Years ago, while on maternity leave, I read in a parenting journal about the mompreneur phenom, Jennifer Torres, Founder of Salsa Babies. Jennifer and her inspirations

Back then, I was a budding entrepreneur myself (cf: my fleeting attempt at product development). I recall reading that this powerhouse of a woman started her company with the purpose of staying home with her kids after her maternity benefits had ended and that her intention was to generate the same revenue that she was receiving from EI. No more, but certainly, no less.

I too, wanted to stay home with my daughter and also develop a business. When I read those simple parameters, it seemed viable and …inspirationally… attainable. I felt moved to set the same goal for myself.

Our paths have crossed a couple of times over the past year, and I’ve always wanted to hear more about her. Yesterday, we shared an hour of great conversation about business, balance, goals, dreams, and why folding underwear is a time suck. She is every bit as vibrant, dynamic, energetic and warm as you’ve imagined. And she has it together.

I was hooked the moment she uttered her opening remark:

I’ve learned to follow what interests you and what you’ve loved doing throughout your life.

Bingo.

Her story

Jennifer always knew that when kids came along, she’d want to stay at home with them. So, when she was pregnant, she took ESL certification in the hopes of finding a job flexible enough to be home with the babes. Nothing came up. While on mat leave, she asked her employers if she could work part-time when she came back…and they said no. She was miserable and felt pretty desperate at the notion of leaving her babies in childcare to go back to job that wasn’t overly fulfilling. It just didn’t seem right. (And as I’ve often written…if it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t right for you. But I didactically digress.)

One fine day a friend handed her a tissue and pointed out that she could maybe integrate her well-known love for salsa dancing into a business. Jennifer was resistant at first…after all…salsa’s about heels and less about babies. Or was it?

The Birth of Salsa Babies

The idea percolated in her head for a while…and when she found herself dancing around her house to soothe her colicky baby in the carrier, the idea really started to heat up in the most picante way. What happened to turn the idea around from a ho-hum one to being her life’s passion? In a word: RESONANCE.

Before long, her network of support rallied around her and helped her get her idea off the ground. A logo was created; a plan developed; flyers distributed; a web site launched; and, since then, thousands of new moms have shimmied their way to slimmer waists and happy babies. Thanks to Jennifer’s vision.

In some ways, Jennifer’s story is a study of what is possible is you simply believe in yourself. Is there any way she could have known that 8 years after the ESL thing didn’t pan out that she’d be co-writing children’s CDs, writing books and having appeared on TV more times than she can count? As she pointed out in our discussion:

My goal was not to be a million dollar industry…but now as I look back, I could have thought bigger. I just didn’t want to be too cocky.

Familiar, huh?

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

What excites me is the fact that she THOUGHT she was thinking small, but in fact, was setting herself up for success. A business idea aligned with her values, interests, strengths and abilities? A network of support and boundless energy and acumen? That to me is a fool-proof recipe for success.

Is she successful?

Well that depends on your definition, of course, but beyond the professional accomplishments noted above, Jennifer points to two things that she’s most proud of:

  1. The fact that she has built a business that enables (at last count) 30 licensees to be doing what they love (teaching salsa) while being with their kids. This wasn’t a goal per se, but what an amazing by-product!
  2. Her girls are looking up to her in a new way. Jennifer points out that in her lottery win dreams she always saw herself at home with them and acknowledges that this may well be the right path for many…but now sees how flat that could have been for HER. Her girls see her on TV and know that she’s doing what she loves and is happy. By example, her girls are learning the value of developing something for yourself:

My 8-year old daughter started a book club and was so organized about it all. She wrote up a proposal, did up a flyer, planned the space, talked to the principal and handled all of these other details. My husband looked at me during the flurry of activity and said: 'that’s you!’

Like all success stories, there have been some bumps in the road. She has been targeted for her great ideas and has had them ripped off (in one case, a copy cat took words verbatim from her web site). And there’s no question…like most business-parents, Jennifer knows too well the constant struggle of maintaining that elusive “balance”. “How much TV is too much for the kids? What am I missing if I don’t spend the day with the kids? What could I have gotten done if I had worked today?”

At her annual licensees’ meeting, she delivers a segment about finding balance in being a business owner. Some good rules of thumb?

What’s next for Jennifer and Salsa Babies?

She has some pretty exciting plans for the company….market expansion, program development and some new offerings and packages. You’ll just need to stay tuned. Trust me…you’ll be hearing lots more from this beautiful woman who just bubbles exuberance and energy.

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