Meet 10 Bay Area Business-Owner Mothers

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Waffles and champagne in bed. A (long) nap. Maybe even a massage. These are all good ways to spend Mother’s Day. Another way to celebrate this occasion is by supporting Bay Area small businesses run by some of the coolest moms around. Take a look at how these women balance creative careers and kids.

photo: Petit Collage

Lorena Siminovich of Petit Collage

If you’re a parent there’s a very high probability that your respective child has a toy from Petit Collage. Founded by Lorena Siminovich some 12 years ago in San Francisco, the eco-friendly line has grown to include wonderfully graphic puzzles, wooden toys, coloring and sticker books, backpacks, lunch boxes, cool crafting kits, soft organic baby toys and much more. Her nine-year-old daughter has grown up watching her mom design this dream line of toys but now this little observer is beginning to turn the tables. “Matilda has been a muse from the start, participating in product testing, endless photoshoots, and always giving creative feedback,” says Siminovich. "Now she is proposing products for us to make! She is definitely the inventor type.” Who can blame her, in addition to her mother’s creative toy line, her father owns and curates one of the Bay Area’s coolest toy stores, Mapamundi Kids in Noe Valley. While Siminovich hopes Matilda will consider entrepreneurship as a possible career path, she has a feeling that’s not too far off. "Last week she brought a notebook to the flea market, that said something like cost/improvements/profit, so I get the feeling she already got the bug.”

Jen Garrido of Jenny Pennywood

Fine artist, owner of the incredible home textile line Jenny Pennywood and also the co-founder of the clothing line SEE SUN. As is that weren’t enough, Jen Garrido is also the mother to Jemma, 7, and nine-month-old Juna. What’s her secret? The San Francisco resident says having kids has made one thing clear: “I don't have time to dilly dally,” says Garrido. “I have to be focused in order to get things accomplished. A good, clear to-do list is always a must or else I feel like I am floating in the wind.” And while her daughters are still quite young, they’re already helping their mother in more ways than they may realize. “In small ways they serve as fit models sometimes, but in a larger way, they serve as inspiration to create a flexible and profitable business just so I can be with them as much as possible.” As for what she hopes they get out of the deal, simply the knowledge that with hard work they can accomplish whatever they choose.


Kris Galmarini of Neve and Hawk

Kris Galmarini is the owner and designer behind Neve and Hawk, an ethically-made surf-inspired lifestyle brand for families with a shop in Marin County’s San Anselmo. Mother to Neve, 10, Shepard Hawk, 7 and Sebastian, 1, Galmarini and her husband Bob started their business by turning their bedroom into a screen printing room, where they would work once their children were tucked in bed at night. "Fast forward six years and we now have grown that brand into something really special,” says Galmarini, who designs and sells clothing for women, men, children and infants. “Functionally, I want to design something that can grow with a child if possible or be worn multiple ways for more wear. Ethically, I want to design something that takes up the least carbon footprint to help keep our planet nice for my kids and their kids.” And speaking of her kids, they are no longer sleeping on the job. (Well, the eldest two, at least.) Once school is out, Neve and Shepard pop over to the shop, where they help clean, organize and even assist in all-ages screen printing classes, among other creative workshops. “I just hope they look back on growing up in our store with fondness,” she says. “We want to raise our children to have street smarts, empathy and grit—humans that can be faced with challenges and tackle them head on, not shy away.”

Lisa Wong Jackson of Morning Tide Shop and Good on Paper

Lisa Wong Jackson had been running a successful graphic design business called Good on Paper for more than a decade when last year she decided to dip her toes into retail, too. The shop she co-owns in downtown Albany is called Morningtide—a lifestyle shop that features locally and or handmade homewares, clothing, toys and yummy treats. While life with kids (Lucas, 8 and Theo, 5) forced her to shift the priorities of her graphic design for more work/life balance, her boys are also influencing her latest venture. “With Morningtide, my kids inspire me to choose products for our shop that I would own in my own home,” says Jackson, whose father owned a shoe store where she dreamed of playing store. “I think having the kids at the shop occasionally gives our business a family vibe that’s positive, fun and inviting,” she says. Her boys are learning to make their mark on the shop, too, based on some skills they’ve no doubt picked up from their cool mom. “Theo pretty much designed the Morningtide logo. One day he was practicing writing the letter ‘m’ over and over on a piece of paper on the floor. I told him to keep doing it and soon I had a bunch of versions that I scanned and cleaned up on my computer.” Meanwhile, Lucas is killing it in the customer service department. “Lucas loves to come in the shop, greet customers and occasionally ring them up. Inserting their credit card is his favorite part.”

Lisa Milestone of Pippa & Co.

Lisa Milestone has been helping local parents up their birthday party game since she opened her first shop Pippa & Co. more than four years ago in Alameda, followed by a second last year in Berkeley. Brimming with the best modern balloon bouquets, as well as giant balloons decorated with colorful tissue tassels, her well-curated stores are packed with the goods for every festive occasion—think banners to paper goods as well as fun favors right on down to the sparkling candles. Mom to Tycho, 7, and Pippa, 5, Milestone says the idea came naturally. “The entire concept and idea for my shop came from throwing parties for my kids so they were definitely the inspiration,” says Milestone.“ As they've gotten older, their love of balloons and decorating has only reinforced the family business.” But the best part is what her kids are leaving the shop with. “My hope is that they see their mom having it all; the family, the happy home and a thriving business.”

Audrey Smit of This Little Street

People always ask product designer Audrey Smit, founder of This Little Street how she does what she does with four girls. “And I don’t know,” says Smit. “It’s almost that I have so much more energy with them around. They bring so much life and beauty, and yes, let’s be honest, mess too, to our lives. It’s a happy mess, and I love it that way.” Smit’s office is based in a sunny nook turned office in the family’s Berkeley home (outfitted with enough chairs for her daughters to sit alongside her) where she designs whimsical floral wallpaper as well as rompers and dresses adorned with foxes, acorns and budding florals. She credits her girls Olivia, 8, Madeline, 7, Freia 4, and Penelope 2 for upping her creativity.  “I have always been a creative person, but seeing life through their eyes has made me want to bring a new new magical universe to life. Hence my outburst of inspiration to design new clothing collection. I even just launched a new, super whimsical travel book series for kids. My girls are a constant source of inspiration for my work.”

photo: Meghan Shimek

Meghan Shimek

If you’ve ever coveted a cozy wall hanging that you spotted on Instagram or Pinterest, chances are it was made by Meghan Shimek. The Oakland fiber artist uses a beautiful, raw, thick wool called roving to create the colorful and texture-rich pieces. Meghan’s inspiration for starting her business actually came after her son Grey, now 6, was born. "I don't think I ever would have pursued art professionally if it hadn't been for him,” says Shimek. “Watching him as a baby and how everything was a new experience, it opened up my eyes that the world, and my life, didn't have to follow the mold I had made for it. I think there is a lot of playfulness in my work and that comes from having an active and curious child.”

photo: Oaktown Spice Shop

Erica Perez of Oaktown Spice Shop

“Our kids have yet to fill a single spice jar, but they love to raid our cinnamon stick supply and play ‘shop’ while we work,” says Erica Perez, who co-owns Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland and Albany with her husband, John. “They also taste all of our recipes during development, although usually the verdict is, ‘too spicy!' Seriously, though, if I make a recipe that pleases their palates and ours, I know it'll work for other families, too.” Spicy food aside, what pushed Erica and John to expand goes back to their kiddos, Lusia, 4, and Rafa, 2. “So having children, and wanting to spend time together as a family, pushed us to grow our business so that it could be managed by others on nights and weekends. That was a key step in making it possible for us to continue to grow the business in other ways.” And while they may not be on the spice jar assembly line quite yet, Perez hopes they are building memories of the spice shop, from the huge sacks of peppercorns to all those cinnamon sticks they’ve consumed, that will last a lifetime. “Of course they will no doubt remember the aroma of the shop, our car, our clothes, our hair—everything! I also hope they feel empowered to pursue their ideas in unconventional ways and to take calculated risks.”

photo: Over the Ocean

Birgit Sfat of Over the Ocean

Birgit Sfat, founder of the Over the Ocean, a concept store for European design for families, started her business three years ago as a means of creating a flexible schedule to spend time with her daughter, Milla, 9. “Since I curate children’s clothes and toys, she is also my inspiration for the brand selections,” says Sfat, who works from a chic and cozy basement office inside their San Francisco home. “My girl has always been a wild one and I know how important it is that she feels comfortable. Our children's clothes are well-made pieces that need to stand the test of time and play and I would never sacrifice comfort for style.” Millia has also become quite involved in the family business, from assisting with art direction at photo shoots to order fulfillment and everything in between. “She loves to help me unpack collections and wrap orders. She tells me to also order bikinis and not only swimsuits. On our backyard pop-up shop event (May 4-5) she will make a lemonade stand for our little customers.”

photo: Bella Vita

Jennifer Viale of Bella Vita

Jennifer Viale is the owner of Oakland boutique Bella Vita, which carries locally-made toys and frocks for women and children, mixed among a perfect hit of vintage furniture and accessories. Mother to 12-year-old Olivia, being a small business owner has its benefits: “I work hard but I'm also able to make my own schedule. I love that I'm able to drop my daughter off at school and pick her up,” says, Viale, who opened the College Avenue shop 18 years ago. Having practically grown up in the shop, Olvia now helps around the shop on weekends and after school. “She has great input and she is amazing with customers.” But beyond the rad consumer relations skills Olivia has gleaned, Viale hopes what she learning will go beyond the shop. “I want her to know she can accomplish anything she wants,” says Viale. “I want her to be a strong, independent young lady.”

Do you support any local mom businesses? Share their links below!

—Chantal Lamers