Liz Gumbinner and Kristen Chase are business partners with the quintessential internet meet-cute story — they became fast friends after commenting on each other’s personal blogs, circa 2006.
Together, they started Cool Mom Picks as a grassroots initiative to support small businesses run by other moms, and the rest, as they say, is her-story.
The concept at its inception was to support women who left the workforce and wanted to contribute financially to their households in some way or another. They were making cool things — awesome crafts we thought other people would like to get their hands on, but they couldn’t afford to get the word out themselves. So we functioned as a magazine, finding these cool things and sharing them with other people. And that focus specifically on small, women-run businesses has always been at the heart of the site.
Initially, we were very product-focused, and people came to us for product recommendations. And the people who came to the site knew they could trust us, which grew our readership very organically. But what happened as we grew and grew that trust is they would email us or reach out to us on Instagram or social media and say, could you tell us what you think is cool at Target? Could you tell us what you would buy at the mall? And it was at that point we realized that we had some influence in terms of not only what people were shopping for but how people were parenting. They wanted someone to listen to. They wanted to get advice and support from people who they trusted. And so we really transitioned our focus, not from just products and gift recommendations, but also parenting advice, particularly helping parents with difficult situations, topics that may be more challenging to talk about or that aren’t widely addressed.
We’re not here to judge how people parent; we think that there’s enough of that. We’re about supporting parents and opening their eyes to what else might be out there. We’re very thoughtful about everything that we put out, and I don’t know if you can say that about everything that’s on the web. And consistently, we hear from our readers, ‘we know that this took a lot of effort when you created this content. And we’re really appreciative of all the hard work that you do because bottom line, it makes our jobs as parents easier.’ When we hear that, it makes us so happy because parenting is so hard, and Liz and I say all the time: If we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying.
Our goal is to make life a little more fun, a little more organized, a little more meaningful and a little cooler, all of which can be missing when you’re a mom. When we first started Cool Mom Picks, it was just for fun: motherhood uncensored. And we asked our friends, Hey, do you want to write for us? Do you want to share some cool stuff you’re seeing online? It started as a very grassroots way for writers to come together and just share the stuff that we were passionate about that we thought other moms would want to see.
And it really was only a couple of days later that we thought, wait, we’re getting a lot of traffic. This is something people want; maybe there’s something more to this. And we took it from there. And one of the first things we did when we started selling ads was to pay our writers. We thought, if writers are going to be contributing their time and energy and effort, they should be paid for this. It became a business because, in part, to pay moms for their time.
I think what’s made Cool Mom Picks successful is that readers know we’re real moms, regular people. They can trust what we say, and that’s important. Authenticity and trust are absolutely everything for a network like ours. We always say that we want to be like that cool mom friend in the playground who always has all the answers. We just think about what would parents love, what will help them solve a problem? What will help them live their lives more meaningfully?
We’re storytellers. Even if we’re writing about a product, we’re telling a story about that product, about the mom who invented it, or how there was a Black woman who couldn’t find CBD oil made by Black women for Black women. And so she created that business.
We like solving problems for people, and that makes me feel good every day. Even after 15 years, when we get an email from a reader saying, thank you so much, you gave me the answers I didn’t even realize I needed. Or you recommended a book that’s changed my life. Or you did a podcast episode about this topic that no one else was talking about, and I felt so seen — that’s everything to us. That’s what keeps us going every day.
Having your own business for 15 years is much like having a kid for 15 years. People always say that when raising kids, the days are long, but the years are short. And that’s how it feels — there are some days we’re burning the midnight oil, and things go on forever, but then you blink, and it’s been a year or two years or five years.
It’s exciting to know that we’ve created something with longevity, and our readers feel like we’ve grown up with their kids or helped them become the moms who they feel like they are today. That’s amazing. And it’s what gets us up every morning, still.