I’m thrilled to welcome Sarah DeHaan, owner of owen + sage, to Work Like a Mother. This week we’re also joined by Jackie, her 3 year old son who decided that today wasn’t a nap day. We already said these would be real-life conversations with working-moms 😉. So let’s dive in.
Sarah loved retail and was rising through the ranks at Athleta until her first, Jackie, came along and made her start to question everything. She found herself feeling stuck. The career she loved just wasn’t allowing her to be the mom she so wanted to be. With the birth of Finley, her second, she was determined to find an alternative that would work for her and her family. Now the owner of owen + sage, a modern baby outfitter, Sarah shares how the pressure of corporate retail led her to become an entrepreneur and discover a career she can love again.
Sarah joined Athleta nearly ten years ago as the brand was undergoing a total transformation. “It was a brand my mom wore,” laughs Sarah. But she loved the people and, as an athlete and photographer, saw the brand’s potential to find a foothold in the athleisure movement. Sarah thrived, going on to open and manage stores across Boston and beyond.
Her first son Jackie came along in November 2016, three weeks early and on the eve of another season of retail holiday madness. But soon she was right back to the long hours and weekend shifts that the industry demands. She and her husband felt like ships passing in the night, and Jackie quickly became a daddy’s boy. “When my husband and I were both in the room, Jackie would choose him 10 times out of 10. It was just really hard.”
By the time she got pregnant with her second she knew something had to change. “You can’t have kids and comfortably work in corporate retail. You know, as much as they tell you you can, you just can’t. Your family life will suffer.”
So during maternity leave she started thinking more seriously about her future as a working mom and retail professional. Brainstorming with a friend, the first seeds of owen + sage were planted. Diving in, Sarah did her research, talking with experienced boutique owners, studying layouts and lighting, coming to understand the industry and the opportunity, fleshing out different ideas and refining her vision for the business. “I really wanted to create an environment and a store where the lifestyle was focused around our family. So whether my kids come to the shop with me, or we’re only open certain hours, I just wanted this to work around our family.”
Finally ready, owen + sage successfully launched this past October, just in time for the holiday rush. While covid has been really tough on the retail industry, fortunately Sarah hadn’t signed the lease on her brick-and-mortar storefront and so she was able to quickly doubled down on e-commerce and is building a loyal following on the owen + sage instagram account. With both boys now home from daycare, this obviously isn’t how she expected year one to go, but she’s converted part of her basement into a warehouse and fulfillment operation and she’s doing it. Her USPS mail-man has become a trusted ally in the cause, and sales and shipments are growing each month.
One thing I found particularly compelling about owen + sage is Sarah’s commitment to giving back. Inspired by Black Lives Matter and all the need in the world right now, Sarah recently committed to donating 10% of all sales to worthy charities. “I just felt that I needed to do more, and because I don’t have a lease on a storefront in town, I decided I could pass that savings on to all these incredible groups trying to make a difference.”
It also helps explain her aspirations for Jackie & Finley. “My only goal is that I raise happy kind children that grow into happy, kind, inclusive adults and everything that we do is based on that.”
It was such a pleasure to chat with Sarah. Our full conversation is now out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and you can see highlights on our IGTV. Subscribe and follow to make sure you don’t miss next week’s conversation on Work Like a Mother.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.