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Diagnosed from a young age with Sensory Processing Disorder, entrepreneur and mom Laura LeMond came up with a homemade solution as a college student when she couldn't sleep at night. She would place books on her feet to put pressure on her body, making her feel more secure.
Fast-forward to her life as a mother. When her 8-year-old son, who has ADHD, suffered from the same discomforts, LeMond knew she had to take action.
That's when she had the idea to create weighted blankets to help kids—and adults— sleep better, and she launched her own company, Mosaic Weighted Blankets, in 2011.
LeMond talked to mom.me about starting her business and working flex hours at her previous job to get her company off the ground. She also revealed how her sons help out and what advice she'd give her younger self. (Hint: It involves money.)
We love the story about placing books on your feet when you were in college. How did you discover that added weight was what you needed to help with sleep?
I am a twin, and I was born six weeks early and had blood transfusions at birth. My mom put me and my sister in the crib together, and we crept together and slept that way until I was 3 months old. I think now that it mimicked the "back in the womb sensation"—this is why newborns are wrapped tightly. I have always put my foot on my husband to sleep; it grounds me and causes me to relax. It was an instinct to put weight on my "sensory spot"—my feet—in the form of books or sandbags to help me fall asleep.
Then in 2010, I crafted a blanket with weight. I am so glad I did, as it really helped me sleep better and longer.
I have had clients call me who pile pillows on themselves to fall asleep, or push their feet into the spaces between the cushions on the couch. I call this "sensory seeking" behavior. I have clients who say that they haven't slept well in years and the weighted blanket allows them to relax.
What was the trial-and-error process like for the blankets once you started making one for your son?
I started by sewing sandbags in small cloth bags and placing them in quilted squares in a cotton blanket. This didn't work because the sand worked its way through the fabric. During the research process, I found the poly pellets, which work much better in the form of quilted squares. That is the basis of the pattern that we use now. We can scale the weight up or down as needed.
My son (Matt, pictured above) was 8 at the time. He has ADHD, and I was also looking for a solution for him as he was up a lot at night and had irregular sleep patterns. He was a wanderer. I wonder if any moms are familiar with that, right? They wander into your room? I didn't mind it, but once we got the blanket everyone got a lot more sleep at my house!
Many people make the mistake of undervaluing themselves, and most employers would like hear from you to see if you could work it out for part time or flex time before leaving.
What were your career plans before launching Mosaic Weighted Blankets? What had to shift to help you run this business?
I worked for IBM as a recruiter for several years and worked on recruiting for a staffing agency, placing candidates in full-time roles. I was able to work with my employer to work part time to launch Mosaic Weighted Blankets. Many parents and people who are ordering a blanket want to call me to discuss how much weight to put into the blanket as well as the size they need to order, so when I get a phone call I need to take it to help customers. I was the first weighted blanket company to put our phone number highlighted under our logo to assist customers.
I also work many hours outside of 8 to 5 to order fabric, blog and update the website and maintain the social media side of the site. If you are a late-night person or an early bird (like me), put it to work for you.
How can working moms maintain a regular job while also starting a business?
For those of you who are starting a business, remember that if you are working, you are of value to your employer. Manpower temporary service has studies that show if you have worked for more than 18 months, your training and skills are invaluable to the company, as your contribution to the job is dead-on because you have completed the training time.
If you want to start something up on your own, be sure to visit with your current employer to see if you could work an alternate schedule to remain there and still generate income for yourself while starting your business. Many people make the mistake of undervaluing themselves, and most employers would like hear from you to see if you could work it out for part time or flex time before leaving.
Don't quit your job until you have a solid blueprint for your business, and I would recommend having a break-even amount of money coming in, unless you have an alternate form of revenue coming into your bank account. My theory is the 18-month rule—that it takes about 18 months for people to know who you are, and all of a sudden you are a real business.
Part of the reason I launched this business was to be able to be there for my kids. My mom always worked and was never home until 6 p.m., which is why I set this goal for my family.
How did you balance motherhood with launching and building your business?
My boys were 8 and 10 when Mosaic Weighted Blankets launched in 2011. I worked early mornings, starting at 5 a.m., (like I said, I am an early bird). By 7 a.m., I had accomplished a lot, got everyone up, made breakfast and got kids off to school by 8:30, and I usually work until 4 p.m. when my kids get home from school. Part of the reason I launched this business was to be able to be there for my kids. My mom always worked and was never home until 6 p.m., which is why I set this goal for my family. It's a dividing line that I don't cross. Many of the moms in our master planned community don't even know I am not a stay-at-home mom because of my casual dress and flexible work schedule.
What advice would you give your younger self about starting a company?
To realize there are times of the year when you will need to have cash flow to cover slow months, and business is cyclical. And to hire a good bookkeeper. It can save you lot of money with your CPA at the end of the year if your books are up to date when tax time comes. Most business boils down to cash flow, insurance and taxes; so be prepared, incorporate, or do all of that stuff up front so you are covered from all aspects of owning a business.
What are the top challenges of being a mom entrepreneur?
I have a sign at my home office that says: "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." I need to focus on my family, turning off the phone and computer to focus on them, what they are saying and to really hear them to stay connected with them, which means disconnecting from my digital world for a couple of hours at night. I always cook dinner, and we all eat together every night. It's important. The dinner table is our way to come together.
What has your son learned from you as a businesswoman?
My boys, who are 15 and 13 now, have learned about having a work ethic. It's one of the best things I could do for my children. Both of them are goal-oriented and already talking about what they want to do with their lives and careers. One wants to go into computer science, and one wants to be a fireman. My kids occasionally work hard to help me. They help unload 2,000 pounds of poly pellets when our shipments come in once a month, and help with packing boxes and printing shipping labels at Christmas. I feel good knowing I have conveyed to them what life is really like, [and that] having a work ethic is valuable.
My mother was widowed when I was 6 years old in 1969. She had four kids and worked at the state capitol of Texas for the House of Representatives. She didn't remarry, she focused on her family. I watched her handle people adeptly at work and learned how important it is to have good spoken and written communications. (She corrected our grammar when I was growing up, and looked over our papers, encouraging all of us to write.) And she taught me to have a good phone voice, which worked out well, because I have always worked in roles that involved a lot of phone work!
What would you like moms of kids with special needs to know?
That we are serious about helping our clients. We appreciate our special-needs moms, because they have so many challenges every day. I am amazed by their commitment and love for their children. I also heartily support hiring people with special needs.
Many weighted blankets are made by crafters at home, and I didn't want my blankets exposed to the home environment (animals, smoke, house smells), so we make our blankets in a commercial facility in Austin. We have three full-time seamstresses and make the blankets on commercial-grade machines—it's very clean. We strive to offer a fun variety of patterns paired with a flattering solid color on the other side. And we sew every blanket with love.