Empress Avenue chats with mompreneur Christine Poirier, Momzelle co-founder, who was chosen by Elle Québec (Issue of March 2010) as Women of the Year, alongside Julia Child, Sonya Sotomayor and Lady Gaga! She was also chosen to appear on CBC’s Dragons’ Den where Brett Wilson said of Christine, she is “one of the brightest entrepreneurs that I’ve seen on the Den” (March 8th 2010). So how did Christine become such an entrepreneurial success? She explains that it all started with a need to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public after the birth of her daughter Cécile. Nine months later her brother Vincent, saw the potential of the Momzelle nursing top and together they co-founded the business. Momzelle was born!
- Tell us about yourself? –I’m a very outgoing and sociable person with a positive outlook on life. My daughter Cécile just turned five and her father and I equally share custody. This allows me to appreciate every little moment that I spend with my daughter as well as to have time on my own. I live in Montreal but jump on the plane about once a week to New York, Toronto or Tokyo, for fun and for work. I feel extremely lucky! Momzelle was founded after the birth of Cécile. I had made a nursing top for myself in order to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. Helping mothers feel good about breastfeeding in public has become the mission of Momzelle.
- What do you love about being a mom and mompreneur?-As a mom, I love that I get to help a little one develop and become independent. Being successful at running my own business gives me the confidence that my daughter truly has no limits. As mompreneurs, we set an example of self-reliability and confidence.
- Describe your business in 15 words.-Momzelle helps mothers feel good about breastfeeding in public by designing and selling stylish nursing wear.
- Where do you get your inspiration for your products?-I get my inspiration for styles and colours through my travels, by looking at street fashion and by attending trend forecasting seminars. We also ask our customers for input and listen to their recommendations in order to always improve our products.
- What are three items you always have in your purse? –Red lipstick, passport, emergency phone numbers.
- Tell us about your biggest success? –The biggest success was probably receiving an apologetic call from the Facebook Public Relations department, telling me that they were receiving calls from journalists all over the world asking why our Facebook business page had been taken down (they never gave me the reason, but chances are the page was flagged for obscenity for having photos of breastfeeding). They apologized and put the Facebook page back up that same day. I had no idea this dramatic experience would turn into a successful one. I think that we should all be very proud of standing up for ourselves and for others when something wrong happens. The strength of the support that I, and all nursing moms, received during the two days while the page was down, was simply incredible and extremely inspiring.
- How would you describe your typical workday?-9 to 5, while my daughter is in daycare is when I get to work! My brother and I share all the strategic decisions about Momzelle and we split the daily chores like this: he does the finance and logistics side while I take on most of the creative work and the marketing side.
- How do you juggle it all? –I try not to take anything too seriously. I can’t do more than my best so I let go of things that I can’t control.
- What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects about being your own boss? –Most rewarding: the feeling of accomplishment. Most challenging: knowing that this feeling is fleeting. Knowing that if I do work well and follow my plans, I will achieve my goals. Receiving compliments from moms, telling me that Momzelle has improved their lives is very motivating and makes me want to do more. I am now working on developing the best nursing bra possible. It’s my current big goal.
- How do you recharge? –I don’t feel guilty about having a pleasurable life. I go out as much as I can when my daughter is not there and I recharge with quiet evenings at home when she is, going to bed at 8 or 9.
- What is your guilty pleasure? –I love going to New York City and buying a new dress by Anya Ponorovskaya at Girl Cat on Elizabeth Street on every trip!And what is your go-to-outfit?- My go-to outfit would be a black pencil skirt with a draped neck top.
- What item can’t you live without? –I can’t live without story books. I read to my daughter for at least 30 minutes every day and we have the best time imitating voices and imagining new worlds.
- What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a mompreneur? –Get a mentor and have a successful business person read over your business plan. The most valuable lesson I have learned as a mom so far is to listen to yourself and do what feels right for you.