On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the contributions of the women who’ve helped make us who we are. But what if we celebrated their quest for balance instead? For so many working moms, the challenge of handling both home and business is no mean feat. Some may see themselves as full-time mom/full-time business person, others as part-time mom/part-time business person. But all are constantly in pursuit of balance—one they may not always feel they achieve.
Working moms Carol Littman and Kelli Katch don’t have all the answers for finding this balance. But as entrepreneurs who’ve raised a business and their families, they do have a few decades of experience. The Basket Lady is living proof.
Says COO Kelli, “Customers are often surprised to learn that The Basket Lady isn’t just a huge warehouse in the middle of nowhere. My mom started the business, and as a mom myself, I’ve helped her grow it.”
Kelli and Carol selling baskets at Rices' Country Market circa 1995.
In fact, you could say The Basket Lady is the “other baby” of these two hardworking, creative moms. While raising their own children, they’ve nurtured the business from a country market stand to the world’s largest importer of eco-friendly home baskets at near wholesale prices. Along the way, they’ve learned a thing or two about balancing work and family.
The import business, as it turns out, has always run in their blood. Carol’s own father, Henry Netter, ran a home goods import business that supplied major department stores and even Hallmark. “His warehouse was an amazing place filled with everything from Italian ceramics to Spanish glass to Indian brass and, of course, wicker baskets,” recalls Kelli. Like her mother, Kelli began working for her grandfather as a child. She still has a notebook full of sales she recorded as a teenager.
When Kelli was ten, her mom had the idea to sell her father’s extra baskets at private parties. This led to a weekly stand at country markets. Suddenly, Carol was a full-time mom with a part-time business—with her daughter as her natural assistant. Kelli spent market days alongside Mom, learning the business of retail and entrepreneurship. They ran the enterprise out of their house, with their garage and basement as their very first warehouse. Kelli watched firsthand as Carol found her own way into balancing motherhood and business.
By high school, Kelli was running “Kelli’s Closeout Corner”—a stash of overstocked baskets at discount prices. Each week, she’d figure out what Mom had too much of, how much to price the stock, and what percentage of sales were hers. “It taught me how to be a salesperson and run a business,” Kelli recalls. “Working for my mom, I earned enough money to buy half of my first car.”
After college, Kelli launched a career in aerospace, but after seven years in a traditional setting, she felt the itch to do something more creative. By now, her mom’s one-day-a-week market business had transformed into an online store with growing sales. Kelli loved the flexibility and creativity the online model could provide, allowing her and her husband to start their family.
And so another working mom was born.
In 2009, Kelli joined The Basket Lady formally. By 2011 she was mom to a miniature dachshund named Cooper and her first son, Felix. And her decision to pursue this more flexible career proved valuable. Felix spent six weeks in NICU after birth.
Kelli recalls, “Suddenly, my full-time job was going to the hospital. While Felix napped, I’d work on The Basket Lady on my laptop.” From there, Kelli pursued full-time work and full-time motherhood with gusto.
She soon realized, however, that being a “full-time everything” just wasn’t possible. As Felix grew, so did the business. Kelli found herself stretched thin. When Felix went to school, she decided to treat The Basket Lady more as a 9 to 5 job, which—she sheepishly notes—isn’t really 9 to 5. “An online business never is. Even at the holidays, I’m working and celebrating.”
Since Kelli’s second son Xavier was born, she’s found more ways to balance her two lives. She has established a home office in a separate area of her house. After enjoying the morning with her sons, Kelli heads to work just as if her office were outside her home. She’s noticed that by physically separating her lives as mom and COO, her sons are less confused about why she is still home, but can’t play with them at certain hours.
“At 5 PM, I go upstairs and make dinner with my kids,” she says. “I do bath time with them, and bed time. I find a way to satisfy both my brain and my heart. Some days are easier than others.”
Kelli says her attempts to balance life and work are similar to that of many clients of The Basket Lady, who are working mothers themselves. Together they share a passion for organization and discipline as a way to thrive in the working mom lifestyle. The baskets themselves help working moms keep their homes beautiful and tidy, and as a result, feel more balanced.
But for all this, the challenge of balancing work life and mom life continue. Kelli reserves all her weekends for family time, and manages her daytime hours so she can spend at least part of the day with her boys—habits she learned first from watching her own mom, Carol, walk that line between business and home.
And perhaps that’s what makes The Basket Lady so special. “We’re actually human beings, not a soulless box store,” Kelli says. “Many customers are surprised to find out there are real people with real lives behind this online operation.”
Whether as full-time moms/full-time business owners—or part-time moms/part-time business owners—this dynamic duo are always finding new ways to balance business with family.
And that’s the most important business of all.
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