If we’re smart, and motivated enough, our greatest obstacles in life can serve as a catalyst to something great. Whether it’s an invention, a revelation, or an opportunity to create change.
For Nina Restieri, a mother of four, her challenge was finding a method for maintaining sanity within the chaos of her day to day. At the time, she was married with four children under the age of seven. None of the organizers, or planners on the market met her needs as a mom who had to organize not only her personal schedule but her children’s appointments and playdates. So, of course, she created it!
Nina is the first to admit that she’s no expert when it comes to organizing, but she did bring to the table her past experience as an ad executive and her experience running her mother’s direct marketing business. She launched in 2005, and by her second year in business momAgenda was a million dollar company. Fast forward to 2014 and momAgenda is still a growing success with products sold in national retailers and boutiques across the United States.
Read on as Nina shares with us how she launched her company and her number one tip for organizing a busy schedule.
Her Agenda: Before you launched momAgenda what was your job and how did it prepare you for what you’re doing right now?
Nina Restieri: Right out of college I went into advertising and I learned a lot about branding and I worked on certain products that were luxury products and I also worked on mass market so I got a taste of branding for both high end and mass market products. After that, I left to help my mom with her direct marketing business so I learned all about direct marketing and I also learned about being an entrepreneur. My mom was one of the original mom-prenuers before that word even existed.
My mom unfortunately passed away and I took over her business when I was 27 right after I had my first child so I really got a crash course in running a business. A couple years later, I sold that business because I wanted to be a stay at home-mom. I had six years of being a stay at home mom and I really missed working. I loved being a mom and having time for my kids but I missed working. I knew that I wanted to go back to work but it had to be on my own terms, because my kids have always come first for me and I didn’t want anyone to ever be able to tell me “you have to stay at work late” or “you have to go on a trip and miss your kids’ birthday.” So that’s what led me to starting momAgenda.
Her Agenda: Lots of people come up with ideas for businesses all the time. What specifically motivated you to take action and start your company?
Nina Restieri: Well, I’m kind of a serial entrepreneur, I always have new business ideas. When I had the idea for momAgenda my husband was like “That’s actually a really good idea.” Usually he’s like “yea, whatever” so part of it was actually having an idea that I thought would fly in the marketplace and part of it was I really wanted my own company. It was inside me, this desire to have my own company.
Her Agenda: You launched in 2005, all these years later how do you continue to keep the passion and energy going for your company?
Nina Restieri: Well it’s kind of like a marriage. It’s up and down. But the great thing is that everything is changing all the time. There’s always something new to learn like for example the evolution of social media. There was no such thing as social media when I started momAgenda and then I got on Facebook then I got a Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram so there’s always more to learn and I find that, that keeps me motivated and keeps me intellectually stimulated.
Her Agenda: You mentioned there’s always something new to learn so how do you keep yourself from those feelings or moments where you might feel overwhelmed because there’s so many possibilities and there’s so much that you could be doing because its your company?
Nina Restieri: I feel overwhelmed all the time. That’s the beauty of having my own company. I do as much as I can and then I kind of let myself off the hook. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a hundred million dollar business it can still be successful even if I don’t do every single thing.
Her Agenda: What was the first step that you took to launch your business to make it what it is today?
Nina Restieri: The first step was making a prototype of the idea I had in my head and then talking to people. I think talking to people was more important actually than making the prototype because talking to other moms about what their needs were was probably the most valuable. So the momAgenda that I launched nine months after I had the original idea bore almost no resemblance to my prototype. That’s because I spoke with moms and really designed it not just for my needs but what people told me that they needed. Getting out there and talking to as many people and networking not only helps you refine your idea but it helps connect you to people who could help you. That’s also what led me to my first manufacturer.
Her Agenda: A lot of people are afraid to go out there and talk about their idea before they have it locked down and perfect. You seemed to be fearless and just went out there and talked to people about it.
Nina Restieri: Well, I figured its a pretty high barrier of entry [for] my business. Is anyone really going to spend the money to steal my idea? I didn’t think it was possible to do that so I wasn’t really afraid of it. I was pretty fearless about it. I talked to everyone.
Her Agenda: How did you ensure that your vision was effectively translated from what you had in your brain to the page effectively?
Nina Restieri: Well, I was extremely hands-on. I hired a designer but I gave her the design. I designed it myself and then had a graphic designer put it on paper. I was super controlling in the first year because I had a very specific vision and knew exactly what I wanted. I’m much more hands-off now but when I was first getting momAgenda into existence, it was like rolling a boulder up a hill and it was so hard to get a product that didn’t exist before and make it exist. I threw everything into it, heart and soul.
Her Agenda: Could you tell us a little bit about what was your biggest obstacle you faced while launching your company? Or even if you don’t want to go back that far because it’s been a while, what they biggest obstacle you face while running your company today?
Nina Restieri: I’m a creative person and a marketing person but I don’t consider myself a business person. So the struggle for me was kind of managing the day to day aspects of running a business. And after about a year I ended up bringing in a chief operating officer who essentially became my partner who is much smarter than me and a much better business person than me so we now run it together and we have completely different skill sets and I feel like there is someone who is super confident running the business and doing the stuff that I’m frankly just not very good at.
Her Agenda: I love all the quotes in the books at the top of the pages. They’re always very inspirational but not cliche. Do you have a personal motto or a favorite quote that you live by?
Nina Restieri: In terms of business what I always think about is something my mother said to me when I first started working for her and we were going into a meeting. I literally didn’t know what I was doing it was my first week and I said to her “Mom, I don’t know what I’m doing.” She said “relax, you know more than they do.” And I went in with that attitude and in fact I did know more than they did. Now, whenever I go into a situation where I’m scared I kind of tell myself that “I know more than they do.” I’m a marketing person I know what I’m doing. Sometimes our fears can get the better of us but really I kind of know what I’m doing.
Her Agenda: I believe in that. The fact that your mindset does help determine the outcome and also how you feel and how you interact with people.
Nina Restieri: That’s the whole thing, even if you don’t know more than they do, if you act like you do, they think you do. And then you can figure it out after the meeting’s over.
Her Agenda: I feel like you are like the master of organizing schedules. So what would you say is the secret to organizing a hectic schedule?
Nina Restieri: Well, the first thing I want to say is I’m not a master, the reason I started this company was because I was such a flake. The reason I had this business is because I had four children under seven and I was always missing appointments and play-dates and double booking. I was just a mess! Necessity is the mother of inventions but my biggest secret is actually so simple: write everything down. When you’re so busy, when you’re parenting and running a household and you’ve got friends and you’ve got work and you’ve got pets its so easy to just be overwhelmed and things can go in one ear and and out the other.
Her Agenda: I read an interview where you showed up for your friend’s house for a book party and it was on the wrong night.
Nina Restieri: Yes I did. That’s correct! (laughs)
Her Agenda: You had gotten comfortable you had wine and you were like where’s everyone?
Nina Restieri: Yes, she gave me a glass of wine. it’s so embarrassing I’m blushing right now.
Her Agenda: You mentioned a moment ago about writing everything down but we operate in a digital world so what is the value today of keeping a physical planner?
Nina Restieri: Well I think that it really depends on you. So for some people using a digital planner works great, and for some people using a paper planner works great. I think it’s highly individual. We have a lot of customers who try using their iPhones and come back to paper because when you’re managing a family it’s just easier sometimes to have everything laid out in front of you versus the tiny little screen and that’s been the case for me. I’ve played around with some of the digital stuff and I’m like I’ve got four kids like I couldn’t possibly have everyone’s schedule on such a tiny little screen it just wouldn’t work.
Her Agenda: What advice would you give a young entrepreneur who is struggling?
Nina Restieri: My advice would be to trust yourself. When you’re a new entrepreneur and you’re struggling everyone has advice for you and I don’t think you should listen to people unless what they say really reigns true for you. You should trust your gut because each person has their own unique gift and vision to bring to the world and if you listen to what everyone tells you, it’s not going to be your vision.