After Baby, Tapping Her Inner Entrepreneur

By Elizabeth Kim
The Stamford Advocate, Conn.

Not long after the birth of her son Brian last year, Liz Joy came to a monumental decision. Like so many others, motherhood had brought on a career crisis that also led to soul-searching.

During her early 20s she had climbed the career ladder in human resources, working at a law firm in New York City.

More recently, she moved back to Stamford, landed a position at an energy company in the city and got married. Now, the idea of juggling family and a corporate career didn’t sit well with her.

“I did love my job,” she said. “But I knew I always wanted to be my own boss.”

The answer, she discovered, lay just at her fingertips. Back in 2009, Joy started a blog about interior design. The hobby quickly morphed into a passion for the art history major–she found herself devoting countless hours to working on her website, Shorely Chic, and exchanging emails with other design-obsessed bloggers.

It was a clear sign, she realized, of what she should be doing. So during her maternity leave last summer, she decided that it was “the perfect time to say goodbye to my corporate life.”

Not long after, in September 2013, she launched Pure Joy Paperie, a line of custom-designed stationery and print products. Having started on Etsy, she has to date sold about 14,000 items to 500 customers.

Joy, 29, is part of the wave of so-called “mompreneurs,” moms who elect to leave nine-to-five office jobs and run their own businesses from home.

While statistics on the trend are elusive, the number of women entrepreneurs in general are clearly on the rise. According an American Express study released in March, women-owned businesses in the U.S. grew by 68 percent from 1997 and 2014.

The report found that women are now starting businesses twice as fast as men.

In the case of mothers like Joy, the goal is to accommodate the day-to-day needs of her family as well as have a fulfilling career.

“It’s not nine to five and nobody is telling me that I need to be somewhere,” she said. “That’s the best part–that I can be a mother and do this at the same time.”

For her designs, which include hand-painted watercolors, she draws her inspiration from the sea. The Stamford native grew up traipsing along beaches, visiting her grandmother in Jupiter, Fla., as well other shoreline communities up and down the East Coast.

“There’s something about looking out into the ocean and seeing that vastness,” she reflected recently in her airy balcony home office that featured a playpen in the corner. “It’s when I’m my best self. I have complete inner peace.”

In addition to wall prints, she creates stationery and invitations for weddings and birthdays. About half of all her orders, she said, are custom-made. Sources for design ideas include flea markets and second-hand stores, where she has stumbled onto vintage finds like a peach-colored handkerchief with a hand-drawn map of Connecticut. She scanned the image into her computer and turned it into a poster.

Interested customers can also grasp her style by looking at her Instagram account. Like many of today’s style mavens, she uses social media as a branding tool.

The photos attached to her website Pure Joy Home captures her day-to-day life. There are snapshots of homemade food and chic clothing, home renovation projects and most of all, sweet close-ups of 1-year-old Brian with his unruly blond cowlicks.

Although most orders come through her Etsy account, she has succeeded in getting her products into several stores, among them, the tableware company Juliska, which has its flagship store in the South End. A friend who worked there introduced her to the buyer, she said.

Her ultimate goal is to open her own boutique in Stamford.

She acknowledged that her decision to leave her job was made easier by the added security that her husband’s career was going well, but she encourages all women to use motherhood as a springboard for self-discovery.

“It’s so hard for women after they have babies to go back to work,” she said. “I would love to see more women to look inside and find something they are passionate about and go for it.”

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