Stay at home moms have changed in our perception over the years. Look back less than a century ago, to the thirties, and we envisage a domestic Goddess: a pioneer of all things child-care, cooking and cleaning. At such a time, of course, this was to be expected, was even the ‘norm’. Today, however, being a stay-at-home-mom is perhaps more of a choice. Women have been emancipated, have entered the working world, have high powered careers and the choice to take time out in order to care for their young children. With all the options a connected world offers us, many stay at home mothers – and fathers – can work from home. And perhaps the peace of a home environment sparks creativity – it may come from a child’s device that a parent sees isn’t working, or simply emerges during some precious free time while the kiddie charges are occupied. With creativity comes invention and with invention, on occasion, comes money.
The five mothers on this list all came to certain conclusions about what they wanted their creativity to accomplish. Some of the ideas were perhaps superficially more adventurous than others, but each of these uniquely entrepreneurial ideas made these women multi-millionaire success. Through researching each of the individuals, the figures here come from the individuals’ stories and backgrounds. So what were the ideas behind the fortune? What triggered it? How did these stay at home moms – already fully-occupied with looking after small kids – manage to get the time to create something that would make millions? Even billions? Well, read on, to feel baffled, liberated and admiring all at once
5. Debra Cohen ($3.5 million)
Debra Cohen has been hailed as the stay at home mom who had a squirrel turn her into a millionaire. Before said squirrel entered her life, she was already a high-powered business woman – in South America one moment, Paris the next. When she became pregnant, however, she decide that as much as she loved her work, she wanted to stay at home to watch her daughter grow up. She, her husband and daughter bought a white Tudor on Long Island and as her husband went to work she would stay home with her newborn. For the first time in many years she found herself alone, knowing nobody in her new hometown and with no work to distract her.
It was to be expected, therefore, that when Debra’s daughter was asleep she would find something to occupy her time. This something was to redecorate. It was, in fact, the redecorating that led her to create her new business. She discovered her house had a bird flying through her chimney and a squirrel in the attic. Suddenly, painters, construction workers and more were coming in and out of her house and Cohen felt uncomfortable. She didn’t know who these people were nor what they were doing. In those moments, when Cohen concluded she surely wasn’t the only one to feel this way, she thought up her new company.
She decided she was going to begin a contractor referral service. Through networking, talking and discussing finances, Cohen had five contractors assigned to her. She took a loan from her husband’s pension of $5000 and was ready to begin. Her customers were firstly her neighbors – which worked to her advantage as she approached them as a neighbor – and more and more people became interested. Within six months she had paid off her loan. Years later, her little idea had blossomed into a $3.5 million company by the name of Home Remedies®.
4. Sandy Stein ($25 million)
Stein worked as a flight attendant for 35 years and decided to quit her job, stay at home and work on her business. She’s been called the “Mom inventor”, due to her simple yet elegant idea. An idea that blossomed and made her what she’s worth today – a staggering $25 million. The premise is simple: a way to make sure you keep your keys safe. It’s something we’ve all needed at some time, but it was Sandy Stein who actually acted on this gap in the market. With this simple premise in mind she created Finders Key Purse, a cute device which attaches keys to a purse.
The business took off and in its first year alone sold over $1 million items, making the business worth $4 million. Similar to Cohen, Stein’s logic about starting her business was simple. She took a problem she had, acknowledge that others may experience the same situation and coerced that into a business. A business that flourished and soared much like the planes she once worked on.
3) Stephenie Meyer ($125 million)
Most stay at home moms don’t spend their days dreaming about vampire romance, but Stephenie Meyer did. Self-described ‘stay-at-home mother’ to three boys, Meyer’s daydreams were the basis for her saga of books about a love affair between a human girl and a vampire. The saga was to be called Twilight – and, as we all know, it would become one of the greatest literary and Hollywood successes of its decade. The potential of the series was recognized quickly; a few months after Meyer sent her novel to publishers, she had signed a $750,000 three-book deal with Little, Brown and Company. The first novel was the Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly.
With the huge success of the first novel, three more were planned, written, published and welcomed by fans just as eagerly as the first. By 2008, the final novel, Breaking Dawn, was published and sold over six million copies. Already a worldwide sensation, Hollywood got a whiff of this publishing landmark and decided to make the books into films. Her books alone put her on the richest map but the films added to her millions, making her tower above all other authors and have a net worth of $125 million. Who ever said dreams don’t get you anywhere?
2) Sheri Schmelzer ($300 million)
Schmelzer’s idea came from something that already existed – Crocs. She saw a gap in the market where you could add accessories to the shoes and make them your own. The idea might sound frivolous, but Schmelzer believed in her product and developed it with help from her husband. The two did everything from designing the label to getting the customers. As she continued to sell, word got around and investors became interested. And so ‘Jibbitz’ shoe charms grew.
1) Sara Blakely ($1 billion)
Last but not least is Ms. Sara Blakely who falls on our list as number one with the huge amount of $1 billion to her name. Much like the other women on our list, Blakely wasn’t simply a stay at home mom. Blakely’s experience as a sales trainer transcended into her business, Spanx, which landed her as one of the youngest self-made billionaires at age 41. Spanx, an undergarment company famous for giving women a smooth silhouette, boomed its way onto the shelves and customers – including high-profile celebrities and women’s fashion writers – loved the product. The company now generates $250 million in revenue a year and Spanx has become household name.
Blakely saw what women needed and made that accessible to them. When some of our stay at home millionaire moms pursued a dream, others saw gaps in the market; and in no case is this latter truer than for Blakely.