Founder, Entrepreneur, San Francisco
I met Jamie by fluke and her daughter is in part to blame. I was floored by sheer humility displayed by this clearly strong woman running a very successful business. As we spoke, hidden gems kept coming out, "I worked in prisons..', "...as I helped revamp strollers and we donated them to charity...', "you need to meet this woman, I worked closely with her organization that allows underprivileged families to obtain safe, clean and affordable baby strollers..", and more. I knew instantly that she has much to share that will inspire others.
Jamie Noelle Mamikunian
2. Where is your hometown?
I was born in the forests of Yosemite and raised in Silicon Valley
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
I am the founder of Stroller Spa, an internationally licensed cooperative that enables parents to be business leaders while maintaining a presence in their home.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (career wise)? When was the mental shift to start the journey?
Stroller Spa began as a simple concept, turned hobby, and evolved into a beloved fourth child. I was a former opera singer so lacking business school or experience, I simply dived in with gusto. I cleaned a friend's stroller that was full of mold and word got around of my stroller cleaning service. Our family was struggling to make ends meet so the little money that I was charging for the privilege to work on someone's stroller was a huge help for my family and for my self-worth. The increased income was helpful, but the most enjoyable part was creating the business from scratch because nothing like that had ever existed and I could make all of my own rules.
Four years later I decided to put a "Franchises Available" banner on my website and the calls started pouring in from women all over the US. I put together a series of simple how-to videos and worked closely with the women that joined our family to ensure that they were fully trained and stayed passionate about their work. Having connected with major stroller manufacturers and proven our know-how, Stroller Spa became the first baby gear detail and authorized repair center in the world, and our owners enjoy manufacturer referrals from day one. I would say that there was never a shift, per say, because my motto has just been to do. Experience has taught me everything and my many lessons have reminded me that I am just a speck in this beautiful Universe.
5. Biggest accomplishment since making the (physical/mental) move?
The biggest accomplishment to date is seeing Stroller Spa owners flourish in their cities. Allison Leale became an overnight success in New York when she opened Stroller Spa (then Buggy Bubbles) Brooklyn and was featured on the morning news as a stroller expert. Liz Hysen, owner of Stroller Spa Toronto, is a true believer in living green and is a celebrated authority on stroller repair featured in various parenting magazines in Canada. The list goes on.
It is beautiful to me that a little hobby with a little elbow grease can grow into a new industry. These women have single-handedly grown the business and made the Stroller Spa brand synonymous with expertise, trust and entrepreneurship.
6. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
The biggest disappointment was when a grad student at a top notch entrepreneurial school interviewed me for a "school project" and then took credit and investment money for my concept. I remember when I saw the write up and the picture of her holding a trophy for her "original idea.' I kept scanning the article waiting for her to mention that she first learned of the business idea from a mom in San Francisco, but she never mentioned me once.
The pain worsened when respected magazines began covering her brilliant idea. I was pregnant with my third child at the time, and I almost lost my baby because of the agony. I often found solace in nature and I began cleaning my strollers outside under the eucalyptus to stay connected and grounded. I also turned toward my customers and began thanking them and cherishing them for their repeat business and trust. It took years to overcome this pain, but my dismay has been converted to compassion and I wake up every day full of love and gratitude for the way that I have been allowed to grow.
7. Advice for other women?
If you have an idea, don't stress about finances or marketing, or even a formal business plan - just take the first step! It may seem premature or unprofessional at first, but it will grow in time, especially if your motives are genuine and include community outreach. Connect to nature as it is a reflection of the soul and clears the mind so that you may listen to your heart. Trust your heart. Drink lots of water, dance, sing, surround yourself with bright, smart and positive people, ask for physical touch, speak honestly and firmly and maintain eye contact but stay curious and open to new ideas. Oh, and breathe deeply often! Any other thoughts? I am open to it all!
8. Where in the world do you feel “tallest”?
What a great question! I feel tallest in the forest, especially among the redwoods and also within the walls of my storefront in San Francisco.
9. What is the future goal/challenge (career and/or life goals in 5-10 years)?
Within 5-10 years, I am aiming to: help hundreds more woman open up their own businesses and thrive through the world’s first conscious co-op licensing system, To help families in multiple demographics significantly reduce their foot print by learning alternate means of consumption; to continue my philanthropic work in the prison system and help men and women become literate and connected to their souls and the souls of their children and partners; to have helped my own family grow to be honest, productive, happy, healthy, curious and connected.
10. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
The fear that I have yet to overcome is more of a road block, and this is that I am worthy of success. Being raised in a family that valued humility, I grew up wanting to give the ultimate service of oneself, to be a nun. I also worked in the prison system and with some very wonderful non-profits but I kept pushing back on the rules, questioning and testing them. I now know that I am best running things out of the box but I find it very difficult to put value on my contribution to the world. I find it difficult to talk up my business or myself. This was difficult as an opera singer and I find it difficult as a founder.
11. Anything you'd do differently (if you had another go at life)?
Oh I certainly have my ridiculously embarrassing moments - just yesterday I left the house in tights that I thought were leggings! - but, honestly, I would not change a thing. Every moment and person who has touched my life has given me perspective, compassion and gratitude.
12. What inspires you?
I am inspired by my children who teach me wonder, by my grandmother who teaches me kindness, by god/nature who teaches me humility, by my female sister goddesses who teach me trust and by my life partner, Vahe, who teaches me to believe in positive change and that dreams do come true.
13. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
I have a stack of books by my bed that consist of old favorites that I open and take knowledge from daily - these are also the books that I love to gift! My favorites include: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Waldon by Henry David Thoreau, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and various books of knowledge and poetry by Rumi.
14. Who is a “WOW Woman” in your life who inspires you (and why)?
Oh so many! I feel like I have opened up the floodgate of awesomeness and I am surrounded by so many strong, beautiful, enlightened, charismatic women! Carla Gardner is one such woman. She is a doer of the highest order. She is smart as a whip, full of brilliant ideas, has drowned her ego in a cenote and gives from her heart without needing anything in return. She started an all-female group in San Francisco called Crystal Visions, which is more like a beautiful coven of gratitude, and also manages an event every month called Tutu tuesday where men and women can let out their inner child through dance in a fun and safe environment. I have met many of my best friends through Carla. She is a magnate for magnanimous women!
I am also in wonder of my friend Rania. Rania is from Sudan but was raised in Tennessee, in a neighborhood that was predominately white. Rania went on to much success at Stanford business school and has helped manage many well-known non-profits, but what makes her so amazing is her strength, innate understanding of other’s needs, and her compassion. She inspires me to act globally and to stand up for what I believe is right, even in the face of adversity.
15. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
You can find me at www.strollerspa.com (new website coming out this month!), other social media such as Instagram and Facebook, in our flagship shop in San Francisco, and of course, in the many strollers that I have serviced or helped others to service.