By Tom Holmes
Forest Park resident Tiffany Ellis had a great job, wonderful kids and a loving husband. Her problem was time. She didn't have enough of it to give to all of them.
She was stuck in a bind that many women and some men are struggling with these days. On the one hand, she had ambitions of being a success in her career. She loved her job as a finance manager at Pepsi and dreamed of becoming a CFO by the time she turned 40. The problem was that pursuing that track left her with too little time for her family.
"Many nights I was stuck behind a desk doing calculations for a company," she explained. "It was definitely that push and pull, because I liked what I was doing at work, but I hated knowing that my children were with someone else more time in the day than I was. But when I was a stay-at-home mom after having my first child, that also drove me crazy. I had to find a balance."
The story of how she resolved her dilemma goes back three years to when she was pregnant with her first child. She had a 50-hour executive position downtown, was pregnant and going to graduate school at DePaul in the evenings, working toward a master's degree in public service.
Her family came to the rescue. "My grandparents would come over and cook for me while I would type my papers," she recalled. "My godmother would come over and wash my car and organize things until I got off work, and my husband would come in between classes and bring me dinner. What they did was so simple, but it meant the world to me."
Later on, she started a new demanding job, was still going to graduate school and felt like she couldn't ask for help any longer. "Even though I've always received support from my family," she said, "it wasn't enough in my opinion. I was overwhelmed, but I didn't want to burden my family any more by saying, could you please come over for just two hours so I can get some sleep or take a shower before noon on the weekends or to help me get the baby to sleep."
The third experience was a short get-away vacation in Indianapolis, on which the hotel they stayed at took care of everything, allowing the stressed-out couple to relax and enjoy themselves. During the stay, a staff member of the hotel said, "I hope you're enjoying this concierge service."
"I said 'concierge'!" she remembered. "The word came to me very clear. I said to myself, 'I want to be a concierge for mothers who feel just as overwhelmed as I do. "That was an aha moment, a divine intervention."
She had been looking for a way to integrate her bachelor's degree in finance with her master's degree in public service with her love of people in general and children in particular. The concept of being a concierge for stressed-out families and especially mothers seemed to put all the pieces together.
Still, the thought of starting her own business was scary. "I prayed about it," she said, "and God answered by asking me what my purpose in life is. I answered that children respond to me, and I enjoy making people happy. That is my purpose in life, to help other people."
Eric, her husband of five years, was very encouraging during her decision-making time. "I would complain about work and complain about not seeing the kids and not seeing him," she said, "and he replied, 'then quit!' And I said, 'Wait a minute. We can't.' And he said, 'We'll be able to eat and if you do it now you won't ever say you never tried. You have the education. You have the background, and you can always go back to your job if this doesn't work out.'"
She trusted the voices she heard, made a leap of faith and started Mama Concierge last October. Right now, as the business is getting off the ground, she puts about 15 hours a week into the business. She'd like more work but understands that it takes time for a business to grow. The services she provides vary greatly.
"My business is an affordable luxury service for families, but I focus on the mothers," she said. "I offer services like child care, breakfast delivery, home organization, school and activity transportation, light housework, local errands, photo book creation and tutoring."
"I had a client the other day," she said, "who called me and said I need you to watch my baby while he sleeps, so I can take my other two children to the doctor. While I was there, I folded her laundry, cleaned off her counters and took her garbage out. I charged her $15 an hour."
"I was also tutoring a set of twins and an older child twice a week," she continued. "I picked them up from school, brought them home, set them up with a snack, tutored them and then dropped them off at karate. I charged $20 an hour for that."
Perhaps the most important reason she is able to take the risk of starting her own business is that she has a supportive husband. "It's a team effort," she declared. "Eric's the cook in our house, and I'm the cleaner. He lifts me up when I'm worried and calms me down when I'm over-zealous. We have a really good balance."
Regarding the decreased income resulting from her leaving her position as a corporate finance manager, she said, "It's amazing how much you find out you don't need when you don't have it, and our expenses have gone down."
"I want readers to know that help is available," Ellis concluded. "I want people to be comfortable asking for help. I want people to know that this is an available, affordable service that's guaranteed to enhance their family."
You can find out more about Mama Concierge by going online at www.mamaellisconcierge.com.