Ready For Your Lucky Break?

May 11, 2011

I’m working with American Express to spread the word about the Big Break for Small Business contest. They’re offering $20,000 plus a one-on-one business makeover to the lucky winner. Nice.

I love small businesses! Every single day, I get dozens of emails from entrepreneurs. They tell me their stories, share their products and exchange ideas with me. It makes me happy to read their emails — there’s such a neat energy surrounding people who are building and creating.

Small businesses are a part of my earliest memories. My father taught 5th grade at our local public school, but in his spare time he was always starting businesses. A few of the many he attempted: He started a restaurant called Hungry Hut. He built a custom picture framing studio in our basement. And he started a long-running community newspaper for senior citizens.

I’m pretty sure me and my siblings (see the whole family above — don’t miss #10!) inherited his entrepreneurial genes — we’ve all started businesses. Snowcones, language classes, a triathlon, a magnet business… and many more. Some failed, some succeeded. As for this blog, Design Mom is one of several businesses I’ve attempted — and funnily enough, it started as a hobby. I didn’t realize it was even going to turn into a business. : )

My father died over a decade ago, long before I’d ever even heard of blogging. But I think he would be proud of the company I’m building. Yay for small businesses!

How about you? Do you have the entrepreneur gene or the entrepreneur bug? Do you dream of owning a storefront or launching a website?


Thanks to American Express OPEN for sponsoring this post as part of the Big Break for Small Business program. Visit to learn more about the Big Break contest. Enter your small business for a chance to win a trip to Facebook headquarters for a one-on-one business makeover and $20,000 to grow your business with social media. See Official Rules for complete details.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sophie May 11, 2011 at 9:46 am

I’ve been all about small businesses for decades — especially seeing as how I’m a small business owner! I’ve run Sophie’s Stress-Free Soirées here in the San Francisco Bay Area for 16 years, and we’re launching a new endeavor: a website where parents and caretakers can find fun an inexpensive crafts, games, and activities for their kids.

It can be really stressful sometimes. We have to keep the party business thriving in order to fund the website project. Still, I have the opportunity to work toward my dream of spreading creativity to kids outside of the Bay Area, so I’m not complaining! I’ll definitely be entering this contest. Thanks, Gabrielle, for bringing it to our attention! :-D


2 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

Your new endeavor sounds exciting, Sophie!


3 Sophie May 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Thanks! It’s fun, and exciting, and hard — but I think obviously you can relate! :-P


4 Jenna {Jenna Sais Quois} May 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

Very cool contest! Thanks for sharing.

BUT, I’m curious, which number are you in this adorable family photo?


5 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

I’m number 7. : )


6 Jennelle May 11, 2011 at 10:23 am

I just might have to enter this contest! I started my small business almost 5 years ago and I’m still trying to get it off the ground. Although it’s been a long, scary, and lonely road so far, I am determined to see it succeed.

What an inspirational story about your dad and other family members. Thank you for sharing :)


7 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

“I am determined to see it succeed.”

I love that, Jennelle!


8 Mariel May 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

Doesn’t running a family of 10 count as a small business? :-) I love big families, mine is small but my mother in law was one of 10 kids and my father in law was one of 8. I think it’s so much fun!


9 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

That should totally count, Mariel!


10 Brooke Henninger May 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm

yes! my husband and i started our business in order to allow him to finish his degree in architecture school and now we want to open a shop in our downtown. we’re working on buying the space at the moment! it’s fun- a lot of hard work- but fun!


11 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Wow, Brooke! Best of luck hunting down the perfect space.


12 Amy Bowers May 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm

oh, this looks great! think of all the badges i could create with start up money! thanks for the tip!


13 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

So many badges!


14 Suzanna May 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I am a dreamer of dreamers. I have so many business plans in my head! My first has been as a Landscape Designer, but I would LOVE to open a local food grocery store!


15 Design Mom May 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Both of those dreams sound pretty dreamy and wonderful to me. : )


16 mandi@herbanhomestead May 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Oh! What a wonderful opportunity! I am a granola maker for our local farmer’s market. I always dream of it being bigger, in stores even! And right now, I’m scheming in my mind a new herbal line of shampoos, hair rinses, face oils. All the things I do for myself already, but on a bigger scale!


17 luz May 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

How fun. My husband, Tim, was the youngest of a family of 12 kids who also ran a small business.
He literally grew up as a kid in a candy store! Howse’s Candy Haus (if you’re ever in Harbor Springs Michigan)

I sell a bit of my own goods. It helped Tim finish college. And I get to stay home with my girls.

This is great!


18 Design Mom May 13, 2011 at 3:23 am

I think the store name, Howse’s Candy Haus, is brilliant!


19 jeanne May 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm

This is amazing. I would love to enter. What young business couldn’t use this kind of help and direction? I am in my third year of running my own clothing line. I have never worked so hard in my life…and loved it! I just launched my fourth line and I have so many dreams of where I want this little business of mine to go.

Thanks for sharing the link.


20 r8chel May 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I must not have much of an entrepreneurial spirit, because I have lots of ideas that come to mind… and stop right there!


21 denese @ plum May 12, 2011 at 7:50 am

the first thing that strikes me – how in the world did you find the time and energy to start a new hobby (this ubertastic blog) with an army of kids!!??!!

…an inspiration to us all!.


22 annie May 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I love your family’s story and the picture brought a tear to my eye–what a sweet family photo!

I am sure your dad is looking down on you, so proud. Congrats with all your success with Design Mom!


23 Suzanne Stewart May 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I remember when your dad passed. It was such a shock. Gosh I’m crying about it right now. I lost my dad unexpectedly last year and I have a whole new appreciation for your family’s loss. I knew some of your siblings from school and your dad. I remember him being very “real”. If that that makes any sense. I am sure you are a source of pride and delight to him. I just found your blog recently and really enjoy it.


24 Mom in Mendon May 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm

So sorry about your family’s loss.


25 Molly W. May 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I launched my website a year ago and its been an adventure ever since! I moved about 8 months ago and starting over is definitely hard but rewarding too. It is really neat to be your own boss….most days. :)


26 Hannah Stevenson @ MiniMe Paper Dolls May 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Oh WOW! I’m checking it out right now. My family sounds a lot like yours. I remember all six of us kids loading up in the back of a pick-up truck to go and paint addresses on customers sidewalks in front of peoples homes…random but we stayed busy. :) My Dad started a local magazine (great idea that didn’t really work out), owned a whole bunch of photo booths (that was a fun one) and seemed to always be thinking of new ideas… My mom owned ran her own antique lampshade recovering business…I always looked forward to coming home from school to see what (usually Victorian with some sort of ornate glass fringe) lampshade she was working on.
Before I had the twins, I did a one woman mural painting business…paid off all of my college loans doing this…of course when the twins came, I couldn’t keep that up…the paper dolls are doing well but I could use help in getting the word out. Thanks Gabby for this introduction! :)


27 Design Mom May 13, 2011 at 3:23 am

Oh my goodness, Hannah! We totally have twinner families. We also painted house numbers on curbs. Hah!


28 Lora May 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I am hoping to open a store front here in our small town of Ashland, Oregon. After living in the Bay Area and spending my time as a wedding and event planner, I welcome a small and slower pace kind of life. I make hand knit and sewn items and have an Etsy store at the moment. My etsy store brings me sporadic business, but there really is nothing like having your own store and getting to know the community. Ashland is a tourist town so I am sure I will meet lots of passer bys and get to know their journey and stories. What fun! Check out my site if you have a second: blog: and etsy:

Thank you for your inspiration over the years.


29 Design Mom May 13, 2011 at 3:22 am

I love the idea of getting to know your community through your store front. Such a sweet thought!


30 Salem May 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm

That #10 sure is a handsome little guy…


31 Salem May 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Also, Can’t you just imagine Dad’s ebay business? He would have owned ebay motors.


32 Cecelia May 14, 2011 at 6:31 am

I can totally relate to your photo! I am number 4 of 10. Your blog is very sweet reading :)


33 Crystal May 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm


I just saw your mom this past weekend and so I thought I’d see what you were up to in France. I love this picture of your family! I have so many great memories of that street. You should see the house now, the outside has been totally re-done. I’ll have to send you a picture the next time I’m there.

I love your blog! Your family is amazing!

Crystal W.


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