Happy Saturday, Smarties! This week, I am super excited to introduce a “momination” from one of our readers – Kari Kalgren. It has been my pleasure getting to know Kari through this interview and I suspect you will enjoy her equally as much. Kari is married to husband Shawn for 4 years and mom to 2 year old Sydnie and baby #2 due in May.
According to Kari’s bud Abby, some of Kari’s favorite things are: Asheville (they love to zip up to the mountains for a quick getaway), shopping (she owns a shopping website!), good food (Mexican is her favorite), shoes, bags, shoes and shoes, celebrity gossip (who doesn’t love a good 10 minutes with US weekly), good wine (when not prego), friends!
Here’s what else Abby has to say about this fabulous mom: Just like her website and her designer handbags, Kari is unique, polished, loved, and beautiful both inside and out. Kari, a South Dakota native (yes, South Dakota), was adopted from Korea and brought to her family by a US soldier returning home. She started her career after attending Creighton University in Omaha, NE, as an occupational therapist then moved on to be a pharmaceutical rep, then started her own Handbag business and finally began her most important career of all two years ago, MOM. Kari has called Charlotte home for 10 years and loves many things about our great city.
I first met Kari when we were working for Abbott as pharmaceutical reps. We had the same territory and I quickly recognized her for the super smart, fun and dynamic person she is. We decided to join forces and job share when my family began to grow. Kari was the best partner anyone could ask for. She is creative and thorough. She has a way of fostering relationships that is second to none. She is a hard worker and was rewarded for it as she moved up in the company. After I left the job force (now with my second child), Kari not only went on to a difficult specialty job with a huge territory, she had her first child and worked harder than ever. Kari soon realized that it was time to take her passion for fashion and turn it into a career. Kari launched Swap Handbags last summer. Her company offers authentic, luxury handbags for rent, sale or consignment. Think Sex & the City style, here in Charlotte. Swap Handbags is similar to Bag, Borrow or Steal, but so much more. Kari has infused her funky, great taste into her inventory and has a little something for everyone. She also takes care of her customers (just as she did when she was an OT and a drug rep) by pricing her bags so EVERYONE can afford them. She offers free shipping and no membership fee. This is the company she has always been looking for and never found. Most people just give up, but not Kari. She started her own business, not only owning all these bags, but then selling, renting or consigning them to all the beautiful women of Charlotte – and beyond. She makes it happen and in the middle of a recession, that girl had guts! Now with baby #2 on the way, Kari is not only running a successful company, she is raising a beautiful family. Kari can be found with her husband and daughter hiking trails, playing in the snow, jumping around at My Gym or just playing in the backyard with their 2 dogs. She is the ultimate mom, wife, and handbag connoisseur!
Here’s a little more about Kari in her own words:
What do you find to be the most challenging thing about being a mom and what lessons have you learned along the way?
To not judge & not worry about if others judge you. Motherhood was an interesting road to navigate at first. There is no manual or “best” way to do things. You have to just do what is the best for you & your family. It was intimidating at first, because everyone had so much advice & so many opinions to give –from the method you chose to follow for sleeping/eating schedules to breast feeding or to vaccinate or not, and even the use of glass vs plastic bottles. And, it’s easy to get caught up in making comments to other moms about your preferences & coming across like you are judging the choices others make, even if you don’t mean to. It’s sort of like the old saying about politics & religion – discussions about parenting decisions should be left on the doorstep!
The other thing would be what I imagine a lot of moms struggle with – and that is finding balance. It’s such a crazy thing – you go from being a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an employee etc. and then you add in the role of mother, and it’s so easy to forget all of the other “things” you are to people. Not to mention…yourself. The power of a babysitter, mother’s morning out or just a friend helping you out for an hour or two can go a long way & do a lot to helping you feel like you haven’t lost yourself. Some women may need more/less time than others, but at the end of the day, we all want that balance – it’s hard to ask for help – sometimes you feel like you’re “failing” if you do – because you look around you & think everyone else handles it fine – what is wrong with me – but really, we probably are all feeling the same way! If anyone has any other good tips at finding balance– do tell! I’m still trying to figure it all out…
What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a mom?
The most rewarding, most gratifying, enriching thing in my life…I would have to say is my family for sure. Without them, I wouldn’t feel like I serve much of a purpose. My husband is the only person that loves me unconditionally, despite my quirks, moods, daydreaming & love affair with Microsoft Excel & making lists. And my little girl, well what can you say about a creature that thinks you are perfect & wants to hang out with you even if you burned the brownies? And from a more material sense, my business venture – Swap. It’s more the significance of what it means & symbolizes to me than the actual business itself. It’s a sense of accomplishment, independence & hard work all wrapped into one. For me, having my own achievements independent of my being a wife or mom, is what I need to be a better wife & mom.
Tell us how you started Swap Handbags and how to you successfully run your own business while raising a family?
With a lot of help & encouragement from friends & especially my husband. I started my career in a corporate environment & that’s what I knew. My husband, originally a teacher, started his own business as a General Contractor in 2001 – his first job for a customer started on 9/11/01 – so he has seen the ups & downs of being in business for yourself, but has always encouraged me to work for myself, because he knew it would be a good fit for me. On Nov 5, 2009 – I was in the backseat of a minivan with 7 of my girl friends heading to the ATL for a Tina Turner concert. We were all talking about Bag, Borrow or Steal & what a great concept it was (it was featured in Sex & The City – The Movie when Jennifer Hudson’s character explains to Carrie how she can afford her LV when she’s sharing a 1 bed apt with 4 roommates…) We all loved the idea of the business & one of our friends got on her Blackberry & started reading to us about how it works. There were aspects of it that we all wished would be different, and so I thought, why not change some of those things & target “our” demographic? Swap is for the moms, the savvy shoppers, the women who appreciate & enjoy authentic, designer bags, but for a myriad of reasons can’t justify buying a new bag each year or two. Renting handbags for a certain event like a wedding, reunion, fundraiser, your vacation etc. is fun & a lot less non-committal than buying one – and it can save a boatload of money. Husbands tell me frequently how much they appreciate their wives finding our site! But I also sell bags – new & gently loved. I’m probably more the type of customer who would purchase because I can be pretty rough on a bag – a sippy cup explosion is not uncommon for me 🙂 So, to buy an amazing, gently loved bag at a reduced price off of retail, that I don’t have to cry about when I scuff it or get a stain on it, is the perfect fit for me. I really tried to make the scope of designers to the range in price points so that any woman, on any budget could afford to splurge & treat herself at some point or another.
Doing it all with a family? Prior to Swap, I was working as a pharmaceutical rep with a really large territory. I covered Western NC, part of SC and Eastern TN. I was gone a lot & doing overnights way more than what was good for my family. So, working from home, while it can be challenging sometimes (i.e. 2 year old screaming in background while you are taking a customer service call), is such a change of pace that it makes my home life much easier, and so everything else runs more smoothly. Being home more keeps me balanced & while my “To Do” list isn’t any easier or shorter, sleeping in the same bed every night & being able to have more of a consistent routine is key. I was able to start doing a few more things for myself too – running, reading and eating better – which were all non-existent when I was traveling – I was bordering the lifestyle of a work-aholic prior to Swap.
Now let’s talk about you as a mom and all of your personal favs! What is your favorite place to find a deal on clothes?
Midtown Target. I’m a Midwest native, and if you’ve ever spent time in Minneapolis (where Tar-jay is headquartered), you know it’s like a holy place. 🙂 You can get great, trendy pieces there – even fun jewelry, coats, and accessories and combine it with a great pair of designer jeans or a skirt & look like you spent a lot more than you did.
There are a lot of great independent boutiques in Charlotte as well, and I really believe in supporting local biz – if you haven’t subscribed to sccopcharlotte.com – you should! It’s all the sales all over town – so you never miss one – we’re talking Luna to Chezelle & Step to Nieman Marcus, and yes, she digs Target too….I mean, they carry Rodarte now!
Favorite family-activity in Charlotte?
Going to the park – walking downtown, playing in the fountains – taking in whatever it is the city has going on – festivals, parades, etc.
Favorite mommy-time activity?
Reading books in bed with Sydnie before her nap or bed time. Precious.
Favorite place to take the whole fam to dinner?
Hmmm….that’s a hard one. Probably just our own kitchen! Much more relaxing for all of us! But, when we do decide to venture out with a 2 year old @ dinner time – we generally end up at Nothing But Noodles on Elizabeth. THE. NICEST. PEOPLE. EVER. there. And the mac & cheese is just as popular with my husband, as it is my daughter! We also love Las Margaritas – it’s perfect for kids – the food comes out fast, rice & beans with a little cheese & salsa on it = protein, dairy, veggie & carb all in one meal – right? Upbeat, mariachi music, bright colors on all of the walls & a fish tank with cool fish for when she gets tired of sitting!
Favorite date-night spot?
No one spot in particular – My husband & I both thrive on novelty & new experiences. When our daughter was about 5 months old, we tried to have date night every other Thursday night…I was expecting to probably just grab dinner & a glass of wine somewhere, but he surprised me and rented a little bed & breakfast on Lake Wylie on the water. We didn’t stay overnight, but we did spend the evening on a paddle boat drinking wine out of our plastic cups with ham sandwiches & our iPod! And then we literally, laid on the bed & watched TV – uninterrupted, no diaper changing, no feeding…it was like I had taken a long weekend somewhere all crammed into 3 hours! But for a more routine night out, I love Alexander Michael’s in the 4th ward – great service, great environment, great beef stroganoff. And, when we can make it happen, we get up to Asheville. Downtown Asheville is one of our FAVORITE spots –it’s where we got married! Mela for Indian food & then Bouchon for a glass of French wine in the outdoor courtyard. If we’re lucky – a little live music somewhere.
Favorite lunch spot with your girlfriends?
Anything Mexican! And, I’m not picky! I LOVE Mexican food! You know the cheaper, the better. Has anyone else noticed that? And, I’m not sure how they do it, but it seems like they all have a lunch special called the “Speedy Gonzales” that is a taco & an enchilada. Is that planned, or is it just coincidence? And, bring on the guac…I can’t get enough of the stuff.
Favorite GNO outing?
Nikko on South Blvd for sushi – the Dr. Dave sauce is a must for the crunchy tuna rolls if you’ve never had it. I don’t even know if it’s on the menu or not, but it’s affectionately named for Dr. Dave, a friend of mine who frequents the place! After dinner, it’s a toss up depending on my mood & the group of girls I’m with! Either a glass of wine at Yn on East Blvd or just relaxing in someone’s back yard catching up.
Best place for a mani/pedi?
With girlfriends, I love to go to Polished on Providence Road by the Manor Theater. But, if I just want a little alone time to decompress – Nails & Spa on Selwyn – the deluxe pedi with paraffin, all the way! (And they have WIFI for my laptop if I’m trying to sneak in some work!)
Best birthday party you’ve attended or hosted?
Can’t say that I’ve attended a lot…yet. Our little girl just turned 2. But for the ones I have attended, I’ve seen a range from the beautiful, elaborate parties with entertainment: ponies, clowns, catering & a band, to the more simple, back yard get together: friends & family with cake & ice cream. I think the best parties are the ones when everyone is having fun & feels relaxed. If the planning & details become too much pressure – it shows in Mom/Dad & ultimately the kids. That being said, I love entertaining & a great theme party, so who’s to say that one year I won’t be the frazzled mom stressing about the “perfect” Princess Tea Party?! But the goal is to just have fun, and if you can do that, go for it!!! The parties I think are the best are when everyone has a good time. Someone please remind me of this & send me the link to this blog when you catch me stressing about choosing fondant vs. butter cream frosting for the cupcakes for a group of toddlers next year…. 🙂
Best book you’ve read lately?
Freakonomics & the follow up – Super Freakonomics by Stephen Levitt & Stephen Dubner. Mind blowing. OK, and I have to admit, I devoured Brangelina in about 18 hours. I’m thinking I need to pull out Secrets of the Baby Whisperer soon to brush up on a few things & read at night when I can’t sleep! I’m 34 weeks pregnant now & we’re about to embark on becoming a family of 4 in late April! But so far, I’ve spent my sleepless nights on Facebook & answering questions for CSP! 🙂
Funniest thing your children have ever said to you/ever done?
She’s just starting to talk & put sentences together, so it’s not so much what she’s said so far, as what she does. I don’t know yet if this is ALL girls, or if she just picks it up from me…but she LOVES her “pitty” (pretty) things & loves to walk around the house in my shoes & carry her “handbag”. It’s quite amazing to see your mini-me and to realize how much they adore you & mimic you! She also has a love affair with our 2 labs & it’s particularly amusing to me when she tries to ride the big, brown one like he’s a pony. Thank goodness he’s patient & puts up with it.
What is your favorite CSP blog thus far?
The ones from the other featured moms. I love to read what they say – it always puts things in perspective for you & makes you feel like what you think & go through is normal. I also like the Smarty Scoop with weekend activities – so helpful to have it all in one spot to know what we can do on the weekend for fun.
Smartiest way you save $?
My husband may argue that I don’t save much $….but I would say that when I remember to do it, utilizing the Harris Teeter Express Lane is a pretty good way to save some dough. I take advantage of the weekly specials & coupons they run each week & plan ahead more so what I do get makes sense & all adds up to make a decent meal. How many times have I walked into the Teeter on my cell phone & returned home only to realize I got about 5 ingredients that add up to = a non-existent meal & just a bunch of snacks?!??! It does cost $4.95 per trip, but you tend to get only what you need, and you end up with a few less bags of Doritos in your house than you probably had on your grocery list….
I could not live without my… iPhone. I hate to admit it, but I am in love with it. I have an inner-techy/geek lover inside that loves to bust out when it can. The sheer amount of organization that little gadget provides me is insane. I even have an app that keeps all of my membership card/customer account numbers in one spot – you can literally pull up your VIC card & scan it from your phone so you don’t have to have all those little plastic key chain things on your keys. Remarkable people those folks at Apple.