Any parent of a young girl can tell you what it’s like to go through hair clips and ties, all in an attempt to help pull the hair back or dress it up. In most cases, those cheap clips and ties end up lost because they just won’t stay in like they are supposed to. While many products have come and gone, Tristan Benz has created a patent-pending hair clip that will stay in the silkiest of baby, toddler, or even preschooler hair.
When Tristan didn’t enjoy having to put business before her family, she turned that situation around. While letting one business go, she was able to take Maiden America off the back burner and work on it full time. Now she has a business which suits her family needs and offers the “everyday princess” a hair clip which will stay put, while looking beautiful.
What is the inspiration behind your non-slip barrettes? When did you decide to turn it into a business?
I actually folded another company I had, in order to work on Maiden America full time — I used to be on the phone all the time and while the money was good, I had to “shush” my kids, as I dealt with corporate clients. I didn’t want to have to ‘shush’ them anymore and, as I’ve always maintained, I didn’t have children to have other people raise them. I don’t know how moms with full time jobs outside the home handle having to leave their little ones with others while they work. I feel for them. So, this has been my biggest inspiration.
Since Maiden America first launched how has your business changed? How many items do you have for sale through your website?
We have a lot of products now but we want to start adding other made in USA products to our selection – products that support the values we do.
As far as our business changing, I think, at this stage, the biggest thing is the growing contrast I see between retail and wholesale — one has changed a lot, while the other, not so much. Thanks to real moms and other retail customers, we have been growing in leaps and bounds on the retail side. But, on the wholesale side, I suppose anybody can understand how it might be possible that competing brands may not appreciate our product / company in the same way our retail customers do — but the reality is, we can’t help that our patent pending product does what it says it does and real moms like us / our products they way they do. Right now, it just feels like, when it comes to wholesale, we’re just going to have to continue being the underdog with an unbeatable product unless and until folks get to know us directly or hear from our customers and return to the old fashioned idea that the customer is always right (not the marketers selling stores on what sells or even sales reps, for that matter — not anyone with any other interest but theirs, in mind). Anyway, we are growing and very gratefully so, thanks to everyday parents, grandparents, etc. — and people like you who offer their totally unsolicited support as you did on your blog — so, it’s all good!!
Did you have any previous experience that you were able to apply to your business?
I spent a lot of time in school…LOVED school. Of course, I also worked various jobs along the way — as a Waitress, a ‘Finisher’ for J. Foss suede / leather clothing in Palo Alto, an Executive Secretary to David Suissa of Suissa Miller Advertising and so forth — and then I went entrepreneurial. I eventually realized that I’m built to blaze my own trail in life — one cubicle does not fit all J. No question, it has certainly helped that I’ve worked for some fantastic people and learned a lot from each of them (I send a big thank you to them all:-). But, I have to say, being a mom has likely been the one thing that has most contributed to what I’m able to apply to growing a business — it’s like, each time you feel like quitting (and there ARE THOSE DAYS!!), all you have to do is look into the hopeful faces of children and you suddenly realize there is ALWAYS a solution, even if you aren’t focused on that positive idea at that very moment. Our children inspire me to rise to any and all challenges, no matter how hard — and, in the end, I think that’s the one thing that every entrepreneur must do, to really succeed.
How have your products evolved since they first come out?
They’ve just gotten way better, technically. I can’t believe our first stuff even sold at a wholesale show in SF — let’s just say, it wasn’t as flawless as it is now.
How have you been able to create balance between your business and family life? Do you have any secrets that you would be willing to share?
Every parent battles with this — moms and dads. For me, there is no great secret beyond choosing well in the husband department and constantly trying to keep my priorities straight. Recently, I changed my title to “Mom & Preneur” because I’ve taken up home schooling our children and my feeling really is, I’d rather fail in business than as a mom. I really am concerned about leaving our children more problems than were left to us while teaching them to test. I want all of our children to be taught to think critically, to solve problems and be able to adapt to whatever may come their way. So — the balance thing is really about priorities. Ironically, I wrote a piece on my blog (http://www.tristansepinion.blogspot.com) called “Balancing Act” that I think really speaks well to this point.
What is the inspiration behind the name, Maiden America?
I have some of this on our About Us page — I was driving to school and my daughter had a princess lunchbox and asked me about their “tiny waist-es” and I found myself explaining that princesses aren’t the real deal…that women have had to focus on the physical ideal for a long time — but what really counts is what we think in our mind and what we feel in our hearts and what we do with our abilities in this life; our real contribution on the planet. It’s nice to look at all the pretty stuff — but, that’s not what is ideal, most important or truly meaningful, when it all comes down to it. So I started telling them that Maidens were “everyday princesses” — that they scrubbed and took care of their families and went to school and contributed to the world in many ways by developing their minds, talents, etc. The name Maiden America flowed from there.
Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur? What lead you to take this path?
Blame my bloodlines. My grandfather, Al Wiseman, was the ghost cartoonist for Dennis The Menace. My mom (his daughter), Janice Pisciotta, is a poet / writer on the Monterey Peninsula — she recently “streamed” on Veteran’s Day — my current blog has that feature, “Asleep Outside, Awake Inside — Janice Pisciotta” is the title of it. She’s a fabulous woman and very gifted and I’m so proud of her — she’s had the courage to be her own person, regardless of any potential social “flak” for it — and I aim to follow in her footsteps! Some people love cubicles, gossip and water coolers. I’m not one of them. I love the world, action and making a contribution. Life is short and our opportunities are great — what better ‘test’ of our time and unique ability to contribute than to take entrepreneurial risks?
Do you think you’ll ever start another business or do you think that this will be it for you?
Every step is the beginning. There is no ‘it’ for me. Each part of our journey takes us to the next ‘movement’ in our life. Maiden America is a way to connect with parents on subjects I believe are of great value in our culture (I know that isn’t the standard business answer, especially in the world of retail, but it’s the way I see it). Next, I plan on doing more with my writing and maybe get out and do some public speaking. I don’t shy away from change, just as I don’t shy away from keeping my eyes on the greater goal — to contribute to the benefit of children and the families that love them!
What has your business taught you?
It’s taught me that I have a lot to learn…and will go on learning. That none of us has all the answers. That I’m stronger than I thought. And weaker, in some areas than I thought, as well. It has taught me much beyond the workings of business — life lessons, really. That love is far greater than fear, for one. That, as long as one sticks to one’s purpose and integrity, all will be well. And, ultimately, what we feed really IS what grows — we can make mistakes along the way but, going forward is a process of learning from them and feeding something ever better. I’ve learned that I’m the luckiest woman, really!
Do you have any advice that you’d like to share with other aspiring mompreneurs reading this interview?
Remember your reasons for what you’re doing and stay clear on your integrity of purpose. If the business prevents you from spending valuable time with the ones you claim to ‘serve’ then it’s time to stop your world and find other ways to solve your problems. Our time is our greatest resource. Our family is our greatest gift. Be kind to yourself and let your hair down — contrary to some ideas out there, the world doesn’t actually stop if you do. And don’t let your business run YOU…which can be tough!