Great Expectations

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All she wanted was a navy-blue power suit. In 1981, a very pregnant Rebecca Crane Matthias CW’75 stepped into a Boston maternity store looking for clothes to wear to work. To her dismay, the racks were replete with pink checks, sailor collars and pouffed sleeves—all inappropriate for her job as a vice president at her husband’s start-up computer company. After encountering the same limited selection everywhere she went, she concluded that there was an unmet demand for career-oriented maternity clothes. So she improvised a wardrobe during her final trimester, and before long, a baby and a business idea were born.
    Now the mother of three, Matthias is president of Mothers Work, Inc., which owns 600 maternity clothing stores across the country under the names of Motherhood, A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity. In a book published by Doubleday this fall, titled Mothers Work, she tells how necessity—in the form of a pre-partum shopping dilemma—became the mother of a thriving maternity-clothes company. With a $10,000 investment, she began a small mail-order business, at first storing inventory in the closets of her home; today, Mothers Work has expanded to a $600 million, publicly traded company which has clothed the likes of Cindy Crawford, Jada Pinkett and Aerin Lauder C’92.
    Matthias says she wrote her book to show would-be entrepreneurs “how it really is hard, and you really have to stay with it, and also to show that it can be done. Women, especially, need role models. I was hungry for them when I got started.”
    Based on her own experience, Matthias sets forth “Ten Commandments of Combining a New Business with a New Family.” One of the most important—and overlooked—tenets for women trying to juggle the two, she says, is to “leverage your time.
    “It’s dinnertime, and they think, ‘Okay, I can whip up some hamburgers and throw the dishes in the dishwasher; meanwhile, I’m tearing my hair out writing up a business plan.’ Don’t do it. Put the pan down. Go ahead and order McDonald’s. If you valued your time, you would spend it on the most important projects.” That does not include cleaning out the closets, Matthias gently lectures. “You can live with cobwebs. You can’t liveif you don’t make payroll this week.”

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