We love meeting moms who are making a difference, both in the communities that they live in as well as in the lives of other moms. Tami Zuckerman, founder of VarageSale, was kind enough to talk with us about her journey thus far as a mom and an entrepreneur – two job titles that are both tough jobs all on their own. Think you have what it takes to make it as a successful mompreneur? Read on for some valuable advice.
LM: Tell us about VarageSale.
Tami: VarageSale is a virtual garage sale on your phone. Families buy and sell affordable new and gently used items with their neighbors. Buyers can find great deals and sellers can make extra money for their families while shopping in a family-friendly environment where people use their real names, have a profile photo and can make a friend along the way.
LM: How did you come up with the name?
Tami: It seemed like a natural fit to call it VarageSale, given it’s a virtual garage sale!
LM: You had the initial idea while you were pregnant. Were you pregnant with your first child at the time? If so, what challenges did you face as a new mom and entrepreneur?
Yes, I was pregnant with our first son. During my pregnancy I was really sick and was told to stay in bed as much as possible. I found this really difficult because I’m one to keep busy. I started decluttering to make room for our new arrival and this is when the idea came to me! I approached my husband Carl (co-founder) and we collaborated on the prototype. Once our son was born, we had to take some time to adjust to life with a newborn before moving ahead with a business.
LM: How old is your child?
Tami: Our son is 3 and a half.
LM: What’s different about the VarageSale platform compared to other sites such as Craigslist?
Tami: Unlike other classified sites where members shop with a specific intent, our social marketplace is discovery driven – due in part to our well-curated feed. The average buyer buys about 10 items a month. We have admins that act as town mayors and cheerleaders for their communities by fostering respect, ensuring they’re filled with quality products and quality people, and helping to build trust. On VarageSale, members’ accounts are tied to their real names and faces from Facebook, unlike anonymous classifieds sites.
LM: What’s been the toughest decision to make as a business owner?
VarageSale started in our home province of Montreal, Quebec. After experiencing amazing growth, Carl and I came to the realization that we needed to move our business to a larger city like Toronto. This was tough for a couple of reasons. First, it would mean leaving our friends and family at a time when both our business and our child were very young. And second, we’d be asking our first and loyal employees to join us. Lucky for us, ALL of our employees came along for the ride and many still remain!
LM: Do you find that more doors are open to you as a female business owner?
Tami: Media opportunities like this one are more open to me as a female business owner. I’m lucky because I have incredible investors who have introduced me to great entrepreneurs and business owners along the way.
LM: What do you love most about running your own company?
Tami: Running your own company isn’t easy, especially as a mom. But every once in awhile you experience an ah-ha moment that reminds you why you get up every morning. Being an avid VarageSale user myself, I recently completed a transaction with someone in my community. I struck up a conversation with this member and eventually it was revealed that I was the founder. Once the initial shock wore off, this woman threw her arms around me and thanked me profusely for making it easier to afford being a parent. She said she really didn’t know where she’d be without VarageSale. I love moments like those the most!
LM: Take us through a typical work day. Do you work 9-5? Do you find yourself working during late hours after your child is asleep?
Tami: Typical can be tough, but we try to keep to a routine for our son. In the morning I drop him off before heading into the office for the day. I pick him up around 5pm and we all have family time until bed. Once he’s asleep, I often need to catch up on anything from the day I couldn’t get to. In our child’s very young years, I relied on sleep training a great deal. I could only get my work done if he stuck to a schedule.
LM: How do you balance the demands of running a business and a household?
Tami: After a half a year with little to no sleep, I realized I needed help. I took a life-saving sleep training course which allowed all of us to get some much-needed rest. Beyond that, we knew that if we wanted to maintain a routine and balance at home and at work, we needed additional hands. This was tough with our family so far away, but we found a caregiver who loves our son almost as much as we do!
LM: Do you have any advice for moms who would like to run their own business?
Solve your own problem! As an expectant mom, I saw that something was broken in the buy-sell community and pursued a solution. It’s this mentality that will get you through the highs and lows of starting a business because you can relate personally to the user. *Hint* It’s you!
LM: Tell us what you enjoy doing on your day off.
Tami: Most of my time off is spent relaxing with my family. I also see the value in treating myself occasionally. A fresh coat of nail polish and a fresh plate of sushi can do wonders!
LM: You live in Toronto, Canada. Can you share something fun for families to do in your city when we visit?
Tami: I’m originally from Montreal and have since moved VarageSale to Toronto, so I’m no stranger to winter activities. I’d suggest a fun family skate at one of our outdoor rinks in the neighbourhood like Colonel Sam Smith Skating Trail or the Harbourfront. In the warmer months, I suggest taking the kids to Toronto Island. They have lovely, family-friendly beaches and even rides for the kids at Centreville on Centre Island.
LM: It’s always a bit of a struggle for American moms to build a network of support when raising kids and starting businesses or just working in general. Is there a difference in support that is offered to new moms in Canada? What is maternity leave policy? Are there support systems in place to make transition to motherhood easier?
Tami: I’m extremely fortunate to live in Canada where moms can take up to one year parental leave partially supported by the government. There are a ton of great government-supported benefits that continue even afterwards (Child Tax Benefit). Day care can still be expensive, especially when your family is far away.
LM: Any unsolicited advice you’d like to share?
Tami: It might seem impossible at times, like you don’t have enough hours in the day (or hands!), but don’t give up. The world needs more women-run businesses. Not only because of the unique problems they tackle, but because I believe they inspire the next generation to create.