Local ‘Momtrepreneurs’ live their dreams
By Jennifer M. Aguilar
These days, Iselda Wagner, who goes by Izzy, is busier than ever. As a business owner, wife, and mom to three, with one on the way, her hands and heart are certainly full. But just a few years ago her life looked a lot different.
“I became a mom at 19, and it changed my entire life. I faced so many challenges as a young mom, because I was a single mom, worked full-time, and was a full-time college student. I said goodbye to my personal life, but I had my family who supported me every step of the way, and I graduated with my B.A. in Criminal Justice with a minor in Business Management.”
With her degree completed, Izzy was able to achieve one of her oldest dreams. “As a child, I did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, which was always a police officer. I was able to fulfill this passion for over 6 years and loved every minute of it, until I had my second daughter, Zoe, in 2014, and knew it was time to play a more important role as a mom and wife,” she said. Her son, Vance, joined the family shortly after, furthering her commitment to both spend as much time with her own family as she could, and also to give other families opportunities to have fun in a safe environment.
So, Izzy bravely embarked on a new career path, one of entrepreneurship. “I’ve always wanted to have my own business, even when I was a police officer. I’ve always loved creating things, especially turning old things into new things. My house and my business, Park In Play, are filled with furniture I had my husband build and I finished out. I even hand-sketched my playhouses for my builder at PIP, painted, and designed them inside and out,” Izzy said.
For those who don’t know, Park In Play is an indoor play center in Sachse designed with children of all ages in mind. In addition to a traditional play kitchen, there is also a farm stand, a police and fire station, all created to help foster kids’ imaginations, while giving families a safe place to beat the Texas heat, or to chase the rainy day blues away. PIP also hosts story times, Parent & Me Fitness classes and other special events meant to inspire family bonding.
But kids aren’t the only ones Izzy had in mind when designing the dreamy play space. “It’s not easy being a working parent, a stay at home parent or a single parent. I’ve worn all those hats and that’s why I developed Park In Play’s structure as an affordable way for any parent to bring their kids, without breaking the bank, and getting a moment to relax,” she said. As the company’s mission statement puts it, “We designed our organization to cater to you as the parents and caretakers, not just the children. We’ve accomplished this by offering many free amenities that help you reach that well-deserved moment of peace.”
What does that look like? Well, fresh coffee, fruit-infused water, and WiFi are a few perks. There are also comfy leather couches and picnic tables, perfect for kids and adults alike to socialize and unwind. And hearing Izzy’s own story, it’s clear to see why creating a place for community is so close to her heart.
With a strong support system, Izzy and her husband, Cris, spent countless hours putting the business together. Meanwhile, her mom, dad, sister Noel, and teenage daughter Celeste, all helped with babysitting their two toddlers many times while the couple worked overnight at the business to get it ready.
But Izzy was grateful for the help she had surrounding her long before she decided to open a business. “I was in my 20s when I was working on my degree. I made sure I surrounded myself with friends who supported me… Now I’m in my mid 30s and I still have my same group of friends,” she said. “When I wanted to quit, they encouraged me to keep going. I have a saying I heard from my pastor that I tell my teenage daughter all the time. ‘Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’”
Fortunately for this ambitious mom, opening the business has only widened her circle of support. “My moms and the kids that come to PIP are for sure the most rewarding part of running the business. I’ve met so many moms who aren’t just my customers, but my friends now. Our saying at PIP is, ‘It takes a village,’ and it couldn’t ring truer. They know all my kids, and just like any mom, when I need advice, I ask my fellow moms and vice versa. I like to think of PIP as a network for parents to hang out, chat, and meet new and old friends,” she said.
A lot of the moms Izzy has met along the way share her passion for entrepreneurship. “I’ve met some amazing momtrepreneurs, as I like to refer to them. I’ve hosted shopping events at Park In Play to help them grow their businesses, classes for the moms to get their products out to the moms, etc. I’ve also attended many community events to support other local moms. This is a time when we, as people, not just moms, need to show our kids what it is to be kind and help others.”
Of course, even with ample support opening and running a business is never easy. But this entrepreneur said she hopes her kids learn the value of hard work, by seeing both her successes and setbacks as a business owner. “I hope my kids learn from seeing me run our business that anything is possible with hard work and follow through. Anyone can have a great idea, but putting in the work to actually make that idea a reality is the hard part,” she said.
“The most challenging part of running PIP is finding the right balance to focus on the business and time with my family. My two toddlers come with me to work at PIP every day, which is a blessing, but it can be extremely difficult sometimes. I’m also learning to put my cell phone up for a few hours when I get home, so that I’m not responding to emails and booking birthday parties during family time, which is harder than it sounds,” she said. “I just try to make sure that I’m available to my kids and husband when they need me as a mom and wife. Family first, but to be honest I’m still learning and some days I feel like I ‘nailed it,’ as a mom, wife, and business owner. And some days I feel like a complete failure. Nobody is perfect!”
Fortunately, Izzy’s kids help give her much-needed perspective and encouragement on the hard days. “My kids help me see the simple, yet beautiful things in life that I think I would forget to notice, like colorful butterflies, flowers, special rocks, and even creepy, but really cool bugs. Also, the unlimited hugs and kisses are pretty rewarding!” she said.
When asked if she had advice for other moms, or entrepreneurs, Izzy said, “Yes! From personal experience, don’t try to do it all. Don’t feel selfish for taking time to yourself, and never be too prideful to ask for help,” she said. “Also, every mom needs a ‘mom tribe,’ that you can get advice from or just laugh with. So find a moms group via social media or meetup, and schedule a playdate at PIP. We’d love to have ya’ll!”
Work hard, give back
Like many kids, Lorena Williamson’s first role model wasn’t a superhero or a sports star; it was her dad. “My dad was an entrepreneur by nature, and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps… My father was my role model.” That is why, from an early age, she set out to learn as much as she could about business.
“Throughout my whole life I took so many different classes. I worked as a system engineer for Exxon Mobil Corp., got my real estate license and energy efficiency rater license. Then, from there, I started my own corporation for flipping homes,” Lorena said.
“I became a mom at 24-years-old. It greatly changed me because it motivated me to do a ton of things to better my life after coming from Venezuela. She wanted to help her husband, Michael, provide a better living for their family and secure their future. So, she became an entrepreneur!
But that still wasn’t enough for this mom of three and grandmother of three. “My parents kept asking me for money to help the kids in need in Venezuela. I wanted to open a business that I would be able to use toward helping people in need… With the intention to fulfill my parents’ dream, I decided to venture into the fashion world and started Purple Dot Fashion,” she said. She currently manages the Wylie-based boutique with help from her daughter, Kassandra, and is proud to donate some of the proceeds from the business to an orphanage in Venezuela.
For Lorena, the best part of running a business is knowing she is helping people. “A lot of people would think it’s the money, but in reality, it’s the satisfaction of being able to help customers on a lot of different levels and seeing their gratitude and satisfaction. Starting a business from nothing and seeing it grow, thanks to God’s blessings, and the help from people has been rewarding,” she said.
Though she, like so many, says she still struggles to find that elusive balance as a business owner, wife, and a mom, she expressed her love and gratitude for being able to balance it all. “The entire experience as a mom is rewarding. It’s challenging but it’s the best blessing and experience you could ever have in your life,” she said. “Motherhood teaches you how to have patience, manage people and you become a multitasker. Also, it’s a great motivator to do better in life for your kids.”
Delegation has also proven key to her success. Lorena tries to plan ahead and delegate some tasks in order to give herself time to do what she needs to do at home and with her business.
Her advice for potential mom entrepreneurs? “Write down your goals, make plans, and know what you really want. Us mothers are capable of anything when we set our minds to it. NEVER give up!”
A watchful eye toward the future generation
To her patients, Beth Anderson is a caring optometrist and a successful business owner. But behind-the-scenes, Anderson wears a lot of different hats, including volunteer, mentor, wife, and mom! In fact, her firstborn, Jack, was born just a few years after she opened Wylie Eye Center, where she continues to work with two other doctors/moms.
And now that her son Bennett is 3-years-old Beth seems busier than ever, but also happy to be juggling what are basically dreams come true.
“As a child I always had a plan for what I wanted to be, but it changed frequently. There was a time in elementary school that I wanted to join a circus. I was focused on becoming an astronaut in middle school.” Fortunately for her future patients, as a teen Beth developed dreams that were a little more down-to-earth. “In high school I became more interested in the medical field,” she said, and that was an interest that stuck!
“I became interested in Optometry after attending a Rotary International Convention where the presiding RI president gave a speech on preventable blindness throughout the world. I then returned to Lubbock and found a position working with an eye doctor who, to this day, is one of my mentors,” Anderson said.
With a clear vision finally in mind for her future, Anderson set out to learn anything she could that would make her future business ownership successful. “Soon after graduating with my doctorate, I started taking additional community college classes in accounting, human resources, and QuickBooks so I could better understand the business side of business,” she said.
She credits some of that practicality to her own parents’ early and frequent lessons in responsibility. “They made me pay for a retainer I threw away with my lunch in grade-school. Years later, I had to pay for a cot I broke doing flips on. I learned at an early age how to earn what you have and to work hard to pay for things (that I lost or broke)… My dad decided to become a business owner in my teen years, so I could see firsthand the struggles of growing a business and the joys of building a team,” she said.
But her parents weren’t the only ones who inspired Anderson in her youth. Dana Mackison, Jim Duffy, and the late Mark Healy, all encouraged her pursuit of business through their service with the Rotary Club. Through their generosity, they also stressed the importance of serving one’s community, which Beth has been doing for decades now.
“For 20 years I have volunteered for a youth leadership program and I credit the program and the Rotarians who developed it for giving me the tools to lead my team,” she said.
Other doctors also helped her on her path to opening her own private practice. Dr. Randy Reber, Dr. Wally Rynea and Dr. John Coble have and continue to encourage her growth as both a doctor and a person. She considers them, “colleagues who understand my business and at short notice would meet me for lunch or pick up the phone to give advice.”
“I opened my practice in 2010 and Jack was born in February of 2012. Although I did not return full-time, I was back seeing patients after 2 weeks of maternity leave. I did struggle being a new mom and having a new business and working to balance all my priorities. I am fortunate that my husband (Luke) can function on less sleep than what I require. We have to work together to make everything work,” Beth said. “It’s amazing to see where we are now compared to when we started in 2010. I can’t make all their practices, games, and school events, but I can make many and certainly the important ones. We are also blessed with grandparents and extended family who help as well. It takes a village,” she said.
It helps that Beth enjoys what she does. The favorite part of her job, she says, is “spending every day working with and taking care of people you enjoy seeing, and building lifelong relationships,” she said. “Parenting is tough, because there’s no immediate feedback on how you are doing. I get the best advice from the moms who come to our practice.”
“Having children gives you a new purpose in life,” she said. “The most rewarding part of being a mom is sharing all their cute moments with my husband as well as watching them discover the world through such sweet innocent eyes. Watching them overcome challenges, like learning to ride a bike or read, is another one of my favorites… I think sometimes in business you can get focused on the day-to-day and lose sight of the big picture. Children have a way of making you look at the big picture and appreciate the little things. The numbers are not as important as the people.”
And Beth said she hopes that her kids are, in turn, learning from her, as well. Namely, that they will see the value of hard work and commitment and the importance of caring for other people and helping others plus the importance of strong leadership.
This doctor isn’t just splitting her time between home and work, either. She’s also a dedicated director for a nonprofit. “Balancing how many evenings I’m away from the boys with meetings is a struggle,” she said. She also attends camp each summer, as a volunteer, which is another time commitment. “With the nonprofit I run, we need many female counselors for a week-long summer camp. We all have to leave our families to spend a week with a cabin full of 17-year-olds. In counseling them, I believe that the time we spend with these young adults is so important; it’s worth our time away from both our professions and our families. We also hope that there will be men and women who will be there for our kids when they are 17,” she said.
Though Anderson admits that it’s challenging and balancing it all she has found one guiding principle that helps her manage her many roles. “My goal is to be 100 percent present in the job I’m doing at the moment. To not be distracted at home with work, and vice versa.” Some of the practical ways she has found to accomplish this are, “Staying very organized. Asking for help. Maximizing my time.”
Her priorities as a mom and entrepreneur have also helped her foster a true team spirit at work. “Most of us at our office are working parents. It is an office philosophy that we will cover for each other in order to make important functions. I don’t want anyone missing a rewards program for their child at school or missing the opportunity to go on a field trip with their child’s class. What I want for myself is what I want for the entire team, and we all help each other achieve that,” she said.