You may recognize Rosie Pope from her 2011 Bravo reality TV show Pregnant in Heels (baby bump + stilettos = reason enough to qualify as a Power Figure in our book), but she’s been making a name for herself in the super-competitive parenting space since before her first son was born in 2008. Now a mom of four, she runs RosiePope.com, an empire that includes maternity, nursing and baby clothes and accessories, bi-coastal MomPrep classes, an NYC-based parenting concierge service, 3 boutiques and a column in Parents magazine.
To celebrate the debut of her chic, affordable new line of nursing bras on barenecessities.com, we picked Rosie’s brain for insights into her mastery of running a business while running on caffeine, reframing the notion of balance and what really matters when bringing up a baby.
How did you find your calling and become a mompreneur?
I did many things very young, including moving to the United States [from England] when I was 18. I didn’t know what I was doing. The one thing I always knew that I wanted was a big family. I started my business with mindset of, “I have to be the best mom I can be; how do I support that with what I do?” My business came out of a personal passion for motherhood, and it all came together as I was trying to get pregnant. Believing in it so strongly meant the barriers didn’t seem as huge as they actually are.
My youngest is 2, my oldest is 7—I live it, I breathe it. They remind me every day how important family is. Being a mompreneur comes from wanting to do something for your family in the way that makes the most sense at that time in your life, but it is not a walk in the park. It’s conflicting. I want to be at home with my kids, but I have to be at work to support them. You can’t underestimate the emotional side. It’s heavy.
What’s your mission with Rosie Pope Maternity?
Our catchphrase is “Love with confidence.” It would always strike me when accomplished women would enter this new world through my store looking for maternity clothes or baby gear. They suddenly became so unsure of themselves, and I couldn’t understand it until I was in it. Our generation of parents seems insecure about what we’re doing, and it’s a shame. Great parents have confidence. That doesn’t mean they get it right all the time, but they have conviction. I decided a long time ago I wanted to make products and content to make people confident.
That’s a big departure from where the baby industry has been going over the last decade, which is more of a place of fear: If you don’t buy this or do this, you’re not good enough. I want to simplify. We try to take the guesswork out of all the stuff you don’t need to worry about because there’s so much more to focus on.
We try to incorporate that idea into the quality and function of the products, and by being by your side when you’re shopping. That’s where our Mommy IQ comes from. On every hangtag and piece of packaging, I give advice or a confidence-builder so people know we’re more than a brand; we’re a guide through this crazy period.
Tell us about your nursing bras.
Personally, I found there were two kinds of nursing bras: functional basics or super-saucy bras. [In development,] I always thought it was funny when people would talk about bringing sexy back to nursing bras because nobody I know wants to have sex after they’ve had a baby, so for a bra to say, “Ooh, look at these!” I mean, no thank you. I want a bra that says “beautiful, lovely, confident.”
We wanted to innovate. Bras are tough because women are all different shapes and sizes, and we demand so much from nursing bras: We expect them to still work when we gain or lose 40 pounds; we expect our tops to fit even when, over the course of one day, our cup size changes; we expect them to fit even when one breast is larger than the other. You also wash them more than any other bras, and all this has to be in one pretty package that isn’t unreasonably expensive.
Working with fabrications and industry experts, I’ve come up with something that has all the attributes you need and looks like something you want to wear. We use a performance-based fabric so whether you leak or you’re washing it for the millionth time, you don’t have to wait long before it dries. That’s important when you only have a few bras to cycle through. They all have additional hook-and-eyes and two-way stretch so they adjust with you. The access clips are done in a more contemporary way. Traditionally, nursing bras have thicker straps that are too wide to wear with a scoop-neck tee. For today’s mom, that’s not going to work. We’re mindful of the fashion she wears. There’s also a choice of underwire or wireless. A lot of moms are against underwires initially, which is completely fine; for people who breastfeed for longer, by the end, you may want it.
The other thing was coming up with a bra you can buy when you’re pregnant. I’ve helped so many women who’d just had a baby: They’re tired and in pain, and they have to come in for a bra. You don’t want to do that. Find nursing supplies before you have your baby so you don’t have to worry about it later. My bras work from your third trimester, when you’re on your last hook-and-eye and the cups are comfortable. Then you can eventually fasten it tighter. People think your breasts get larger when you nurse but when your milk comes in, what really happens is the shape and hardness changes, which makes them feel a lot bigger, but the cup itself will be fine if it fit in your last trimester. And our sleep bras are easy-access so you don’t have to fiddle with clips in the middle of the night.
What’s your typical day like?
I try desperately to get up before the kids, which means 5 AM. Then it’s the craziness of getting kids four kids up and off to school, then I’m on the train into the city—I’m the annoying person on the phone and computer who makes it my office. Once I get in, I always have a plan, and it never happens. Things come up every day, and sprinkled in between are the million things we need to do: design, development, content creation. I try to focus on one thing, but it’s all over the place. At 4:30 PM, I run like crazy to catch the train and work for another two hours on the way home. When I walk through the door, sometimes everybody comes and hugs me; other times they’re screaming things like, “Where is my tennis racquet?” Then I do homework, dinner, bath, stories and bedtime. It’s like a military academy. Every night it’s, “I don’t want to take a bath! I don’t want to go to bed!” When will they finally know this is what’s happening? It’s the same thing every day! They’re falling asleep around 8:30, which is normally when my husband comes home. We work together. We keep working until about 1 AM. The evening is one of the most productive parts of the day because my husband and I can wrap up a lot of things.
How do you balance the demands of work and family?
Honestly, it’s really hard. I suffer the most from the sleep depravation—I think a lot of women do. So many CEOs boast about only needing four hours of sleep. That is not true for me. I’m exhausted a lot of the time. I call this “the Diet Coke chapters” because I just decided that, for this period of my life, I’m going to be drinking soda and coffee, and I’m not going to feel bad about it. It’s reality.
The notion of balance is sometimes more stressful than it’s worth. I try to look at balance over a lifetime rather than over a day. And on the weekends, my husband and I really don’t work. You’ll never see me with my phone; the kids have us completely. I hope that by the time they’re in middle school, they’re really going to need me to be there when they come home from school. Maybe I can be more of a stay-at-home mom then. There will be a time in my life I get manicures and read magazines, but it’s not now.
How do you de-stress?
Running helps. I don’t have time to go to the gym so I taught myself to love running because I can say to my husband, “Everyone’s in the bath. Can you put their pajamas on and I’ll take a 20-minute run?” It used to be a chore, but now it’s time out by myself and I love it.
And I’m not as good at this as my husband is, but we talk. It’s stressful to work and parent together and be married, and he’s good at making me talk it out. Last night, he got a babysitter and said, “We’re going out to dinner.” I was like, “Are you out of your mind? I don’t want to go out at 9 PM on a Tuesday!” and he made me. With someone else cooking and a couple glasses of wine, you forget what you’re stressed about. Having someone who can pull it out for you when you’re tipping over—and not necessarily to have a solution, just to hear you—is really important.
What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome? How did it shape you?
It was going through infertility while in a business entirely focused on pregnancy and babies and being in the public eye the whole time while filming the TV show. I don’t know how people can turn that into a reason to be negative toward you, but some do. It’s shocking. I got quite a thick skin. There were also many people who felt supported by my talking about it. My biggest philosophical hump was facing the question of what if I didn’t get pregnant and I own this business? Of course, it worked out. That’s what I always tell people. I never would have believed it, but now I have four kids. It’s one of those things: We make lists and want to do things when we want to do them, and life doesn’t work like that. You will get pregnant when you will get pregnant. Why it happens or doesn’t is one of those miracles.
What’s your best advice?
When you become a parent, the hardest, most important thing to be is yourself. You constantly feel you have to improve or change things, and that’s not what it’s about. Motherhood made me an insecure wreck at first. I went through a period of wanting to be perfect, and it recently dawned on me that my kids don’t care. They just want me to be there. I’ve hand-written poetry and put it in their lunchboxes and they’re actually quite embarrassed by it. I’m like, “Isn’t this the kind of mom you dream about?” and they’re like, “No, do not put hearts into my lunchbox!” You get yourself in such a state over who you want to be, and they just want me to be myself and hang out with them.
It’s hard to be totally real with them, but I see how much better it is. Kids don’t need their parents to have to have a perfect job or marriage or day, and you can’t hide that because it affects your personality. The more you let them know who you are and why, the better, because they grow up knowing that any negativity isn’t their fault.
What’s your secret to living a great life?
Love, laugh, be honest and be kind. Those things matter when you leave this earth. In a world when we’re all looking out for ourselves, it takes effort.
It’s total hogwash when people say, “It’s not personal; it’s business.” It’s totally personal! It’s how we put food in our babies’ mouths. It’s everything I’ve created. It’s not easy to be completely honest or kind, but we have to try. So yes, it means I cry every now and again in a meeting.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is the confidence to make decisions. If someone is making all the choices for you because you’re not sure what you believe in, that’s the opposite of where you want to be.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ROSIE
Personal mantra: I’m all in.
Style signature: Gold.
Favorite bra: The sleep bra.
Best workout wear: I’m a big fan of Under Armour sports bras. I like fun, bright, cool ones. If I’m going to wear fluorescent pink Spandex, it’s going to be in my bra.
Role model: My husband.
Greatest extravagance: I only drink Champagne or Prosecco if I’m going to drink alcohol.
Superpower you wish you had: To be invisible. Sometimes I just want to escape for a moment without being judged, and I would love to know what people really think when I’m not around.
Proudest moment: Having my kids. No matter what else happens, I have that.
Fear you’re trying to overcome: That my kids are going to be unhappy. I want the best for them, and I don’t want life to be hard for them.
Latest hobby: Upholstery. I just like to reupholster things. It makes me really happy. Old chairs, ottomans, headboards. It’s quite physical—you have to rip the piece apart and put it back together. In business, I deal with a lot of things that are small and delicate, and this is rough. I get joy out of creating something new.
Vacation destination: Charleston. We rarely do but if we can go away, we go to a beach. The sound of the ocean drowns out everything else. If I could, I would bottle that.
Favorite TV show: Bubble Guppies.
Must-read book: We’ve all spent so many hours reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s the first children’s book I enjoy reading, too. It makes me laugh.
Mood-boosting song: “Love Yourself.” At first I was embarrassed to find out it was Justin Bieber, but now I love him. I like when he says, “My momma don’t like you, and she likes everyone.” I tell my sons, “See, I’d better like your girlfriends!”
Perfect day: Not having to get dressed or go anywhere.
Favorite emoji: I have one but I’m not sure if it’s inappropriate, so I use it tentatively. It’s the dancing girl bunnies. They look a bit like Playboy bunnies. I don’t really know what they are, but they make me happy. I only use it randomly to friends. It probably makes no sense.
Craziest thing you’ve done: Moving to New York City with a backpack at 18. I had a very complicated upbringing. We always used to vacation in America, and my association with the country was strong family and faith—things I didn’t have. America felt like the place to begin my adult life. I would have done anything to get here. I had a full ride set up to medical school in England and I still left. If you knew me then, it was shocking. I was the most well behaved, rule-following person in the world. I would never let my kids do what I did.