Shari Criso embodies the true meaning of Mompreneur. A certified nurse/midwife, lactation consultant, owner of the uber successful store, Birth Boutique (www.birthboutique.com), a wife to her husband Joe, and a mom to daughters Jade, 7, and Talia, 4 ½, Shari is on the fast track to success. Celebrity Parents caught up with Shari between TV appearances to talk about babies, boobs, and how she’ll stop you in the supermarket to tell you you’re wearing the wrong-sized bra.
Photography: Gabbeli Photography
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I started my career as a labor and delivery nurse, which I did for several years. I wanted my own practice, and became a certified nurse midwife. I had a very successful practice for 7 years.
How did your foray into the retail market begin?
When I had my first daughter, Jade, I realized that there wasn’t anywhere I could go where anyone had a knowledge of all the maternity and newborn care products. So I decided to open a small boutique connected to my medical practice. I would fit bras on my clients, and I had good info moms could trust. That small boutique has grown into a 5,000 sq/ft haven for new and expectant parents, offering classes, consultations, and the best baby products on the market.
Did you ever think you would be a business owner?
I grew up in a retail environment. Both my parents had stores, and I remember being 10 years-old helping out in the stores. What was so valuable to me as a child was seeing how my parents worked together, both as business partners and in their marriage.
When I decided to open the Birth Boutique, Jade was only 4 months-old. Joe had a successful career, and I was still running my medical practice. It came to the point where Joe and I had a serious conversation about how we were going to manage it all. Joe decided to work with me, and we built this together.
Speaking of building things, you mentioned earlier that you built a nursery in the store, too.
Yes, it was so important that Jade be with us, especially since I was nursing her. I wanted to have my career and my child with me at the same time. And it’s not just for me alone. Today, I am able to extend that benefit to my employees and many have been able to bring their babies to work with on site day care. Women need to support each other; this is the principle I built my business on.
Let’s talk a bit about The Birth Boutique.
The store is doing really great! In addition to a vast amount of products, I also teach breastfeeding classes. I never realized how much I loved to teach! Breastfeeding became a passion of mine when I was a midwife. I worked as a labor and delivery nurse and as a nurse- midwife for many years. When my daughter was born, I struggled with breastfeeding. I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I’d be.
As often as I’d seen it done by my patients, coming home with my own baby was like hitting a brick wall. When the fatigue sets in, nursing, even though it’s natural, doesn’t come easy. I often say that pregnancy and birth are natural, but we always get help, take classes, and consult with experts. Most women don’t get professional help with breastfeeding and when it doesn’t work out, we think there’s something wrong with us, and it makes us have a lack of confidence in our bodies.
That’s so true.
The time to learn to breastfeed is not when you’re doing it. Women should take a class, so that way when they take their baby home from the hospital, they are more prepared and relaxed.
What other classes do you offer?
We have a full curriculum! We have the Simply Breastfeeding class, where women get the full essence of everything they’ll need for breastfeeding. We also offer the Newborn Novice class, which is a class on newborn care, from the basics of bathing to calming a fussy baby. We also have a new audio CD, Breastpumps and Briefcases, which is geared towards working breastfeeding moms. And then Joe and I are teaching a class together, called Childbirth Without Fear, which is taught to couples by us, as a couple. Most people tend to forget that while the moms are laboring, the dads are also laboring.
And then there’s the clothing line, too.
Yes, I also have a clothing line! It’s called Momm-eez Nurturewear. I remember walking around with my newborn and wearing a nightgown with a hole in it! I thought, “There has to be something better than this!” Luckily, my mother is a designer and manufacturer, and she helped me create the line. It’s been extremely popular because the fabrics are so comfortable, which is what you want after you’ve had a baby.
It’s so interesting how you are now offering webcam consultations for breastfeeding and bra fittings.
One of the reasons my store is so popular is because I offer one-on-one bra fitting consultations to women. The bra fittings are one of my specialties. There is no other time than when you’re pregnant or nursing to be wearing a bra that fits you properly. And that’s exactly what I do. I fit bras at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and they will fit through the time you are nursing. You will be amazed at how many women are wearing the wrong size bra!
I think the statistic is 90% of women wear the wrong-sized bra.
That’s right I want to walk up to women in the supermarket and fit them with the right-sized bra! So for the women who cannot come to the store, I can help them do a fitting via webcam!
You have so much on your plate. How do you find the balance between work and family?
My family is the most important thing to me. My girls are my biggest and best accomplishments. Of course, when you own your business, you feel like you’re on 24 hours a day. There’s guilt about not spending enough time with your children. But I structured my business so that I could have the best of both worlds. Just the other day, Jade said to me, “I’m so lucky because my mommy is the boss, and she helps lots of other mommies.”
She gets it.
She does. As women, we all need to have that fulfillment of being both a career woman and also a mother. I watched my own mother have her business and now I’m inspiring Jade and Talia.
How do you find balance with Joe?
I have a unique relationship with my husband. Literally 24 hours a day, we work together, we parent together, and we are truly partners in our entire life. It can be difficult but what keeps us grounded is that we have the same goals and mission in life. He’s an amazing father; he’s more their primary caregiver than I am, and he’s helped me build the business.
It’s a team effort.
Absolutely. When people ask me how I do all this, I say, “Joe.” He’s the reason.
You’re a firm believer in designing the life you want.
Women want to have it all: Be a mom, have a career, and be happy. I think a lot of it has to do with planning. If you plan ahead, you can design your life exactly how you want it to be. And right now, I’m loving my life.