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Collaboration over competition: how working with influencers helped one lady boss find success

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.

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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Taking to the friendly skies with an infant in tow doesn't always feel so...friendly. That's doubly true when you're traveling during the busy holiday season. But while we can't help waylay the dirty looks you might get for bringing your baby on board (just ignore them, mama!), we can help you feel prepared to tackle whatever your little one throws at you in flight.

Whether you're embarking on your child's first flight for the holidays or are seasoned jet-setters, here are six products that will help guarantee smoother sailing.


1. TruNiagen

If you always find yourself feeling off post-trip, we have a solution. Before taking off, give your body a boost by adding Tru Niagen to your vitamin regimen. This innovative supplement increase your body's NAD levels, a vital resource for energy and repair at the cellular level. Winter woes, you've met your match.

TruNiagen, Chromadex, $40

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2. Sago Mini Toys 

Keep your child entertained before and during flights with a fun toy designed to promote creative thinking. The Pillow Playsets from Sago Mini fold up for air-travel (we especially love the Harvey's Doctor Office!) and the unfold to help keep little ones distracted during any delays. Simply toss a couple in your carry-on to break out whenever a potential tantrum strikes.

Harvey's Doctor's Office Pillow Playset, Amazon, $39.99

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3. BABY B'AIR

When traveling with a baby, safety is tantamount. Unfortunately, options to secure in-lap infants are limited. Which is exactly what inspired founder Greg Nieberding to create the BABY B'AIR flight vest, a soft cotton body and nylon strap harness.

Not only does the BABY B'AIR prevent dangerous movement or slips during travel, but it will also save you time in security check because it doesn't require an extra scan the way car seats often do.

BABY B'AIR Flight Best, babybair, $39.95

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4. E-Cloth

If you've read those articles about the number of bacteria on your seat's tray table, you're probably thinking twice about letting your little one touch any surface on board. Rather than dousing the entire cabin in a strong chemical cleaner, simply toss an E-cloth in your carry-on.

These genius cloths use just water to "charge" the microscopic voids between and within the cloth's fibers, thereby attracting particles of dirt, bacteria, and mold when you wipe a dirty surface. After your flight, simply wring the cloth out in clean water to release the nasty stuff and the cloth is ready to use again. (We also love it for cleaning surfaces in a hotel room!)

E-Cloth, $39.99

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5. SnoofyBee Changing Pad

One of the biggest challenges of traveling with babies? Keeping them from touching all.the.things. Never is this truer than on public changing tables and surfaces. But thanks to the Snoofybee, you can carry a clean surface with you while also keeping little hands contained from touching anything unseemly.

Bonus: The pad's redirection barrier can also put a stop to baby's who are fascinated with touching their own dirty diapers. Because blech.

SnoofyBee, SnoofyBee, $29.99

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6. Pediped Shoes

Give your child some comfy kicks to rock in the terminal (while they hopefully burn off any extra energy before boarding). Pediped shoes are designed for safe foot development and made from soft, pliable materials that your baby won't try to rip off the moment you set them down—and many are machine washable, meaning you can quickly wash away any airport grime when you get home.

Pediped Shoes, PedipedOutlet.com, $19.99 and up

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Finding the person you want to spend your life with is never easy, but when you're a parent, there's an extra layer of consideration. You're not just choosing the person you will spend lazy Sundays (and hurried weekday mornings) with—you're choosing the person your children will spend them with, too.

And when that person has children of their own, things get even more complicated. Blending two families isn't easy, but it can be beautiful, as Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez prove.

Each half of this power couple has two children each, and they're doing their best to make their relationship work not just for each other, but for those four children, too.

"We love each other and we love our life together," Lopez recently told People. "I was so loving to his kids and he was so loving and accepting of mine, and they embraced each other right away. [It was] 'I get a new bonus brother and sisters to hang out with all the time and it's nice.'"

A Rod agrees, telling People: "Our kids have become best friends and that keeps us both grounded and appreciative."

Here are five ways J Lo and A-Rod are totally #parentinggoals when it comes to balancing the needs of their blended family.

1.They bring the kids together

Lopez and Rodriguez each spend time with their own children, but they also bring all four kids (Lopez shares 10-year-old twins Maximilian and Emme with her ex, Marc Anthony, and Rodriguez shares daughters Ella, 10, and Natasha, 13, with his ex, Cynthia Scurtis) together for fun family outings, like ice cream dates and basketball games.

Research indicates that about 14% of kids in step families don't feel like they belong in their family, and report that their family doesn't have fun together. By bringing the kids together for fun family times, Lopez and Rodriguez are encouraging a sense of family belonging outside the relationship they have with each of the kids individually. Studies suggest an adolescents' sense of family belonging is linked to their overall well-being. So this ice cream date is actually healthy, in a way.

​2. They consider their children's other parents family, too

If their Instagrams are any indication, Rodriguez and Lopez have a great time hanging out with their blended family, but they understand that their children have other family members, too, and they don't mind hanging out with them.

A recent Instagram post proves Rodriguez considers Marc Anthony #famila, and that's how it should be.

Studies show supportive communication between a parent and their ex-partner's new partner is good for the family as a whole. Likewise, when the relationship between a parent and a stepparent is antagonistic, relationships beyond their own stuffer. It's truly better if a parent's co-parent and their current partner can hang.

3. They’re a united front with their co-parents

Rodriguez considers J Lo's ex family, and he also doesn't forget that (despite legal disagreements) his ex-wife plays a big role in his daughter's lives. So he celebrates their big co-parenting moments, like parent-teacher night.

Lopez, too, celebrates the times she and Anthony get together for their twins' big moments, recently telling Kelly Rippa the two are now in a really great place, and basically best friends. "The kids get to spend time with the two of us more together and see us working together," she said."It's just good for the whole family," says Lopez.

4. They make time for each other without the kids

Having all four kids together at once looks like fun, but hanging out with three 10-year-olds and a teen also sounds like it could be a little exhausting. That's why the couple takes time to unwind, without the kids, when they can.

As J Lo wrote in a recent Instagram post, "it's the lil quiet moments that matter the most."

5. They're doing it their way

Back in April Lopez was asked whether or not she and A Rod would be getting married soon (thanks to a Spanish language single "El Anillo," which is Spanish for "The Ring"), she told People, she's not in any rush, despite the song.

"I've done that before. I'm a little bit more grown up now, and I like to let things take their natural course," she said. "I know people are going to say that… we are really kind of good for each other and are really having the best time, and our kids love each other and all that."

[A version of this story was originally published July 12, 2018.]

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With the many blessings of multiple kids, comes the challenge of needing even more gear—gear that's guaranteed to go the extra mile. With storage space already at a premium, you can probably get away with some new baby clothes. But multiplying the number of strollers in the garage? That's not going to fly.

But with the new Nuna DEMI™ grow stroller, "less is more" is truly the answer to your problems.

1. It has every seat arrangement you could need

Strollers can be complex enough when you only need one seat. Add in another baby and shopping for a perfect fit can feel like enough to make you spend the next few years at home. But, with the Nuna DEMI™ grow stroller, you don't have to know exactly how your kids will want to sit for the rest of time. It offers 23 modes, making for clever convertibility, for whichever way your family may grow. Simply add to DEMI grow as you need.

2. You’re spared the stroller wrestling match

When you're toting around two kids, the last thing you need is an uncooperative stroller. With the Nuna DEMI™ grow, you can do a remarkable number of things with just a touch (or less than that if you're really creative). From a one-hand adjustable calf support, to one-touch brake to easy folding it up, you don't need to call backup just to get back into the car from your outing.

Bonus: The no-rethread harness on the compatible Nuna PIPA™ series car seats enables you to easily raise or lower the straps without the headache of unhooking and rerouting them each time your baby goes through a growth spurt.

3. It ensures comfort—no matter who is sitting where

Not only are there 23 different modes, but each seat is made to feel like the "best" one. With options to recline, kick up their feet and keep the sun out of their eyes with UPF 50+ canopies, you won't have to referee the "but I want to sit there" battle. (Moms of toddlers, you'll know why this is such an important detail.)

4. It’s designed for year-round adventures

For any mama who has been struck with fear from the sight of a bumpy sidewalk, worry no more. With ultra-tough, foam-filled tires and custom dual suspension, the Nuna DEMI™ grow stroller is designed to tackle just about any terrain all while keeping your little ones comfy in their seats. The seats themselves were also designed for maximum comfort, no matter the temperature: With an all-season seat, the padded exterior can easily be removed to expose the breathable mesh lining when you're out and about on hot days.

5. You don’t have to predict the future of your family

When researching and buying a new stroller, it can feel like you need to have exact plans for the future of your family mapped out.

But with the Nuna DEMI™ grow, you don't need to worry about all those plans right now. Whether you just need one seat, two seats, bassinet or car seats, this single stroller has you covered and grows as you need it.

That way, you can worry less about predicting your family's future—and enjoy exactly where it is today even more.

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

If you use U by Kotex tampons, you should check your box before your next period, mama.

Regular absorbency U by Kotex Sleek Tampons are being recalled throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to the FDA, defective tampons have been coming apart when people tried to remove them, "in some cases causing users to seek medical attention to remove tampon pieces left in the body."

The FDA notes that there have also been a "small number of reports of infections, vaginal irritation, localized vaginal injury, and other symptoms."

In a statement on its website, U by Kotex explains that the recall is specific to the U by Kotex Sleek Tampons, Regular Absorbency only. The Super Absorbency or Super Plus Absorbency tampons are not part of the recall.

The recall is for specific lots of the Regular Absorbency tampons manufactured between October 7, 2016 and October 16, 2018.

The lot numbers start with NN (or XM, for small, 3 count packages) and can be found near the barcode on the bottom of the box.

To check if your tampons are part of the recall, type your lot number into this form on the U by Kotex site.


The FDA says if you've used the tampons and are experiencing the following you should seek immediate medical attention:

  • vaginal injury (pain, bleeding, or discomfort)
  • vaginal irritation (itching or swelling)
  • urogenital infections (bladder and/or vaginal bacterial and/or yeast infections)
  • hot flashes
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea or vomiting

If you have a package of the recalled tampons you should not use them and should call Kotex's parent company, Kimberly-Clark at 1-888-255-3499. On its website U by Kotex asks consumers not to return the tampons to stores.

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I grew up watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air so pretty much anytime Will Smith pops up on my Facebook feed, I click. (Also, I happen to live near West Philadelphia, so you know, there's a lot of theme song singing. My husband finds me hysterical.)

Anyway...

The last time I clicked on a Will Smith video, he was telling a story about when he went skydiving. He had made the decision to go with his friends, and then spent the whole night and morning leading up to it terrified, envisioning all the things that could go wrong.

When he was finally up in the plane, the guide explained that they would jump on the count of three. "One… two…" except they push you out on "two" because everyone throws their arms out and stops themselves at "three." So before he knew it, he was flying.

And he found it to be absolutely amazing.

He said, "The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear. It's bliss. The lesson for me was, why were you scared in your bed the night before? What do you need that fear for? You're nowhere even near the airplane. Everything up to the stepping out, there's actually no reason to be scared. It only just ruins your day… the best things in life [are] on the other side of [fear]."

Motherhood is skydiving.

If someone came up to you one day and said, "Hey. I have this job for you. You are going to grow a human in your body, kind of like it's an alien. And then that human is going to come out of your body—and that process is really intense. And then the human will be really helpless and you will have to turn it into a fully functioning adult with an important place in this world. Okay… go!"

You'd smile politely and walk run away as fast as you could.

Because if you think about it, the idea of doing all of that—motherhoodis pretty terrifying. The amount of responsibility and work is sort of incomprehensible.

The grand scheme of motherhood is scary.

The thing is, though, that the grand scheme of motherhood is actually made up of millions of tiny moments in which you will be a total boss.

Whether it's a jump-out-of-the-plane moment, or a get-the-toddler-out-of-the-car-seat moment, you will face it with bravery.

Remember, being brave isn't the absence of fear, it's being afraid and doing it anyway.

Being brave is taking a pregnancy test—and seeing that it's positive. Or seeing that it's negative, again.

Being brave is waiting for the adoption agency to call you and tell you that she's here.

Being brave is watching your body change in a hundred ways, and lovingly rubbing your belly as it does.

Being brave is giving your body over to the process of bringing your baby into the world—yes, even if you cry, or complain, or cry and complain. You're still brave. Promise.

Being brave is bringing that baby home for the first time. Oh, so much bravery needed for that one.

Being brave is giving that first bath, going to that first pediatrician visit, spending that first full day at home, alone, with the baby,

Being brave is your first day back at work—or making the phone call to tell them you won't actually be coming back at all.

Being brave is ignoring all the noise around you, and parenting your child the way you know is best for your family.

Being brave is letting go of her hands when she takes her first steps.

Being brave is sitting next to her and smiling when you're in the emergency room for croup—and then sobbing when you get home.

Being brave is bringing her to her first day of school—and going home without her.

Being brave is saying "yes" to her first sleepover and "no" to her first car.

Being brave is hugging her the first time her heart breaks, when your heart might possibly hurt even more than hers does.

Being brave is listening quietly when she tells you she plans to "travel the world."

Being brave is bringing her to her first day of college—and going home without her.

Being brave is watching her commit her life to another person, who is not you.

Being brave is watching her become a mother.

And one day, sweet, brave mama, you'll look back and realize that you just jumped out of an airplane—you raised a child.

All of the things that seemed terrifyingly impossible—you just…do them. One at a time. You will wake up every day a little bit braver than the day before. And before you know it, you can look back on any aspect of motherhood and realize that little by little, you just increased your flying altitude.

Things that was seemed daunting are handled with ease. Ideas that once seemed impossible have become your reality one thousand times over.

So yes, motherhood is incredibly scary. But you are incredibly brave.

One... two... jump!

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