Cover image for MothersWork : how a young mother started a business on a shoestring and built it into a multi-million dollar company
MothersWork : how a young mother started a business on a shoestring and built it into a multi-million dollar company
Matthias, Rebecca.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Currency/Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
268 pages ; 25 cm
Starting up (where ideas come from and how to test them in the marketplace) -- My first catalog (the nuts and bolts of launching a mail-order business) -- If you build it, they will buy it (how to buy or manufacture your product) -- Asking for help (the ten commandments of combining a new business with a new family) -- The toddler years: my company learns to walk (getting the hand of cash flow, credit, publicity, technology, taxes, you name it) -- Franchising takes us forward (everything you need to know about franchising but didn't know whom to ask) -- Growing pains (how to raise money and keep the cash flowing) -- Managing chaos (how to handle disasters and other unforeseeable crisis--count on them!) -- Getting to yes (the art of negotiating) -- Going public (IPOs, the street, a private jet, and realizing your dream).
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HF5466 .M38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



With a new baby, little money, but lots of determination and drive, Rebecca Matthias started a business from scratch out of her home some eighteen years ago. Today her company, Mothers Work--which includes the retail outlets Mimi Maternity, Motherhood, and A Pea in the Pod--has grown to become a multimillion-dollar maternity clothing empire. Written with a refreshingly candid, can-do attitude,MothersWorkdescribes how Matthias got her company off the ground--offering specific lessons for other entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs on the nuts and bolts of building and growing your dream. The first step, of course, is fastening on what it is you plan to sell. As Matthias searched for an idea for a new company--around the time of her first pregnancy--she was discovering how impossible it was to find maternity clothes suitable for the office. Realizing that other professional women were in the same boat, Matthias launched a mail-order business selling maternity clothes. The initial response was staggering, and Matthias's company was on its way. What they discovered was that, unlike new mothers of a generation earlier, women were staying in the workforce throughout their pregnancies. The shift was a revolution in the workplace, with Mothers Work supplying the uniforms. Over the next few years, despite a series of setbacks as Matthias and her husband grappled with managing accounting, sales, inventory, and financing, the company gradually took off. In the course of describing how she built her business, Matthias reveals hard-won lessons she learned about how to research an idea, test it in the market, raise money, deal with employees, taxes, bankers, cash flow, marketing, franchising, and more. Both motivational and deeply personal,MothersWorkoffers a three-dimensional blueprint for every woman--and man--who dreams of successfully starting a company.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Almost every how-I-made-it story from an entrepreneur seems to avoid mentioning major mistakes and missteps. Not so Matthias' story of her maternity clothing empire; she cheerfully admits she couldn't distinguish a business plan from a marker when started. This is the tale of beginning with $10,000, an idea, the energy to see it through, and the guts to confess to errors. In fact, every chapter details at least one mistake and how to fix it; a close-call warehouse fire, for instance, taught her and her husband-partner the value of insurance adjustors. Every chapter is followed by a minilesson on the right way; that same conflagration is succeeded by a couple of pages on anticipating and handling disasters. Her three main rules are think big, focus, and never give up. Written intelligently by a woman of great common sense who, thankfully, is not graced by a Pollyannaish attitude. --Barbara Jacobs

Library Journal Review

Some 18 years ago, Matthias launched a mail-order business selling professional maternity clothes, and the response was staggering. Today MothersWork, which oversees 620 retail outlets like Mimi Maternity, Motherhood, and A Pea in the Pod, is a multimillion-dollar maternity clothing empire. Here, Matthias offers advice to other entrepreneurs about the process of building and growing a company. She explains how to research an idea, how to test market and raise money, and how to handle employees, taxes, bankers, and franchising. This "three-dimensional blueprint" for how to build a company and eventually take it public is inspirational reading for students, entrepreneurs, and small business managers.√ĄSusan C. Awe, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Starting Up Everything seems possible when you're twenty-eight. I was young, intelligent, ambitious. I had degrees from the best colleges. The year was 1981--the beginning of the decade of wealth and greed. I had just gotten married and I was helping my husband, Dan, with the Important Work of starting his computer company in Boston. The thing was, I didn't want to "help" someone. I wanted my own company. Starting a company ranks right up there with great lifetime initiatives. It's like waving to your parents the day you go off to college. Like standing at the altar on your wedding day. Like setting off to discover the New World. Like Genghis Khan marching off to conquer Asia. It's a real high. I can see why some people start company after company. Even in the face of repeated failure, they try again and again. Every time it's a new beginning. Every business start-up could be the Big One. The new Bill Gates story. Look at Colonel Sanders. He was sixty-five when he started a little chicken restaurant. Do you see? It's never too late. That's how I felt when I started Mothers Work. Like Christopher Columbus. The other thing about starting a company is that anybody can do it. You don't have to get anyone's permission or send someone a resume or pass a test. You might have a lot of experience before you start, or you might just take a flier and start a business on a hunch. Take me. I didn't know the first thing about clothes--maternity or otherwise. I also didn't know anything about mail-order catalogs, or fashion, or business in general. I did, however, have a stubborn ego-driven belief that I could run and even build a business. I thought I had a perfect product that no one else had thought of and that I was uniquely capable of understanding this market. I was convinced that I had discovered a true market void when I was pregnant and couldn't find a single article of clothing to wear to the office. And despite hearing that constant refrain, "If this were really such a great idea, someone else would have already done it," I ignored all naysayers and relied on my own gut instincts. I was perfectly qualified to start a business. I think that entrepreneurs have a strange combination of impulsive, quick-decision-making ability and day-after-day-grind-it-out-and-refuse-to-quit stamina. For example, Dan and I were married about sixty days after we met, and we've been grinding it out ever since. Dan was starting up yet another computer company in Pennsylvania, and I was just out of graduate school, in my first job as a construction engineer, building a new addition to his plant. He says he fell in love with me when he saw me in those muddy boots and construction hat. I was attracted to his power and prestige. I knew almost immediately that I, too, wanted to be the president of a big company that I started and grew. The nice part was that he didn't think that was funny or impossible or even questionable. His only comment was "Why have you been wasting so much time in school when you could have started by now?" Shortly after we met, I took Dan to my family's house for Thanksgiving, and we got married in January. Six months later we were relocated from Philadelphia to Boston so Dan could start computer company number 5 or 6 (who's counting?) with his friend from business school, with me "helping." I had finished up the construction project and was between assignments, trying to decide what to do next. The move to Boston had disrupted the next construction project I would have received. It seemed like the perfect time to try something new and become involved with a business start-up. But lacking any real business experience, I was relegated to the administrative side of things. All those excellent degrees I had in architecture and civil engineering that I had earned from the hotshot schools I went to were suddenly worthless. I was spending my days calling insurance agents and renting office furniture. My title was vice-president of administration. The "vice-president" part was clearly to humor me. As time passed, I did get pretty good at what I was doing, but it seemed like I was stuck in that administrative role, with no opportunity to break out into the real power positions. I worked my tail off researching and writing parts of the business plan, but when it came time to present it to venture capitalists, I was never invited to the meetings. I became more and more convinced that if I were ever going to be the president of a large company, it would have to be one I started. Then I got pregnant. It wasn't like it was unplanned. I mean, Dan was thirty-eight and he really wanted to get going with the fatherhood thing. I was only twenty-eight, but I was ready too (I thought)--even though few of my friends were even married yet, let alone pregnant. I called my mother. Naturally she was thrilled. "I think you should move back to Philadelphia," she said. "Mom, we have a business here," I replied. "We can't just move." "What could be more important than a baby?" "What's that supposed to mean?" I asked. This was ridiculous. She didn't understand anything. "Who's going to take care of it?" "I am. What are you talking about?" I was starting to raise my voice. "You," she snorted. "You're going to be working. You're going to need me to help you!" "So I'll hire someone," I said. "How hard could it be?" She thought about that for a minute. "I think you should move back to Philadelphia." Of course time proved that she had the right idea. In the first place, I did need her to help me, and in the second, it was very hard, especially in those first few months. But while I was watching my pregnancy progress, everything still seemed possible. I had no idea what I was getting into. Like most women do now, I worked right up to the day before my delivery. At the time, however, this was not only unusual, it seemed somehow immoral. Like I might hurt the baby. Somehow it meant I wasn't serious about being a new mother. Like I should be home putting up wallpaper in the baby's room. During that time I also thought a lot about my future and what I wanted out of life. Working for Dan's computer company, I was learning a lot about business, but it was becoming clear that I was going to reach what is now called the glass ceiling. Dan and his partner had a lot more experience than I did in computers and computer start-ups. And as more and more bright young men were hired, I couldn't help but feel that I was being passed over. On the other hand, having the opportunity to be involved with a start-up opened my eyes to just how exciting it could be to create a new company out of nothing and help it grow. I questioned the value of all of my degrees in architecture and engineering. Had I just wasted my time all those years in school? As much as I loved construction and architecture, the allure of starting a business was beginning to take hold. Maybe I could combine the two by starting a business in the construction field. I was giving that some thought too. Excerpted from MothersWork: How a Young Mother Started a Business on a Shoestring and Built It into a Multi-Million Dollar Company by Rebecca Matthias All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.