Five years ago, if you had said the term “Baby Concierge,” people would have probably given you a confused look and figured this is when an infant gets dressed up like a hotel doorman. Now we just know to look to Rosie Pope and her ever-expanding maternity empire.
In just a few short years, Pope has built a tremendous brand of motherhood that includes education, fashion, products, and key advice with expectant and new mothers. With her reality show Pregnant in Heels, fashion lines (she owns two stores and has a line with Destination Maternity and A Pea in the Pod), her education center for moms and moms-to-be (Mom Prep), and now a book, she is quickly becoming the go-to source for mothers everywhere. She is clearly on the path to becoming the “Martha Stewart of Maternity,” a dream of hers.
With Mother’s Day on Sunday, we thought it would be wise to sit down with the woman who has a built a business around being a mom and helping moms. Pope weighed in on her inspirational and eccentric grandmother, leaning in at work and at home, and, of course, what the heck Kim Kardashian is wearing during her pregnancy.
You are working a lot right now with three young kids. Why are you choosing to accelerate in your career right now?
I think the important thing to understand is there are many stages in a child’s life. I haven’t taken maternity leave with any of my kids. In my mind, I’m working so hard now so that when they’re in high school I will have the flexibility then to attend those things [plays, soccer matches] as opposed to the other way around. I have a lot of friends now who are not working these years [when they have young children]. I think it’s important to look at your life and understand your choices are not forever. At home, there is also a time to lean in.
While every day I spend a lot of time with my children, a lot of the day my son is at preschool and many of the mums get to read books with the kids every week and volunteer in the classroom. I can never do that, but when he is older and is on the soccer team or in the school play or needs help with homework, I will be there. Most of my friends have done the total opposite and chose to retreat from the workplace now and go back later. You have to figure out what is right for you. My thing is, when they can reach the liquor cabinet, I’d like to be around.
Tell us about your grandmother and why she was a huge influence on you.
She was the most inspirational woman. She had a pretty hard life. She left school when she was 14 and ended up getting married to the only guy she had ever known. Then she moved to Africa and really just fell in love with the idea of equality and the world being a better place. She made her life about anti-apartheid and movements like that. She was just this incredibly creative woman with essentially no education. She started a movement called Pensioners for Peace. When Nelson Mandela was in jail they held an all-night vigil for him outside his house in London and would take shifts. It was amazing.
She was just this crazy woman with so much passion and so much belief in what she did, no matter how many people disagreed with her. I think it taught me you can do what[ever] you want. Whatever you believe in, you can do it. She was one of these woman who did what she believed in.
On the other side, she was overweight her whole life. And when she was 70 she gave up all food to only eat candy and sweets. She felt that the pressures of society had made her eat real food like meat and potatoes before she got to her candy. And then she lost a lot of weight! She literally ate candy into her 90s. It’s kind of like the Atkins Diet. She had four courses of dessert at our wedding.
When you first started this company were a lot of people like, “This is weird”?
Oh yeah. I always wanted to be this destination for pregnant women and moms. Naysayers always come out. It’s a double-edged sword. People tell you to find white space, and when you find it they’re like, “that’s such a niche subject.”
What is your advice for female entrepreneurs?
My advice, of course, is to follow your passion, but be realistic when something isn’t working. I started out making custom maternity gowns. They ranged from about $1,000 to $5,000 each. I did that because there was nobody doing that in maternity and I could do it as a one-woman show. But I knew very quickly that that was not going to be what worked. So follow your passion, but don’t do it blindly.
Do you have any tips for new moms going back to work? How do you stay focused?
It’s hard and you have to train yourself to do it, but you have to be very present where you are. When you’re at work you have to be working, and when you’re home, you have to be home. The temptation to cross pollinate those two worlds is really heavy, and it makes it very hard. If you have your Facebook page up at work and you start pining over pictures, it’s not going to be a good day. And when you’re at home, if you’re checking your emails, it’s not a good idea. That’s why I don’t really take lunch when I’m here [at work]. I’m just go, go, go, go, go! And then at home I’m go, go, go, go.
Do you try to check out of work on the weekends totally?
Both with the children and myself, I am a stickler for schedules. I am very lucky that I can make my schedule, by and large. I structure my day so I am home for dinner and bath time, but the moment they go to bed I start working at again. I do have work-life balance in that I don’t take calls or do emails from 5:00 to 7:30, but 9:00 comes around and I’m right back into it.
What do you think of all of this shaming of pregnant women happening in the media right now, specifically with Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton?
I think if somebody is doing something to harm their baby, it is very legitimate for us to comment on it and be concerned. If someone is morbidly obese or anorexic it can be dangerous for the baby. The theory is valid, but I find it so upsetting that we picked two people who are neither anorexic nor obese and made them the subjects of abuse. It’s very unhealthy to pick on people who don’t fall under those categories. It gives people a skewed version of what is healthy and unhealthy. It’s a very dangerous road to go down. Especially when Kim has a baby, she will be on the cover of a magazine two weeks later looking fabulous. They [the press] will build her right back up again. It is a lose-lose battle for anyone going through it.
Why do you think Kim in particular has been picked on so much for her fashion choices?
I think she is a fashion icon and has made poor fashion choices. I think it is totally legitimate to attack her fashion when she has made her whole brand about fashion, but then it got on to the weight, as if it was the weight making the clothing bad. It’s really interesting that she has become this scapegoat.
I think with Kim it’s like a weird badge of honor for her, like, “I didn’t wear maternity clothes during my pregnancy” as if somehow your body didn’t change. It is supposed to change! Embracing it is important. You don’t have to love your body when you’re pregnant, but you have to understand that these changes are happening for a reason and it’s for the good of your baby. And you have to be happy about it. If nothing changed, you should be worried.
Does running this company help make you a better mom, and vice versa?
I always joke that with managing three kids that young [all under six years old] that work is a piece of cake. I do think I am a very different person at work than at home. We do family meetings at home and I started them ’cause I thought someday when they are older they could call family meetings if they have a problem. Right now the general topic of discussion is bath time and every other night we cancel bath and they just get so excited! And I get so excited because not having to do three baths is great! I get such a small joy in breaking my own rules and they get so excited and feel like they are part of the voting.
For our readers that may have pregnant co-workers, do you have any tips for how they should act around them?
You have to figure out what type of pregnancy they are having. There are two types: With some people—and I mean this in the nicest way—it is like going through a wedding. It is very self-indulgent. They can be really all about it and want to talk about it all the time and will answer any question you have. The other type does not want it to be a public event. They are really private and don’t want to answer questions. It’s pretty easy to tell which one they are.
Any advice for new moms?
Pregnancy prepares you for babies. They train you as you go. My friends with babies or that are pregnant will see me with my three kids and they will get a little freaked out, and I have to say, “They don’t come out like this.” First they don’t eat food, just milk. They train you as they go. You don’t wake up one day with a four-year-old. You are going to be given stages.
The baby part is actually the easiest part. And so I say, have a little more fun with it. It is actually the easiest time to eat out. I think a lot of people are like, “I have a newborn baby; I should never leave the house.” When you try to take a one-year-old on a plane, that is when it gets tricky. Same with going to a restaurant. But when they are newborns they pretty much sleep through anything. You don’t have to stay home because it is naptime. You know, they will nap in a stroller.
Any good mother’s day gifts for new moms you can suggest?
Our diaper bag is a really good gift. And this is not just for newborns; as a mom, you need bags. On the outside it looks like a cool bag; on the inside it is washable and has a million pockets. You always need a bag as a mom.
What is the plan with your company?
Next is moving in to products beyond maternity—so, babies and home. We are working on making the move to non-maternity clothes. And then more books, and the show will come back.
How will you be celebrating Mother’s Day?
What are you getting the mothers in your life for Mother’s Day? Tell us in the comments, or check out our gift guide for inspiration!
Ask Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer at Levo League, about how she balances “leaning in” with being a mom!