Growing up, we watch our mothers to figure out how we should perceive the world. So if your mother, and your mother's mother, own businesses, the entrepreneurial spirit is often contagious. "I can't remember my mother articulating in so many words that I should pursue whatever I wanted to do,' says Polly Baumer, owner of Many Hands Magazine, a holistic health quarterly in Northampton, Massachusetts. "What was much more evident was the impression I got from watching someone actually [go after her dreams]. I watched her create a business and make it happen.'
Baumer comes from what she describes as "a little tribe' of women entrepreneurs. Her mother, Margaret Jane Strong, started a business that provides art tours of Europe; her sister, Margaret Jane Mason, owns Mrs. Mason's Luscious Temptations, a candy manufacturing company in Southfield, Michigan; and most of her female cousins have dabbled in business ownership.
The matriarch of this entrepreneurial wellspring was Baumer's grandmother, Catherine Sweet Anderson. A woman who resisted every stereotype society wanted to squeeze her into, Anderson found her calling as a homebased business owner in the 1920s. Discovering from her husband, a vice president of marketing at Pillsbury, that the company was throwing away wheat germ, she promptly decided to collect the wheat germ, bag it, and sell it to friends and people in the community. Eventually, Anderson sold the business to a party who later sold it to the Kretschmer family, which has since become the best-known name in wheat germ. "She wasn't hesitant about making her presence known in the world,' Baumer says.
As Baumer watches her 15-year-old daughter enter young adulthood, she expects the legacy to continue. "Realizing you can do anything you want,' says Baumer, "is a form of freedom that you want to pass down."