We’ve all heard mythical tales of the inventor, staying up late into the night, working by candle at the their kitchen table, trying to turn an idea into a reality.
In the case of Elaine Tan Comeau, the myth – except for maybe the candlelight – is true. While working her day job, the former teacher realized that one of the products she used in the classroom to help keep kids organized and focused could easily make the jump to home-use, if only someone would make it.
Like all successful entrepreneurs, Elaine realized that someone was her, and today, after much hard work and a trip to the Dragon’s Den, Easy Daysies is a successful company and their ingenious magnetic schedules enjoy international distribution and recognition.
We interviewed Elaine – the 2014 Canadian Mompreneur Award of Excellence winner – and spoke about life before Easy Daysies, what it takes to make a new venture successful and what the future might hold for Elaine and the company.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
When I was 7, I made my own store off our back porch selling old toys, pet rocks and candy to neighbourhood kids, but I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. My first degree was an Honours Degree in Biomedical Ethics with a Minor in Physiology, and then I received my Bachelor in Education. Who knew that a visual routine I made for my classroom to help create smoother event transitions and lessen anxiety for my students, would one day become a household product brand called Easy Daysies®!?
I love being an Entrepreneur! It is amazing to take a concept that solves a problem and make it become something that helps others while making money at the same time!
I made visual routines for families for free for years and discovered that there was nothing out there like it and decided to make it into a product. So I did extra tutoring and sold crafts that I made to save up for the first $1400 I needed to make my first batch of product. I launched my first product two days after my third baby was born. (Yes, that is true!) I started making and selling them off our kitchen table (and still work there until 3AM most nights). Soon after, it became the #1 Back to School Must Have in Parents Magazine! The orders kept coming in to a point that was beyond what my kitchen table could handle. Then I was urged to go on an investor television show called Dragons’ Den! Excited, scared, and with three little ones in tow, we pitched to the savvy investors and incited a bidding war between all five investors and were blessed to secure both Jim Treliving and Kevin O’Leary as our partners!
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
The best part of owning my own business is being my own boss so I can always be available and present for my children. Easy Daysies allows me to work around my family’s needs. I started Easy Daysies (aside for the parent demand for the product) so that I could work from home and be with my three young children. The wisdom to learn here is to set boundaries for work hours as it creeps in and wants to take over every spare moment! Don’t let that happen!
Can you describe a typical day?
Let me describe today.
5:15AM get up, showered and dressed. I start my day in prayer and a Scripture verse to keep my heart and mind in the right place so that I can uplift others in all that I say and do today. 6:00AM Conference call or Skype meeting for Easy Daysies orders, manufacturers or distributors. 7:15AM Make breakfast for four children (my 6, 8, and 12 year old plus my 13 year old international student living with us). 7:40AM Make and pack lunches while kids eat breakfast and review spelling test words.
8:00AM See oldest daughter off to middle school, get two younger ones to do a 5 minute practice of guitar and piano. Planners are signed and checked and school bags are ready to go. 9:15AM Head home and make myself a well deserved coffee. 9:30AM Podcast Interview for Elaine’s Kitchen Table over SKYPE with an amazing woman in business to share lessons we learn off the kitchen table in business, parenting and life. 11:30AM-1PM Speaker at an event that I skip the lunch at the end because of needing to get back for a school field trip but have enough time to meet and mingle before speaking about 5 Tips to Nailing the Perfect Pitch. 1:10PM Hop in the car and drive over to a community centre near our home to arrange swimming lessons for our four children that could possibly be all within the same time frame so that we are not at the pool for 4 hours each time we have lessons. Find out that I have to come back at 7PM to get our homestay student assessed for her swimming level. 1:24PM arrive at the spray park where my six year old’s class is having a their field trip so that I can play, watch and cheer on the fun and help walk the class back to school. 3PM Greet my 8 year old son and walk home with my 6 and 8 year old. 3:30PM my 12 year old arrives with her gymnastics pal (also in Grade 6). Every one washes hands, has snack and chat time, and starts homework. I start making dinner. 4:45PM I leave to pick up our homestay student from her school that ends at 5PM. Help her with her homework. 5:30PM Finish making dinner (one that is gluten free, egg free and dairy free for our dinner guest) and husband arrives home. Kids play outside. 6PM A quick dinner is inhaled. 6:20PM Hubby drives the girls to gymnastics. I pack the van with the younger kids and our student to go to the pool for the assessment. Swim. 7:15PM I realized that I missed a webinar I signed up for. Oops! But The kids are happy, breathing and alive, so all is good. 8PM Get home and get kids in the bath and shower. 8:30PM Teeth are brushed, and kids are picking stories for bedtime. 8:45PM My 12 year gets dropped off from Gymnastics. Gets a snack and is prompted to take a quick shower. 9PM Family bedtime prayers. My mom taught me when I was little, a family that prays together stays together. <3 My hubby and I divide and conquer and read bedtime stories to the young ones. Kids are all in bed. 9:30PM visit with the hubby and recap. He gets on his computer to start job number two (stock photography… with he loves and is like a hobby that pays) and I am next to him on my computer and continue to work. Tonight I am grateful that I do not have a Skype meeting with overseas manufacturers at 2AM. Can’t wait to go to bed!
Wow! All that between the two of you? Do you have a network of family and friends who can pitch in?
I feel so very blessed that we have a loving family to support us and friends too! My wonderful parents and amazing parents-in-laws have always kindly stepped up to help us when we have to head out of town for trade shows or conferences and local meetings and speaking events I am presenting at. I have the best husband who has two jobs of his own and takes his vacation time to help me with trade shows. I am so very blessed and grateful. I also have a wonderful team of stay-at-home moms that help with Easy Daysies’ online shipping, quality control and packaging.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at home for work? Or vice versa?
I cry every time I get on an airplane for an event and am leaving my family, I often get asked by the passenger beside me if this is my first flight. “Nope. Just a sappy mom missing her kids,” I tell them. I feel sick when I have to leave for a trade show knowing that I am going to miss a dance recital or end of the year concert. I try my best to be there as much as possible and will plan meetings around my kids’ events, even if it means missing an opportunity. I have found that when you are up front and honest about your priorities, you will often get respect and a second opportunity.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
Days off are necessary not only for your family but for your own sanity. It is good to recharge and often when you step away, you will see things more clearly. A day off for me is spent in family time. WE love playing games and cards and having friends over for game night, movie night and lots of food! Family time is good especially if we can enforce no devices (e.g. phones, etc.) unless it is movie night!
Are you active in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I love going into classrooms and sharing with children how they can reach for the stars and make a difference in their world they live in. I love being invited to speak to children and students in local schools and help inspire them to take an idea and make it into something real.
I love coming along side other women and moms in business, so much so that I am launching a podcast called “Elaine’s Kitchen Table … the Business of Real Life” to share lessons learned in business, parenting and life to inspire and encourage moms in business. I am honoured to be invited to local business schools to share what I am learning and honoured to be invited to be a member of the Advisory Board of the Marketing Department of Douglas College. Easy Daysies is honoured to support International Justice Mission, a global organization freeing children from child slavery and child sex trade, as well as fundraising for several organizations improving the lives of children with Autism.
Name another entrepreneur who inspires you.
Nancy Parker, mom of two and a brilliant entrepreneur. Former chartered accountant, now co-founder of Eyebrowz. She is a hardworking, smart woman who started a company from scratch and has made it into a multimillion dollar company distributing globally. Nancy kindly gives her time to mentoring other women in business, giving selflessly of her time and wisdom. I am blessed to know her.
What does the future look like for you and Easy Daysies?
I would like to continue to build G.R.E.A.T.Kids and get kids to empower other kids across the country. I would like to expand Easy Daysies daily visual schedules to help adults and seniors with memory loss issues. I would like to Easy Daysies to expand into as many languages and countries as possible where it would be a benefit to children around the world. This year alone, Easy Daysies will be expanding to Portugal, Australia, and Ireland! I would also like to finish writing and launching a book to coincide with the new podcast.
Any tips for moms thinking of starting a business?
Here are three steps I try to live by in business:
Firstly, I remember that success to me is defined by my children’s happiness, all the time. Family must come first because my priority as a mom is actually “being a mom” to them. I can hire someone to help me with packaging but not to sit in the front row of their Christmas concert, I can wake up a few hours earlier to get work done, but I cannot reschedule their softball tournament to be there to cheer on my number one player! Don’t be afraid to say no and do not be afraid of losing opportunities. When your priorities are right, you will be rewarded.
Any tips for moms thinking of starting a business?
Second, always have integrity in all that you do, especially at the times it is most difficult. Honesty is a quality that precedes your reputation and lingers long after. Admit and acknowledge mistakes and appreciate those who point them out. Business is not ever “just business” because business is about people. The world is small and life is too short to not treat others with integrity, kindness and respect.
Third, dare to dream and dare to do! Your children see you as a role model and how amazing is it for them to see and know your dreams and see and know how you are taking risks to achieve your dreams. No one else is going to do it for you, so figure it out and do it!
FS Local has partnered with the Mompreneur® Showcase Group Inc. (Mompreneurs®) in an effort to share the inspiring success stories of working moms who never gave up on their dreams and embraced the challenges of both owning a business and raising a family.
We feature regular interviews with Canadian moms and explore what it takes to succeed at home and in the workplace.