Audio (Podcast)

High-Five to all the Mamaprenuers: An Interview with The Mama Ladder’s Crystalee Beck

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Crystalee Beck is one of the co-founders of The Mama Ladder International which is on a mission to help women around the world thrive at the intersection of mamahood and entrepreneurship. They’re building a community of mamas helping mamas succeed. Why? With business training designed especially for moms, they believe you will have the freedom to enjoy family AND your work passion on your terms.

In this interview we explore the different ways that women can overcome the financial hurdle of starting their entreprenuerial journey.  We’ll also discuss The Mama Ladder’s current project: The High Five Grant.  So, grab some coffee, sit back, and get ready to take some notes!

Introduction:00:09Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today's show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb:00:17Welcome to Plaid Radio. I'm your host, Sarah Webb, and I'm with today's very special guest Crystalee Beck from the Mama Ladder International. Thanks for joining us.
Crystalee Beck:00:24It's always a pleasure. I love Plaid for Women.
Sarah Webb:00:27Thank you. We love you guys too. And for those who haven't met Crystalee before, she is a Mamaprenuer. I don't know if that's even a word, but she is all about helping women find their true passion while balancing their family. She has two young kids, herself and my kids are just a few years older and we just honestly, we just had this amazing connection where we'd love to support each other and we want to support other mamas. And so a lot of what we're doing is very similar. At Plaid for Women we're supporting women through all walks of life and Crystalee is focused on that critical, stressing... We just had Mother's Day, so it's like exhausting. So I got to take a nap for Mother's Day and I was like super excited. It was free and nobody bothered me. So it is a special time in life, but it's a lot of times when women are kind of looking to do something different from the Corporate World. So maybe kind of just share with us like how you get your inspiration for the Mama Ladder and share a little bit about what you guys are doing today.
Crystalee Beck:01:25Sure. Yeah. So I had a corporate ladder job, which was a great job and I, I liked the people I work with, but when I had my first baby I felt really torn and I wanted more time with her. And when she was a year old I actually was pregnant with my second baby and I got laid off from my corporate ladder job and honestly that was the best thing that could've happened because I'd wanted to start my own business for a long time. But that finally gave me a chance to spread my wings and create my own ladder. And that's really, really where the idea came from for the Mama Ladder, but my first business was a marketing content company and then later started the Mama Ladder to help women create your own ladder that fits your family.
Sarah Webb:02:08Like what are some of the different ways? Because I think a lot of times, I don't know, it's just like the stereotype of like, oh you can't do that or you can't make any money doing x, y or z, or you know, I just feel like as women, I think part of it is we're martyrs. Some of us and when you become a mother you go into like extra martyr mode. It's like either I need to have this full career and this fully baked idea or I just need to stay at home and love on my children and both those are great choices, and so you're kind of helping women find this path in between. What was it like finding your own path? I mean, did you just have like, oh I'm, this is... I know I'll be able to do this.
Crystalee Beck:02:44I love how you explained that and that's exactly the way that I like to look at it because for so many years before having kids, I always have wanted to be a mother, but I felt so conflicted because I didn't want to lose myself and my passion and my drive to create and I mean I put a lot of work into getting a master's degree and I wanted to use that so I never really knew what that will look like and exactly like you said, Sarah, for me there's this third option that more moms need to know about and honestly it's really cool to see this wave of entrepreneurship with moms right now. It's so cool because that is the third kind of secret option that's becoming more and more prevalent and that's part of our job at the Mama Ladder is to help women know that it is an option and it is a total profitable option that can work for you. I mean I work part time, I work in the afternoons, but I make more money working part time that I did working full time and I'm having so much more fun. I enjoy my kids every day. I'm healthier. I have time to take care of myself and so honestly I feel like it's this beautiful secret that the world needs to know that you can absolutely be a mom and you can be the professional business woman you want to be and you can do them at the same time.
Sarah Webb:04:05Yeah. I was actually reading something that said by 2030 more people will be in this freelance entrepreneurial side hustle type endeavor versus working for traditional companies, which I found very interesting because it does seem like everybody's got a little something going either on the side or you know, the small part. And I think that's almost like we have this revolution of people like reclaiming their lives. Like that work isn't everything and this is a recovering workaholic talking, so maybe that's just personal.
Crystalee Beck:04:36Oh, I agree with you that it is a trend, but I don't think it's not necessarily a trend because I don't think it's going away, but it's people realizing... it's because of the beauty of the Internet that we have these options to connect and to, to share and to sell and to do things no matter where we are. So that like laptop lifestyle. It's a very real powerful way to live.
Sarah Webb:05:01Yeah, absolutely. Well, so for the mom or you know, anybody really wanting to start a business and kind of get into this lifestyle that they can be fulfilled with what they're doing professionally but have a life. Maybe they're caring for an aging parent or you know, maybe they just don't want to work at this traditional job. Like if you were to tell them one or two pieces of advice to get started, what would you share with them?
Crystalee Beck:05:25Well first I would say "do it afraid" because you probably have a lot of fear. I know that I did. I had a lot of fear for a long time and ultimately nothing is going to happen until you start taking action. And even if that's something little like just thinking about what you want to call your business and then finding someone to make a logo and then getting you the url, it's those little baby steps that will lead you to doing something big.
Sarah Webb:05:55What do you think is one of biggest things that hold people back? You've talked about the fear but is there a financial component to it as well?
Crystalee Beck:06:02Yes, and I'm really glad that you're bringing that up because absolutely fear is a big thing. So what's happening inside your head is huge, but there's also just the logistics of how do your transition from having a monthly paycheck at a steady job to figuring out how to get income and have that be reliable or at least enough that that it's replacing or even exceeding what you used to have. And so part of the struggle that women have specifically is capital for starting their business. And there's lots of ways to go about that. I mean, you can go for a business loan. I personally am a big fan of self-funding and I wanted to do that because I didn't want the added pressure of having to pay someone back. And most women, I mean the statistics show that's how most women approach it, but yes, so you do need money, some money to make money, you need money to create a website and start your brand and... But yeah, money is a big deal.
Sarah Webb:07:07Well and it doesn't have to be a lot of money and like you said, taking the fear, you know, stepping out and like building a website and getting some branding done. That doesn't take an enormous amount of money. I mean it can, you can spend lots of money. Like I look at these great packages and all this and I'm like, oh I'd love to spend all that. And I'm like, oh wait a second, you know, but you can really get started with just a little bit of money.
Crystalee Beck:07:32Right. And I think that that's such a great point, Sarah, and it's really an education gap. I think that a lot of people think that you have to have like $50,000 or hundreds of thousands of dollars just sitting around or that you magically find somewhere, but you're right. The reality is you don't. I mean, with a couple of thousand dollars and some creativity and commitment, you can really start something very cool. And, and actually the founder of Spanx, she started with $5,000 and look at what she's created from $5,000.
Sarah Webb:08:06Yes. I love her story and I love her products. Sorry, let's go back to Sara Blakely. She is amazing. I'm like, why didn't I come up with that idea? But a lot of tenacity around that as well. What is it, you know, on the money side, I feel sometimes that women have this block so we have maybe this great idea of what we want to do and a lot of women's businesses are around serving others either through their product or their service and that's just a natural theme that we see women doing. You know, how can I help other people? Like, why do we have this money block on, "Oh, I can't do the finances" or "oh, this is going to cost too much?" Is that a fear or is it a lack of education? Where do you see that in some of your clients?
Crystalee Beck:08:49You know, really I think it's a little bit of both, but also realistically looking at the statistics of women being able to get capital from loans. So some statistics for you, like in the United States alone, there are, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there's 9.1 million businesses that are owned by women with 9.1 million yet, um, Fortune magazine found that last year in 2017, only 2% of Venture Capital Funds went to women. And there's several reasons cited for that. Part of it is not as many women are asking for it. Part of it is they're just not getting awarded it. Part of it is there not a lot of women on these venture capital boards who are making the decisions. And so I love seeing that there is a conversation happening right now around getting more venture capital for women. And again, like I shared, I didn't go that route myself, but you know, eventually maybe I will be ready for that and want to have some funding to do something really big and I just know that there are real hurdles for women, but you don't have to let them stop you. There are so many creative ways to fund your business. So many.
Sarah Webb:10:09Well, let's talk about some of those creative ways. When you say creative, one of the first things that comes to my mind is bartering. So I love bartering with other entrepreneurs and maybe someone's really good at, you know, building websites. My personal skill is boring. It's helping people set up their accounting, but it's critical. So maybe we do some trading on helping each other. What are some other creative ways to fund your business?
Crystalee Beck:10:34So you can definitely do like pre-sales of orders and for this there are few different ways you can do this and you don't have to have, have something completely baked before, before you start selling it. You can do presale. So for example, if you're planning an event, you don't have to have every single detail planned out before you start selling tickets and that gives you some capital to be able to pay for the venue and be able to pay for the speaker or the DJ or whatever that event is and that does require you to put together something that people would be willing to pay for. So having, having a website, having some, some messaging, some visuals that are enticing and really like a value proposition that people like, Ooh, that's something I want to pay for, but that doesn't cost you money, that costs you time and creativity and you can start getting capital that way. Are you ready for some others?
Sarah Webb:11:30Yeah, I'm taking notes!
Crystalee Beck:11:31Okay. So presales and very similar to that is crowdfunding campaigns and there are so many cool options for this now. Kickstarter's a really big one and it's been really cool for me to see these are for people who are just getting started, but even more established brands, they're recognizing the power of crowdfunding campaigns. So for example, there's this baby brand called Puj and they launched their... the world's first hangable kid cup, which is really cool. Instead of just launching it on their website, they launched it on Kickstarter because they knew that there's a lot of buzz there, there's millions of people on there all the time. They, they already have the audience and that's something always be thinking about is where is the audience that would buy what you're selling, whether that's a product or a service. So crowdfunding campaigns. Another thing is to get sponsors and getting sponsors does require you to have some kind of audience but don't feel like you have to have 100,000 Instagram followers because you don't. I mean for our first Mama Spring Break that we did this year, we got like 17 different sponsors and I mean it was like more than $10,000 of cash and in kind goods. And we had I think 2,500 followers on Instagram. So like you know, we're not huge yet. We're planning on growing but there's totally potential there as long as you are presenting them with... when I say them, I mean the sponsors... you're presenting them with something that helps them reach their audience and that you come across as professional and that you're really looking to help them have value, so however you want to provide that to them, but you're giving them a way to share their story and their product. That's valuable.
Sarah Webb:13:19I want to pause right there. So I. on the sponsor piece, I think that that's so important that you say that you don't have to have this massive following. I mean like we all want to grow. Let's acknowledge that, but it's all about your demographic and knowing who that is. So your demographic is women who are generally professional women looking to kind of have this transition and so what did they do? Well, they spend money, they manage the budgets for their household. You know, they're spending money on their businesses. So understanding who that demographic is, no matter how big or small is important to the sponsors because a lot of times they want to be target focus. So you know, someone may want only mothers, like maybe their product is not even good for aunts or, you know, cousins or any like no, but it's like this is only good for mothers. And so I think that the more laser specific you can be on your demographic, makes it an easier sell to the sponsor.
Crystalee Beck:14:12And that's such a good point! That's so true that you need to be very clear on who you're serving so that you can tell that story to the sponsors and help be a connector. That's really what you're doing when you have a sponsors is you're connecting them to your audience. And so very well said, Sarah. So I've shared about presale orders, crowdfunding campaigns, sponsors. Another thing that I think a lot of a lot of women might overlook is getting deposits from clients. So this works best for service based businesses, but it's very, very realistic and common to ask for a 25 to 50 percent deposit when you have an agreement you're going to work with someone. So for example, if you're an interior designer and someone's agreed to work with you, you get some money from them right from the beginning and make sure that they paid you before you start doing any work and that's cash flow, that's capital that you can be using. So that's another thing to keep in mind, especially for service based. And then a fifth idea for you, which is so exciting to me and something we're right in the middle of at The Mama Ladder is business grants. So these... Ladies! These are free money free money. When I was in high school my senior year, I learned about the power of scholarships and I would spend hours after school looking up scholarships and applying for them because I was so excited about getting free money for college and I did end up getting a few of them and it was awesome. So grants are the same, the same kind of thing. They're specifically for whatever that grant is dictated to. And so we are hosting a grant because there are not enough grants for women in business and we wanted to do something really special to help moms in business. So ours is called High Five Grant for Moms and it's a semiannual $5,000 grant to help you grow your business.
Sarah Webb:16:19That is amazing. So I never even dreamed about grants for businesses or for for-profit businesses. So you've got your grant. I think that's amazing. Tell us a little bit about the qualifications and what is the word grant versus mean. It's not alone so you don't have to pay it back. Like kind of explain that a little bit more in detail.
Crystalee Beck:16:40Yeah, exactly. So you don't need to pay back... and whatever organization is sponsoring your grant, they get to decide. So maybe they can require you to have like a follow up within 30 days or a year or two so they know how that went. Or. So it's really dependent on the organization. For us, our requirements, because we are focused on mom entrepreneurs, we have three pretty basic requirements for the kind of person who can apply. So we're looking for a mom. So this can be someone who, children of all ages. I mean if your kids are grown up, you're still a mom. If your kids are a little tiny are so mom, if you, if you're pregnant, then you're welcome to apply. If you're a stepmom or a foster mom, apply. We feel so strongly about helping moms because there are specific challenges for moms. We have limited time and limited resources in some ways, energy and you know, so we've got to be really smart about it. So that's why we are specifically giving this to a mom. Also. You need to own at least 50 percent of a for profit business that offers a valuable product or service. And then the last thing is we are looking for women who know the why behind your business, who understand the purpose behind what you're doing and why it's important to you, and you're ready to share that with the world. That's the kind of woman we're looking to give this money to. So if that's you, then please apply.
Sarah Webb:18:10Well, and I'll be sure to put a link in our show notes so that you can get out there. I mean, I think this is just an amazing thing the Mama Ladder is doing. It's like you've recognized a need with the women in your community, but you've also done the research on, you know, women just don't have as much access to capital and so how can you be part of that? Still working with your target demographic on reaching their needs. I mean I can just imagine someone listening to this now, maybe they're in that fear part, right? Maybe they've done a little bit like I want to start a business but I don't know where I am and you'd have maybe started a little bit and then you know, life happened and it sidetracked and this money could be so changing to that woman's business to get it back on track or to help you that startup. So I'm excited to see who wins. Like I feel like it's no, it is a contest and there's an application process, but like I'm excited to celebrate whoever wins. I mean, I think it's going to be good for, for women and one of the things, you know, even at Plaid, women are generally in charge of families and we are the ones shaping what happens in those families and those discussions and so when we help women, we help children, we help families and it's just a very powerful circle.
Crystalee Beck:19:20Absolutely. That reminds me of something that I put on our grant website:, and I really believe this, so we see motherhood as your greatest advantage as an entrepreneur and running a business as powerful training for leading at home. They help each other.
Sarah Webb:19:41They do help each other. Sometimes, especially when I was in the corporate world, I would practice giving feedback to my children, like I would do an employee and it just never worked out the same. So I feel like my children are my first employees, like if I can't get them to do what I want them to do, you know that I have no hope for really making it out into the real world. Although I feel like in the toddler stage it's like they're the tyrant boss, you know, like how can you get them through that? So it definitely, I think there's lots of cross training opportunities for at home and, and in the business.
Crystalee Beck:20:14You know, I want to make sure that I give a shout out and some love to our sponsors for this grant because we've partnered with three incredible organizations, so just briefly, I just want to make sure we give them some love and I mentioned sponsors earlier and so that's something we've done to help fund this grant. So we have a sponsor Belly Bandit, so they're led by three entrepreneur sisters who are all moms and all of their products help support you during and after pregnancy they have the belly wraps and I'm. Yeah, I just love them. And so they're very supportive of women and also women beyond having babies in your business. So they're very passionate about helping mom entrepreneurs. So Belly Bandit, also Katie Richardson, I mentioned Puj earlier, she's the founder of Puj which is an international, multimillion dollar company. She's a mom of four and she's very passionate about this program as well and we are so glad to have her support and then the last is Lady T and she is a speaker and a leadership expert and she does a lot of coaching for mom entrepreneurs and she's based on the east coast and she's an incredible woman, so Lady T, she's at And all three of these, these women, and company Belly Bandit, they're incredible groups that just really want to help moms in business.
Sarah Webb:21:42Well, thank you for spending time with us today. I'm so excited. I hope someone in our audience goes out and applies for the High-Five Grant. It's supposed to be like High-Five. No one can see me High-Fiving myself in the air, but I'll put all the links in our show notes because I want someone in our audience to when I'd love to see that. So Crystalee , thank you so much for sharing your message with this today. Thank you for being part of the high five grant and getting these sponsors together to support women. Because that's what #NoMeanGirls is all about. Thank you so much.
Crystalee Beck:22:10Thank you. High-Five!
Sarah Webb:22:10High-Five!
Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More
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