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Lemons to lemonade feature #19: Pamela O’Leary

Monday, December 8, 2008
Mom entrepreneur Pamela O’Leary is the owner of O’Baby Gear, which she started in 2005. After the birth of her first daughter, people would ask "what is your son's name". I think we have all experienced this as moms. Even when my son was dressed in blue people would ask what is "her" name.

While juggling her job as an elementary school teacher, and giving birth to a second daughter in 2007, Pamela decided this was a perfect opportunity to use her crafting experience and create a line of hats, bibs and other products that were both fashionable and practical. The products also helped identify the sex of a baby.

Pamela is coping with the economic climate by looking for outlets for her custom embroidered items. She recently opened a "shop" on ETSY, and she is booking home parties and lining up holiday boutiques. Here is her story...

How has this economy affected you, your business and your family?
I think everyone is feeling the affects of the economy. This economy has pushed me to focus on and expand my company - something I always intended on doing.

How are you making lemonade from lemons?
My mom told me that ever since I was a toddler, I would make things with my hands. Starting with Play-doh and crayons as my medium, I was continuously creating and would be occupied for hours. Not much has changed over the years. I still love making things and coming up with new products.

O’Baby Gear was created out of my desire for baby products that were not available. When my daughter Ryan was an infant, she was, well…let’s just say…lacking in the hair department. I could dress her in pink from head to toe, including a pink car seat, and people would still ask what my son’s name was. It didn’t clarify much when I answered “Ryan” which is traditionally a boy’s name.

That’s when I started making baby head bands and tiny hair clips. I called them “It’s a Girl!” sets. Then I dug out my sewing machine from the basement and designed and sewed my own bibs out of fabrics that I felt were stylish enough to wear with all of Ryan’s outfits. With an addition of a second daughter and an embroidery machine, my family and business keeps growing.

This year I am on childcare leave from my teaching position and staying home with my daughters. Because of the economy, I felt like I really had to step my business up a notch and see if I could market and sell my “lemonade” to make a financial contribution to my family.

Instead of just relying on word of mouth for sales, I have listed some of my most popular handcrafted items on the website, ETSY. In addition, I have expanded my inventory to include clever gift sets, picture frames and pewter and sterling silver items. I am in the process of creating a website independent of ETSY where I can sell these other gift items. I am also booking “home shows” where people are invited to a friend’s home to preview my items.

Any encouraging words you would like to offer mom entrepreneurs?
My advice to fellow momprenuers would be to follow your dreams and make them happen. I always felt that my true love was crafting and that somehow I would find my niche. Being a mom has led me down this path. I have a high standard for quality and have shopped around for items that I feel are superior, something that is important to me as a consumer, as well as a mom. I feel this makes my company stand apart from others. I would also advise others to gain as much exposure as you can. If you have a great product, people need to know!

Regardless of the size, starting a business is challenging. You encounter many obstacles. But being a mom and starting a business, well, that’s just a little more overwhelming. Take time to build your business so you can enjoy your family and manage your company. Try to surround yourself with a support system. I’m fortunate to have an encouraging husband and family. Ohhh… and drinking a lot of coffee definitely helps!

For more information, visit O’Baby Gear, or email Pamela directly at