7: Summer Harris, CEO of Baby Bling, on Overcoming Insecurities, Battling Gender Discrimination, and Evolving as a Leader

Show Notes

Summer Harris is the CEO of Baby Bling, an infant accessory company based in Utah. Baby Bling was founded in 2005 and has grown from a creative endeavor into a thriving business owned by women. Summer offers a compelling example that leadership excellence doesn’t depend on a business school degree or earning your stripes working for a well-known company. Summer is self-taught. She is hungry to develop and offers a path that more and more people are taking today.

During our conversation, Summer shares insights on:

  • Overcoming insecurities
  • Battling gender discrimination in the business environment
  • Evolving as a leader and staying passionate
  • Staying open to opportunities
  • Being humble enough to keep learning and growing
  • And much more.

The best ways to connect with Summer are:

  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/babybling/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Baby-Bling-Bows-54956972433/

You can follow Brett Pinegar on:

Subscribe to SEEKING EXCELLENCE now and if you love it, rate, review, and if you feel so inclined, please share it with folks you think would be interested.


Podcast Transcript

I'm very open to other people's opinions and the way that they see things, because I know that I don't know everything. I believe that there are very few facts in the world, and so there's always just an opportunity for somebody to present something in a way, maybe, that I didn't see it before. Or in a way that I can learn and kind of change the direction of everything else going.

Welcome to SEEKING EXCELLENCE. I’m Brett Pinegar.

The SEEKING EXCELLENCE podcast is all about sharing insights from people that are leading out and seeking to be their best. The path to excellence is different for each of us. Yet, what we share is a desire to improve and to develop — to learn and adapt. We talk about the processes and approaches we can all use to make our path more effective. We share the stories and experiences that help us develop.  Our goal is to inspire and motivate us all to be the best version of ourselves.

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Register for this event at https://brettpinegar.com/events

Summer Harris is the CEO of Baby Bling, an infant accessory company based in Utah. Baby Bling was founded in 2005 and has grown from a creative endeavor into a thriving business owned by women. Summer offers a compelling example that leadership excellence doesn’t depend on a business school degree or earning your stripes working for a well-known company. Summer is self-taught. She is hungry to develop and offers a path that more and more people are taking today.

During our conversation, she shares insights on:

  • Overcoming insecurities
  • Battling gender bias in the business environment
  • Evolving as a leader and staying passionate
  • Staying open to opportunities

Summer, it is great to have you on the podcast.

Thank you so much.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Summer Harris, I am born and raised in Utah. I'm a mother of four, and currently the founder and CEO of Baby Bling.

Tell me about Baby Bling.

Baby Bling is an infant hair accessory business I started 13 years ago with my mom. She lasted for a few years, until it became a little bit bigger than she set out for it to be, and I've since partnered up with a high school best friend and my sister. We're currently producing, manufacturing, fulfilling every aspect from beginning to end regarding our business.

My goodness, vertically integrated.


The whole thing.


So what motivated you to start the business?

Mostly it was just a creative outlet for me. My mom and I began making all of the headbands ourselves, and so just to be able to put colors together, and come up with designs, it was just a great way to spend time with my mom, and also just fulfilling creatively.

When did it go from a creative endeavor to a business endeavor?

I would say probably about three to four years in. We started out, back 13 years ago, it wasn't very easy to throw up an e-commerce website. So for us, we started on the wholesale end, and we were just selling in small little specialty boutiques here and there, mostly on the West Coast, close to home, and we got our first opportunity with Nordstrom. So that's a lot of everything. It's a lot of digging into their routing guides, and the way their business is run, and producing a lot, and just a lot of organization that goes into that. So for me, that was a big jump into something new, and I needed to kind of figure out what it was that I loved about this new business now. Because I had kind of stepped away from the creative side of it.

And what was it that you loved?

You know, I love organization, so just the operational organization was really very fulfilling to me for a long time.

My goodness, who would have thought?

I know, right? A little tiny bow could go so many places and do so many things, and involve so many different people.

So tell me a little bit about the organization today. How many people do you have that are involved in the management and sort of operation of the company?

We have working at our warehouse, doing all of the management, operations and fulfillment, 20 women.



You said women.


All women.


How does that feel?

It's really awesome. It has it's challenges, of course, because we're all living such similar lives that, you know, Spring Break rolls around for your kids, and everybody needs the week off, and different things like that that make a little challenging. But for the most part, it's amazing. We actually took all of our warehouse staff and employees to Hawaii at the end of February, just for a little thank-you vacation, and it's pretty cool to bond that way.

It is, it is, I've done that myself. You gain a closeness and respect and understanding of your team that you don't gain in any other way.

Very much.

Especially as they see you give. That was a significant investment on your part, in their sense of who they are and everything, and they see that and appreciate that.

I would hope so, I would hope so.

I would hope so too. So when you look back to this decision to start the business and then to turn it from a creative pursuit to a business here, what were some of the fears or challenges, or things that concerned you about the business?

Probably my own insecurity in the fact that I don't have a business education. I mean, I went straight from high school to motherhood, and that kind of thing was always a little bit scary, because I think I felt like, based on my past experience of having just worked in retail that I understood a lot of the basics of how those types of things operated. But to not have the lingo or the fundamental knowledge was a little bit intimidating. But I'm also very very stubborn, so I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to do things.

Were there mentors or coaches or advisors that helped you, or how did yo figure things out?

Wow, well early on, we involved a sales rep, when we got to where we couldn't peddle the bows around ourselves and wanted to get a little bit bigger, we involved a sales rep at that time, who had a lot of experience in the industry. So within the whole sale side of running a business, she really was a great mentor for me.

Excellent. And other mentors, either operationally or strategically that you've used?

You know, I've read a lot of books, my husband has an accounting degree, and so he kind of was able to give me a lot of formulas to use in terms of inputting costs of different things to come to a decision when I wasn't sure, you know, what's the correct term for what I'm trying to figure out? He had that education, and was able to help me answer a lot of those questions also.

Great, great, and just a lot of hard work and not giving up.

Yes, I'm pretty determined.

You are. And where did that come from?

You know I think it just comes from being an oldest child. I think you kind of get to, you're bossy from day one, and you kind of take charge, and you are in a way paving the way for the siblings that come after you.

And parents, mom, dad, what kind of influence did they have over you and your sort of personality and your character traits?

You know my parents are both very entrepreneurial as well. My mom was always doing little side jobs that were very creative, so I always knew that was something you could do, that that was an option. And my dad as well was involved in a lot of different businesses throughout my childhood. And so I think I learned a lot of that perseverance from them as well. As well as, you know, nothing is ever over, and there's always a solution, and if this ting doesn't work out, then it's on to the next.

Interesting. So a lot of positive views and mentalities that really influenced you, a lot of mindsets, I'll call them, that were part of really feeling you could do something. I'm sure there were some nay-sayers out there as well. Maybe people that said, you know, you can't do this. It will be fun, but it won't go anywhere. Did you experience a lot of--

We did. I mean, I did personally. I remember early on in the business, maybe five, six years in, when were just kind of getting the jump into the bigger accounts, and we needed funding. And nobody wanted to give me funding. Nobody wanted to give me funding without my husband co-signing. And that was really frustrating to me, because he wasn't part of the business. You know, he was supportive, of course, but he wasn't doing anything. And so it was very demeaning in a lot of ways.

It was insulting!

For sure. And I think I probably cried for a couple of days, but then I was determined to prove them wrong. And fortunately for me, I was able to do that.

You certainly have. So did you get funding, or did you continue to bootstrap?

We bootstrapped for a long time. We actually just last year got our first line of credit just to kind of cushion our cash flow on the bigger, now that the accounts are getting bigger, there needs to be a little bit of cushion, but we bootstrapped for a very very long time.



Well good for you. Now more in your control, and the upsides there for your own benefit.

For sure. You don't see that at the time, you don't imagine that you're possibly going to get there, but looking back now, I'm grateful for those challenges, and the position that they put me in today.

Well you're a great example for women, and it's great to see more women taking advantage of the business opportunities that exist. If you think about being a woman, and running an organization, were there specific challenges you felt that had to do with your gender that you encountered, besides the lack of a line of credit?

The lack of a line of credit, and I also feel like, specific to my business and my product, a lot of men don't understand the value in a hair accessory. You know, that's kind of more of a female thing, and the moms who love to dress their daughters. So that was definitely a challenging thing, because most of the people in a position to step in and help me were male. And so I feel like there's definitely that challenge when you're producing a product that's so gender-specific.

And in term of your business relationships, have you felt a lot of resistance from vendors you've had to work with, or other partnerships, or has it not been so challenging in that way?

It's not so challenging any more. For the most part, because we're in a children's industry, a lot of the children's industry is specifically owned or operated by women. So there's not as much of challenge on that end.

What advice would you give to a woman here that has an idea, that is maybe facing some resistance, whether that be internally generated, and we all have or own anxieties and issues, or whether that's a lot of external feedback, that says no you can't do this?

You know for me, I feel like I have a very small perspective. I create this bubble around me that is kind of the only thing I worry about. And for me, Baby Bling, I was fortunate enough that I could allow it to kind of grow organically. And so for those women, I feel like, don't try and look too far ahead. If you have a great idea, I met this amazing lady at the panel I met you at, who had this idea to make these adorable baby hats. You just can't let it get so big, and try and think so far into the future that you become overwhelmed. Keep it small, and that's okay. It was small for me for a really long time. When I was ready, it came, is really how I feel.

Fantastic. Let's pivot now to your leadership style. We talk a lot about leadership on this podcast, and about what makes you tick as a leader. When you think about what motivates you to be the leader you are, what is it inside of you that causes you to be, and act and behave in the way you behave as a leader?

I feel like I really enjoy seeing other people feel successful, or feeling accomplished. So for me, I'm very open to other people's opinions and the way that they things, because I know that I don't know everything. I believe that there are very few facts in the world, and so there's always just an opportunity for somebody to present something in a way maybe that I didn't see it before, or in a way that I can learn, and kind of change the direction of everything else going. So I feel like I'm very open to that, because I also love, you know, when someone suggests something and it succeeds, I love to see that they feel that success as well, and it's not all mine.

I love hat you just said here about facts, and how there are not that many facts in the world. I think that's counterintuitive to many of us. We think the world is full of facts, and there is very little ambiguity. It's sort of this way or that way. Where did you come by the notion that there aren't that many facts in the world?

I think it goes back to that, just kind of not having that college education, and not getting browbeat with this is the way it is, and too much information. I think, I'm by no means saying that people shouldn't go to college, but sometimes you learn something from a book, and you believe that's the only way for it to be done for so long, that you're never open for the opportunity for something to be different, or for something to change. And I just think that everything, even if something worked really well for a long time, that doesn't mean it's gonna work the same way forever.

That right, I think that's brilliant insight, and I wish that more of us realized there are relatively few fact. Because as a leader, if you think there are facts, and everything's a fact, then it's easy to say no to somebody or to not listen to somebody. And I see in my coaching work, tremendous amounts of lack of listening. Lots of talking, little listening.

Very true.

And in so doing, or by so doing, the leader doesn't get the input that they really need. And people then realize what a leader wants to hear is what they tell them, instead of what they really need to hear. So in your environment here, that mindset has gone a long ways. Other mindsets or sort of beliefs that you have that really drive your leadership?

I just feel like everybody has a value that they can add. I don't ever want to shut anybody down, because your job title is this, or your job title is this, so you can't contribute anything to this other aspect of the business.

Well it comes back to some of the earlier mindsets you talked about, which are very people-centric. This is about helping people succeed. About taking people's input and ideas. Being open to those relationships, and the relationship is really important here. What that enables you do to is be more of an understanding leader, more of a humble leader. What do you do, though, when things get tough, and you've gotta make a tough decision, and you can't be nice to everybody?

That's definitely challenging, especially in the position that I am where most of the people who work for me are family or close friends. I feel like, though, in being an open leader for all of the other 99% of the time, when the challenging things come up, you've built up that trust from them, for them to understand and believe that you're going to make really the best decision you can for everyone's best interests involved.

Do you ever find that the people have pushed back because you're so open and accommodating, all of a sudden, no, we're gonna do it this way here, that people aren't sure how to react or respond to that?

Yeah, I think a little bit, mostly because I am so open to things for a long time. But I've got a little fire in me. Once I've decided, I'm a reflective person, I'm an introspective person, and I think they learn that about me, and know when the decision's made, the decision's made.

There's something that I call Argue and then Commit. Lots of argument's great, and in fact, if we make decisions without enough argument, we often make the wrong decision. But then at some point you've got to commit, and then make the decision. And then challenge will be that the team, you're committed, you've made the decision, the team's gotta follow along. So you've got to ensure that they are with you. A friend of mine tells this great story about how the were trying to decide where to plant a particular tree at a church. And this buddy said, "Oh, it can't be here, it can't be here, "don't want it there, this would ruin the view "if the tree were here." Well the tree got planted there, they decided to plant it there. And on the day of the planting, he came with a shovel and started digging the hole. What are you doing here, you weren't on board! And he goes, "Well, the decision's made, "I want you to know that I'm fully committed." And that's such an important attribute here. How do you foster, besides, besides the fact that you're open, trust? What are some of the other ways you build trust with your team?

I think in just being very open with the fact that I don't know everything. That I'm not, I mean the only thing I have is my experiences, and that I'm very open to other people's opinions. I mean I think they all, I would hope, all understand that, and trust me to be able to weigh all of them. It's hard because I have some employees who are very very data-driven, and some who are very relationship-driven, and it's kind of having to be able to mesh all of those different things together.

Great, great. So one of the most important things that you can do as an executive is set the direction of the company, and let people know this is where we're going, this is the hill we're going to climb, the mountain we're going to climb, and then we can all rally around how we're going to get there. What sorts of techniques or things have you done to try and establish a vision that is interesting and motivating to your team?

I think it just goes a lot toward the culture that we create at Baby Bling. You know I always try and bring it back a little bit when people stat to get stressed out or frustrated. It like, it's just a headband guys. It's just a baby bow. And if you can scale back and realize, okay, this isn't a life-or-death situation, and everybody can reevaluate and stop for a minute. So I feel like to hear the person at the very top saying all right, nothing is that big of a deal, nothing's going to overwhelm us, I think it kind of calms everybody down. And I hear them say that to themselves, "It's just a bow." Or I'll hear them say that to someone else, you know, "It's just a headband." Let's calm down. I mean, sure, it's a business, and we're generating a profit that's providing for a lot of families or my other employees, but at the end of the day, it's not anything that's going to overtake your life. And I kind of don't, I hope that I encourage them to still have other things that are important.

Good balance.

Yeah, for sure.

So with your vision here, what have you done to sort of think about vision? How do yo inspire yourself with what's possible? Because it is just a baby bow, but it is a baby bow.

Right, I think it's just continuing to make a quality product, I feel like. Just being there every day, and letting them see I'm still invested, and that I'm still excited. For me, the whole process is very, it's never the same. Like I said in the beginning, it's very fulfilling for me, the creative side of it. And then the operational and the organizational side of it was very fulfilling. And where I'm at right now, I have created this amazing team around me, it's just caring for those people. That's very important for me. All of those products, like I mentioned, we manufacture ourselves. And they're all manufactured by stay-at-home women in our community. So we've got a team of about 90 amazing women, who sew all of our headbands, and that is so important to me. And the women that work at the warehouse, it's so important to me, because I feel that as women, and especially mothers, we're so willing to sacrifice so much of ourselves for our families and for our children that you kind of forget how important it is to have something that's just about you, or allows you to have complete fulfillment in a task, and see it finished, and see it accomplished. Because as a mom, you have years and years and years and years before somebody's gonna tell you, hey you did a great job. You know, your adult son is amazing. So I think to have these small little tasks every day, or every week, where you can kind of remember yourself, or remember, see yourself accomplish something even at a really small scale, I feel like it's really important. So for me to give that to the women who sew for us, and to my own employees, it means a lot to me. There's this whole rampant spotlight on empowering women, and that's my version of it. To give them back something, where the women at the office can see the business grow, and know that they're a part of that, and the women who sew the headbands can know, okay, I accomplished, I made 250 headbands this week, and it was like a task that I saw from start to finish. Because so many things about the stay-at-home mom life are just kind of this on-going project. So I feel like that's giving back to them, that's giving back tot he women in my community, and it's in turn changing their households, on a very small scale, maybe, but I feel like that's important to me, and I feel like that's a value that Baby Bling has, and hope I've taught the employees and the other women involved that as well.

It's fantastic. Let's talk about that some more, because this is exciting. There's this notion that many people have about you can't be a good mom, and have a life outside the home. Help me dispel that.

I feel like you can't be a good mom if you forget who you are. If you don't show your children to value themselves by you valuing yourself, and you valuing, you know what, he it's important for me to go and get my hair done. Or it's important for me to go out and play tennis, and remember that I am an individual as well. Because you don't want them to forget. I look at my daughter, and I think, I don't want her to ever put anyone else above her or in front of her, or forget who she is, or not take care of herself and think that she's important and deserves time.

So the advice is, you can have a lot more than just being a stay-at-home mom here.

Oh yes.

You can do a lot of things, be very fulfilled--

You can do a lot of things. You can do a lot of things. I mean, even if it's something small. I'm not saying go start a business, or come and sew for me, or have some crazy hobby. But if there's just something that you're doing for yourself and to show your kids that you are an important individual as well as a family unit, and your contribution to the unit, whether it be your classroom or your family or your community, but you have to take care of yourself first. You can't take care of everybody else if you lose that about yourself.

Or if they want to do something big, go big as well.

Yes, for sure. There's no reason not to. You know, you get to a point where you ave to decide what's really important. For me, I'm working 40 hours a week, and is my house perfectly spotless? No, but I don't miss soccer games, because that's what's important to me. And you can't do it all, but you can do a lot. And you can decide what's the most important to you and you can do those things.

So what impact has being a CEO and running a company, and growing it, and doing some amazing things had on your family? How do they view you differently, do you think?

I think they trust me a little bit more when I give them advice. I think they're a little bit more aware that I'm know what I'm talking about, because I have something going on outside of our home. I like to think that I'm a good example to them of working hard for something, and being patient. It was by no means an overnight success. I was fortunate that I could grow it organically with my children. And so by the time my youngest child was in first grade and in school full-time and I'm able to invest a little more time and the business could grow a little bit more with that investment. I hope that's another example of, you know, you're gonna get out of it what you put into it.

Very interesting. So great story, great success story, yet there are a lot of people out there, male or female, that feel like, boy, there's just a lot of things that are in my way, making this a hard thing to start, a hard thing to grow, whether it's my roles as a caretaker for our children or I'm risk-adverse, and this feels kind of scary to do this here. What to you do, how do you help people take that next step? You've talked about keeping things short and quick, and not thinking too long term here, but sometimes there's something about just jumping, and that's a little theme here. Some people we've talked about on the podcast, have talked about running towards the pain, or jumping in a way that would be risky, but it's the only way to do it here. How do you jump when you're scared of heights?

It's funny, I was talking to my husband a little bit about mantras last night, and I think mine for me is always, well then what's gonna happen, well then what? If I have a fear in my head, and I play it down the road a little, well then what? Well then what, well then what? And it always kind of ends up as, well, nothing. So for me, I think you get quicker at playing the whole scenario through your head, and it's just, well what's the worst that can happen? There's just so many, you know, for Nordstrom, that could have been a really big, scary jump for people to think, okay, I'm used to sitting down and making 25 headbands by myself with my own fingers, and the idea of Nordstrom ordering 1500 headbands is really scary. But it never jumps that hard. It never jumps that far, and they send you a giant manual of a routing guide, and some people can look at that and say, oh my gosh, it's so overwhelming, and for me, I look at it, well I know how to read, so I'll figure it out.

Step by step here. You talked about mantras here. Let's talk about the private behaviors that you focus on that enable you to be a good leader, to be a good business owner. Sometimes you go with mantras, or other things they do, what are the things that most motivate, inspire, and energize you for your work?

I think just seeing different perspectives of things. I think that kind of motivates me the most, of seeing how even other people perceive my business. I think that's very, very motivating. We recently had a woman write us an amazing letter, who had her daughter in the NICU for several weeks or months, I can't remember, she was born very early. And she wrote us this amazing letter of just saying, "Putting a headband on my daughter everyday "was the only thing I could do for her. "It was the only thing that made me feel like a mom." Which was amazing, because I never would have thought that. It's just a headband, I'm gonna put it on my kid, it kind of frivolous and just a fashion item, but to know that, wow, I gave something that I didn't even see coming, I didn't even see that, is awesome, and I think and try and look for those opportunities to learn how somebody sees me or my business or anything really that's out there, to see how they see it.

We all make an impact, whether we know it or not. People are impacted, hopefully for the good, by the work we do. What do you do every day? What are part of your sort of daily or weekly activities that keep you at your best?

Well we just stated yoga at the warehouse, so we do that Tuesdays and Fridays. I came from yoga today. That's kind of changed a lot of my perspective of letting things go a little bit better, and taking care of my physical body. I kind of let that slide for a little while. You get so inundated with the day-to-day computer work, and then off to take care of your house or take care of your kids, and I think that's kind of, I've made myself refocus on that a little bit. Oh my goodness.

This is where editing comes in.

Yeah right. I didn't know I had an alarm on. I don't know, day-to-day. It's so different. Fortunately for me, I've done every aspect of the business, that I just kind of get to piddle around in every little thing, and walk around and make sure everybody's doing okay, and like I said, it's a people business for me now, and just kind of managing and making sure that everyone's capable and able to do their jobs to the best of their ability, for them. Like I said, I want them to feel successful, and productive every day.

Do you feel that you have a daily routine? That there's a process you go through, how you spend your day?

Um, no. I mean, I have my routine of, well that's funny, because that's another thing I'm trying to change up, to where I'll get up, and I'll take my sixth-grader to school, and I'll come back, and then I'll go on my run. I'm trying to create that new routine for myself, because I've been on the habit of drop my son off at school, grab my coffee, head straight to my computer, and don't look up 'til five o'clock. So I'm kind of trying to revamp that a little bit. You know, I always, I feel like life is a cycle. It's not just a straight path, and you're always having to kind of reinvent yourself. You have to reinvent yourself as a mother or a parent when your kids get older. Okay, now I'm not needed as much, so I've got to kind of reinvent where I fit in with their life. And as a business owner, you've got to kind of reinvent all of that. And now that I've got all of these amazing women who work for me, who are very capable of doing their jobs, I fell like, okay, I don't need to be there at 8:00, I can show up at 9:30 after I've had my run, and I've grabbed my coffee, and come in, and they're very capable of doing those things. And so I'm kind of in an adjustment period right now.

That's great.


You know, I've found that in working with leaders here, those leaders that have routines, maybe not the same routine every day, maybe Friday is the day they don't take meetings, they just a lot of their big thinking, or maybe Tuesday is the day where they always go out to lunch with one of their employees, is a great way for them to reduce the mental fatigue that we often experience as leaders, because of what am I going to do today? And every time I have to answer that question, I have to make a decision. And the decision wears out the mental muscle that we have, and so by giving focus and having these routines, it brings greater energy, because you just know this is what I do on Tuesdays, this is what I do on Thursdays or Fridays.

I think routine for me gets really, really mundane. You know I know every day I'm gonna get up and I'm gonna go through the Starbucks drive-through and I'm gonna get my ice coffee, and that's about as routine as it gets for me. I like to sit there, and I go through all of my email in the morning, and then I'll check it a few more times, but we do the team lunches on Fridays, and we do a meeting on Monday, just kind of a recap of the previous month. I prefer to not be too routine. I love to be able to look at my calendar and know, okay, now I have this meeting on this day, and this meeting on this day, and really the only time we've carved out beyond that is the yoga on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Gives you room for creativity.


And keeps your mind fresh.


So you talked about how this is a big change for you, you sort of having to reevaluate what you do and how you do it here, there's a cycle that I see lots of people go through of learning and adapting, and the first more important step for many leaders is being aware that something has changed. And sometimes it's really obvious, where, I don't need to be there at 8:00, I can come in at 9:30, and that would be more than sufficient, because these folks know exactly what to do, and I would just be getting in their way. Sometimes, though, the changes are more subtle, and more difficult. How do you keep that awareness focused? How do you maintain your ability to notice change?

I think I reflect on myself a lot. Because I realize that I'm in charge of the outcome for everything, and so when I'm feeling frustrated about going to work, even, or just tired, low energy, I become very introspective, and look back at, okay, what am I doing that's different? What could be leading to this, the cause of this, or the cause of this? And for me, it's just been really poor energy, and so that's where I feel it's important for me, I've got to really focus on my physical well-being, and making sure that I'm running or that I'm doing yoga or something like that every day, because if something doesn't feel right, I'm like, okay, what can I change? Something needs to be changed up here a little bit.

Energy, maintaining your energy's really important.


How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

I try and get about eight hours of sleep, between seven and eight. I have a problem of going to bed too early, and getting too much sleep, just because I'm worn out. And I'll crawl into bed at 9:30 and wake up at 7:00 or something like that, and when I get in that cycle after a week or so, I'm like, okay, it's time to step back and stay up a little bit later reading so you can get up at 7:00, or got to bed early, and get up earlier. I do not function well on too much sleep.

That's interesting. And I can relate here, you know, I've got Parkinson's Disease, and so that means I have to sleep a little more than I used to, and yet it's a little harder to sleep, and so I'll take it where I can get it. Sometimes that means lying down on the floor of the office here, and just saying all right, I'm gonna take 10 minutes and just shut my eyes. And managing our energy is critical, because as you say, people rely on you. They look to you as being the reason why they're there, in many cases.

And that's a heavy feeling, sometimes.


You know, you have your children and your family that relies on you, and now to have all of these other people that you know rely on you for, even just financially, to know so many families now are relying on me and the decisions I make, that's heavy sometimes.

Yeah, and with that heaviness can come a sense of isolation for some of us.

Very much, it's very isolating.

Yeah, you feel alone. What do you do to work through those feelings? Because those are feelings that so many executives feel.

I talk to my husband. I mean, I definitely will talk to people. I don't completely shut down. I'm not real great at talking about something that I feel like is a weakness of myself, but even just talking out loud. I guess it doesn't even, the person doesn't need to have experience in what I'm talking about, but just to kind of hear myself say things out loud kind of allows me to work through them, versus kind of trying to internalize it and mull it over in my brain. I have a friend who's also in the same position that I'm in with her company, and we'll chat pretty openly as well.

Great, oh that's important. Having some kind of a peer, or some kind of relationship where you can have those conversations, because sometimes it's just not safe at work to say, I don't know. They're like, what do you mean, you don't know?

Right, and to balance as well when you're working with your high school best friend and your sister and your aunt and your cousin, and to not feel like people will judge you for making a decision based on that relationship. You always, you want to be fair.

Yeah, you really do indeed. So when you look at where you want to go, where you want to be sort of five, ten years from now. Do you have a sense for how life will be different for you five or ten years down the road?

I don't. It's funny, we had the conversation last night, my husband and I, because when you're young and you're just getting married, you have the vision of, this is person, I'm gonna get married, and we're gonna have these kids, and then maybe you have a vision of maybe when you're older and retired and you have a motor home, or you sit in your front porch in your rocking chairs, but nobody has this vision for your life when your kids are grown, but you're not retired. And so for me, I'm just like, I don't know what I see. My second child right now is getting ready to graduate from high school, and then I have two more at home. My youngest is 13. I think, wow, I've got five or six years of this mom thing--

And then you're done.

Yeah, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? I'm working on that. I see Baby Bling continuing in making a great product, and employing the women to sew and the women to work in the warehouse, and impacting my community that way, I just, I take it one day at a time. I don't want to get too focused on a plan or a five-year goal or a 10-year goal, because them I think I'd get get too many blinders on, and too hyper-focused on something, and don't leave myself open.

I sense that you go through cycles where you're like, I'm leaning something new, I'm developing skills, I'm having fun, I'm learning, I've now matured, I've now reached a plateau, I need to do something new. It was creative, it was operational, and then you described it as being relational, almost, right now, in that step here. It will be interesting to see what comes next in terms of what is that next sort of step in this? Do you ever think that there are other businesses in your future?

I don't know other businesses, but I definitely love opportunities like I'm having here today with you, to just kind of mentor and encourage other people to jump in, especially women who are a little bit scared, or a little bit unsure. I think it's just, I want them to not forget themselves. I think that's just really important to me. Because I feel like that's such an amazing thing that's really going to impact our communities and our country as it gets bigger, and more women are in political offices, and CEOs of larger companies. It's just gonna have a great change. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong, but there's nothing wrong with changing, either. And I think looking at things from a female perspective in all industries, and in all places in the world, is going to be a beautiful, positive thing for the world. And if I can be a little bit of an impact in that, in where I am, that will make me happy. That's all I'm worried about.

Well that's exciting. It's certainly something I'm very interested in as well here. Most unfortunately the listeners to this podcast are probably male right now. And I hope through our episode, more females will be able to listen here. So what advice would you give to the men in the audience, who are connected in some way to a woman who may have some ideas and wants to do some things?

Just, you know, support it. It just needs support. I think men, well I don't even know if it's men in general, are such problem-solvers, and they want to be able to know all the answers, or help in that way. You know my husband's the same way. And ti's like, I don't really need you to help me, tell me what to do, I just wanna know that you're there, and you support it, and that's all that I need. I mean, there's something for everybody. It may not be a business for your wife, or your significant other, but there's something that they need to do for themselves, and you can help them figure out what that is, and support them as they do it. I mean, tennis lessons, you know? You're gonna watch the kids, or, I played roller derby for a couple of years. I would encourage every woman to play roller derby, for sure.

And why? That's a--

It's just very empowering. You know, you have to use physical strength in addition to strategy and your brain, but it's just, it's a very empowering thing.

Boxing may do the same thing for some women, or--

Maybe, yeah. Just anything, just some people need a physical outlet, some people need a creative outlet, some people just need a social outlet. You know, even if you financially are very stable, and your wife wants to go get a job at the mall, you know, twice a week, just encourage and support. They are so willing, women and mothers are so willing to sacrifice for their children and for their families. And sometimes they forget, because they're kind of lost in it, or they don't, they can't quite put their finger on what's missing. And I think just to be encouraging and supportive of those things.

Boy, I just think back to my own life and my own situation and feel that as a husband and as a dad, I could do a much better job than I've done here. I mean, there's a sense of, boy, in my upbringing, I'll just be vulnerable here for a second, roles were pretty well defined. And I think that we live in a different world, and there's plenty of opportunity, regardless of your gender, to do amazing things. Inside the home, outside the home. I mean for me, washing the dishes is fun.


You know, taking the girls to school is a lot of fun, and those are things I didn't do a lot early in our marriage with my wife. And bad on me for that happening, and so it's--

Yeah well and even your wife having that opportunity, like you're saying right now, to go and do something maybe outside of the home or separate from everyone else, is gonna give you opportunities to learn things about your children, or that you like to wash the dishes, or just gain a different respect for the things that she does at the house. I mean, it's gonna benefit you when, what's the saying, if mom's not happy, nobody's happy? You know, but when she's happy, and she's feeling good, you're gonna feel good, and you're gonna reap the benefits of that as well, in a lot of different ways.

It's true, in fact, I'd even go so far to say that men need from women what women need from men, which is support. Just, you can do it, you can do it. Not a lot of tell me how to do it, just--

Right you can do it, you got it.

Just you can do it, be there for them. I love that, love that. Let's talk a little bit about some key words that we often ask people on the podcast here. Are you more of a risk-taker, or a sort of play-it-safe person?

Probably a risk-taker, in business. Maybe not in physical challenges, but business.

Would you say that you're more of a direct, sort of communicate directly without a lot of pulling the punches, or do you find yourself more of a political and just sort of play it safe?

I'm very direct. I'm very direct. I don't like to muddy the waters of understanding what I want or what I need or what I expect. I can be very blunt, with tact, of course, of just, this is what I want, this is what I expect, or this is how something has made me feel. I'm very short-phrased in that way.

Great. Are you more internally motivated, or externally motivated?


And what is the internal motivation for you?

Probably just feeling peace and success, and a job well done at the end of the day. That something was finished.

Excellent. When you think about if you're more of a problem-solver or you want to be the doer or make it happen, versus the orchestrator, where you watch people do things and make things happen--

Orchestrator, I believe, I think like to see, because I can take, I like to hear so many different perspectives on things, and take all these different tidbits from everything, and watch it all come together.

Okay, I think I know the answer to this next one, but I'll ask you anyway. Coach versus commander.


Has it always been that way for you?

Yeah, I mean, I look back as far as I can remember, and I've been that way. My siblings might tell you differently. But as far as my own children, I like to encourage them and see if they can figure it out, rather than completely directing, or waiting for the right time to guide them, rather than jumping on every little thing that goes wrong.

Fantastic. Summer, this has been wonderful conversation here, and I applaud your success as a businesswoman, and also your dreams for the future of what you hope for all women that are out there listening here, it's really truly exciting and wonderful to hear.

Thank you so much.

What's the best place for people to follow you on social media?

Baby Bling on Instagram, or Baby Bling Bows on Facebook.

Excellent. Thank you so much, it's been a great episode.

Thank you so much, Brett.