She’s got a lot on her home plate.
By Sascha Zuger, Photograph by Ana Brandt
Being a working mom is challenging enough, but add an extra layer of responsibility when it’s your own business and the stress can be overwhelming. Fortunately, so can the rewards. These inspiring moms followed their personal passion to build thriving businesses serving Orange County. Although their stories might differ, a common theme of dedication to their goals and the delicate balance needed to achieve them, while maintaining a happy home, creates a sense of entrepreneurial sisterhood. They tell us how they make it all work, at work, and on the home front.
ou might say Deidre has a lot on her home plate. This mother of five — from two-years-old to seventeen — and wife of Angels’ superstar Albert Pujols, not only manages and homeschools her own large family, but is president of the massive national not-for-profit agency foundation serving those living with Down syndrome and the impoverished in the Dominican Republic. As is often the case, a personal connection became the catalyst for its creation — the Pujols’ oldest daughter, Isabella, has Down syndrome, and Albert hails from the Dominican Republic.
Deidre and her son (not pictured) worked together on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last year.
Deidre arrived for our cover shoot early in the morning, having flown back the night before from a charity event the foundation hosts each year bringing over 500 teens and young adults with Down syndrome together for a classic prom; complete with tuxes, corsages and dancing late into the night. It’s just one of the enriching experiences the foundation offers young people who might not otherwise enjoy the simple milestone moments kids typically have in life.
“I was just going through all the things there are to manage in my life on the way here,” Deidre said as we flipped through her blouse options. “To be in a situation like ours where there’s an element of celebrity behind you, a huge schedule to follow with all the baseball games and foundation events — it takes a lot of people to help you do all that needs to be done. It’s how we’re able to accomplish all the different things we have going on.”
Life was not always full of hectic schedules, formal events, and staff on standby; the couple started out living on Albert’s $126 a week Cardinals’ farm team salary as young new parents to a child with special needs.
Deidre and her daughter Isabella at the Hitters and Splitters event.
“The moment that I looked Isabella in the face the first time, on a spiritual note, it really was my life- altering moment. It was a really challenging time in my life. I was familiar with Down syndrome, I knew what it was, but I didn’t expect at barely 21, that I was going to be a person who had a daughter with Down syndrome. I remember sitting in the hospital bed right after she was born, really having some hardcore conversations with God about his plan. Why did I have this challenge? Are you sure you picked the right person? And here we are 17 years later and some amazing, incredible things have happened because of her life. Nothing I really did, just with the gift of parenting her. It’s been awesome. Sure, it’s challenging, but raising children is challenging so…it’s just a different type. I deal with things differently with Isabella than with my normally developing children. But really, it’s life, you figure it out as you go. And the relationships that have been created because of having Isabella, the people’s lives that have been changed because of having Isabella, starting a foundation…there are things that her life absolutely had a purpose for, and we’re getting to witness all of those things.”
When the Pujols moved from St. Louis to Orange County a few years ago during a much publicized Cardinals-to-Angels move (complete with a ten-year guaranteed contract of over $240 million), they wanted to recreate some of the programs they had established in the Midwest. Connecting with the local community became key.
“Our foundation helps us have an avenue to be intimate with the community and get to know local families. People see baseball players and professional athletes and they just think ‘superstar’, but this give us an opportunity to go, ‘No. Behind that uniform, there’s a guy and he loves the Lord, he loves his family and he wants to connect.’ You know, he’s not way up here and everybody’s down here. He wants to connect. So that’s what we can do through the Foundation.”
The family moved to OC from St. Louis when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels in 2011. Photo credit: Marianne O’Leary
The Pujols’ kids often attend these events with their parents. Last October, the Foundation’s Hitters and Splitters Event at Concourse Bowl of Anaheim hosted over 250 participants with Down syndrome and their families, while a “Batter Up” cooking experience at Roy’s Anaheim drew in the culinary minded. The Pujols also have an eye to create an all-star baseball program in the area. Although the Foundation offers the potential and resources for big scale projects, Deidre faces the usual multitasking issues most moms deal with and then some.
“Dad’s gone a lot. For 13 years now. For myself or any wife who has a husband who travels a lot or isn’t around on a daily basis, as is the case in some military families, the wife just goes into this beast mode. We figure everything out, we organize everybody’s schedules. We’re like these master orchestrators. I don’t care if you have one child or 10 children, it can be extremely taxing and stressful.
“I turned our family over to home schooling to have the flexibility of going where we need to go, when we need to be there for both foundation events and daily life. I really needed to have my kids not being left behind. The first year, when Dad came out here to play, it was extremely tough on us to not have him around for long periods. We really just are not the kind of family that can be apart for so long. We really need each other. So we made life happen to operate the way we needed to and home schooling allowed us that flexibility. It’s not easy, but there are some great rewards to it and one of them is having our family together.”
Albert dances with the children at the Pujols Family Foundation’s prom for kids with Down syndrome.
With one daughter in gymnastics, a son in baseball, another daughter aiming to get her feet wet in the swimming division at the Special Olympics, a two and four-year-old needing attention, and husband with a hectic work schedule; prioritizing and making her work with the Foundation fit into life is essential.
“There are priorities in our life. Our faith is first, then our family and then Albert’s career. So we really have to keep the order straight. Albert and I feel a great call that wherever we’re going to be, we need to keep our hearts in service mode. This is our time to show up, give back, make a difference, and throw events. One great aspect of the foundation is that my kids are now in the pioneer stages of their own lives learning to follow in our footsteps, to be sensitive to people with Down syndrome or any disability, to get the idea of philanthropy and giving back and helping others.
“We took my 13-year-old son, AJ, on a mission trip to Dominican Republic for the first time last year. We brought dentists. We were doing HIV testing. We had pediatricians, regular healthcare physicians, and a pharmacy set up. He got to assist and I could see his heart, he really wanted to do work. Taking my kids to the functions that we have builds them to who they’re supposed to be. As a parent, it’s a really awesome thing to watch.”
Queen of Arts Paint Parties, Ladera Ranch
Painting becomes even more fun when done with a fantasy flair. Black berets and hot pink smocks and frilly cakes await little ones attending the latest craze in unique mobile parties, while OC moms build memories as they bond with their mini-me’s over joint masterpieces.
“While 6 months pregnant with my third son, Sawyer, I got an email stating that my company was filing for bankruptcy and that would be everyone’s last day. In a short span of 15 months, I worked for 3 companies that all closed down and went out of business. I love the quote, ‘Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.’ It was then that I decided to start my own business. I couldn’t leave the fate of my family to uncertainty anymore.
“While my husband encourages and supports my ambition, as a mom, I needed to find a way to start my business without putting financial strain on our family. We had accumulated a lot of baby clothes, toys and gear my kids had outgrown. I began selling items from around the house on Craigslist and Ebay to come up with enough capital to start Queen of Arts! When you believe in the reason behind your business, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
“I have been painting and drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. I wanted to start a business where I can be creative and contribute to the community while providing a flexible schedule for my family. The best gift I could give my kids is my time. I started Queen of Arts to provide families, friends and kids a private setting where they can to spend quality time with each other away from the busy world. I turn their home or party location into their very own private paint studio. It’s an intimate time dedicated to sharing laughs with friends and family. Their work of art is a perfect souvenir to remember this special day.”
As her husband says, “ Michelle wants to set an example for our children by illustrating to them that, when life doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can overcome adversity through hard work and believing in yourself.”
StartBeat Entertainment LLC, Irvine
Discovering and nurturing local Orange County talent became a passion fulfilled when Rose created her talent agency, and within it, Hourglass Independent Records and Films. An Artist Development program gives kids and young adults access to world class songwriters and producers, with coaching for clients on what it takes to become a real recording artist.
“Being the mom of young children and running a business is tough stuff. I have never worked so hard in my life. I got my Masters from The Yale School Of Drama and believe me, they put us to the test there. They pushed us and I think it is that training that helps me persevere and continue creating. Being an artist is hard work, being a business owner is hard work, being a mom is hard work; they all require your full attention.
The greatest lesson I ever learned at Yale was to always be in the moment and be present. So when I am at work, I depend on the support system I have in place to care for my kids. When I am with my kids I trust that my business partner is keeping the ship sailing smoothly. When I perform or spend time writing, I have to really trust myself that I have done all I can to ensure that my work and my kids are strong. It is not easy. Things fall apart but you just have to pick up the pieces and be brave enough to put every thing back together and start again. Sometimes rearranging the pieces allows things to make more sense. So my best advice is be present and be prepared by setting yourself up for success.”
OC Dance Productions, throughout Orange County
From Tots and Tutus, to Royal Princess Ballet, recreational dance classes held in community centers throughout Orange County have amped up the fun factor with an aim to put smiles on kids’ faces as they learn the art of tap, cheer, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre, Irish dancing, and more.
“I never really intended on being a Mom of twins while building and managing my own business. Difficult, challenging, exhausting, but incredibly worth it. I refer to my company, OC Dance Productions, as my third child. I have to carve out time in my day to make our customers and staff feel important and valued, just as I do at home. There are days when I am not sure building and running my own business while caring for my 4 year old twins was my smartest decision – but I get over that quickly when we hold our recitals or I see our little dancers run out of class begging to come back tomorrow.
“Starting OC Dance was very strategic for us. It was evident we would need a dual income once we had kids. Given my background in dance and the NFL we thought opening a children’s dance studio would be ideal. It would give us the flexibility to bring my kids to work and do all the management from home in the evening hours. I now have over 20 amazing instructors on my staff and have taken time in choosing them wisely and treating them as well as I can so they know they are valued.
“Never underestimate that any Mom can start a business of her own as long as there is a rooted passion for their work, a strategy and patience. Combine a Mom’s determination to better the life of her family with her passion for whatever her business endeavor may be and incredible things are possible. Because we all know already it’s Moms that make the world go round!”
Jennifer Cella Williams
Beverly’s Best Bakeries, Yorba Linda and Fullerton
Creating masterful baked goods that taste as incredible as they look are what this mom of triplet boys and a little girl is known for. The artistic elements are so important, Jennifer ensures every wedding cake has her mark of approval before it leaves the bakery.
“ Doing something as a hobby and doing it as a business are two very different things, but if the opportunity is there and the timing is right, there is definitely something very gratifying about being your own boss. It comes with a lot of responsibility, but it also offers flexibility. I can’t imagine a better way to have a career and to have a family.
“Once upon a time, I used to be a crazy perfectionist, Type-A personality that wanted to do everything on my own no matter how long it took to get it right. That’s just not possible anymore. To be successful at work and at home, I have to prioritize, delegate and be comfortable with letting things go. That doesn’t mean throwing my hands up and accepting things as ‘good enough’. It means that nowadays, I focus on the tasks that are most important, and I entrust my talented staff and extended family members to handle some of the rest. I’ve learned that no one person can do it all – as much as we moms may try!
“Perspective is mandatory. The bakery is important, but my family is more important. There will always be more work, more to do, more to accomplish. But, with my kids, I only get one shot to do it right.”
By Sascha Zuger