“We planned,” says Denise Stern, founder of the newborn care franchise Let Mommy Sleep, of when she was ordered on bedrest in 2009. “My twin girls were 4.5 pounds each, and I had my 17-month-old son, and even though my husband and parents were involved, it was really ridiculous to tell a new mom to be on bedrest with two newborns and a toddler.”
After Stern came home from the hospital, her husband hired a night nurse to come help them in the evenings. That’s when Stern, who describes herself as “an entrepreneur by trade”—she used to own the Occoquan Basket Company—had an idea: create a business with nannies and nurses to provide overnight newborn care in your home. Stern, who lives in Fairfax Station, planned to put in five hours per week and bring in some extra income after her children went to bed, but she soon found herself with a bonafide full-time business.
“I did not intend for Let Mommy Sleep to become as big as it has,” says Stern, who was only about two months postpartum when she started the company in 2010. “At that time nobody was really talking about parenting being difficult, or ‘having a baby is hard,’ or ‘I think I have postpartum depression.’ We didn’t have Chrissy Teigen, Serena Williams. So as soon as they turned the phones on, as soon as we got the website up, we were just inundated with calls because there are an awful lot of people with medical needs and hurting that really needed help, but didn’t have a platform.”
Since its launch, Let Mommy Sleep has grown to six franchises (Stern owns the D.C. franchise), including one in Leesburg that opened last February; launched a nonprofit, Mission Sleep, to help people whose partners are deployed, wounded or deceased; and she’s in the process of adding franchises out West and in New Jersey. Each franchise operates independently, connecting families to clinically trained newborn care providers and registered nurses with whom they set up a schedule. A typical overnight is 10 p.m.–7 a.m.
“Moms are up against the clock with maternity leave, and a lot of moms’ partners don’t have any leave at all. It’s getting better, but let’s not act like six weeks is this big gift; the baby is still there after six weeks,” Stern says. “Plus, this story that we see in movies about grandma coming and moving in for three months, that’s just not reality for a lot of people.”
Stern joins a long list of moms-turned-entrepreneurs out of necessity and she sees even more growth for her business on the horizon.
“You’re at home, you have kids, it doesn’t make sense to put them in daycare or you don’t want to put them in daycare, so what do you do? Start your own business,” Stern says. “As long as, in whatever business you do, you can treat the public and give them that (quality) customer service, you will build a following.” // letmommysleep.com