Passion is one of the common threads that connected the women at the Columbia Mall Saturday to attend the Fabulous Moms: Women’s and Small Business Expo and Conference.
Some women arrived with their children in tow and others left them at home – but no matter how they arrived, they wanted to find out how to start a business, network or to grow an existing business.
However, the day wasn’t all business. A spring fashion show was as anticipated as the latest showing of the latest season’s colors and textures during New York Fashion Week and audience member were treated to a Yoga demonstration.
More than 64 women-owed vendors staged at the center-court outside of Forever21 and Lord & Taylor and on the second level directly above the main stage. If you wanted to find some one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces or a handbag or needed financial advice, then Fabulous Moms was the place to be.
“Mom’s are so busy balancing work, our children and our marriages, that we need just that one little piece for ourselves… something for us,” said Nicole Germain, the host of Fabulous Moms. Nicole is also the CEO of MJG Communications, a public relations, marketing and events planning boutique firm located in Ellicott City. The company has a mix of clientele, including “mompreneurs” like Nicole.
"Womenpreneurs" were, everywhere from Mrs. Maryland (April Proudfoot) to the world-famous “DC Cupcake Girls” from the TLC show, DC Cupcakes (Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne). These women spent the day sharing their knowledge of success and what it takes to build a business block-by-block.
April Proudfoot is the reigning Mrs. Maryland 2011. Originally from Tuscaloosa, Ala., she and her husband, David Proudfoot (former Howard County School Board Candidate), call Ellicott City home.
“After my husband wrapped his candidacy for the school board, I wanted to find a way to continue to be involved in my community,” said April. “I heard about the Mrs. Howard County Pageant and applied in October. I won that contest and then won the Mrs. Maryland Pageant in February. The Mrs. America Pageant is at the end of the month at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The event benefits Habitat for Humanity.”
April is dedicated to helping women around Howard County to get a jump start on their dreams. As Mrs. Maryland, she decided to expand her involvement in women’s issues by starting the Undiscovered Belle organization, which donates business attire and formal wear to those who are unable to afford them.
“We [women] have full-time jobs… I represent all married women – the real women who work and try to balance everything,” said April. “… working mothers keep everything together and stop things from falling apart – they are the glue.” She continued to explain that she wants to be very involved in the community and to help wherever she can.
April was also emceeing the event and it was time for her to run to the stage to make an announcement.
Just as she was running to the stage, I spotted Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, the “DC Cupcake Girls.” Katherine and Sophie are sisters and the owners of Georgetown Cupcake located in Bethesda and Georgetown. The ladies have been busy non-stop with the shops, taping DC Cupcakes, media tours and personal appearances.
Today was no different. The sisters touched down around 5:00am on the east coast after a “red-eye” flight from Los Angeles. After a brief break, Katherine and Sophie were on their way to the Columbia Mall to speak to hundreds of women, future business owners and loyal fans to tell how they got started.
“Are you okay with risking everything to start a business – it’s risky because nothing is predictable,” said Katherine. “This means sticking with it when times are dark and rough.”
The sisters love to bake and have always dreamed of opening their own business. Their grandmother taught them her recipies when they were young girls and when you hear them speak about her, it is with deep love, affection and respect for not just the recipies, but life lessons that she taught them and the many memories of cooking and baking at their grandparents' home.
“We would cry when our parents would come to get us from their house,” Sophie said.
In honoring their grandmother’s memory and love for them, Katherine and Sophie decided to open Georgetown Cupcake and take that risk. The sisters worked night and day to open their first store located on Potomac Street in Georgetown before moving the shop to M Street. They baked and set-up the store with little sleep.
“We were wondering if people would come to the store when we opened. We thought we’d sell about 100 cupcakes or so,” said Sophie. “And, on Valentine’s Day , the first morning we opened… the line was down the block.”
The sisters said that they were too afraid to disappoint their parents because they expected them to be doctors or lawyers. Katherine said, “We didn’t have any experience to start a business… it’s frightening not having a check every two weeks. We couldn’t get a bank loan…this wasn’t going to stop us.”
In case you’re wondering, the sisters said that DC Cupcakes came about by accident. A producer for the Dr. Oz Show stopped in to buy some cupcakes and everything was totally crazy. Everyone was yelling at each other [including the sisters and their mother] and it was just complete chaos. He came back again and said, “… you guys are insane [Sophie was covered in flour].” He asked to film them working and before they knew it, TLC offered them a show.
“This event was important to us and we wanted to be a part of it to show women that they have what it takes to start a business,” said Sophie.
As the main event was winding down and everyone started to checkout the vendors, Jackie Ulman gave the closing remarks.
“How do you do it all… in your career and life. I applaud you and my husband, Ken Ulman applauds you too,” said Jackie. “Thanks for this event.”
Six years ago Vastie Presley started VP Designs, a jewelry company, located in Baltimore. Vastie is a breast cancer survivor and she wanted to do something that was less stressful when she came home from work – something more than watch television. She designs and makes earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings. As a result, ladies at work began to ask her to make custom rings and the hosts of the Baltimore Natural Haircare Expo will be showcasing some of her designs on Saturday, March 26th at the Pikesville Hilton.
“The Expo is a celebration of women business owners and the multiple roles moms play: parent; unique individual; and business owner,” said Nicole. “These emerging businesswomen do it all. They juggle the challenges of family and running a business with love, passion and creativity.”
At the end of this day, it is obvious that passion is the factor that drives Nicole, Katherine, Jackie, Sophie, Vastie and April to success.