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It’s said that a mother’s work is never done. When it comes to moms who also run a business out of their homes, this saying could not ring truer. In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend, we spoke with three Leland-area mothers who run their own companies from home while raising young children, and we asked them just how they manage to make it all work.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Megan Deitz

Lesley Frank Leland NCLesley Frank at Lesley Veronika Photography
www.lesleyveronikaphotography.com

Lesley Frank, owner of Lesley Frank Photography, is a family photographer who focuses on making sure that mothers stay in the picture. “I’ve always had a really positive body image growing up, and my mom was great at instilling that in myself. But I think in today’s society that’s not the norm. I hear all too often that moms don’t want photos of themselves or to be included in the family photos. They just want pictures of their kids because they don’t like the way they look in picture. So that’s been my business model, to change a mother’s way of thinking and encourage people to get those family photos done. Because if not, 50 years from now when looking back, they’re not going to be in any of them, and that’s heartbreaking,” says Lesley.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

“Right out of college I began working for a wedding photographer, but a few years later I decided it would be more profitable to start my on business and go out on my own. I also realized I didn’t like wedding photography as much and wanted to focus on children and families. Being a mom and seeing childhood front and center gave me that push to say ‘you know what, this is what I really enjoy so that’s what I’m going to do.’ Business is great and growing, and it’s just fun. I have families that come to me year after year and it’s fun seeing them grow up throughout the years.”

How do you make it work?

“My husband works retail management, so his hours are all over the place and I can’t rely on him to always be there to watch our daughter. She’s in preschool half days, but it’s still a struggle. Sometimes I just have to say ‘mommy has to work right now,’ and it stinks and I feel guilty, but it’s just one of the downsides of being a work-at-home mom. Whenever my husband is home I try to get work done. I’m actually really lucky, because my parents live nearby so they help out as much as they can, as well as my sister-in-law and her husband. I really rely on family.”

What’s your biggest challenge?

“Well, I work out of my home with my four-year-old and another baby on the way. It’s a challenge every day to get work done when I have clients calling with things that they need, and then I have my daughter vying for my attention as well. She’s too young to understand why mommy can’t play with her. It’s always a challenge.”

What’s the best part about what you do?

“Everyone always says that it doesn’t matter what you do, because going to work is hard on a mother, and being home is hard on a mother. But I get to do both; I get to work and do what I love, but then I also get to be there for my child as well. So I definitely think I have the best of both worlds.”

Ashley O'Connor Leland NCAshley O’Connor at The O’ So Clean Cleaning Service
facebook.com/theosocleancleaningservice/

A Wilmington-area native for over 20 years, Ashley O’Connor is the owner of The O’ So Clean Cleaning Service in Leland. Her housekeeping business currently has three employees, all of whom are mothers themselves. Her company’s objective is to provide a more personal, family-oriented service. “I wanted to take all of the complaints that people might have about other businesses, such as not seeing the same people every visit, and try to make my company different from that. So we will never employ more than four or five people, and we always make sure that clients see the same people over and over. I myself go to every single job. I like to be active and hands-on with the business,” says Ashley.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

“I went to school for a few different things, but nothing really panned out, and then I got pregnant with my daughter and ended up having to drop out of school. My husband was working in law enforcement at the time with crazy hours, so it just wasn’t worth it for me to go back to work, because it would have cost too much for daycare. After about four years at home with her, we financially had to make the decision for me to go back to work. I was so torn because I wanted to be with her but responsibility-wise I had to work. I had this obsession with cleaning, and I thought this would be so perfect. I talked to my husband about it and he was so supportive. So I started off with just one or two houses every couple weeks while my daughter was at school. I never paid for a lot of advertising, everything just spread by word of mouth. After about six months time, the work just took off like crazy and I couldn’t keep up, so I had to hire other people.”

How do you make it work?

“My daughter is still a huge priority for me. She’s always number one. If something’s wrong with her, everything halts. But I love what I do. I love being able to be so active and hands-on with her, and yet still provide for my family. I never work past 6 pm, and I don’t work weekends at all. I devote them to her. When I get home at night I do everything myself. I do the books, I do the emails, but I won’t even touch it until after she goes to bed. I don’t feel like she suffers in any way because she is such a priority. It took a little while to figure out that perfect balance, to figure out how to make it work, but I feel like we are there.”

What’s your biggest challenge?

“I’d say it’s struggling with the guilt portion of things, because you have to sacrifice in some areas. You may not be able to go to every single school party or every single event. You have to prioritize a little bit more, and you can’t always say ‘yes’ as much as you want to. But on the other hand, you know that you have to be able to provide for your family. I think it’s just finding that balance between the two.”

What’s the best part about what you do?

“I think it’s being able as an owner to make the decisions. I can decide that today I am going to go on that school trip, or today I am going to do this or that. Everyone who works for me is a mom, so I think I’m more sensitive to the issues they might have. If their kids are sick, I get it. That stuff happens. I think it’s great that I’m able to see things from a mother’s perspective.”

Brandy Bell Leland NCBrandy Bell at Brandy Bell Design
www.brandybelldesign.com

Brandy Bell, owner of Brandy Bell Design, has been making jewelry for as long as she can remember. A mother to two boys ages 5 and 6, Brandy was born and raised in Leland. Having gotten her BA in studio art and after two additional years of schooling in interior design, Brandy’s love for creating inspired her to take her hobby of making earrings for herself and turn it into a business.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

“My company really launched when I became a stay-at-home mom. Once I had my first son, I decided I would stay home with him and focus on making jewelry, and then when he was three months old I got pregnant with my second son and definitely knew I had to work from home. The business has grown over the past six years, and last year I officially started marketing and doing shows.”

How do you make it work?

“I try to work when my youngest is in preschool, and I try to schedule myself so that I can hang out with my sons but still get orders done and do shows. Everything is handmade. My youngest is my little helper, and he’s always glued to my side. Anytime I’m making stuff he wants to be making stuff. I have lots of earrings he has made for me. My kids are with me all the time, doing inventory at local shops, carrying orders to the mailbox with me to ship out, helping me sort leather by colors, or counting inventory for me. The employees at the craft store even know them by name because we frequent there often.”

What’s your biggest challenge?

“When you work from home, you never really leave it. So trying to balance being a wife, being a mom, T-ball, trying to clean the house, do the laundry, answer social media questions, and still having that time to sit down and hand make orders and new designs. Just balancing it all and not being able to step away and leave the office is the toughest part.”

What’s the best part about what you do?

“Being blessed enough that I am able to stay home and contribute a little financially. Just being able to be there and go to my kids’ school functions and go on field trips. I am very blessed that I’ve been able to do that, because a lot of moms can’t.”

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