Meet the #motherhustlers: Dana Inouye

Dana Inouye is the creator of TEAL urbanwear — a lifestyle brand featuring leggings with pockets designed for moms who’ve got their hands full. Its mission is to inspire moms to go hands-free and live hands-on. TEAL, and its subsidiary “Lean in Mama” — a community of big-hearted moms — submits that the magic is in the mess and aims to simplify and elevate the #momlife through an amalgam of physical products, creative content, and live events.

Dana is a mom of four. You can find her folding laundry to hood music, tearing up the kitchen dance floor with the kiddos, and shoveling spoonfuls of ice cream after the last child has gone the F to sleep.

Tell us about yourself, your business, and how you got started!

My background is in Education, Literature, and Theatre. So nothing business related. I was the academic hip-hopper with the orange hair.

I taught Hebrew at a Jewish Day School until the day before my fourth child was born, two years ago. I loved infusing drama-based methodologies in my teaching, fostering emotional intelligence, and connecting and building relationships with my students.

But I was itching for more — more autonomy, more creativity, more impact, more flexibility, and more time with my children. I wanted to be able to pick them up from school, to accompany them on field trips on occasion…

I knew, two years ago, that the birth of #4 would have to be the catalyst for the change I wanted to create, the life I wished to design.

The journey from no business idea to an inspired business idea was a winding one. I think the thread that weaves through both phases has been a purposeful intent and commitment to personal development, through books and podcasts.

I do believe that the blank space of not knowing what it was that I wanted to create was an integral part of the generative creative process. I am now realizing that the dynamics that I was examining years ago are gracefully interlaced with those I am positioning now.

The emphasis on leaning into the magic in the mess was something I had been blogging about for years. Last spring, before the idea for TEAL leggings bubbled, I wrote a blog post titled “Pocket Pants: Reimagining Our Prized Possessions”. It was about my then-three-year-old’s obsession with toy cars in his pockets.

Little did I know at the time how aligned this was to be with the philosophy and voice of the brand I would develop.

I started last summer by sketching out a very basic business plan, outlining the vision and target audience. In early Fall, I met with a friend who had just entered the life coaching arena, and when I shared my vision with her and expressed my trepidations as well, she said this: “how will you feel if you give it 100% and fail vs. if you give it 85% and fail?” I knew I had to give it my all.

My twin words for 2018 were Risk and Receive. I leapt… and am continuing to trust that the net will appear. Nine months in, I am preparing to “birth”/launch a Kickstarter campaign for TEAL urbanwear.

My current vision for TEAL has evolved to encompass a dynamic integrative lifestyle movement that includes both physical products AND transformational services, including inspirational content, and nourishing, playful “glamping” retreats for moms and kids together. All of these complementary pieces align with the commitment to cultivate a sense of lightness, playfulness, and connectedness in the experience of motherhood, and to home in on the magic in the mess.

What inspired you to start your own business?

A breakdown — in my marriage, in my teaching career — a whole lot of feeling “is this it?” and committing to “I want more!”

Breakdowns are so often precursors to breakthroughs, aren’t they?

The breakthrough that yielded the idea for the business after a whole lot of searching came when we were traveling last spring, with four kids (an adventure not a vacation!) and I was constantly losing my stupid over the shoulder bag and just felt like the things I was carrying were preventing me from really being present to the moments and the memories that I wanted to build with my family. I was wearing leggings because they were comfortable and just wanted some pockets for my essentials so that I could be free to explore and adventure — hands-on.

The idea was born overseas. But it wasn’t until we’d returned to our home and neighborhood in Portland, OR, that it really became galvanized into action. It was then that I realized that I need these leggings, this mode of hands-free/hands-on living in my everyday life with my children — from the playground to the food trucks, from daycare to date-night!

What struggles do you face when it comes to balancing your work and family and how do you deal with them?

Oh gosh. The struggle of everyone and everything vying for my time is real.

Every time Sunday afternoon rolls around and I prepare to head out for my designated weekly “work-time”, you can bet my 9-year-old daughter will start moping that we never go anywhere or do anything and beg me to take her with me to the coffee-shop where I work. 

Sometimes I cave. I also know how much she (2 of 4) craves some one-on-one time. The deal is that she has to take a book and homework and work quietly beside me. I get a little less focused work done than I would otherwise, but still a fair amount. And she — miraculously — READS! (This is the only place and time I can get her to read.)

After some individual work time, we share some together time. (And of course some treats.)

It’s a compromise and for efficiency’s sake, I certainly can’t afford to do it every week, but when I do, it’s a compromise that leaves me feeling a little more balanced.

What do you think is the secret to raising a healthy business and a healthy family?

Don’t’ sweat the small stuff.

And let go:

Let go of the mess. Let go of the mountain of laundry. It’ll get cleaned up and folded eventually; if not today, tomorrow, or next week.

Let go of the guilt that you’re spending time on your business and not with your children. Let go of the guilt that you’re spending time with your children and not on your business.

Let that shit go.

Create boundaries and contained space-times for your work-time: Mine is every day during naptime. And a few hours on Sunday afternoons when I leave my husband home with the kids and go to a neighborhood coffee shop to get stuff done.

During the weekday naptimes, I set my 4-year-old up with Youtube kids, and take my two-year-old up to bed with me. She sleeps on me (nursing), which really anchors the persona of the mompreneur — nurturing and hustling at once. I’ve developed a very intentional and very instinctive ritual that I feel, allows me to sink into the space and the work once she’s fallen asleep. I’ll take a few moments to simply gaze at her sleeping body and lean into the love that surges in those moments. In doing so, I sense an immediate and profound softening and sense of gratitude that settles me into my purpose and my why. This little ritual affords a soft transition into a focused space. What’s more: it seems to encompass the essence of the distinct yet remarkably complimentary pieces that comprise the mompreneur space.

What is one piece of advice you could give to help other mompreneurs out?

Reach out. So much can be gained by asking who not how.

And Youtube Kids. Youtube Kids is golden if you have a preschooler and need to carve out some focus time. (Every time I marvel inquisitively at some new word my 4-year-old tosses, he smiles smugly and exclaims: Youtube Kids!)

What words of encouragement do you have for your fellow mompreneurs?

Baby steps: take small consistent action and trust that it is enough.

Let yourself rest when you’re tired and trust that the creative magic is happening there too — at rest, at work, and at play.

When you feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, lean into the discomfort. It may only be a 2-ft drop, not a 100-ft drop that will move you to the next level.

Trust yourself, your intuition. (This has been and continues to be one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors for me.)

As a mom, you’re already doing all the things. So, of course, you can do this. You’re wired to do this!

*If you’re about to do the naptime hustle, take the time to gaze at your beautiful sleeping baby and soften for a few moments. This will place you in the essence of the mompreneur space. Then get shit done.

Do you have any great / inspiring stories from your own experience that you want to share?

Awhile back I had a strong desire to find people to collaborate with because wearing all the hats (many of which are not one size fits all) is a drag and the solopreneur space can get lonely (even when you’ve got little sidekicks around).

So I posted a message seeking collaborators, and as soon as I received an enthusiastic response, I self-sabotaged the process. I felt like I didn’t have the “business” knowledge and acumen and experience to negotiate the terms of a collaborative relationship and move forward. And so I didn’t move forward.

This was a sobering and valuable lesson.

The “inspiring” part of this story is that the awareness and investigating and reflecting that this experience prompted, has empowered me to re-imagine the role of an entrepreneur.

What was holding me back, I realized, were perceived models that I had imbibed regarding what a “successful” entrepreneur looks like: logical, linear, self-assured, assertive, proficient in systems and strategies; a very ‘masculine’ conception encompassing all the things I felt I wasn’t.

From a more enlightened place, I am opening up to an entirely new conception of being and doing business and re-imagining a maternal feminine nurturing way that inhabits a softer space — one that is open to novel ways of imagining and co-creating, that questions rather than asserts, that flows with creative energy and visionary dreams: all the things that I am.

I believe that opening up spaces to re-imagine ways of being is vital. And I’m learning growth mindset from my kids.

Any fun facts you want to share?

I hide in the pantry with chocolate when they’re not looking

I am OCD about putting away their clothes in their drawers. The underwear from the laundry needs to go beneath the pile that’s already in the drawer. It wouldn’t be fair for the other pairs.

Where you can find Dana:

Learn more about Dana’s kickass leggings over at Teal Urban Wear, and join her movement at Lean in Mama. Make sure to catch her over on her Facebook page and group, as well as on Instagram!

Kickstarter is now live! Check it out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/405571640/leggings-for-the-momlife

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