8 Portland Mompreneurs We Love

From personal organizing to public relations careers, these Portland mamas prove that although running a business and raising kids is no easy feat, it’s totally worth it. We asked these eight enterprising entrepreneurs eight questions and got nothing but inspirational answers back. Click through our album to meet these fascinating women.

Beth Ivester: Woodlawn Swap ‘n Play

Share with us a little about your family.

I have two children, Laney who is almost 6 and Benjamin who is 3. I have been married for 12 years to my husband Dean. We have actually been together since the end of our senior year in high school, dated through college, and got married right after I graduated. Both Dean and I are from Portland, and other than being in Chicago for college, I have always lived in Oregon. It's home and always will be.

What neighborhood/suburb do you live in?

We live in NE Portland, in the Rose City Park Neighborhood. It is funny because we actually live the furthest away from Woodlawn Swap n Play, in comparison to other members. We love our neighborhood, and love Woodlawn! Woodlawn was the best location I found when we wanted to start something a business like this, and the neighborhood seemed like a great fit. Dean and I are good friends with Ryan Saari who started The Oregon Public House, our nest door business neighbor, and we were able to get the storefront spot thanks to him.

Please give a description of your job/business … as you would describe it to a friend.

Woodlawn Swap n Play is a place where families can come play, pass the time, meet other families, and exchange toys and clothes in an effort to reduce how much we buy new for our families. Once you are a member, your family is given the current door code and you can let yourself in and out during our open hours. You can bring food, members can bring a guest for a play date; it is basically one big playroom with toys, books, art supplies, etc. and bins of clothes to take from as much as you need for your kids. I am the only paid employee of the business, and I am only physically in the space three mornings a week. I do the majority of my work from home and am always available for members to ask questions by email and my cell phone. Otherwise, the space is cleaned, cared for, and organized by the members through a co-op job system. Every member family commits to one co-op job that takes about 20 min a week to complete. I really stress that the space is not mine, it really belongs to the members. We all work together to maintain the space and make it a place parents enjoy coming to as well as kids. I see my job as more of a facilitator and coordinator of events, and want to make sure the space feels inviting for everyone.

How long have you had this position, and what did you do previously?
I have been the Director of Woodlawn Swap n Play for three and a half years. In May we will have our 4th anniversary! I can't believe it has been that long already! The space is still developing and changing as I gain more experience and our membership, is always changing and coming up with great ideas to improve. Members drive so much of what the space offers, with members coming and going there always seems to be a newness with the playspace. Before I opened the swap, I was a teacher in North Clackamas School District, I taught third grade and was a k-6th reading specialist, and before that I worked for a small coffee company training new employees. I have a college degree in Business Psychology and a Masters in Education. Over the last three years with running the WSP it feels like those two world have joined together in a very fulfilling way.

Please describe one personal accomplishment that you are proud of.

Running a half marathon with my dad. I have always enjoyed running, but don't have much time for it anymore! Just before I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I fulfilled a goal of mine to run a half marathon with my dad. My husband got on board and also ran, he was a lot faster than I was, and my mom walked the 13 miles. Since having kids, I don't get to have that extended time to spend one-on-one with my parents and am so thankful we had that opportunity. It made me realize that father daughter time is important at any age!

Please describe one professional accomplishment that you are proud of.

The first few months we were open were really hard! We opened in May of 2011, and I had my second child Ben three weeks later in June. That summer we slowly grew as families found out about us and joined, and I was able to begin the journey of how to to manage a toddler, baby and a business! (And, I still am by the way). With a lot of hard work, and an amazing support system (thanks Dean!) our membership was full by the end of October. 100 families strong! We have remained at our full capacity, which is 110 families, other than summertime, for three years and over 450 families have been a part of our space, mission, and philosophy during that time. I can't thank the community enough for their support!

What is your favorite thing(s) to do with your kid(s)?

Our family loves music! My husband is very musical, and that is a big part of our family culture. I would say my favorite activity to do with my kids is go to a concert together and watch them dance, sing and go crazy! Even at home we always have music playing. It is a great release for all of us! I have brought a lot of music to the WSP community through the weekly performances in the Village Ballroom with Mr. Ben, Red Yarn, and Mr. Hoo as well as the Sunday afternoon monthly family concerts.

Any tips on work/life balance. (In other words, how do you DO it?)

I will admit, I am not good at this. I always find myself working! But, that is really because I love what I do and feel so lucky that right now in my life, I get to have this job. I will say it has been easier as my kids are a little older now, with one in kindergarten and one in preschool, I can have some moments during the day alone, to breathe! Motherhood is intense, owning a business is also intense, so finding some time each day to be alone is key, even if it is for 5 minutes. I will tell my husband sometimes I need some "think time" and escape in the house somewhere to process my day, prioritize what I really need to do and what can wait til another day, so I don't lose my mind! And then, I go play with my kids! With all the work I do in a day, I can't forget they are the most important.

Woodlawn Swap n Play
704 NE Dekum St.
Online: woodlawnswapnplay.org

Who’s your favorite momtrepreneur?  Let us know in the comments below!

–Suzie Ridgway


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