Marlene Veloso is an award-winning writer and founder of the non-profit, Kids Research Center, a children’s literacy non-profit. More recently, she launched Curated Care, an online marketplace that connects families with charismatic and skilled Kid Experts who care for and engage young children with unique activities. She lives in New York with her husband and three-year old daughter, Holland, and is expecting her second little girl in August.
This interview is part of our new new weekly series, MotherlyMakers, highlighting the inspiring women who are remaking our world.
Motherly: Was there a moment when you realized that you needed to start Curated Care?
I was looking for a babysitter and wanted to find someone who would engage my daughter with activities. Nothing too serious—just some fun and unique activities that would captivate her young mind. Our kids spend a lot of time with babysitters, nannies, and teachers and I think, as parents, we feel better if we know that time is filled with quality experiences.
So I asked Holland’s teacher, Erin, if she knew anyone who did activities and babysat. It turns out that she got this request all the time. We realized there was a need—families wanted to incorporate activities like Spanish and music into regular babysitting time. So Erin and I teamed up and spent the next 10 months building Curated Care.
Motherly: What is the most important advice you would give another family when interviewing a caregiver for your child?
I would tell them to “trust their gut.” After an interview, I usually take a minute and ask myself what I feel about the person I just met. I ask myself is this someone I want my child spending time with? Is this person a good role model for my child? Did they give off a good vibe, look me in the eye and smile? Is this someone I want to interact with on a regular basis?
If I’m not close to 100% comfortable (can you ever be 100% comfortable as a parent?), I interview another person. It might take time but it also saves time. Because if I find the right person now, I won’t be starting a new search in six months.
Motherly: How has motherhood transformed your career?
Motherhood has broadened my view of the world and allowed me to see what’s really important to me. Work and career have always been important parts of my life. I strive for big things, but after I became a mom I realized that my career didn’t provide me with the same joy or bliss as motherhood. I still love my career and have the drive to succeed but I don’t take the “ups and downs” as seriously as I once did.
Motherly: What’s your secret to integrating work and family?
The most effective tool I’ve found to integrating work and family is to start my day with a list of priorities. There might be some minor tasks that I have to complete too but for the most part, I focus on two or three major priorities. Some days, it’s going with my mother to the doctor or prepping for my husband’s birthday party. Other days, it’s moving forward two or three projects at work. But stopping for a few minutes and asking myself what’s most important helps me feel like I accomplished something each day.
Motherly: What keeps you inspired and excited every day?
Oh, I like this question! For me, the answer is other people. When people around me are doing interesting things, it inspires me to do more. Actually, that’s been one of the benefits of working on Curated Care. Every day, I’m surrounded by Kid Experts who have a real passion for their work and area of expertise. Whether they’re coming up with creative titles, like “Spanish-Speaking Cupcake Master” or “I Heart Music and Kids,” or developing activities that will excite little ones, they inspire me to be more creative, more innovative, and think outside the box.
Motherly: What are your words of wisdom for other mothers wanting to turn their passion into a business?
Curated Care is my third entrepreneurial venture so I’ve gathered a lot of tips throughout the years. My favorite is “collaboration makes ideas better.”
I gained a lot of knowledge early on by talking to other moms about Curated Care. I learned what part of the business resonated with them, where we needed to refine our message, where we had gaps—yikes! I also found people to help me build the company and learned to be flexible with the original idea. When we start a business, we usually have a specific goal or vision in mind. But as entrepreneurs we need to be flexible, listen to our customers, and pivot to meet their needs. You know, Curated Care started off with a traditional subscription model but after talking to families we learned that they didn’t want to be locked into a monthly or annual subscription. They also wanted an easy way to pay for child care sessions online so we changed our business model. It was scary! It meant more money and a later launch date, but we really believe in the product and the feedback we were getting from families so we went for it.
Motherly: What are your big dreams for Curated Care?
I want to take Curated Care nationwide. I want to share what we started in New York with families and kid experts across the country and offer better child care options to families everywhere.
Motherly: Who is your #momcrush?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about The Honest Company and I’m impressed by what Jessica Alba has built. She has always represented a strong, fierce woman—that’s the type of character she plays. But now, we’re seeing her as a strong, fierce leader and mother. Her company has given parents more time and more peace of mind by being a one-stop shop for healthy living. She’s personally made it easier for me to find products that are safe for my family.
I also like that she gives back to the community. It’s something that we talk a lot about at Curated Care—we plan to develop a social responsibility program that helps families and gives all children access to great programs and activities.
Motherly: What does “Motherly” mean to you?
To me, “Motherly” means much more than taking care of your own children. It means being “Motherly” to the world, to someone else’s children, to your family and friends, to a perfect stranger. It also (and probably more importantly) means being “Motherly” to yourself, being that voice that says you did great, I’m proud of you, or this too shall pass. It means going to a yoga class, reading a book, or getting a manicure because it makes you feel good. The feeling of contentment is contagious. If you’re happy, your whole family is happy, too.