RETAIL PARTNER SPOTLIGHT
Evymama Nursing & Maternity
Sarah LeMay-Kaplan, President and Founder
1) What inspired you to open Evymama and when did you launch?
I opened Evymama in the Summer of 2007 with my then 5-month-old son in a sling at my side around the clock. Literally. I worked 20 hour days in the weeks leading up to and immediately following the opening. I didn’t even need an alarm clock. I was so full of adrenaline that I would pass out temporarily and jump right back into it. I guess I miss that now, which is why I felt the need to open another location? The new Toronto shop is now open at 230 Danforth Avenue. So I now have a shop in both ends of the city.
While my son, Remy, was my tiny partner in the Evymama endeavor, my daughter Talya, now six, was the inspiration.
She was an extremely fussy baby who had fairly bad reflux. I had to nurse her pretty constantly, as anyone who told me I was crazy for having her at the breast all day and night can attest.
I’ve always loved pretty clothes. When a friend asked me how the heck I managed without nursing tops, I was ready to listen. I found some cute ones, and never wore anything else. The nursing tops kept my midriff covered as my daughter and I wandered around the city in our Ergo carrier. We mostly walked to St Lawrence Market in those days, to pick up ingredients for dinner. (I’m a closet gourmet, but cooking anything that takes more than 20 minutes these days is reserved for Sundays!)
As of about a year ago, I started wearing non-nursing tops again, since Remy just has a quick nurse before falling asleep nowadays.
2) Do you have a company mission/vision?
I always tell people when I interview them for a job here that if I have a secret agenda, it’s to get everyone breastfeeding! This is more a secret wish of mine, really, but it gets my point about being breastfeeding-friendly across. We’re very pro-breastfeeding, in a kindly, you’re-amongst-friends sort of a way.
Essentially, however, we’re all about the mother. There are baby stores, and there are maternity stores. Those stores cater to the mother until she delivers and then basically have nothing for her, or are just about the baby, and mom’s personal style is left in the ditch.
Evymama sees a mother through her pregnancy and breastfeeding career in style, with no compromise whatsoever, right down to the sexy knickers and nursing bras. We’re fond of saying that a happy mama means a happy child. Truthfully, a baby needs to be attached to mom, and mom needs to lean on others so she can do her job well and enjoy herself while doing it. For some mothers, we’re their only support for the hour or two that they’re in the shop. For others, we’re a nice place to stop for a nurse and then pass baby to grandma and get shopping!
3) What was the biggest challenge that you faced during your journey opening Evymama?
I’m something of a gambler, I realized while examining my business style recently. This serves me well as an entrepreneur. It takes lots of research, work, heart and dedication to run a retail store, but it also takes guts. It’s scary sometimes, mostly financially, especially in the beginning, but, as I read on a horseracing shirt of my husband’s, “Fortune Favours the Bold”. At some point, you need to plunge in and pretty much swim for your life.
I opened the first store without obtaining a bank loan, and have done the same with this second shop that I’m about to open. You could count that as a challenge! Money can freeze you up if you’re very emotional about it. I understand that a lack of it at times is just a minor detail, not a real barrier to anything.
4) What is the best part of what you do as the owner of Evymama? What part could you live without?
We make sure that everyone is offered tea or water and a comfy nursing chair, that everyone is treated like a VIP (since every mother IS a Very Important Person!) and that we really listen and assist our customers however we can. We frequently run mothers’ purchases to their cars, call around to find additional things they need, give them literature on whatever subject they’re agonizing about… we’ve done some crazy things for our mothers too! We have a policy of taking five minutes of our day to make someone else’s, whether that someone is a customer or a co-worker, a neighbor or a random person wandering into our lives.
I feel confident that at the end of any workday, if I ask any one of my staff what they did to make someone’s day, they will tell me about ten things they’ve done, and not only one. The women who work here are very special people, with a gift and a calling for service to their fellow human beings. I feel very lucky to work alongside them all.
In the end, we have a policy of always taking the high road, and always taking care of all of those around us. I can tell you that this is both the big secret to Evymama’s success and what lights up my life every day. Along with my family, of course!
The parts I can live without I pass along to someone who doesn’t find them as soul-sapping, and who is better at them than me! I have a bookkeeper and an accountant so I’m not spinning my wheels and wasting money. My Jane Street store manager, Heidi, is brilliant at creating the monthly shift schedule, so I have off-shifted that item to her and it’s better for everyone that way!
There is no point in doing things that don’t work for you. Someone else can and will do it better. So the short answer is, there is nothing about my job that I dislike.
5) How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Remy 4, and Talya 6. Brilliant, slightly naughty children. Talya plans to be a midwife, and Remy is planning a career in piracy. We’re so proud!
6) What is the best part of what you do as a mom? What part could you live without?
I love pregnancy, labour, nursing, and the terrible twos. When they quit nursing and have lives away from me, I love to chat about their day… I’m not great at getting down on the floor and playing at pirates and dolls though. I’m more the type to invite them to help me with the cooking or the laundry. It’s as much fun as playing with toys for them, and doesn’t make me resentful as I’m getting stuff done. I go crazy if things are waiting for me to get to them! My husband is great at playroom play, so again, I’m not doing anything that doesn’t work for me, I guess.
7) Tell us about your experience, as a new mom, trying to find the "right products"?
See answer #1.
8) What has been the most helpful product that you have encountered?
A nursing bra, a baby carrier, both properly fitted to the mom’s needs are absolutely indispensable! Our bra fittings and baby carrier test-drives are a must-do for any mother living in the Toronto area, if I do say so myself.
9) Do you have any inspiring stories to tell us about someone you have met or something that has happened since starting Evymama?
I find every day and every person I meet is full of inspiration. Each day is what we make of it with this company. We get letters, emails, calls, and pop-ins telling us that we made their day, or their sister’s or best friend’s day. I have a special place in my heart for moms on bedrest, since, although I’ve never BEEN on bedrest, I think it would be like the seventh circle of hell for me… I like to really go out of my way for those mothers. I like to say “ANYTHING for a mom on bedrest!” and I really mean it!
10) What is the "next big thing" for Evymama?
I would call our new store our next big thing! I have a wild and crazy plan to open more stores. I won’t likely stop until I’m struck by lightning - I’ll take that as my clear signal to quit.
11) Is there anything else you'd like to add? Perhaps something that not many people know about you or your store?
The name of my business is often an interesting thing to people. I think it has a pretty visual element to it, as a word, and it has a nice sound. It’s soft and feminine, and flows nicely. It was born of my mother’s suggestion that I call it Bevimamma (Italian for “Drink” and “mama”). My editor husband dissected the word on the computer screen, dropping the “b” and one “m”, and changing the “I” to a “y”. He then said, as I looked over his shoulder, “What do you think”? I said, “That’s it, it’s the name.”
This is amusing to me because it was essentially a collaboration between my mother and my husband, who rarely agree on anything!
We Googled it, of course, to see that it was original, and it returned no hits. I didn’t choose the name until we were very close to opening! A good, original name is important, but “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. A business needs a great name, sure, but it needs to actually be great more than it needs a cool name!
Thank you Sarah. I must say I am deeply inspired and impressed by your overall attitude. It isn't too often that you talk to someone with such a positive and giving outlook on life. I'd also like to thank you for the generous giveaway you've offered for our readers - 2 tops and 2 dresses from the June & Dane nursingwear line - retail value of more than $280 CAD. To enter, simply "like" the Evymama Facebook page. For an additional entry you can also follow Evymama on Twitter. Once you have done that, come back here and tell us in the comments what you have done for your entry(ies)!
The draw will take place via random.org on Friday, August 5, 2011, 9 pm Eastern. Good luck and check back here to see if you're a winner!