Earlier this year, we saw that Belly Armor – the definitive resource for expecting mothers and families to protect their children against the harmful effects of everyday radiation – launched a new line of infant hats with radiation shielding fabric. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on this adorable hat (available in either mouse or rabbit styles) and were incredibly impressed by the protecting features of the product, as well as its adorable, soft and snuggly construction.
We knew of the Belly Armor brand from some of their award-winning products like the Belly Blanket but wanted to learn more about the founder and the brand’s overall mission, so we sat down with Aileen Chen Co-Founder & CEO of Belly Armor for this week’s mompreneur spotlight.
GG: How did you decide to launch your business? Tell us a little more about Belly Armor.
AC: When I became pregnant with my first child, I was a banking executive who was constantly connected to my various phone devices and laptop. Like most expectant mothers, I researched extensively on how to give my child the best start in life. All sources advised pregnant women to eat healthily, exercise, and avoid toxins like alcohol and certain chemicals – all of which I did diligently. However, one obvious component in my everyday life which concerned me, about which there was little advice, was the radiation-emitting devices that surrounded me at home and at work.
I wondered what their health impacts were. As I researched more into this “everyday radiation” exposure, I was shocked at what I discovered. Increasingly, research was indicating potential health risks from everyday radiation (non-ionizing radiation emitted by sources like cell phones, computers, wireless towers and power lines). Already it was well-accepted that this type of radiation can have a biological impact and there was much confusion and debate around how it impacts our health. The concern is greatest for young children and during pregnancy when DNA replication and cell growth are at their highest rates. Compounding the risk is the exponential growth in wireless technologies over the past decade – today’s children will be exposed to levels of radiation unprecedented in human history. There was an obvious gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness. As the health experts warned, if history is any indication, it can take years and even decades for scientific evidence to conclusively affirm health risks and then translate into policies to safeguard people. Such was the case with tobacco, lead, asbestos, and x-rays.
My co-founder and I started Belly Armor because we felt compelled to raise awareness about this emerging health issue and to design solutions to help people address it. Since then, we have launched products spanning maternity, nursery and fertility, enabling people to reduce their radiation exposure, while educating about the health issue in the US and our international markets. Our products have won several awards (like Pregnancy & Newborn’s Top Products of 2014 and The Bump’s Best of Baby 2012 and 2015), and are sold in more than 30 countries, a testament that many people around the world have similar concerns about everyday radiation. Belly Armor has been featured by The New York Times, The Doctors Show, People.com amongst others, and is a Trusted Partner of Healthy Child Healthy World, a leading non-profit addressing environmental hazards facing children. It’s the best feeling knowing that we are making a positive impact and empowering people with more knowledge and solutions.
GG: How do you balance work and family?
AC: I think work/life balance is very individualistic – everyone defines that balance differently and goes through their own journey to achieve that balance for themselves. But I think what is true for everyone is that striking this balance is a constant work-in-progress as careers evolve, as life happens and priorities shift. I believe a good balance is achievable when one is clear and realistic about what that balance means for them.
One of the benefits of running my own business is having the invaluable flexibility and control over my schedule that I need as a parent of young kids. I am also very blessed to have a husband who is a wonderful hands-on father and a strong supporter of my entrepreneurial pursuits. Day to day, I try to maintain work/life balance with some tactics:
- Prioritizing the 3-4 most important things (work and personal) I must complete that day, and getting those squared away early in the day. There is less stress and overhang once those are done.
- Clearly separating time for work and time for family, being okay with that designation, and being fully present when I am in either one.
- Automating wherever possible and delegating to others the tasks that can be easily or best shared by others so I can dedicate my time for the most important things.
- Choosing progress over perfection – It is better to get something to a very good point and move on, than to be stuck making something perfect if that marginal improvement will be insignificant. Basically, knowing when to let it go (it is sometimes still easier said than done!).
- Making time for myself to recharge – This has been, by far, the toughest thing to do, but one that I’m finally finding ways that work for me. I learned that my preference for relaxing and clearing my head is not spa time or a walk in the park. It is doing relatively simple but productive tasks in silence – like cleaning or baking – which feel therapeutic, allow me time to think, and give clear results and a sense of accomplishment (even if it’s a small one).
GG: What’s the best part of being a mompreneur?
AC: I love being able to directly grow and drive the direction of a business that makes positive impact, while having the control and flexibility I need for my family life. Being my own boss has different types of stress and challenges than working for someone else, but the plusses have been immeasurably valuable and rewarding. It wasn’t apparent to me before I started the company, but looking at it now, this is the best type of working model for me at this point in my life.