How putting her kids first led this Lebanese entrepreneur to launch a startup
Life’s daily struggles make it easy to forget how hard it is to be a mother, let alone a working one. Lebanese Ingrid Salloum, like many other working moms who have to choose between work and family, opted to leave a good job to stay home with her kids. While that decision may spell the end for many professional women’s careers, Salloum decided to make her stay at home… more entrepreneurial.
With a Master’s degree in Financial Economics from the American University of Beirut, Salloum took a job at Lebanese bank Credit Libanais Bank as a financial analyst, then as a project manager at the United Nations Development Program. In 2007, she moved to Cisco where she was involved in the educational field. There, she managed the implementation of an online education initiative. “It was all under Corporate Social Responsibility,” she said during a call. “I loved this field [education]. You see the impact of what you can do.” After working for five years at Cisco, she quit her job. “Then I became a mom,” she said passionately.
… Then I became a mom
“I wanted to stay with them [her kids]. I wanted to stay involved and in Lebanon, very few companies support [working] moms.”
At home, she observed every single detail of her kids’ routine. Salloum noticed how easily distracted they can get after they come home from school and how hard it is to make them read books instead of watching television. So she decided to build a solution that will provide them with something fun, beneficial and educational. “At this age [she has a 3-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl], you can really impact the habits of the kids.”
Her solution was Create My Book, a tool that allows parents to make personalized books and stories for their kids by changing the characters’ names to the kids’ and making them the hero of the story. “The idea is to encourage reading at the early stage, from 1 to 11 years.” Create My Book is founded under the idea that once the story is about the kid, he or she will love to read it,” she said.
By relying on bestselling books and adapting them, Create My Book makes the stories revolve around the kids. Salloum is working with a small editorial team in the U.S. to write local stories.
Salloum launched the company just before December and began to break even after Christmas. Relying on personal investment, she managed to cover her costs and pay back the investment. “It was a great season,” she said. “We got many repeat customers.”
Parents can go to the website, check which story they want to buy and request to personalize it. Within 48 hours, the book should be ready and shipped through Liban Post and other companies. For now, Create My Book only supports cash on delivery but Salloum says she will accept online payment soon.
Businesses giving back to the community
Through its Give-A-Book-Program, Create My Book is encouraging companies to raise awareness of the importance of reading, and helping communities through books donations. Books donated by companies are distributed to local schools.
Create My Book is also supporting the Lebanese Food Bank – an NGO to fight hunger in the country - by donating one dollar each time a book is sold. “We are socially responsible towards the community we live in, and this cause is particularly important for us because hunger is caused by poverty and lack of education. Create My Book’s main goal is to encourage literacy.”
Salloum relied on Facebook, word of mouth and on Blog of the Boss to get the word out when she launched the company.
Most recently, she partnered with Joué Club toy store to sell her books there. While some think working from home is as relaxing as sitting on a balcony and enjoying the sea view, the reality is different. Working from home, Salloum schedules her work around kids’ schedules. “It’s very challenging. I have some time off in the morning [until noon] because my son is in school and my daughter would be sleeping,” she said. “I try to focus during that time. Then the afternoon is for the kids and at night, I work again.”
What advice does she have for mom entrepreneurs?
“I would tell them go for it. If you quit your job because of your kids, give it a try, you’ll learn how to organize things and you won’t lose anything. It’s an opportunity to try what you have lost to do,” she addressed mothers in general. As for women entrepreneurs, she advised them to turn their stay at home to a productive one and be positive.
Any mom entrepreneurs working from home to stay with their kids? We’d love to hear your challenges and advice!