Stroller Strides: Driven by Motherhood

Lisa Druxman's fitness franchise has grown even faster than her children.

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What's the difference between a mompreneur and an entrepreneur? According to Lisa Druxman of Stroller Strides, the difference is defined by the qualities of businesses women start.

"Either the type of business they create has something to do with kids or the way they run their business is supportive of family," explains Druxman, who did both when she started Stroller Strides in the fall of 2001.

After a decade working in the fitness industry, Druxman became a mom and wanted motherhood to come "first and foremost" in her life instead of returning to 10-hour workdays. Rather than dropping off her infant son at a gym day care, she came up with an exercise routine she could do with him, much to her son's delight. But something else led her to turn a personal exercise routine into a more formal class for other moms.

"I knew nothing about motherhood," says Druxman. "I was having sleep issues, breastfeeding issues, identity crisis issues of leaving my career. I realized I needed to connect with other new moms."

Druxman found working from home to be a blessing but not without its challenges.

"The thing about working with baby in tow is that you can never depend on your schedule," she explains. "Any day can change because a nap is missed, the baby is crying, etc. I had to remain flexible, knowing that babies' [schedules] are [sometimes] not dependable."

To offset the unpredictability, Druxman hired a nanny part time for specific hours so others could depend on her for meetings or phone calls.

Within a year, her San Diego-based fitness class for moms with stroller-bound infants took off. The following year, Druxman knew she was onto something when requests poured in from moms across the country asking to take classes in their area. After consulting an attorney, she created a beta license to test her business idea nationwide. She offered only 10 licenses that year despite additional requests.

Working with consultants and franchise attorneys, Druxman turned Stroller Strides into a national franchise in 2004 while still basing the company headquarters out of her home.

"I bought my house because I knew I wanted it to be my home office," says Druxman, who had five workstations custom-built into her home and 12 employees with keys. She established rules for the home-based office so her family could retain their privacy; however, at any given moment, there might be an employee sitting in her children's room taking a call. Druxman refers to the home-based company days as "crazy" but also recalls them fondly.

Today, Druxman works from an office. Her children are in school full time with after-school activities so she is able to work more "traditional" work hours.

Says Druxman, "I still make up extra time in the wee hours of the morning. Of course I'm always connected via my iPhone."

While the power of moms continues to drive Druxman's business forward, she also acknowledges that motherhood is a challenge to her business growth because it's a constant challenge to balance work and home life. As both children and companies grow up, says Druxman, they each present daily sets of challenges that can be tough.

"There are never enough hours in the day, so you need to be super focused on what will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of time," Druxman advises. "When you are working on your business, give it 100 percent [of your] attention. When you are with your kids, give them 100 percent. Don't try to be everything to everyone."

Druxman recommends saying no more and delegating when possible. "And keep a sense of humor when it all falls through."

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