E-MAILING IT IN With work, kids, mom feels right at home

By Amanda C. Davis

1And though her work sometimes keeps her up to the wee hours, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s a stay-at-home mom who’s making her work life work for her family.

Faix has a virtual storefront where she sells handmade dolls and the patterns she creates for them. On a recent weekday morning, she juggled filling orders that came in from Australia, while checking e-mails and tending to three very busy children — Robbie, 6; Abby, 5; and Billy, 3.

Her husband, Rob, is a health-care consultant, and when he’s not traveling, he works from his office above the garage. He also helps with his wife’s business, offering technical support for her Web site, www.bitofwhimsydolls.com.

The Web site has only been up a few weeks and received hits right away from people in the states and in countries including Israel, Portugal, France, Japan and Finland. Rob said at least 45 percent of Sarah’s business is international.

She also markets her line on www.etsy.com, a virtual marketplace for all things handmade. The plush dolls cost between $28 and $42 and can also be special ordered, with customers choosing the ethnicity of the doll, in addition to the kind of fabric used and whether they want the doll to be a boy, girl or animal.

Since October, Sarah has had more than 1,700 sales from www.etsy.com, earning between $14,000 and $15,000.

“I’m making more money at home now than I did in my 20s when I was a retail manager and that blows my mind,” she said.

Sarah attended Gordon College in Barnesville, Ga., studying microbiology and biochemistry. She worked as a consultant for government contracting jobs but said that all changed as her family grew.

“When Robbie was born, I just couldn’t go back to work,” she said, explaining she decided instead to make money on her own terms.

Her work provides the family’s “fun money,” which goes toward vacations, savings and one day, hope to buy a boat.

These days, many families can’t survive on one income. In the ’70s and ’80s, most stay-at-home opportunities for women included some form of door-to-door or home-party sales for cosmetics, skin care or food storage containers.

Today, thanks to the Internet, women have a seemingly endless list to choose from when it comes to finding work at home. Though many Web sites warn against stay-at-home scams, sites like www.hiremymom.com are thriving by pairing professional women with what they want — legitimate work with good pay.

The site was founded last year by Lesley Spencer Pyle, 42, a stay-at-home mom from Houston. After realizing companies were increasingly outsourcing work to telecommuters, Pyle launched her site to link women with temporary and permanent jobs in fields including accounting, graphic design, editing and public relations.

She said she is passionate about helping fellow moms, because she knows what it’s like to balance family and a career.

“As a mother of four myself, I know how much I wanted more flexibility to work around the needs of my family,” she said. “However, I did not want to sacrifice my career completely or not use the bachelor’s and master’s degrees that I had worked so hard to earn.”

Type in “work from home” at www.google.com and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of listings, along with warnings by the Better Business Bureau on how to avoid scams.

Lisa Scarmack, of Farrell, Pa., said she sifted through quite a few sites before hearing about a few reputable ones. She does online surveys for market research and mystery shopping to add more money to her family’s Disney fund.

The stay-at-home mom has two boys — Dylan, 2, and Landon, 1 — with another baby on the way in a few months. She and her husband, Adam, make it to Disney World in Florida at least once a year, so the money she earns goes toward that, she said.

The surveys take between 10 and 15 minutes to do and pay $3 each, while mystery shopping sites online pair her up to anonymously “shop” different stores and restaurants to rate things like cleanliness and customer service.

She fills out paperwork for shopnchek.com at home when the kids are napping or in bed for the night, and is rewarded based on the job. Payment for most mystery shopping gigs online could be in the form of a check or perks like a free tank of gas, a restaurant meal or free ice cream.

Scarmack said she recently completed an assignment that rewarded her with a free membership to Sam’s Club.

“Every little bit helps,” she said. “And if I can’t take the kids with me, I don’t take the job.”

Balancing work with family is also important for Lisa Grope, of Austintown, the mother of Halie, 12; Skylar, 9; Caleb, 7; and Peyden, 3.

Grope designs children’s clothing at home for boys and girls, from birth to size 10. Her In-Style Child Designs are sold at Canfield boutique Nannie’s Nest in Hilltop Plaza.

The self-taught designer also makes clothes to order, designing them and hiring a seamstress to make the final product. She plans to launch a Web site soon.

“I’ve always wanted to get into fashion, but with a husband and kids, it kind of went on the back burner,” she said, explaining she would one day like to take business and design courses.

Grope said she could expand now if she wanted to, but knows there’s time for that when her kids are a bit older.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to take time away from them,” she said, explaining she checks e-mails and works on designs in the evenings when the kids are in bed.

The outfits at Nanny’s Nest are higher-end and cost anywhere from $35 to $150, Grope said, explaining she will have a line of zebra print items for sale there soon.

Grope said she makes sure she’s always making a profit and uses it for children’s activities, groceries and for reinvesting back in the company.

Brandy McDanel, who co-owns the Nanny’s Nest with sister, Tiffany Perry, said they’re happy to feature Grope’s line because she is a local talent.

“We love Lisa’s stuff and it does well here,” McDanel said. “She has a great following and she definitely has a future.”

For more information on Grope’s line, visit the Nanny’s Nest or e-mail her at in-style_child@ameritech.net.

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