Small Biz Spotlight: Julie McCaffrey – BabyNav Baby Planners
Summing up her skills and experience, Julie McCaffrey sees some interesting overlaps. Her corporate career required long hours, in-depth research, organization, and project management skills. She is also a mother of three, including twins, a more-than-full-time job also requiring organizational and management skills and more. Add in an entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s easy to see the synergy that led to her successful venture.
In 2009 McCaffrey launched BabyNav, the country’s premiere baby planning and maternity concierge service, offering private and personalized consultation to expecting and new families. The idea is to prepare new families, reduce stress, and allow every member of the family to embrace the magic and joy of pregnancy.
McCaffrey walks soon-to-be parents through baby gear consulting, registry creation, product assembly and demonstrations, nursery stocking, and more. “We like to say, as long as it isn’t medically related, we will help you do it to prepare for baby,” she said. BabyNav also specializes in postpartum support so new parents feel confident and content while navigating the world with their new infant.
During her own pregnancies, McCaffrey found that the organizational skills from her corporate career kept her from feeling overwhelmed, letting her feel much more at ease and prepared. “I started sharing that information with other women that I was working with and was helping my friends prepare, when I realized I could be doing this for a lot more families,” she said.
One of her fun discoveries was a real passion for baby gear and all things that are maternity and baby related. “I couldn’t read enough books, play with enough strollers or take enough classes,” she said. The passion for research filled McCaffrey with confidence, and from her very first clients, she knew it was going to be a viable business long term.
That said, BabyNav was her first entrepreneurial venture and came with some jitters. It was scary leaving her corporate job with benefits and paid vacation days to do something totally dependent on her and her ability to hustle. “There’s a fear of putting yourself out there and failing. It’s a business dependent on a service that I’m putting out there and doing. You know—what if I’m not doing well?” she said. “There’s also a financial, economic fear, because you’re putting money out there and wonder if it will return.”
But her venture was also quickly rewarding: Although she’s based in the New York area, she consults digitally with clients around the United States. She makes her own schedule, which allows her to be home with her kids more.
McCaffrey also learned to not try to do everything herself. As for many new business owners, it took her a while to realize she needed a professional network. “My biggest mistake has been trying to be absolutely everything to my business. When you start out as an entrepreneur, you have to be the person who provides this great service, but you also have to be accounting, marketing, social media, technology, and all the other administrative services. I was trying to do all of those all the time instead of paying someone to help me in those areas. When I started outsourcing some of those tasks and was able to really focus on our core services, my business grew, and with that extra business I was easily able to pay for that outsourced work.”
She now has an assistant as well as a network of go-to specialists. “I rely on a lot of partnerships I’ve created. If I need a car seat installed, I have a car seat tech I go to.”
Trying to be all things to all people is something she hears about a lot from her clients too.
“The same word I hear over and over again is ‘overwhelmed,’ and I think that often comes from the never-ending guilt. Moms want to be the best mom they can be when they are home, but they feel guilty they may not be putting as many [work] hours in as others. Moms want to be the best employee they can be and excel in their careers, but they feel guilty when they take time and attention away from their family.
BabyNav is meant to relieve that anxiety and maximize clients’ time. “I don’t think the guilt of a working mom ever goes away, but we try to make them feel less overwhelmed so they can find fulfillment in their home and career,” McCaffrey said.
Make your mark
Her advice? “Go for it and don’t look around at what other people are doing all the time. As moms and women, we often find ourselves checking out other moms and watching how other women are doing it, and while I think we can always learn from each other, we can’t allow that to hold us back. As a mompreneur you have to be able to make your own mark and not be afraid to separate from the pack. Practically speaking, if you are going to start a business, make sure you are passionate enough about it to breathe it all day every day and go after it 100 percent your way!”