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Three moms & a business

Broward moms Sheryl Rosenthal and Rebecca Joseph are on the verge of taking their home business to a new level.

Their company, Free to Be Studio, designs and sells T-shirts for special events.

"We were friends who started thinking, 'What can we do together?' We didn't like sitting home, but we didn't want to work in an office,'' Rosenthal said.

They started by targeting their children's elementary schools, designing class T-shirts for field trips or field day. They expanded from there.

"We ran around with the kids in the car, distributing fliers to schools,'' Rosenthal said.

Their next step was making samples and going through training.

"We took a class in Adobe illustrator so that instead of paying an artist we could do the design work ourselves,'' Rosenthal said.

In building their business, the two admit to making some mistakes, but they learned from them. Initially, they priced the shirts too low, making only their investment back. They also learned the hard way that offering too much selection is unnecessary. And, they now know they want to aim for big orders of at least 100 items with a minimum of 24.

What lands them business, Joseph says, is their "can do'' spirit:

"When anyone asks if we can do something, we say yes, and then we figure out how to do it.''

In the past two years, they have expanded beyond schools to market to a variety of buyers and party planners. They say they are pleased with the income from the business and have begun putting profits back into the company.

Recently, they decided they needed a website to take Free to Be Studio to the next level. It is under construction.

Meanwhile, as their shirt business takes off, another opportunity has come along.

Sheryl's mother-in-law, Florence Rosenthal, has offered to transition her longtime home-based invitation printing business over to them.

"We thought immediately that it is a perfect combination. We could be a one-stop shop. Anyone with an event who is looking for invites can see our other products that go along,'' Rosenthal says.

Florence Rosenthal started Calig-a-Print in 1987 from her home in Hollywood, seeking the flexibility to work her own schedule. She says she learned that a home-based business takes time to build; it took several years to earn a sizeable profit.

As business slowed in recent months, she realized it was time to turn Calig-a-Print over to a younger generation who could market the company in new ways. She plans to stay on for a while to assist them.

"I'm excited about the girls coming into it. They have a different group of people they appeal to and added together I think it could really work,'' she said.

The moms of Free to Be Studio understand that being a parent and a business owner can be challenging. They feel having a partner makes it much easier.

"Each of us falls into our roles,'' Joseph said. "One is better with ordering, the other with customers.''

There's also the benefit of having someone to bounce ideas off and pitch in with child care when needed.

The key to a successful mom partnership, Joseph says, is "You have to have the same entrepreneurial spirit.''