Friday, January 22, 2010

Real Momentum: Q&A with Retail Superstar (and Mom!) Kate Viall Stottlemyer

II1I first met Kate Viall Stottlemyer in my Randolph-Macon College days. A class year behind me, our paths often crossed in our small Business and Economics Department. We were reacquainted several years ago when I was in town to run a race and a fellow RMC alum took me by her fabulous store. Impressed with a successful retail operation and growing family, I wanted to know how Kate made it work. As the mother of two and Director of Operations and Store Manage for Tweed, Kate tells us how.

Q: Tell me about your family. (kids, spouse, animals, etc.)
A:I am married to Robb Stottlemyer, and he is the reason I can do all I do. We have two beautiful sons, John (3 ½ years) and Thomas (2 years), and a wonderfully sweet, high-strung, Brittany Spaniel, named Lucy.

Q: How on earth are you running a home specialty store in the middle of the worst recession in our lifetime?
A: Tweed opened in Richmond in 2004, when there was no recession in site. We were fortunate to have four solid years of growth before the recession hit, and we were able to build a loyal customer base during that time. It has been a tough time to be in the retail business, and one key to our survival has been making the appropriate adjustments to our inventory and basic business strategies to stay ahead of the economy. It has also been a great time for us to continue making connections in our community, and to become more involved in different networks.

Q: What is the hardest part of your day? The best?
A: The hardest part of my day is dropping my boys off at daycare. Fortunately, that only happens three days a week, and they are home with me the other two days. As for the best part of my day, I can honestly say I usually love almost every part of my day. Two of the best moments are: Arriving at work, after dropping off the boys, and having the entire day ahead of me to work and be productive; and arriving home to Robb and the boys. Nothing beats the genuine excitement and love from my sons after I’ve been away from them all day.

Q: What's your best home organization trick? Office organization solution? Do you use anything to tie them together?
A: Lists! It is very elementary, but if I don’t have a list, I’m useless! I write down everything that I need to do in a day, both personal and professionally. If it’s not on my list, it most likely will not get done. I also keep a list of ideas to which I am constantly adding. It helps me brainstorm and come up with new ideas for work and life improvements.

Q:How do you divvy up household work with your partner; what makes you a team?
A: I am very fortunate to have a husband who helps with everything! Household work and responsibilities with the boys are evenly divided, which is so important and necessary for my work schedule. I’m probably more likely to be caught putting my feet up at the end of the day before all the daily chores are done, and Robb doesn’t stop until everything is completed on the list. We complement each other well, and somehow, between both of us, everything gets done!

Q:What special things do you do with your kids to stay connected?
A: My time with my kids is just time with my kids. I am always connected to the store with my blackberry, however, the boys always come first. I stay connected to them by simply getting down on the floor with them, and playing what they want to play. I try to save laundry and daily chores for times that they are sleeping or engaged in individual play. I also make sure to schedule one on one time with them. Whether it’s a trip to the Children’s Museum, or a simple trip to Home Depot or the grocery store, it’s fun to take any activity and make it special and engaging.

Q: Who are your mentors? How did you find them and what do they do to help you?
A:I don’t have formal mentors. Tweed is a family business, and I rely on my Mom and Dad as well as my husband for advice and guidance. My Mom has 25 years of retail experience, along with the experience of raising a family with a retail business, so I have learned, and continue to learn a lot from her experiences.

Q: What specifically can working mothers do to stay on their career track after kids?
A: My recommendation to mothers who want to stay on their career track after having children would be to network, remain engaged, maintain contacts, and to not “disappear”. It is a challenge to have a family and a career, and it’s important to be proud of yourself, do your best, and be a role model for your children.

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