Thursday, May 30, 2013

Our Next Featured Sponsor: Greenberries!!

feels like yesterday!
Certain things ya just never forget.  Like when your fiance proposes.  Or when Uncle Eddie has too much drink and knocks over the Christmas tree.  Or, when you find out for the first time that you're expecting...and then find out that one of your closest friends is, too.  :)

Momentous events like these call for all the surrounding details to be remembered also.  Why?  Because they're just worth keeping and fondly recalling.  They make life more beautiful, more interesting, and more delightful.

And I remember this:  Shortly after the squeals and yelps simmered down from Britta and I announcing to each other that we were both pregnant and due within just a few weeks of each other, she then exclaimed:  "Oh my goodness, Lisa, you HAVE to get down here and visit Greenberries!"

I had no idea what Greenberries was at the time, but going there was definitely a mandate.

Yes, way back then was when she told me, with all the enthusiastic insistence that a BFF can muster.  Greenberries was the baby boutique, and it was absolutely worth driving 2 hours to, she explained.  Yes, ma'am.

And she was right.  The moment I walked into the shop, my jaw dropped and my happy little hands started grabbing!  Whoever was stocking those shelves, I realized, was after my own heart.  :)

Greenberries is an upscale, eco-chic children's and maternity consignment boutique located in Columbia, Maryland (and also online for all you non-Maryland mommies).  But also in the mix are tons of brand new things, handmade things, organic treats, one-of-a-kind gifts, and essential gear.  This place is my Cloth Diapering Central, and there's even a play area to drop off your kids while you get your shop-on.

But Greenberries isn't just a shop; it's a veritable workshop of sorts, where you can go for a free class on breastfeeding or cloth diapering or baby sign language.  There's cooking classes for making baby food, how-to lessons on potty training, and even hands-on training for babywearing!

Events are happening constantly here, and it was in this shop that Liam and I were part of the Great Cloth Diaper Change of 2013, where we set a new world record!  I blogged about that fun Spring day here.  Gosh, that was so much fun.

So, after several happy trips to this store, the girls at Greenberries came to know me as that face from far away who keeps coming back.  And I finally got to meet and interview Rachel, the savvy business owner and mama of four, who's truly rocking out her entrepreneurial dreams.

Boy, did I enjoy this interview; it was so insightful into the mind of a very successful business woman!  I love Rachel's approach and philosophy.  Here's what was said:

1.  First, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family!   

I grew up in an Air Force family, moving every few years until the age of 8, when we settled in Silver Spring, MD.  I’ve lived here in the area ever since, attending University of Maryland, and working in Washington, DC and suburbs.  I am one of a few true “locals” around.  I did have a chance to travel internationally with my family, as my dad attended and spoke at medical conferences, and the travel bug never left me.  I studied and worked abroad, and I explored extensively.  I now live in Columbia, MD, with my two kids, Sophie (7) and Jack (5), my husband, and two step kids, Ashley (18) and Bryce (14).  Prior to having kids, I had much more time to pursue varied interests.  Photography is a passion, as well as playing tennis, golf, softball, and racquetball.  Now I get to walk and run with my dog for exercise, with little time for sports, and I get to photograph my kids, which is sheer joy.  One day I will once again go biking, hiking, listen to live music, and immerse myself in new cultures and languages.  I taught adult ESOL for several years and it was by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.  These folks are striving to assimilate into our community, working 3 jobs, and struggling to accomplish the basic tasks.  I’d love to do more. 

This adorable, solid-wood refrigerator is one of my faves!
2. Next, tell us how your business came to be! Who inspired you? How did your talents develop?  
I've always wanted to become an entrepreneur and own my own retail store.  I am not sure who inspired me other than perhaps my grandfather, who successfully ran a poultry market and later, a Dunkin' Donuts.  :)  I knew I wanted to continue my education in Business, and so I continued onto grad school a few years after receiving my B.S. in Human Resources Mgmt.  My MBA focused on services marketing and management, and the underlying basis that empowering and rewarding employees gives them a sense of ownership and creativity that brings customers back again and again.  This has stayed with me and has been the underlying premise of my success thus far.  

Each staff member at Greenberries has a specialty.  Whether she's a babywearing expert or a cloth diapering guru, you're bound to learn a lot.

In the following years, I worked for several technology start-ups and subsidiaries of large companies, such as the online division of The Washington Post, the research division of M&M Mars, Inc., a new Education division of Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet), as well as and  In each of these HR roles, I worked closely with the CEO or division head, working long days, hiring the best talent around, laying off when growth outpaced profits, and striving to stand out from others in the industry.  I have to say Liddy Manson is my biggest inspiration, with whom I worked at two companies, and she now runs her own technology startup.  She taught me about perseverance, trusting your gut, multi-tasking, the value of delegation, and retaining a sense of humor, all essential skills to develop while running your own business.

In 2008, HR and recruiting jobs were being cut, so I began to develop a business plan as a back-up.  It had to be the right business in those difficult economic times, so my home furnishings idea was put to rest, and children’s consignment was born.  There was nothing like it in our town of Columbia, and I knew there was the demand.  We started small, in a 500 square foot space, and business took off.  After 2 years, we were bursting at the seams, wanted to offer additional classes, and needed to be more central and visible, so we made the move to our current 2400 square foot location.  Sales doubled immediately and it’s been the best decision I’ve made.

3. What difficulties did you have to overcome in order to be at the point where you are today? In other words, what or who helped you to “keep on keeping on”?

I would say the most difficult part of this process has been the work/life balance and trying to figure out if the time I am spending with my kids is enough.  It’s constant guilt and doubt, and there’s not a lot I can do to remedy these feelings.  I do look to my kids for indication.  

They are doing well in school, have a wonderful spirit and curiosity, and are healthy and active.  I love playing sports with them and going to their games.  We read and draw together.  

And my job allows me to chaperone field trips, be home for both the morning and afternoon buses, and take vacation with them whenever I desire.  I just need to continue to close the laptop when they ask me to play, as they will always be most important.

4. Lastly, what is most rewarding about your business?

There are so many rewards about running my own business that it is hard to narrow it down.  It’s still surreal to see how Greenberries has grown over the years, in directions that I could not have imagined.  It feels good that we have so many long-time, loyal customers that we’ve come to know well over the years.  We’ve watched them grow bellies, have helped them with carriers and cloth diapers, and other necessities, and now help them pick birthday gifts for their sprouting little ones and friends.  It’s truly become a "GB" community, and that’s what feels most wonderful.  I always envisioned a place where families could come, hang out, meet others, and have some fun playing and shopping.  We are there, and one day we will add a café, to come full circle!

I’ve made so many contacts in the region, including other mompreneurs, SAHM crafters,  community leaders and bloggers, and local politicians.  My staff has been wonderful and I am so lucky to have so many creative, expert, funny mamas working for me, including my own mama!   I love that my kids are growing up with the business and picking up the entrepreneurial spirit as well.  Finally, what is most rewarding are all the positive comments we receive in the store, through testimonials, and in reviews.  Our customers truly appreciate what we do for the community, for their families, and for the earth. 

                                                                             *      *      *

Rachel, you are awesome.  You inspire so many of us women!

Greenberries is located at 6925 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia, MD and has been voted the best consignment store in 2010, 2011, and 2012 by the readers of Maryland Family Magazine and Howard Magazine.

Check out the company website at, their blog here and their Facebook page here.  Orders can be placed by calling them at 410-290-6253.  You can also follow Greenberries on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, too.

Readers of this blog can enjoy 20% off their first purchase by using the code "FAMILYLIFE."

Plus, I've got a FREE GIVEAWAY for you!  Be the 10th person to email me at and you'll score a $25 gift certificate to use in the Greenberries store or online!  One entry per family, please.