I had the pleasure of meeting Libby Hague-Smith for the first time a few months ago thanks to an introduction from a mutual friend. She owns two locations of The Little Gym- one in Round Rock and one at Lakeline. Being a mama to three boys and owning two businesses, I was quite impressed with how she manages to do it all and wanted to take some time to shine the spotlight on this hardworking local mama. And so, without further ado, meet Libby!
LM: When did you first open The Little Gym?
I first purchased The Little Gym of Austin at Lakeline in June of 2008 from other owners and then I opened The Little Gym of Round Rock in April of 2012.
LM: Why did you decide to open a gymnastics place for children? Was the decision fueled by having three active kids?
After living through the experience of 9/11 while living and working in New York City, I developed a new-found appreciation for life and vowed to spend it doing something meaningful that would contribute back to the community in which I was living. Fast forward a few years to when we moved to Austin- I was looking for activities for my active boys and found The Little Gym. I fell in love with the non-competitive program and the way it positively impacted the lives of so many children by building their self-confidence that I knew it was the business for me. When I found out the business was for sale, I knew it was meant to be. My boys started in the program right away, and are still in it today! I love that I own a business that all three of my boys enjoy so much! I have seen them all grow so much through the program.
LM: As a working mom and entrepreneur, how do you balance it all?
Now that I have two businesses and 3 growing boys, I feel like I am always coming and going, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have good days and bad days like everyone, but I try to focus on getting the highest priority items done first and I try not to beat myself up if some things fall through the cracks. I am also a huge fan of list making- my staff have heard me say more than once, “if it isn’t on my list, it won’t get done!” I couldn’t do it though without a good support network. My staff are amazing and my husband and parents are always there to help out when I am in a bind. I really appreciate them so much!
LM: How many hours do you put in per week? Do you find yourself bringing the kids along often or do you try to keep work and family separate?
I couldn’t even guess at how many hours on average I put in each week as it varies so much. Some weekends we have special events and work all weekend. During the week I fluctuate between working from the gyms and home. I have amazing managers and instructors that manage the day-to-day operations and teach all the classes at both gyms so I mainly focus on the business aspects, such as marketing, payroll, bookkeeping, promotions, etc. My mind never strays far from the businesses though when I’m not there, so does thinking about them count as hours working? I also have a two year old who isn’t in school full time yet so he accompanies me the most to the gyms during the work week, but for the most part I try to get there while my boys are in school to get the real work done. All three of my boys take classes at TLG so of course we are all there together a lot as well. They really love it when we are there during closed times and they get to play in the gym all by themselves as if they own the place!
LM: What’s your favorite part of owning a business? And your least favorite?
My favorite part is hearing the stories from parents about what an important part of their child’s life The Little Gym has become. This make it all worth it. The Little Gym is an incredibly rewarding business to own.
My least favorite part of owning my own business is when I get overwhelmed and feel like there isn’t enough time in a day to be the mommy I want to be and the business owner I want to be. It can be very frustrating to feel like you have to choose between the gym and your children, both of which need your time and attention.
LM: Are you originally from Austin? If not, where do you hail from and what brought you here?
No, I grew up in a suburb of Houston, but went to college in New York City. After college I traveled the world and met my Kiwi husband while I was living in South America. We settled back in New York and had a great life there for many years, but trying to raise two children in the city was getting too expensive and difficult so we looked for somewhere that fit our personalities, but was closer to at least one side of the family. Austin fit the bill perfectly and here we are five years and one child later……
LM: What are your family’s favorite things to do in Austin?
We love to go boating in the summer on Lake Travis. We also love taking day trips to places like Enchanted Rock or the Longhorn Caves to explore the area. We also love going to The Salt Lick and exploring the nearby vineyards for a bit of wine tasting! The food trailers and live music are great fun, but I admit we don’t get out downtown nearly as much as we would like. We love just being at home running around the yard and jumping on the trampoline together. We moved to Austin for a better quality of life and are often finding it in the simplest things.
LM: And what about Mama…. when you have the chance to escape from kids and work, where do you go?
I like to go for long runs or to the gym for exercise. I need exercise to stay sane and keep calm. Once in a blue moon I get a massage which is a real treat, but something I totally love.
LM: Do you have any advice for moms wanting to start a business?
Make sure you do your homework and totally know what you are getting in to. Don’t underestimate the commitment required for starting a business – both financially and time wise.
LM: If you could give out one piece of unsolicited parenting advice, what would it be?
As our children get older and there are more choices of things for them to do and to buy, we have made a conscious decision to prioritize life experiences that will hopefully broaden their horizons over material things. In life, we cannot do everything and have everything so we choose to be doers rather than havers. I hope this will instill in my boys the value of experiences like travel over the gratification of the latest and greatest toy or gadget. I’m not sure if this qualifies as advice, but it is something I have been thinking a lot about lately especially as the holidays near. Kids make memories and are formed from experiences especially with their families and not from material possessions – get out and experience life with your children and they will remember it forever!
LM: Are you traveling this holiday season? Does your family have any special holiday traditions?
We are not traveling this year. My parents are here for Thanksgiving.
My favorite Holiday tradition is making homemade gingerbread cookies with my kids. I did this as a child with my mom and now it is something I always make sure I do with my kids during the holiday season. We make the dough from scratch and roll it out to cut holiday shapes and once they are cooled from baking, we hand ice and decorate each one. Yummy! My husband’s birthday is December 26th which is called “Boxing Day” in New Zealand (where he is from). It is the day they “box up” all the left-over food to send home with everyone after Christmas. It is always a holiday in New Zealand and England where he has lived before and he never had to work on his birthday until he moved to the US. We usually like him to take it off and relax so we can celebrate his birthday as well. Otherwise, our traditions are pretty normal American style traditions.