Heather Reinhard and Nina Restieri are the co-founders of COMM, a team of eight influential bloggers with a mission to collaborate and spread the word about momAgenda, a company dedicated to providing products that help mothers manage their busy lifestyles. Both women bring their distinctive skill sets to make COMM one of the most successful and engaging networks in the Mommy blogger community. Heather is an educator, blogger, and social media expert, with her own brand, Theta Mom. And Nina, who is the founder of momAgenda, is a former advertising executive with years of experience running her own business.
We sat down with Heather and Nina to talk about their careers, how they came to collaborate with one another, and their experiences as working mothers.
I wonder if you could each tell us a little bit about how you got where you are today?
Heather: I originally started teaching at an elementary school right out of college, and while I was teaching, got a master’s degree in leadership from Columbia University, with the idea that I could eventually become a principal. But then I had a baby, and that changed everything for me. The new life I was forming as a mother was so much different than I thought it would be. So I found a way to work with home as my base—I started teaching as an adjunct professor at a few universities, which was not only stimulating for my mind, but also much more flexible. For a few years, I really enjoyed that, but then I had my second baby. I started working less, and staying at home more, which I found to be really lonely at first. That’s when I started my blog, Theta Mom. Not only did it ignite my passion for writing, it also helped me to form a community of women who were living my experiences. We had an instant connection in the blogging community.
Nina: I went into advertising right after I graduated from Colgate University, working for brands like Cover Girl. It was in the industry that I learned a lot about marketing and branding, which I applied when I went to go work for my family’s marketing business. When my mom passed away a few years after I began working for her—I was 27 years old at the time—I inherited the business. I had a new baby, and a husband, so it was pretty overwhelming. I ran that business for two years, and then sold it because I wanted to stay at home with my kids. The taste of owning my own business stuck with me, however, so after six years of being solely a mother, I decided to found momAgenda in 2005. Because I had run a business in the past, it was easy for me to get started again with my own.
How did you both connect?
Heather: When I started my own blog, I was doing reviews and giveaways of products that were relevant to me. I was frequently contacted by different companies and brands that targeted moms like me, but I would only agree to feature them if I thought that their products were useful.
Nina initially contacted me about a giveaway for momAgenda. I immediately thought that it was such a great idea!
Nina: I have four kids, and I was having a really hard time just getting my act together in terms of appointments and play dates. I couldn’t keep it all straight. I kept on going to Staples to see if they had some kind of planner that would help me, but I didn’t find anything that worked. One day, I woke up, and realized that there are wedding planners for brides, but nothing for mothers who have all of this miscellany to deal with every day. Once I realized the need for a product like momAgenda, it was easy to get the company off the ground.
Heather: I knew immediately after talking to Nina about momAgenda that she was really special. Our collaboration grew from there, and developed into this awesome relationship. She’s a mother of four who created what every mother needs—a way to organize her time and responsibilities. And I had a social media and marketing business. It seemed natural that we would form the Council of Media Moms (COMM), which works closely with bloggers and social media moms to form a real relationship with the brands and products that they are reviewing. It’s a win-win situation—the mom gets to really know the company she’s working with, and the brand gets great exposure. Soon after we founded it, COMM really took off.
Nina: COMM was really all Heather’s idea. I can only take the credit for recognizing that. She pointed out to me that momAgenda had great social media presence, but that the blog wasn’t really getting that much attention. So she put together a team of eight talented, amazing women to spread the word about momAgenda. I feel so lucky to have met her.
Now that you’re not only blogging and running your own businesses, but also managing the council, how do you find time for your families?
Nina: I think every woman’s definition of balance is different. I’m lucky because all of my kids are in school, and I’m usually home no later than 4 or 5, right as my kids are getting back from school.
Heather: I’ve blogged about this so many times. It’s the #1 thing that every mom can relate to. I had to learn to work out a schedule where I would wake up really early in the morning to get work done, spend the day with my kids, and then work when they went to bed at night. Once they started going to school, it became much easier, because I had more time in the middle of the day. When I’m with my kids, even today, I have to really force myself to tune out the social media, which is an important part of being a successful blogger.
Before you started your own businesses, would you say that you were financially literate?
Heather: I had to be. I lived in my own apartment right after college and I had to pay my rent. It’s something that comes as a big shock, because in college, you don’t have any financial burdens, whether it’s because your parents are supporting you, or because you’re funding your education with student loans. But after you graduate, you realize that even though you have a job, you only have a certain amount of money to spend every month, and you need to budget to afford a certain lifestyle. Living on my own helped to speed up the process.
Nina: I would say it’s something I had to learn kicking and screaming. Even to this day, I outsource a lot of my financial responsibilities. I’m a firm believer that you need to do what you enjoy, and I just don’t enjoy doing my finances that much [laughs].
To the extent I can, I pay other people to do that stuff. At momAgenda, we have a CFO, and a COO, who keeps an eye on the day-to-day expenses. If it were only myself doing it, the business would fall apart.
Where do you both see yourselves in ten years?
Heather: I definitely see myself doing something similar to what I’m doing now, but two or three levels higher. Eventually, I’d like to grow my own brand.
Nina: [laughs] On the beach, retired…but with my laptop. I can’t see myself having a lot of idle time, because I think I’d go crazy. Ideally, I’ll be doing a lot more writing, and a lot less business.
On that note, where do you see women in the United States in ten years?
Nina: I think women are taking over the world. We’re becoming so sure of our own power, and it’s so encouraging. I look at my 13-year-old daughter, and realize that when she becomes an adult, the sky is going to be the limit. And that makes me really excited.
What advice would you give to young women starting out in the workplace today?
Heather: Have a clear vision of what you want to do, and pursue that, not what pays the most. You should only take opportunities that you’re really interested in, because being happy is doing what you love.
And from a financial perspective—don’t spend more money than you can afford!
Nina: Follow your own gut, and don’t let people tell you what to do. Other people put us in boxes. It’s really important not to live someone else’s life, so you have to take charge of your own.