Combining Motherhood and Business Savvy, Anchorage Woman Redefines "Stay-At-Home Mom"
Entrepreneurship meets parenting at Green Kid Crafts
Shown at left: Penny Bauder and daughter Rowan
ANCHORAGE – In another life, Penny Bauder spent her days paddling through Tongass National Park, studying the beauty around her.
She worked as a wilderness ranger, a scientist and then an environmental planner in Chugach State Park until everything changed three years ago. When her daughter Rowan was born, Bauder said she decided to move on to another calling.
“It became really important to me to spend time with my kids,” she said. “So, I quit.”
For a while, the mother of two said she tossed around the idea of returning to a traditional career. Her husband still worked as environmental educator, and she had never lost her love of nature. Then, she had an epiphany.
“I had this great idea, and it just kind of blossomed and went from there,” said Bauder, who founded her home-based small business roughly a year ago. “At this point, it’s just perfect because I’m able to marry my love of the environment and creativity and my kids.”
Green Kid Crafts delivers environmentally friendly craft kits to 130 subscribers every month, and Bauder said the transition from wilderness ranger to stay-at-home mom to full-fledged entrepreneur happened in the blink of an eye. She first conceived the idea after searching fruitlessly for a similar product for her own child.
“The subscription market is kind of booming right now, there are all these boxes people can order, from beauty products to health foods, and so it’s kind of becoming a really big thing,” she said. “So, I researched it and didn’t find anybody else doing what I wanted to do: I really just saw a market there.”
A month later, she had a business license. A month after that she had developed a business plan, and several months later, she metaphorically opened her doors for business. The craft boxes, designed for children aged 2-8, included everything from windsocks and chimes to puzzles and puppets,
“I feel really empowered with starting my own business, and in a lot of ways running a business isn’t that much different from running a household,” Bauder said Wednesday from her tidy South Anchorage duplex. Her son Declan, now six months old, sat on the floor at her feet, cooing and rummaging through a bin of toys.
Only a year into operations, the business has already seen unprecedented growth. According to the Alaska Small Business Development Center, many small businesses don’t begin to see a profit until at least five years in to operations, but Bauder said her company was already breaking even just a year in.
In fact, the company had even expanded to include a part-time employee, another stay-at-home mom Bauder tasked with assembling the craft boxes for distribution every month. The extra pair of hands gave Bauder a chance to focus on developing the business side of Green Kid Crafts, and she said she was planning on taking a profit mastery class at the business development center to continue building on her brainchild.
The growth has already been exponential. Bauder said customers have been doubling nearly every month recently, and she hoped to attract 1,000 monthly subscribers by the end of the year. Notably, she said she spends very little on advertising.
“Being plugged into the mom community here, there was a lot of word-of-mouth that happened initially,” Bauder said. “That helped us to grow.”
She said the business still relies heavily on customer recommendations and an 11-parent advisory committee formed to test and give recommendations on craft box ideas. Besides plans to partner with 40 “mommy blogs” this month to spread the word about her business, Bauder said she’s considering capitalizing on the momentum with an affiliate program, offering commissions to customers in exchange for new business.
The word-of-mouth system is paying off: Green Kid Crafts was the 2012 recipient of the Startup Nation Leading Moms in Business Competition.
“I just kind of feel like any woman, any stay-at-home mom who has an idea can make it happen,” Bauder said.