Michelle Buelow is a breath of fresh air. Actually, let me re-phrase. She’s a very stylish and savvy breath of fresh air and a super smarty, successful mompreneur! Actually, Michelle just won “Best Smarty Mompreneur” in the 2011 Smarty Awards – congrats! She has enviable personal style and has mastered the art of mix and match. Her ensembs are always fresh and fashionable, on trend but not trendy and always, always adorned with the right accessory. She’s current.
Michelle leads the helm of the company she founded in 2005, Bella Tunno, a baby and children’s NECCESSORY (necessary accessory, duh) company. Bella Tunno is where sophistication and whimsy meet philanthropy in a fancy, fresh and fun baby and children’s neccessories line. Truth be told, I secretly want to work there and be part of the “Bella Bunch”!
Michelle is a devoted wife to Todd for 8 years and mother to her girls, Ella and Riley.
I met Michelle in 2000 when I briefly left the confines of my beloved industry, banking, to join a now defunct internet consulting company. Michelle went on to bigger and better (and more fun!) things as I trudged back to the arms of banking.
Michelle’s Smarty Mom Quick Facts:
Married to: Todd for 8 years
Mom of: Ella (3 years old), Riley (6 years old)
Occupation: Founder and CEO of Bella Tunno
Hood: South Charlotte
Let’s get to know Michelle!
It is admirable that you built Bella Tunno on a foundation of philanthropy. What inspired you?
I grew up with that example. My parents are generous, sympathetic and truly caring people. They were always the first to lend a charitable hand even though we did not grow up privileged. I started Bella Tunno over 5 years ago in hopes of funding the completion of my late brother’s doctorate work. I found giving back to be extremely cathartic. Since giving back was built into our original business model, it just made sense to keep adding projects and helping out when opportunities arose. Today, I consider Bella Tunno to be equally a product based and philanthropic based company.
What advice do you have for other moms who have an idea and are afraid to jump into the mompreneur world?
Before you jump, know your value propositions, the competitive landscape and your key points of differentiation (research, plan, then research some more). If you decide to jump, be ready to make sacrifices and prepare for success. The two go hand in hand. After you jump, enjoy the ride, it’s stressful, phenomenal and immensely rewarding all at the same time.
What are your biggest learnings from your experience founding and leading a company?
1. Always keep your family and friends first – I’ve watched many businesses pack up and close down in the last year. I have been shocked at some of the companies that I considered “success stories” that are no longer in business. When all else crumbles, it’s really only people that you have in your life.
2. People are innately good. I was prepared for cut-throat business interactions and stab-you-in-the-back experiences. I was so wrong. I can’t tell you how many times people have taken the time to share sources or experiences with me. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised with the “golden rule” cycle that exists in the world.
3. Celebrate the wins, but not for too long. Too much back-patting wastes time. Forgive yourself for the failures – it’s what makes us real and strong.
4. If presented with an opportunity where your passions and your strengths can intersect, don’t let that chance pass you up. The gratification and feeling of accomplishment is amazing when you’re doing what you know you’re meant to do.
5. Always have a “greater goal.” Making money is NEVER going to be truly fulfilling.
What is your favorite family time activity?
Dinner Dance Parties – we eat dinner together most every night. We play games, talk about the highs and lows of our day and just laugh. Most nights it ends in a good old fashioned dance-off. Nothing makes me happier!
Favorite mommy-time activity?
Bargain shopping – you can’t beat the rush of a huge score. Hot dates with my super cute hubs. Girls nights – there’s extreme re-energizing power in spending time with true girlfriends.
Favorite place to score kids clothes and shoes?
I love to dress my girls alike, so I love brands that offer toddler/big girl crossover lines like Mini Boden and GAP. I also shop at Market quite a bit and have found amazing lines that are just launching.
Favorite place to take the whole fam to dinner?
Big Daddy’s Burger Bar. We go with close friends almost every Sunday – it’s one of my favorite parts of the week.
Best book you’ve read lately?
Pleasure: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. BEST. BOOK. EVER.
Business: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh of Zappos
Slum Dog Millionaire and the Pursuit of Happiness. I wouldn’t watch either of them ever again, but I left a better person for having seen them.
Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
The Gods of recycling and philanthropy once had a head-on collision in Riley’s world….
Riley pulls a paper towel cylinder from the garbage. She runs up to me and asks (in a reprimanding manner) did YOU throw this away? Me: Yes. Riley: Shame on you, Mom…You should have recycled this… Do you understand why this was wrong? Me: No. Riley: Because children less fortunate than us can reuse this as a telescope.
Favorite date night spot?
The Flying Fishbone in Aruba: we go almost yearly and it’s my favorite date of the year! We eat with our feet in the ocean, then go try to win back dinner in the casinos.
Minivan or SUV?
SUV. I’ll never be 100% practical.
Favorite phone app?
For the girls: Memory for Ella (3), Hangman for Riley (6). For me: Barcode Scanner and Pandora
Favorite Charlotte Smarty Pants article?
Memory Makers by Krista W.
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
Friday 1/2 price happy hour at Del Friscos and $2.75 apps at Brio. It’s a fun date night!
I could not live without my…
Girls’ laughter. Nothing fills me like seeing my kids happy, oh, and coffee, it’s actually the key to my morning happiness.