Meet seven moms and two dads who live (literally) at work.
1/8Karen Gurwitz, founder of A Conscious Parent, and kids Nika, 9, Sophie, 8, and Ethan, 5
2/8Lisa and Richie Banjany, founders of Confuzzled Cookies, with Cameron and Zoe, 8, and Blake, 6
3/8Teri Karush Rogers, founder of BrickUnderground, and daughter Sophie, 12
4/8Jay Bushara, founder of One Potato, and sons Oliver, 14, and Teddy, 8
5/8Nicki Francis, owner of Khushi Spa, and sons Jamie, 8, and Jackson, 5
6/8Katie Danziger, founder of Nomie Baby, and kids Jake, 17, Jilly, 15, and Josie, 4
7/8Mary Wassner, co-owner of Switchittz, and son Brycen, 2
8/8Michelle Vale, cofounder of Michelle Vale Handbags, with kids Liam, 5, and Charla, 2
By Lambeth Hochwald|
If you race off to the office every morning, there's a good chance your kids don't get what you do all day. But when your files are stacked on the dining room table or in a reconfigured closet, your children not only see up-close what it takes to get the job done, but they may even help out. Here, moms and dads talk about what it's like when every day is Take Your Child to Work Day.
Karen Gurwitz Founder of A Conscious Parent (aconsciousparent.com) Lives in Washington Heights Works in A spare room (with a door) Kids Nika, 9, Sophie, 8, and Ethan, 5 Favorite neighborhood spot The George Washington Bridge. "We cross it all the time. When the kids get to the other side, they feel proud that they've biked or scootered to another state!"
Right after Gurwitz gave birth to her daughter Nika in 2001, the former tech marketer launched Mothers & Menus, a food-delivery service for new moms; from there, she wrote a cookbook and branched into parenting seminars. Gurwitz now spends her days consulting with companies on the best ways to market to moms, coaching other parents, developing recipes and creating parenting-related podcasts. Her family recently moved to a larger apartment in Washington Heights, which means that Gurwitz finally has a home office—complete with a window and a door. The door is particularly significant: Her kids know that when it's closed, she's not to be disturbed. "This doesn't always work," she says, laughing. "I've gotten a note or two slipped under it!" At the same time, Gurwitz makes an effort to involve her children in the business ("Ethan helps me test recipes, and he appears in the podcasts," she says).
Unfortunately, the kids sometimes think Gurwitz works more than she does. "Because I'm in the house and they see me going into my office to work, they think I work all the time," she says. "I try to explain to them that because I'm home, I can spend more time with them."
Lisa & Richie Banjany Founders of Confuzzled Cookies (confuzzledcookies.com) Lives in Staten Island Works in The kitchen Kids Cameron and Zoe, 8, and Blake, 6 Favorite neighborhood spot "Diesel (6372 Amboy Rd at Penton St, 718-967-0137) for their New York--style bagels, but mainly because they sell Uncle Louie G's ices."
In 2005, Lisa Banjany, a New York City schoolteacher, set out to make a homemade treat for her twins' birthday—but the recipe came out completely wrong. "They tasted like a cookie and candy at the same time," she says. "I thought they were odd, but a friend of mine tried them and really liked them. He advised me to think up a catchy name for them right away." Two years later, after making the dessert regularly for parties and holidays (and getting rave reviews from friends and family), Confuzzled was born. (The name, as you might guess, comes from the mixture of confusion and puzzlement people feel as to whether they're eating a cookie or candy.)
Today, Lisa and her husband, Richie, take orders, participate in trunk shows and deliver cookies to the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel in midtown, which stocks Confuzzled Cookies in its mini-bars. "We're making big orders two to three times a week in the kitchen in our house," Banjany says. "The kids put on gloves and assist with packaging. They love helping us close up the boxes before we ship them. This is truly a family business."
Like any good employees, the kids know not to leak the recipe: "Cameron always says, 'We can't tell anyone how to make these.'"
Teri Karush Rogers Founder of BrickUnderground (brickunderground.com) Lives on theUpper West Side Works on A desk in dining room Kid Sophie, 12 Favorite neighborhood spot "Barnes & Noble (1972 Broadway between 66th and 67th Sts; 212-595-6859, bn.com) near Lincoln Center. Sophie cried when she heard it would be closing later this year."
When Rogers, a former real-estate contributor to The New York Times, was covering the industry regularly for the paper, she was surprised by how little information there was online about living in an NYC apartment. In May 2009, she launched BrickUnderground, a site that gives information on buying, selling and renting—from how to ace the co-op board interview to how to deal with dogs in the elevator.
In the afternoon, while Rogers updates content, her daughter, Sophie, sits nearby and does her homework. The seventh-grader is also getting early intern experience: She learned Photoshop at school and now crops any images her mom needs. Sophie also loves having Rogers's actual interns around, and often helps them think of the site's Word of the Week. "She was instrumental in coining the term appitease, which means your neighbors' cooking makes you hungry."
What happens when it actually is mealtime? Rogers clears off her files and sets the table. "I keep my back to the computer and focus on family," she says.
Jay Bushara Founder of One Potato (onepotato.net) Lives on theUpper West Side Works in Living room alcove Kids Oliver, 14, and Teddy, 8 Favorite neighborhood spot "Turtle Pond and the Ramble in Central Park. We ride our bikes all over the place."
A self-proclaimed devotee of children's picture books, Bushara has always loved reading stories to his boys. Now he shares his family's favorite tomes with kids and parents the world over—the dad blogs about kid lit and reviews more than 600 titles on his site.
Two years ago, Bushara, who became a stay-at-home father when his eldest son was born, thought there ought to be an easier way to find top-notch kids' picture books like Dr. Seuss's The Lorax or Garmann's Summer by Norwegian author Stian Hole. And with that, he launched his own business from his living room, partnering with Amazon.com to sell and distribute the books. "I'm still reading some of these books to Teddy," Bushara says. "He troops around with me to the Strand or Barnes & Noble, and both he and Oliver have personally test-driven every book on the site."
What's even cooler is that the boys understand what the business is all about. "They like what I'm peddling," he says. "Oliver takes some comfort in the fact that I like what I'm doing. It's not every parent who can say that with a straight face." The downside? The boys were used to having their dad at the ready to play 24/7 but now there's business to tend to. "They'll say 'Do you want to play ping-pong?' and of course I do," he says. "I don't want to disappoint them, but I also think it's important for them to see me working at something I love."
Nicki Francis Owner of Khushi Spa (khushispa.com) Lives inTribeca Works in A jumbo closet Kids Jamie, 8, and Jackson, 5 Favorite neighborhood spot "We love the golden fried chicken with lingonberries at Blaue Gans (139 Duane St between Church St and West Broadway; 212-571-8880, wallse.com). We always finish off our meal with chocolate lollipops!"
Francis, a former fashion executive, had planned on being a stay-at-home mom once she had kids. But when she found herself with a well-behaved baby who napped during the day and slept through the night, she decided she had the time to indulge her interest in essential oils. For the next two holiday seasons, Francis brewed up soap and mixed scrubs to give as gifts, and in 2004 she began selling her homemade spa products to friends and family. "One day I looked at my spreadsheet and realized I was making money without even trying," she recalls. Later that year, when Francis was pregnant with her younger son, she named her company Khushi—which means "happiness" in Hindi—and launched her website. Today, she sells her products to nearby spas like Sweet Lily and Euphoria Spa and runs a vibrant online enterprise.
Managing a business out of her apartment can be challenging. "I'm constantly juggling," she says. "I've had customers come in to place orders and I'm trying to act all professional while the boys are wrestling and sword-fighting behind the curtain that separates my office from the rest of the apartment." Thankfully, now that her sons are older, they love helping out. "The boys label the bottles or count things into piles," she says. "I'll say 'Get me ten bottles' or 'Help me stick these soaps in these boxes.'" But when she's brewing a balm, which entails standing over the stove melting and pouring ingredients for hours, she'll ship her kids off with her husband so she can focus.
While she's sold to customers as far away as Amsterdam, Francis says her biggest fans are closer to home. "If the boys get a bump or bug bite, they say, 'Mommy, we need your balm.' They even take it to school in their backpacks."
Katie Danziger Founder of Nomie Baby (nomiebaby.com) Lives on theUpper East Side Works in Bedroom and converted hall closet Kids Jake, 17, Jilly, 15, and Josie, 4 Favorite neighborhood spot "We've celebrated every one of Jilly's birthdays at Serendipity3 (225 E 60th St between Second and Third Aves; 212-838-3531, serendipity3.com) since she turned three. We always order the frozen hot chocolate and French toast for dinner."
As a toddler, Danziger's daughter Josie used to get carsick—a lot. After one particularly upsetting trip, Danziger tried to remove Josie's car-seat cover and found it impossible to unthread the straps, let alone wash it. Soon afterward, she went online to look for an easy-to-remove seat cover, but found nothing. So Danziger decided to create one herself. "I thought I'd sell them through a website and start a small-scale enterprise," says the former marketing executive, who along the way got a crash course in fabrics and manufacturing. Today, her company is known for its super-removable and easy-to-clean car seat covers and stroller blankets—they're also reasonably priced. "This became a business accidentally."
While working from home, Danziger tries to focus on one thing at a time—work, then the children. "When I have a really important call, I'll go to my room and close the door," she says. "And when I get off the phone, I'll go be with the kids. That's better than attempting to fulfill an order, answer e-mails, find a coloring book for Josie and coordinate my son's sports practices all at once. That's when things go wrong."
Danziger's kids are instrumental to the company's success—her teens help pick out colors and even write product descriptions. "They'll say, 'Mom, this has too much copy or too little,'?" she says. "And Josie loves helping me unload shipments and stack items by color and size."
They're also very proud of their mom's solo venture: "I was eating lunch with Josie one day when Jilly called to tell me that she had seen a car with one of my creations in it. What was cool was that she thought it was cool."
Mary Wassner Co-owner of Switchittz (switchittz.com) Lives in Battery Park City Works on The couch Kid Brycen, 2, and Brinkley, 1 month Favorite neighborhood spot "Gourmet pizza place Inattesso (28 West St at 1st Pl; 212-267-8000, inattesopizzabar.com) also has a caf next door that serves great homemade baked goods."
Even though Mary Wassner left her product development job at GapKids after the birth of her son, she had a number of entrepreneurial fashion ventures in mind. After meeting Long Island mom Angela Cosentino through her husband, the two decided to partner on an innovative kids' clothing line. Switchittz T-shirts come with removable patches so tots can interact with their shirts and mix and match characters to create different designs. (Currently, you can find the shirts at Yoya and W Hotel boutiques). Wassner uses her couch as the company's headquarters, sketching ideas in her notebook before Brycen wakes up.
And though Wassner didn't plan it this way, Switchittz has been fun for Brycen, too. He was the main model in a recent photo shoot. "He looked adorable," the proud mom says, "even though the shirt was too big on him."
Michelle Vale Cofounder of Michelle Vale Handbags (michellevale.com) Lives in Battery Park City Works in Small home office off the living room Kids Liam, 5, and Charla, 2 Favorite spot in the neighborhood "We hang out at Rector Park(W Thames St at West St) a lot. It's easy to take the kids there on my lunch break—and they love it."
In 2006, Michelle Vale was getting ready to go out for the evening, but when she took a look at her handbag she realized it had gold hardware and she was wearing silver jewelry. "I remember saying to my husband, 'I wish this bag had silver hardware,' and he said, 'Why don't you make one?' I've never forgotten that," she says. Thanks to that conversation, Michelle Vale Handbags—a line of luxe handbags with customized removable hardware—was born. The couple now works on the collection together, divvying up their schedules to make it work. "I get up early and deal with Italy and China and answer e-mails that have come in," she says, saving her designing time for after the kids go to bed. "Luckily we also have family members nearby who can help pick up the slack."
The kids find the business really fun, especially when Vale shows them her python skins to show them. "It cracks me up, too, when Liam says, 'Mom, your bags are on Gossip Girl," she says. And not so coincidentally, Charla has been obsessed with accessories since she was 14 months old. "She'll run to me and hand me gloves, scarves, hats and purses," Vale says. The best part about running her business from home: "I get to be there for all the important moments," she says. "Once they grow up, I'll never get them back."