Interview with a Mamapreneur: Meet Jennifer Myers Chua of Hip Mommies
Get to know the superwomen in your community in our new series, Interview with a Mamapreneur. We’ll be featuring local entrepreneurs & moms to find out how they run a successful business—and household. This month, meet Jennifer…
1. Tell us about your business.
Hip Mommies is a small, family-run business. (I work with both my husband and my mother.) We are passionate about our product, and are committed to providing Canadian parents with a selection of thoughtfully-designed baby, toddler and pet brands.
2. Tell us about your family.
My husband Joey and I met online a decade ago, and have been married for half that time. We now have a 2 and ½ year-old daughter, Edith, who happens to be on the packaging for a number of our brands, and on promotional material all over the world. Joey is Chinese by way of the Philippines, and I am of German descent. This culture clash works out for us for the most part—although I can’t convince him to like cold breakfasts, and he can’t convince me to like hot.
3. What led you to become a mamapreneur?
When I was a kid, I used to spend hours at my father’s office—moving things around in the warehouse, sorting invoices, designing “signage.” In elementary school, I had a business selling “artisanal” Play-Doh and caramel corn. I also started a babysitting business where I would rep other tween babysitters making sure moms could make one call and be guaranteed a sitter. And I had my own “birthday party entertainment” business too. In high school, I sold yearbook advertising and learned the basics of sewing, which led to the launch of more than one clothing line. When I graduated from university, I opened a design studio which took me to Southeast Asia for a period of time. Life changing! Once I started working in the digital space for television, however, I was all about climbing the corporate career ladder.
One particular Monday, I went into work and was let go in a round of layoffs. Two days later, I was at my going away party and I suddenly didn’t feel so great. By the weekend, I found out I was pregnant. I frantically began to look for another job. At an interview for a Creative Director position, I learned that I’d be expected to work a lot of overtime, and would be involved in some photo shoots from a helicopter. I knew that 60+ hour work weeks and helicopter shoots in maternity jeans were not things I was down for. My husband talked me into becoming partner at his business, which was a decade old at the time. I agreed… but only if I could change EVERYTHING. So I did, and Hip Mommies was (re)born. My own daughter was born a couple of months later.
4. What are your strategies for running a business and a household at the same time?
My strategies are constantly changing. I used to spend my days watching my daughter, and started my work shift when my husband got home from the office. It was too much. I would be working late into the night while juggling breastfeeding and night wakings. It was not a good situation for us. I decided that we needed some help.
Now, we have a wonderful childcare provider who is with us 3 days a week. She watches my daughter and helps with some light cleaning. My girl spends the 4th day with a family member (usually one of her grandparents), and then I have one day home with her for some one-on-one time. We hired staff at the office to cover our 8:30 open and 5:00pm, so we have the opportunity be home for breakfast and then again for dinner. We often hit the computers after bedtime, and it is worth it to spend the time that we do with our child. The thing that took me forever to learn was to let things slide. And to ask for help. I cannot possibly be a good mom, a good friend, a successful entrepreneur, and have a spotless house. So sometimes we move the laundry around for a couple of days, and I have made peace with it.
5. What do you do to de-stress?
In a perfect world, I do some yoga. But it’s more likely that I have a glass of wine in the backyard, or go for a long walk with my daughter. I love hitting coffee shops by myself, and exploring new neighbourhoods on foot. I like to go out for dinner with my husband when we can, and in the summer, we spend as much time at the park as possible. I am going to admit here that I am not doing a great job at taking a break. We are still figuring this out as our business has grown pretty rapidly. It is on my to-do list to book a getaway!
6. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to finding time for yourself?
As an entrepreneur, it is really difficult to turn things off. We work with people in all timezones, so emails come in all hours of the day. We are also notorious for “work-vacations” where we tack a break on to a (business) trip to visit a retailer or supplier. We are always connected. That part is tough. We were also blessed with a very high energy kid that needs constant attention, so getting decent work-from-home time is not really an option. My biggest challenge before was childcare, but now that we have that sorted, it’s really about forcing myself to turn off.
7. What qualities do you look for in a babysitter or caregiver?
I look for someone with high energy who can keep up with Miss E! I also want someone who has 10 or so years of experience with kids, plus CPR and safety training. I need to be able to feel confident that she is safe so that I can truly unwind. So I look for someone I can trust. It also helps if they are fun loving and have a good sense of humour… Because we can be a disaster at times.
8. How often did you and your partner go on “dates” before kids?
Before we became parents, the two of us would go out a lot. We hit the gym together and eat out at least twice a week (those days are long gone). Now, because we work together, we see each other all of the time… but those quality one-on-one dates where we talk and hang out and enjoy each other, those are harder to fit in now.
9. How often do the two of you get out now?
We eat lunch together once a week or so, and try to hang out one night just on the sofa after our daughter’s bedtime. Actually hitting the town? Not including dinners out when we travel, I would say once every 3 weeks or so.
10. What are your top 3 favourite date “nights”?
1. A bike ride and picnic at Tommy Thompson Park. It is a wildlife sanctuary and a really special place.
2. Mid-day coffee and tapas at Bar Raval, my favourite restaurant in the city.
3. Dinner and drinks somewhere newish and exciting like Grey Gardens—we do have our own Edie after all. 😉
About Jennifer Myers Chua
Jennifer is an all round creative type and an Asian-food enthusiast who is obsessed with culinary pursuits and whitespace. She spends her nights pinning and deconstructing recipes in anything but maternity jeans. Jennifer co-owns Hip Mommies with her husband, Joey.
About Hip Mommies
Hip Mommies is Canada’s leading distributor of health and baby products for modern Canadian families. The husband-and-wife team distributes useful, well-made, thoughtful, mom-approved, safe products that are manufactured in a responsible way. They are always looking to partner with suppliers that are good people, supporting good causes, and that are doing business ethically.
This post was brought to you by Datenight Babysitting — Toronto’s leading mobile app connecting parents with experienced, local babysitters — with thousands of dates booked in the GTA.