Welcome back to my monthly feature on local supermoms who run amazing businesses while holding down the fort at home! I hope you’re enjoying this series, and gleaning some wisdom from each of the ladies who have so graciously shared their stories with us. Today we are speaking to Michelle Bertoncino, mother of three and owner of FiveBees.
Michelle, thank you so much for meeting me today! Let’s start with telling us a little about yourself.
I grew up in South Jersey, about 45 minutes north of Atlantic City. I went to school at Virginia Tech, where I met my husband. We have been married for 7 years and have three kids, 4.5 year old daughter Carley, and 2.5 year old twin boys, Mason and Jack. I went to school for Animal Science…yes, my two passions are art and animal science. I originally wanted to do equine physical therapy and rehabilitation, but working with large animals when I was pregnant just wasn’t safe. Sometimes life happens and you have to change directions!
You’re a busy lady! Can you tell us about FiveBees?
FiveBees is a shop on Etsy.com with handmade items for new parents and babies, such as burp cloths, sensory toys, and pacifier clips. I have various paintings and mobiles for nurseries and kid’s rooms. My shop was named for our family of “five B’s” and my love of bumblebees. I did a lot of research about opening an Etsy shop and worked on getting my inventory ready, and finally opened my shop in September of 2010.
What inspired you to start FiveBees?
When my twins were born, the economy was going down, and childcare is just so expensive, so I stayed home with the kids. My stress reliever used to be cleaning, and with 3 kids, even babies, there’s just no way to fully clean! So I started looking for something new to do. Growing up, I was always drawing, painting, and taking art classes; I had even thought about majoring in art. So I began painting things for my daughter’s room and making things for friends’ nurseries and baby showers. I started getting lots of compliments and people urging me to do this as a business. On one hand, I was a bit hesitant, but I thought, let’s give it a whirl. If I can sell my work, at least I can get all this stuff out of my house!
What’s your favorite part about running your own business?
I do enjoy the flexibility. I could probably get a lot of stuff done faster in a day or two if I didn’t have interruptions, but I can build in extra time for when things come up or there is a lot going on at home. It’s great to do somethng that I really like and still be contributing to our household.
What do you want your clients to take away from their experience with you?
I have a lot of first-time moms who purchase from me, and they are very into decorating the nursery and making it as perfect as they can. I bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy so that they don’t have any added stress. At that point, baby is almost here, and I want it to be a smooth and easy process. I get a lot of compliments on my customer service and follow up!
How do you manage to juggle motherhood and your businesses?
I don’t know! (Laughs.) I don’t have any child care right now, but my twins have always been great nappers, as in three hour naps every afternoon! I had a really great schedule: lunch, then household cleaning task for the day, and then my daughter and I would do our “arts & crafts.” It worked out great! But we recently moved them out of cribs into beds, and so everything is changing right now…there is no schedule anymore. It was crazy for about three weeks, and now their naps are about two hours, but it’s so sporadic because they just don’t want to go down. They are getting to the age when I can do some things while they are awake, but with three kids, there’s always something going on! The boys will go to half-day preschool in the fall and my daughter will start kindergarten, so I’m just going to do as much or as little as I can until then. And I know once they’re all in school, I’ll have to make almost seasonal schedules depending on school and sports, but it’ll be fine.
What’s the best thing about being mom to Carley, Mason, and Jack?
Their enthusiasm for everything! Even if it’s just a trip to Walmart, they always have fun with it. They’re always singing and laughing! Also, their excitement for new things, even the simplest things. Watching them discover the world, like when they have genuine awe at walking down the street to feed apples to the horses. I just love it. It helps me take a step back and just go aaahhhh…
If you could share one tip for other mom entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Baby steps, really! You can do it, don’t give up hope. If it becomes too much, take a step back and breathe, readjust what needs to change. Remember that everything is a phase and “this too shall pass.” You have to go with the flow, because life happens and it helps to be flexible. You also don’t want to give up your time, your sanity, your family time, to kill yourself trying to please someone else. I find if you are upfront with people as soon as something happens, like having to email customers an apology for a late delivery because there was a stomach bug going through the house, customers do understand.
Thank you so much, Michelle! Where can our readers find you?
Etsy Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/fivebees
Michelle is also an admin of the Raleigh Mompreneurs – Etsy Shop Owners group, which is a gathering place for support, advice and networking. If you’re a fellow Etsy seller, email Michelle to be added!
Please make sure to leave a comment for Michelle, and go check out her amazing creations!
~ xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo ~
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