Last month I went to Club MomMe’s Fall Fest. It’s essentially a trade show for parents. The halls of the Bel Air Bay Club and its great lawn were filled with the latest and greatest in kid and baby products.
There were also discussion panels on family-related topics. I nestled into a seat for the Mom Entrepreneurship panel moderated by Today Show producers Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner (authors of the hilarious book Sh*tty Mom). Panelists included Tamara and Tia Mowry, Samantha Ettus, Jenni Pulos, Andrea Barrett and Wendy Bellissimo. Everyone shared something that got my creative cogs turning. But it’s Wendy Bellissimo’s story I’ve been thinking about every day since.
In 1994 Wendy Bellissimo worked as an interior designer in an LA store. Sometimes she was asked to throw out old fabric swatches, but instead she saved them. They were too pretty to toss. One day she was told not to come in on Monday— they were going out of business. Suddenly unemployed, Wendy went home and made a few throw pillows for her couch out of those fabric swatches. Her friends loved them. Her husband encouraged her to make more and sell them to local stores. So she did— she dragged 30 pillows around town in a black hefty bag. At the end of the day she had sold 29 of the 30 pillows. And the orders started rolling in. One pillow (and one supportive partner) led to Wendy designing nurseries for celebrities like Brooke Shields, Denise Richards and Kelly Ripa.
But at the height of her career, Wendy’s daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She endured 46 weeks of triple chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation to her head. Devastating. Days went by and Wendy couldn’t get into the shower, never mind into her office. But they got through it. Her daughter is now cancer free and Wendy Bellissimo and is back to work and her products are available everywhere.
Save for the daughter getting cancer part, I love everything about Wendy’s story— the theme of making something from nothing, the power of supportive loved ones, rising from the ashes… But the daughter getting cancer part is the reality. Life happens. Are we prepared? How will we handle it?
My husband is the family breadwinner. But what if my husband leaves me? (not that he would), or what if a piano falls on his head? (not that we live in a Bugs Bunny cartoon) but you know, what if?
I love being a stay-at-home mom but my kids are at an age where I’m starting to think about what’s next. This panel of successful women inspired me to think big and to start with what I know.
I’ve always loved the art of presentation and playing with patterns. As I was sewing these simple linens to dress up our Thanksgiving table, I thought, maybe I could sell these sets. Maybe these are my Wendy Bellissimos.
Do you have a Wendy Bellissimo idea ready to be dragged around town in a hefty bag?
What are we waiting for?