Being a mom may just be the toughest job in the world, but imagine caring for your children while simultaneously pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. Sound impossible? These five Boston-area mompreneurs prove hard work, dedication and a whole lot of love are the recipe for success.

Jessica McDaniel

Photographer and owner of Boston Baby Photos.

Prior to making her photography business a full-time reality, McDaniel worked at a marketing agency while pursuing her MBA from Boston University at night.

Taking the Leap: I laid the groundwork for the first couple of years by doing the business on the side. It was starting to get overwhelming. I started seeing where I could grow the business if I just had more time to dedicate to it. I knew I wanted to be my own boss, and as I got busier and busier, it gave me the confidence to go for it. I was also pregnant at the time, and I knew having a baby would change things for me work-wise. I wanted to get the business to a point where it was solid and somewhat predictable before I became a mom. 

Balancing Work and Family: For me it’s always been about making clear distinctions between work time and home time. I work 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. while my kids are in school, but then I’m home from 3 p.m. until the kids are in bed. After they go to bed I often go back to my desk and continue to work at night. On the weekends I try to only shoot one day each weekend. I’ve been making a conscious effort to hold four hours each weekend for family time.

Words of Wisdom: Do it, start it, get going on it. You’ll never know if your business will take off unless you give it a whirl. Treat it like a business. Give yourself time to do it. Maybe try setting aside two hours each night after your kids are in bed. Make a place for it in your life, and give yourself space to succeed. Set goals, put together a timeline and really try to hit those milestones. Be accountable to yourself.

Erica Shapazian

Designer and owner of Shapstix! (children’s clothing and accessories company).

Shapazian continues working full-time in the financial industry while building the Shapstix! brand.

Taking the Leap: I was always interested in fashion and loved clothes since I was a little girl. I wanted to start my own business and work hard for myself instead of for someone else. Having three girls of my own inspired me to fulfill this dream of mine. Now that they are older, I decided it was a good time to try it.

Understanding Expectations: It’s very costly and time consuming. It’s not just about saying, “I want to make children’s clothes,” there are so many other details that go into a business – the accounting, the website, advertising, customer service. You wear so many different hats.

Words of Wisdom: My biggest advice would be to just go for it! Follow your dream. Start out slowly, don’t quit your day job and just go from there. Do a lot of research on products similar to yours, prices and how to run a business. There are so many great websites out there for support.

Nancy Doyle

Owner of The Nutshell, a children’s boutique.

Before buying The Nutshell from its previous owner, Doyle spent 10 years as a recruiter of accounting and finance professionals.

Taking the Leap: For as long as I can remember I wanted to have my own business. My last job in the recruiting field was working for a woman-owned firm in Boston and she was a total inspiration! She seemed to manage it all and I knew I could as well. I didn’t really have a preference of which business I wanted to own. I knew the prior owner of The Nutshell. It was a great fit since I had a 4-year-old at the time and the store was local.

Overcoming Obstacles: The biggest obstacle that I’ve had (and work on overcoming each day) is online shopping. Our society is so fast-paced these days and families are so busy that it is natural for the convenience of online shopping – but that is a big challenge for brick and mortar stores. My staff and I work diligently every day to provide a personal experience that our customers will remember.

Words of Wisdom: The advice I would offer anyone (whether starting fresh or acquiring a business) is to make sure you discuss it with your family, especially your significant other, and make sure you understand the time commitment – 24/7! Some businesses are easier to manage than others. Retail is very difficult and very time-consuming because you have certain hours you must maintain for the clientele. Other home-based businesses can be worked on at 3 a.m. if you wish. I am very lucky to have a very supportive husband.

Jennifer Montana

Founder of The Innovation Institute, which offers enrichment classes in science and engineering.

Before becoming a mom to now 8-year-old twins, Montana was an economic competitiveness strategist focused on innovation-based regional economic development (try saying that five times fast!).

Taking the Leap: My children were 5 at the time I began thinking about The Innovation Institute. Having intentionally moved my children from one school to another, I understood that every school has its strengths and priorities. I am grateful for and share the educational values and sense of community at my children’s current school. However, their boundless curiosity about themselves and the world around them, their fascinating ways of understanding and processing new learning, and the fact they experience learning as huge fun continued to make me wonder about enriching their lives further with something that I thought that they were naturally and intuitively – scientists and engineers.

Balancing Work and Family: I don’t believe that it is possible to strike a balance between work and family, except under the most unusual circumstances. Sometimes I think that it is misleading to think this way, as we always feel ourselves falling short. I think that all of us who have children, both men and women, constantly struggle and make compromises necessary to feel that we are fully present in either or both family and work life at any given time.

The Innovation Institute was under development for quite a while prior to assuming a lease in July 2013, so we are still in the early stages. It has been incredibly difficult and sometimes personally wrenching to have to work, having made the commitment to do so, and not be with my children. I am looking forward to our first time away together since I started The Innovation Institute.

Words of Wisdom: I would encourage anyone who seeks to start a business to develop a serious business plan, which she vets with others. Don’t leap into the fray blind. Know yourself: Do I have the stamina, endurance, perseverance, flexibility, resilience, resilience and resilience? Don’t feel beholden to define success in traditional terms. Figure out what you consider “success.” Plug into your networks and stay connected as much as you can.

Kara Dyer

Owner of Storytime Toys, a toy design and  manufacturing company. 

Dyer worked as a management consultant before pursuing her passion.

Taking the Leap: I felt very inspired to create a children’s product, especially once I started having kids. It just felt a little bit overwhelming when my daughter was really, really young. Eventually it started to seem like something that felt manageable when she was about 2-and-a-half. I started working on it a little bit at the same time I was doing my part-time consulting job. When I wanted the project to move along a little bit faster we made arrangements that I could work on it full time.

Feeling Rewarded: I love seeing kids play with our toys. Just recently our company had an event at a toy store where we had our toys set out and different children came in to play with the toys throughout the day. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to sell the toy, how to develop our next product, really focusing in on the business and design aspect, and in the end it’s great to see the final result.

Words of Wisdom: Do a lot of market research. You can do a lot of that stuff on your own just by calling on people in your network. Talk to people about your idea and get feedback on it before you even start. Test it. See whether your customer likes the product, testing all along whether the idea is viable and have real checks in place for yourself to decide if you want to keep going with the business or whether it doesn’t make sense. We did a Kickstarter campaign to fund some of our production and that was a great experience. You can raise a lot of money that way and get feedback that you need on your product.

Kelly Bryant is a freelance writer and mother of two boys.