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Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Amanda Penner is one of those mamas.

Even before having her son, Remy, Amanda loved making handcrafted gifts for her friends with new babies. What started out as a single pair of moccasins made from scrap leather became an instant sensation with the help of social media. From a single image sprung a company now headed into it’s fourth year of business, complete with their very own factory and 15 employees.

A large part of Minimoc’s success is due to Amanda’s work with influencers, and her spirit of collaboration. Coupled with her positive, warm attitude, Amanda has a unique way of making you feel at ease. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons so many bloggers, brands and retail stores are happy to work with her.

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With over 400% growth last year, and revenue set to double again this year, Minimoc shows no signs of slowing down. 

To feel is to believe, and the quality of Minimoc’s shoes are stunning. Though each shoe is no longer made by Amanda, having their own factory in the city they live in gives this husband and wife team complete control over quality, and it shows.

Amanda was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about how working with influencers has helped her grow her business. This is, “Why collaboration works” , in her own words.

Tell me about the growth of Minimoc, what has it been like?

Amanda Penner: It began on a small sewing machine, in a hallway of our home.

Jeff and I both worked full time jobs and I would spend my evenings (and late, late nights) fulfilling the increasing amount of orders. A short while later, we were getting enough demand that we decided that I should step back from my job as an Educational Assistant for our local school district, and make a go at doing Minimoc full-time.

It felt like the most life changing decision at the time. Looking back now, yes, it was a life-changer but we had much larger decisions ahead of us.

We slowly began to take on more wholesale orders, alongside our existing online orders. I think we contacted about five stores in the early days of Minimoc, asking them if they’d like to stock our product.

Since then, stores have continued to contact us, finding us via social media and word of mouth. You can now find our brand in more than 250 stores across North America.

I’m getting ahead of myself though… We came to a major decision-making time when the leather, boxes, sewing machines and everything else began to dominate our home. I was pregnant with Remy, and Jeff and I decided that he would go on Parental leave for a period of time, when Remy was born.

We would get a warehouse and build a factory of our own and we’d do our very best to make Minimoc into something that could support our family as well as a team of employees.

The other option was to outsource. We strongly believe in keeping things made in Canada and that wasn’t something we were going to compromise on, so for a brief time, we looked into local companies that could help us achieve this. This meant getting someone to cut our leather, getting someone else to sew it and then getting it back and hoping for the best. It just didn’t feel right. So we made the crazy decision to make our own factory!

It’s been a huge learning curve but we are able to keep the entire process under one roof, while overseeing the making of a quality product, every step of the way and that is really important to us. Minimoc is now mine and Jeff’s full time gig and we have a team of 15 employees that work towards the same goal with us, every day.

What have been some of your biggest challenges?

Amanda Penner: The biggest challenge has been everything involved with keeping our product made in Canada. Taking on the task of creating and running a baby shoe factory comes with so much potential for things to go wrong, or large amounts of time to be wasted. Jeff specializes in process improvement and he has worked hard from day one to make sure that if there is a better or more efficient way to do something, he will make sure that we are doing it. It means constantly changing the way things are done. Like weekly.

We are always evolving and improving our processes and it can be exhausting. Many times we’ve said out loud, “Maybe we should just get someone else to make the shoes,” but then we come to our senses and realize that we believe in what we are doing and have so many loyal supporters who feel the same way.

What type of collaborations do you seek?

Amanda Penner: The main type of collaboration that we do is with Bloggers. Either they find us or we find them and we send them our product.

Then, they take it from there. Sometimes they give away a pair of our shoes to their readers, sometimes they do a review of our shoes and sometimes they simply take a photo of our shoes on their child and post it to Instagram.

All of these are good but out of these, the most desirable collaborations are between us and a blogger with a loyal (not necessarily large) following, who genuinely appreciates what we do. The kind that is excited when their Minimoc package arrives and takes the time to dig deeper into what our brand is about and tells their readers about why they chose to put our product on their child’s feet.

The most desirable collaborations are between us and a blogger with a loyal following, who genuinely appreciates what we do.

How do you qualify a potential collaborator?

Amanda Penner: There isn’t a magic formula that we go by when working with people and it’s a little different every time. We’ve seen amazing photographers who are going on a trip and need footwear for their children; when the opportunity presents itself we are on-board.

Sometimes it’s all about how we can fit in and help the other person. Say someone is building a business we believe in, we’ll help them get started with a giveaway.

We have a budget as to how many giveaways and free product we send out each month. We have a lot of people who ask for product to review and we look at their audience by visiting their social media channels and website and if it feels like a good fit, we move forward on the collaboration.

What is more important, fame and number of followers, or a genuine interest in your brand?

Amanda Penner: This one is easy, especially with all the apps that are out there to unnaturally ‘grow’ your following.

Genuine interest is always more important.

Do you recommend trade collaborations or paid ones?

Amanda Penner: Having a young child and working in the children’s fashion industry is a great combination! It means we are constantly needing new clothes for our little guy and our friends are in the same boat. We’ve had the opportunity to do some awesome product trades with people and this makes for an easy way to get our hands on new products and be able to widen the audience that sees the brands we trade for and vice versa. This also allows other brands to be able to touch and feel our product in person and sometimes that’s all it takes for them to be hooked on Minimoc.

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Tell me about your best collaboration experience?

Amanda Penner: Another type of collaboration we’ve had the pleasure of working on is a Special Edition Shoe with Jen from VonBon Apparel.

We began the planning stage of it in early 2015 and debuted to final product at VonBon’s 2 year anniversary party later that year. It was a lot of fun to do! We wanted something perfectly gender neutral, with a luxurious feel. I think we made it happen! It’s a soft, bone coloured leather, with a platinum tab on the back and her signature VonBon Antler design lasered into the front of the shoe. They come in a sleek black box that we designed specifically for this product. When others stand behind what you do and are willing to collaborate, it strengthens all the brands involved.

Tell me about your worst one!

Amanda Penner: I won’t say much on this, only that there have been instances where we collaborate with someone, expecting an amazing result based on their past work. When the time comes for them to do their part of the collaboration, we have the feeling that they didn’t put their best effort forward.

How has collaboration with influencers helped you grow your business faster?

Amanda Penner: The more people that get their hands on our product, directly translates to more sales for us. We can’t even count the number of times that we send a pair of shoes out to an influencer in a town that we’ve never shipped to before and then all of a sudden we will start seeing orders come in from that same little town. It’s pretty amazing!

What is your favorite thing about Minimoc?

Amanda Penner: It feels cliché to say, but I am genuinely amazed at how many wonderful, like minded people have met since starting our company. That is one of my favorite things about running Minimoc. And an unlimited supply of shoes for Remy, of course.

How does being a mother affect the way you run your business?

Amanda Penner: Before I had Remy, I would work almost the entire night and then start back up again in the morning, same time as always. I would let small bumps in the road consume me and they would be all I could focus on.

Now that there is someone who relies on me so greatly, those things just don’t matter like they did before. He keeps me on a normal person’s schedule because I want to be awake and present for him. I used to respond to emails as soon as they came in. Now I have no problem putting work aside and letting it sit until the next morning, while I spend time with my family.

Minimoc is how we are able to support our family and it seems to constantly need our attention. The beauty of it being our own and something that we’ve built means that we get to make the rules. If we go through a busy season where it feels like we aren’t as connected as a family, we make sure to take a day to spend just as a family and enjoy each other. It’s incredibly freeing.

Is there any one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring lady bosses?

Amanda Penner: The advice that I would give, are the same words that I need to remind myself of daily: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Something that is much easier said, than done for myself. When I do something, I want it done right and I want it done now.

Great things take time and most times, begin with a few failed attempts.

What does the word “motherly” mean to you?

Amanda Penner: When I think about the word Motherly, I think of it as a very flattering adjective that can be used to describe anyone with certain qualities, whether they’re a mother or not. Mothers are known to be tender, caring, responsible, protective and patient. If anyone who knows me, is able to consider me to be motherly, then I am doing something right.

Shop the collection at minimoc.com.

Haley Campbell is the founder of Beluga Baby, and a regular contributor to Motherly. She is is an avid advocate for entrepreneurs, and for the new generation of mothers making the world their own.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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This new family would like you to know they "don't have to match!"

When we saw Sadie Sampson's story of how her baby boy Ezra came into her life, we just had to know more about this loving new mother and her husband, Jarvis.

Their journey to parenthood was slow and then happened practically overnight. The couple went through a complicated fertility journey and had come to terms with the idea that pregnancy and parenthood would not be in their future.

But everything changes when Sadie got a random text message from a friend: "Would you guys foster/adopt a child?"

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To understand their story you have to go back to the beginning of their story. After getting married in 2017, the Texas couple was determined to have a baby. When Sadie didn't get pregnant she sought medical help, and doctors were quick to suggest her weight was the issue.

" 'Lose weight, and you'll get pregnant right away,' said every doctor I saw," Sampson wrote on Love What Matters. "I had tried to lose weight on my own for so long without success, so I started seeking out other options. In February 2019, I underwent gastric bypass surgery."

Sampson has been chronicling her weight loss since then on her Instagram page. Jarvis joined her, getting his surgery this summer. But still, she couldn't get pregnant.

A week after deciding she was going to put her dreams of parenthood aside, Sampson heard from a good friend of hers who had a random question for her.

"Well, a friend of mine, and her boyfriend are considering foster care or adoption for their son," the friend said. "I told them that I thought you guys would be a great fit."

The Sampsons said yes. They were even prepared to be only temporary foster parents for the baby, who was born prematurely. Just over a week after that phone call, a caseworker informed them that the birth mother would like them to adopt.

"We went from not having any children, to the possibility of fostering one, to, 'You guys are parents!,' overnight," Sampson wrote.

Her whole family had been away on a cruise while this was happening, and returned the day before the adoption took place.

"My mom was very confused at first," Sampson told Motherly. "But once I was able to explain everything we stood in the kitchen and jumped up and down and then ran into the living room and told everyone else."

Because this was happening privately, they needed only a lawyer and no agency involved in the paperwork. They were able to greet baby Ezra in the NICU just an hour after he became theirs.

"The first time I saw him it was so hard for me to grasp the fact that he was mine," Sampson told us. "It took a while for me to realize that he is my son and I am his mom."

Ezra is the name his birth parents, who are white, had chosen for him. "When Jarvis and I looked up the meaning, which is 'helper,' we couldn't think of a better fit."


Sadie and Jarvis posed for photos proudly proclaiming their adoption story. "Not Showing Still Glowing" reads Sadie's shirt, while Jarvis' tee says, "Families Don't Have to Match #Adoption." Friends and followers on Instagram helped the new family, buying baby supplies on their registry and donating funds for their final adoption process. Now, social media is where they're sharing all the typical milestones of new parenthood.

"We had one plan and God changed the game completely," she wrote on Instagram. "Ezra has given us a larger purpose and we've learned so much from him in the short two weeks he's been with us. Families DON'T have to match! They are built on LOVE!"

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As an ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi talks to a lot of pro athletes. But as a parent he knows that sometimes raising kids is as hard as training for the big leagues (seriously, science proves that kids energy levels surpass endurance athletes' and parents are running after those kids).

Negandhi knows what it's like to be face-to-face with athletes that so many people idolize, but he also knows that a parent can be more influential than any big league idol, and that's why he's working with Dove Men+Care SPORTCARE to put real dads in the spotlight.

"We have a platform to showcase what they do as everyday athletes, but also as everyday men, everyday fathers," says Negandhi, who has three kids himself. He tells Motherly he tries to make sure he's active with his kids—playing sports with them so that they understand the importance of staying active—but also staying active with the kids when the touch football ends and the real parenting endurance test begins. Like many modern fathers, Negandhi is committed to doing more childcare than his own father did.

"My mom did everything in our house," he tells Motherly. "My dad worked, but my mom worked as well. And she did everything. She raised us. But at the same time she showed me another side. And many times growing up I said, 'How can I be different than my father?'"

Being involved with his kids and doing more of the unpaid work in his household than his own dad did is how Negandhi is doing it, and he's taking time to showcase three fellow dads who—while sharing their names with professional athletes—certainly don't get as much credit as the pros.

That is actually something of a problem in media right now. According to a recent survey by Dove Men+Care, 70% of men wish regular guys who are athletes (but not professionals) got more attention in sports media. Because as much as winning the Superbowl or making it to the major leagues should be celebrated, being a dad who is physically active and active in raising his kids should be celebrated, too.

Research shows that when kids grow up seeing dads exercise they are healthier, and while these three men happen to share their names with famous athletes, they don't get the same glory. So Negandhi and Dove Men+Care are giving these hard working dads some recognition.

Alvin Suarez

Alvin Suarez is teaching his kids that having a disability doesn't disqualify you from being an athlete. As a visually-impaired person, Alvin isn't the standard athlete we see represented in media. He plays Goalball, a sport that relies on keen ear-hand coordination, and he is certainly a keen father, chasing after his twin girls.

Alvin says the difference between sports and fatherhood is that you can train for sports, while parenthood takes you by surprise. "I try to be a good role model for my daughters and I want everyone to know that everyone has potential and that there is no such thing as a nobody."

Alvin has won championships as a Goalball player, but says holding his daughters in his arms for the first time was like winning a medal but multiplied by a million.

Sean Williams

Sean Williams is committed to his community and his kids. He uses physical fitness to connect with his kids and to, literally, save lives. A volunteer firefighter, Sean keeps fit so that he can use his body and energy to maximum impact. He isn't just changing the lives of people impacted by fires, but also his fellow dads.

The founder of The Dad Gang, an organization committed to celebrating and telling the real story of black fatherhood, Sean has created a space for dads to connect with their children and each other while staying active.

"One of the challenges we put out on social media is where you do pushups with our kids on our backs and that merges fatherhood and fitness," he explains.

If there was a Super Bowl for community service, Sean would be wearing the ring.

Chris Paul

A Marine Corps veteran, Chris needs a ton of energy to keep up with his blended family. It started out as an "all-girl Brady Bunch" he explains, as his wife and he had six daughters between them, but they've since added a boy to the family which now included seven kids. .

He's basically got his own sports team at home so it makes sense that Chris is super committed to staying fit for them. The Marine turned realtor takes time to help other dads in his community stay fit and knows when to draw boundaries to protect his time with his kids.

He's got some good endurance, but he's not going to work 15 hours a day when his kids are waiting at home for him. Chris says in former times dads were often passive figures in their kids' lives as the child rearing was done by others.

Like the other men, he's changing that. "I'm an active participant and I want to make sure that I can contribute to my children's lives."

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Back in 2017 when we learned Beyoncé was starring in a new remake of The Lion King I was thrilled. My son (my only child) was almost 2 years old and I told my partner I wanted The Lion King to be our son's first movie theatre experience. Going to see the original Lion King in a movie theatre was a big deal to me as a kid and I wanted to recreate that experience for my son.

Flash forward to July 2019 and The Lion King is in theaters—but my son and I are not. Turns out I really overestimated how long 3-year-olds can sit still. While my son loves watching 1994's Lion King at home (he always stands on the couch and lifts his stuffed animals to the sky during "Circle of Life") he's just not quite subdued enough for the cinema yet.

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So we have been waiting to see The Lion King at home, and now we finally can! October 11 marks the film's digital home video release, and the Blu-ray hits stores on October 22.

Rob Legato, a VFX supervisor on the film, tells Motherly that "the visuals are so well preserved on 4K and newer television sets that it is literally the mini theatre experience and you're not missing much by seeing it at home."

Basically, the digital version is going to be just as awesome as seeing it in theaters, except that we will be able to pause for potty breaks and my kiddo can stand on his seat pretending to be Rafiki without blocking anyone's view.

The movie is, of course, incredible, but so are the animals it's based on. Screening the movie at home is an amazing way to start conversations with your kids about the various animals in the film as they are of course more similar to the real animals they are based on then their animated counterparts were in 1994.

The filmmakers went to Africa to research the animals they were bringing to life and they also spent a ton of time at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve inside Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida watching various species to try to make their movements as realistic as possible. There, 34 species live on 110 acres and the filmmakers got to watch them closely, making this film incredibly detailed.

Some of the animal experts who work with these animals on a daily basis say that when they watch The Lion King, they can actually tell which characters are based on which of the animals they know in real life.

"This film presented a really wonderful and unique opportunity to bring the production crew to the animals here at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They spent about 6 weeks here collecting reference footage of the animals here and we partnered really closely with the animal care teams at Disney's Animal Kingdom to make sure that all of the filming that we were doing, the impact to the animals was minimized," says Jon Ross of Disney's Animals in TV and Film department

The film crew watched the animals from a distance, which is something families can also do at Disney's Animal Kingdom by taking the Kilimanjaro Safari or staying in Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where giraffes and other animals can be seen right from hotel balconies.

But the work Disney is doing with the animals is more than a tourist attraction. The company is serious about conservation and protecting the animal species featured in the park and in its films. "Tied to the Lion King film we launched the Protect the Pride initiative," Claire Martin of Disney's Conservation & Partnerships team tells Motherly. "We realized that we'd lost half of the world's lions since the first Lion King film debuted and we want to turn that around, so we're working with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund to help their vision to double the amount of lions in the wild by 2050," she explains.

Marin suggests that parents watching The Lion King with their kids can use the film to talk to their children about conservation issues and continue the education long after the end credits roll. "We encourage people to learn more, visit the website, get involved and learn more about how they can make an impact on lions and other wildlife across Africa," says Martin.

Through the website, parents can even download an activity packet (you can print it and make your kids a cool book) with all kinds of information and cool activities and to help kids feed their lion obsession in an educational way even when screen time is over.

The Lion King is available to stream now and will be on Blu-ray October 22 (with even more educational features about the animals!)

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For those without a toddler glued to the screen, Blippi is the colorfully dressed, bespectacled YouTube alter ego of Stevin John. He delights children by acting like a little kid as he visits farms, indoor playgrounds, construction sites and more, teaching simple lessons and singing songs about everything he sees. His channel has 5.71 million subscribers, with hits like "The Excavator Song" racking up 50 million views.

This kind of success meant he was long overdue to take the show on the road. Earlier this week, he announced a 30-date U.S. tour with an interview on Billboard, as well as on his social media. But now parents of Blippi fans, are concerned that they won't get the "real" Blippi when they attend Blippi Live shows next year.

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Parents flocked to his site to purchase tickets, which cost $26-$70, for the shows running in February and March 2020. But some of them hadn't read the interview, nor did they notice the fine print on the FAQ page of the Blippi Live site that said Stevin John himself was not going to be on the stage.

"I won't be on the road, but I am obviously extremely involved with the whole process," John told Billboard. "Blippi is as a character and I'm the creative force behind it, but since YouTube is a monster and all of these platforms are really crazy I can't go on the road for many weeks or months at a time."

Some parents had even spent $40-$51 on the after-show meet-and-greet before they realized that their kids would be meeting an unfamiliar "performer" instead of John. Many reacted with outrage and immediately tried to get a refund, according to Buzzfeed News.

"I didn't find out until five seconds after I submitted my payment and Ticketmaster refused to refund me," Angelina Sakowski told Buzzfeed after she bought tickets to a New Jersey show.

Stephen Shaw, the producer and promoter of the Blippi Live show, told Buzzfeed that his company would be sending parents a letter informing them about the replacement performer and would offer refunds.

They have also since added this line to the Blippi Live site: "Stevin John is the creator of Blippi and acts as the writer and creative force behind the Blippi character. Now that Blippi has evolved as a character he is excited that a dynamic stage performer has been cast as Blippi to entertain and thrill audiences across all of the tour markets."

It's hard to guess whether Blippi's actual target audience—i.e., not the upset parents—would care that stage Blippi was a slightly different person than the one they see on screens. After all, the Baby Sharks in the live show are 3D and therefore slightly different from the animated versions we all know and love/hate.

Stevin John issued a statement on the official Blippi Instagram account this week, which reads, in part: "We tried to make it clear that I would not be the character at the live show (via Billboard Exclusive Interview + FAQ on BlippiLive.com) but I'm sorry it seems that wasn't enough. We have adjusted and continue to make it even more apparent that it's not going to be me on stage. I will be the creative force behind the live show, as a producer, a writer, and also I am personally casting the live theater performer to play the character on stage."

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