When It Comes To Work-life Balance, Three Benicia Women Have It Nailed
Photos byLisa Duncan Photography
For women, finding a good balance between family and career may seem like the impossible dream. But three Benicia women are making it work, running cool businesses on their own terms while leading busy lives being moms. The three entrepreneurs, Tara Bottini-Allen, Erin Taylor and Nicole Yarbrough, each began by pursuing their passions, and then finding success with creative approaches. An added bonus is that the three are great friends who inspire and encourage each other. These women are viewed as representatives of a new generation of Benicia businesswomen.
With a passion for baking and creating delicious vegan cupcakes, cookie dough and cakes, Tara Bottini-Allen launched Fox & Fawn Bakehouse, But her main passion is being a mother, so Fox & Fawn, launched in 2011, is tailored to her daughter’s schedule. She sells cupcakes and cookie dough at the seasonal Benicia Farmers Market, her only retail outlet. Year round customers place online orders and pick up items at her home where she greets them with boxes of baked goods. Tara grew up in Benicia, learned to bake as a child, moved away for a while and then came back. She learned about running a business from her father, who left a corporate job to start Benicia Floor Company. Originally baking from home, Tara now shares a commercial kitchen.
Other women’s support is invaluable, and Tara’s business reflects the needs of busy moms who have little time to bake birthday cupcakes. Erin encouraged her to branch off into wedding cakes, and Nicole invites her to her First Street shop for pop-up sales. “It’s working out great,” she said. “It’s allowed me to find a balance between my work and my family life, and it’s a great outlet for my creativity and to have something of my own.” She added this is a great time to be in business in Benicia. “There are so many people that are creative and doing amazing things. I’m really happy to be part of it.”
With a love of planning events and a flair for design and beauty, Erin Taylor launched Bustle, which combines both passion and necessity. Married for two years, she had just had a baby when the economy tanked in 2008, and she got laid off. Propelled to find ways to support to her family, she focused on her joy of staging celebrations, and quickly secured a business license, a website and a blog. Then she drove herself, both figuratively and literally, to network and drum up business. She worked at night and in between her child’s naps and then school schedule. When she had a second child, she had less time. So she made a bold move to limit the number of weddings, focus on quality increase prices. The decision allowed her to stage weddings with personal and artistic touches, and also freed up time for her family.
Erin grew up in Benicia; her mother is the administrative head for Benicia Unified School District, and her father is a pastor at Northgate Christian Fellowship. At first she had no idea how things might work out, but through hard work her business has expanded to Southern California and Hawaii. Flexibility and creative use of technology makes it easier to run Bustle without a fixed office. Finding balance between home, family and work can feel elusive and overwhelming, at times, but is possible by setting priorities and boundaries. Erin made it and she advises others that they can do it too. “Things are attainable if you are following your passion and staying true to what you believe in,” she says.
Nicole Yarbrough’s dream of opening Pink Arrows Boutique, her own clothing shop, finally materialized last year when she knew the timing was right to utilize her 20 years of experience in the fashion industry in design, production, sourcing and quality control. Hours at her 301 First Street shop are regular, but tailored around her child’s school schedule and when it’s busiest downtown.
Nicole first launched her extensive online shop specializing in Modern Bohemian, a free spirited style combining comfort, softness and high quality materials. Online sales now support the shop, which features clothes from 50 different brands. Nicole said it is her joy to be on hand to help women discover what looks and feels good, regardless of age or body type. Flexible hours, help from friends and family and technology, plus her passion for stylish, quality clothes, makes it work. A 14-year Benicia resident, she adores the town and would not have opened her boutique anywhere else. She also feels lucky to be in the same company as Tara and Erin, and other creative women doing business in Benicia. “We’re similar. We’re women with families doing what we love, and trying to create these businesses in the town we love.”