that two days of babysitting equaled the profit from one toy box so I figured this was worth a shot.  I required deposits so I could buy supplies and therefore didn't need to pay out in order to start the business.  After all, we needed the money to pay bills and I didn't have money to spend on a new business. It was all about making money because it had to be -- we needed it. Good news was that I'd get to be creative again, which I really missed, and do something I'd never done before.  I started building toy boxes one by one and marketing Mod Mom Furniture and the business started to grow.

February 2008:  Big time restructuring at Scott's massive media company left him looking for another job but this time with a few months severance at least.  Thankfully, before the recession hit, he found a job that paid half his salary but hey, it was a job!!  I was starting to max out my building capacity with MMF and turned away retailers from around the world because I couldn't keep up. I was building daily but still able to be with my kids, pick them up from school, etc. It was all worth it because I could control my schedule, work my hours around my kids, and not pay out for childcare.  And lets face it, now I'm five years out from my marketing job which would mean an even bigger salary cut. So I forged on for another two years knowing that if I could bring in "x" amount in income monthly, we could make it all work.

July 2010:  We endured another lay off with almost no severance because the company had no money this past July.  The small start-up he went with in 2008 was letting people go left and right and decided to go in a different direction.  Recession strikes again!!  And we were still recovering from the last two lay-offs/salary cuts. This time, I went through a bit of a meltdown.  I figured I had no choice even though I knew MMF was gaining more and more popularity internationally and with the celebrity crowd but I was told my experts I couldn't go to mass manufacturing without capital.  I couldn't watch us go under and not feel like I was doing everything I could. Just a week before I planned to start pounding the proverbial pavement with my resume that now showed I'd been out of media marketing since 2003, I got a call from Shark Tank.  I took it as a sign that I should forge ahead. I threw everything I had into preparing for Shark Tank and in the process gained mentors, friends, and capital.  My insanely talented, resilient husband accepted a new position at the end of January so we feel like we're at the beginning of an amazingly positive ride.

I think this is the longest post I've ever written and you're now probably on to your third drink but I hope it helps give a better answer to the question, "how did you go from corporate to carpentry?"  It wasn't an easy path but it was the right one, that's for sure.

Happy Friday everyone!!!


Daniel Semsen said...

A million blessings, Kiersten!!!!

Angie said...

thanks for sharing.

christina said...

Thank you for sharing your story! It's truly inspirational. :)

Bridget said...

Thanks for writing Kiers...makes me think I need to map out my own path and assess!

Chrissi said...

And I know at least one of those precious babies (Riley) loved you very much too!!

shelly said...

Thanks for sharing! Here I sit in little ole Cincy trying to find freelance writing since all editors have been layed off. The minute precision with how you describe your time off and value in getting "back-to-market" makes my heart pound. Good luck with your new path and your husband's second/third/ fourth chance. He's an example of resilience. It must have been hard for you two together.