Mompreneur: Jennifer Melton of Cloud Star
By: Deirdre Uria
Jennifer Melton and Brennan Johnson began Cloud Star, a company whose mission is to provide pets with tasty and wholesome products, after bringing home their German Shepherd mix, Samantha, and realizing that she had food allergies to commercial dog food products. Melton and Johnson, both of whom had careers in corporate America, quit their day jobs to work full time manufacturing and marketing natural products for pets.
As a wife and the mother of two daughters, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, Melton has perfected the art of being a successful working mom, and is an example of what moms can do with their good ideas and entrepreneurial skills.
Melton recently answered a series of questions about her career, home-life, and mompreneur title:
Q: What was your big idea, and how did you translate it into a product or service?
The big idea wasn’t such a big idea at the time. It was a simple problem; Samantha, our dog, was having allergic reactions and coming up with a solution that worked for us, which required changing her diet, led us to create homemade dog food. In time, the idea unfolded into a series of fortunate events.
The animal shelter where I volunteered was having a bake sale, which was typically reserved for human treats, and we made a batch of the dog treats we had been making at home for Samantha. They were a hit. It was then that we decided there might just be something more to this than helping our own pup. People began calling us at home wanting more treats for their own dogs who also suffered with allergies. It was then that we decided we could be on to something.
Q: What was the process that got you to where you are today?
A lot of hard work and risk taking. We started small with Buddy Biscuits Bake-at-home Dog treats and really grew from there. Through time, and listening to customer suggestions and feedback, we began by creating a full line of products catering to dogs with allergies. The business is, and always has been, a “work in progress”. Kind of like parenting, you roll with the punches and if something isn’t working, you modify and adjust. Also like children, you wake up each morning with a fresh start to see what you can do today.
Q: What kind of support did you need to make your dream a reality? Who was your support system?
Our support system consisted of friends and family. They were the encouragement we needed to keep on going, however sometimes you cannot listen to anyone else but your own gut instinct.
Q: How old was your child (or children) when you became a mompreneur (if you had already had your child)? How old are they now?
We did not have children when we started the business. In fact, we put off having children because of the business. We knew the time commitment this endeavor would require, and realized that we had to grow large enough in order to manage both the business and a family life. We really wanted to be able to excel in each area of our lives.
Q: Do you find the balance between work and home life difficult? Did you find it harder when he, she, or they were younger? How did you cope?
Extremely difficult! Trying to separate the two is nearly impossible. I am constantly trying to improve on separating work and home lives. The ultimate goal that I strive for on a daily basis is to spend time concentrating on only my kids when I am with them and only on work when I am working. As any working mom would tell you, this is almost impossible. I purposely do not have a Blackberry and have made a resolution to turn off my computer at home when I am hanging out with the kids. That being said, there are times when I need to speak with someone and I cross my fingers and answer the cell phone hoping that either my four-year-old or two-year-old does not have a screaming meltdown in the background. If it happens, I really hope that the person I am speaking to has kids and understands the situation. There is only so much you can do.
It was actually easier when the children were younger since they slept more. I could return e-mail and phone calls while they slept on the days I worked from home.
Q: What is it like to be a mompreneur, both professionally and personally?
Thrilling. I wake up each morning thankful that I am able to have a career and kids that I can spend time with and watch grow up. I am blessed to have an incredible staff that is extremely self-sufficient, intelligent, and hardworking. Without the great people I work with, the balance in my life would not be possible.
Q: What about your career brings you the most joy?
The people I work with are incredible. I also really like selling our products. Our product line is all natural, great for dogs with allergies, and all made in the USA -- I am really proud of that. I am also grateful that we are able to donate 10% of our net profits to non-profit organizations that benefit animals, women, children, and the environment. We feel that good business should include doing good things for others. I cannot tell you the joy that giving has brought.
Q: What advice could you offer to other women who have an idea, or have even started a small company, but want to grow and develop, as you did?
Follow your instincts and read as much as you can. I would also strongly suggest working out every day. That seems to be when I get most of my “thinking time” in. Most of the new ideas are worked out over a hike or early morning run -- it really is amazing. I think when you have kids you have barely any time to yourself that you’re forced to take it whenever you can. For me, that involves getting up at 5:00 am and enjoying some personal time while the kids sleep. It’s also great stress relief!
Q: If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?
Not a thing. I believe that everything happens for a reason. The “stumbling blocks” that we have overcome throughout the 10 years we have been working at this idea have all been major learning milestones.
Q: What is the hardest part about being a mother?
Doing everything you want to do. After the birth of my first daughter I was in tears at the lactation specialist’s office because I was having such a hard time nursing. She told me, “We did women a huge disservice in the 60’s by telling everyone that women could do it all. We could have a family and a career. The truth is you can do it all, just not well. Something has to give.” Those words have truly stuck with me since then.
Sometimes my kids don’t eat as nutritious of a meal as I’d like. Sometimes I skip a workout because I am just too tired. I don’t always cross everything off my list, but I try. I try to be a good mom to my kids and sometimes I feel awesome at the job I am doing with them, and sometimes I crumble into bed at night and wonder what right I have to be a mom. I think that is normal. I have two wonderful and spirited kids. They are independent and loving and I hope that in 20 years I can sit back and know I’ve done a good job. Time will tell.
Q: What is the easiest part about being a mother?
Loving my girls. I think as mothers we always have guilt and feel like we should be doing more.
For me, a perfect day is getting up and making pancakes. My oldest daughter likes fancy shapes, but unfortunately I am not an artist. My sharks look like blobs and my princesses look like Mickey Mouse. My daughter seems to accept my imperfections as long as she has chocolate chips and whipped cream to cover them up.
Read more about Cloud Star and their tasty doggie treats.