In the last few years, there has been an emergence of mom entrepreneurs, or “mom-preneurs.” There is even a group called S.F. Mom Entrepreneurs that meets regularly to support moms who want help launching their small business idea. For the next few months, I am going to mix it up a bit and profile some local moms who have started their own businesses while juggling the demands of motherhood.
Jamie Mamikunian is the founder of Stroller Spa, which began in her dining room nearly eight years ago and recently opened a storefront on Sacramento Street. The mother of three young children, her idea for this business came during a playgroup with her daughter. At first, Mamikunian thought it would be fun to personalize strollers, and from there, she decided there was more of a need/desire from parents for someone to clean and repair strollers. “Most of the high-end strollers can cost anywhere from $800–$1,000, so it is a big investment that you want to last, and to do that you have to take care of [them],” she says.
The business started with cleaning and detailing strollers and car seats but quickly moved to include brake repairs and tune ups. Today, Stroller Spa’s expanded services also include functioning as a certified installation center for car seats, which comes with a tutorial and a lifetime safety inspection. It also offers rentals of gently used strollers and consignment sales; soon, it will begin selling select car seats.
CHALLENGES OF RUNNING A BUSINESS
Mamikunian’s biggest challenge, besides having to move her car on Sacramento Street every two hours, is finding a balance between providing great customer service and spending time with her family — something familiar to many working moms. On the day she was due with her third child, for example, Mamikunian spent the day cleaning and repairing a double stroller for a very insistent parent. Shortly after returning the fully detailed stroller to the owner, she went to the hospital and delivered her baby.
When she was running her business from home, strollers and car seats were everywhere: After a full day as a mom, she would then repair and detail strollers until the early morning hours. The store has helped that considerably, with business hours that allow Mamikunian time for her husband and children in the evenings and on weekends.
Mamikunian has had many challenges along the way. Lacking an MBA, she has had to learn a lot about running a business. She persistently contacted a stroller manufacturer for over two years before it finally agreed to make her business the first authorized repair center in the United States.
Currently, Mamikunian has relationships with almost all major stroller and car seat manufacturers. Stroller Spa has 23 franchise locations across the United States and Canada, and the majority of owners are moms who like the flexibility and the ability to work from home. “The look on a skeptical dad’s face when he sees his stroller good-as-new is what makes it all worth it,” she says. “I want my children to understand the value of hard work and that money doesn’t grow on trees.” One way she does this is to make the business a family affair; you may find her youngest playing in the children’s area or her husband detailing a stroller. She even developed a mini detail kit for her kids and the kids of the other owners so they can help and feel a part of the work.
Her advice for other moms thinking of starting their own business: Just do it! “Moms have so many great ideas that come to them while breastfeeding or watching their child play; they are thinking constantly.” Tackling fear and taking the risk are the hardest parts and prove to be the biggest hurdles for many. “Seek out help and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says, and “having a strong network of support is key and is what keeps me going.”
The idea of support and community is definitely not lost on Mamikunian. She firmly believes in giving back to her community. One of the best programs at Stroller Spa is the relationship with the local nonprofit Homeless Prenatal Project. Mamikunian will pick up, hand wash, steam, and sanitize most baby gear and donate it in your name to the organization.
To anyone who is not a parent, this idea may sound a little crazy — a spa for your stroller? But for those of us who have had a child get sick in a car seat or don’t have the time to clean out the years of Goldfish and Cheerios hidden beneath, this is a dream come true. It is also a dream come true for Jamie Mamikunian, who with a lot of hard work and support from her family has a thriving local business.
Stroller Spa: 3566 Sacramento Street, 415-346-8449, www.strollerspa.com, Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.