Julie Cole is an educated woman who had what seemed like a long-term career mapped out in front of her. But, as is so often the case, life presented a challenge to that plan. Faced with a major family change, Julie switched gears and decided to go into business for herself. Over the years, her company – and her family – continued to grow.
I’ve never worked so hard in my life! But there’s so much pride that goes with owning a business and being there to watch it grow and develop.
We interviewed the co-founder of Mabel’s Labels – the cute, washable ID labels endorsed by millions of moms worldwide – to learn how she became a successful entrepreneur while raising a family of six!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I started Mabel’s Labels ten years ago with three family members for a couple of reasons. I had a Law degree and was all set for a career in that field when my eldest child was diagnosed with autism. Monitoring his behavioural therapy became a priority so I wanted to start a business that would allow flexibility and a better work/life balance. At the same time, my partners and I noticed a huge gap in the market.
Whenever I’d get together with my sister, sister-in-law and another relative, we’d notice that toys, bottles and all the other stuff moms and kids carry around kept getting lost or mixed up. We hit on the idea of bringing a new product – durable ID labels – to market. All we’d ever seen out there were names scribbled on masking tape or directly to items and we knew we could do better. Understanding that moms want products that work and look good, we researched materials and technologies to create extremely durable laundry, dishwasher and microwave safe Mabel’s Labels. Our business started out of a basement and has grown to be an award-winning, market-leading company. And I’ve never looked back!
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I love having the flexibility that comes with owning and running my own business. However, flexibility does not get your work done for you. I’ve never worked so hard in my life! But there’s so much pride that goes with owning a business and being there to watch it grow and develop.
Describe a typical day:
There really is no typical day for me. Between six kids and a range of duties at Mabel’s Labels, every day is an adventure. Some days I’m speaking to university business classes or appearing on TV and radio shows, other days I’m in the office writing, at meetings, or performing a host of other “regular” office duties that one does when they own their own business. One thing is for certain – above all else, I’m a Mom. So I always have to be sure to get the kids out the door in the morning for school before I can get to work!
Who do you count on for help? Do you have a network of family that answer the call?
I count on SO many people: family, friends, neighbours and hired help. I’m the car pool queen and really believe that raising a child “takes a village”. I have a wonderful village that supports me. Without it, I could not do all that I do.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at work to make the family work?
Absolutely! But I started this business so that I could have more control over the time I have with my family.
I really don’t have time for the guilt, so I try not to let that weigh me down.
Sometimes I make sacrifices at work, and sometimes at home. I just try to keep things in balance, and when they feel off balance, I make changes.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
What is this “day off” you speak of? [icon name=”icon-smile”]
What does the future look like?
I literally take my life one day at a time. It’s a survival tactic! Having said that, the executive team at Mabel’s Labels does a lot of long term planning, including plans for product roll outs and partnerships. We always need to be thinking ahead and making strategic decisions.
Are you active in your local MOMPreneur community?
I mentor many MOMpreneurs, write articles, offer information sessions and am a judge for the MOMpreneur Award of Excellence. So in short, yes!
Name another MOMpreneur who inspires you:
There are so many – if I name one, I’ll offend half of my friends! But, I will say I love the work Lara Galloway does as the Mom Biz Coach. She coaches moms who run businesses and she’s very effective.
Any tips for mom’s thinking of starting a business?
Don’t be afraid to pick people’s brains and find a mentor or two. I am regularly called by women seeking advice on how to get started or grow their business and in sharing with them, I often learn something new too. I’ve seen many businesses grow from often simple ideas or ways to make or do things better. If you’ve identified a problem or product missing from the market, you’re half way there!
Also, remember that it’s important that other people have a chance to be entrepreneurial within your business. Letting go takes practice but is vital. You need to let go of the day-to-day duties of running the business so you can concentrate on strategically growing the business. Delegating helps free up time to get out there, read, talk to people, network, speak about your passion and be a thought leader in your industry!