For Moms, By Moms

An Oakland mother co-created a solution to the eternal problem of work-life balance.


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Lisa Raja and Suzanne Schreck.

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Lisa Raja worked hard at her career but stopped when she had a child. When the Oakland mom wanted to work again, it was tougher than she thought to reenter the workforce. She knew her struggle wasn’t unique. But she wasn’t sure what to do about it—until she started remodeling her Oakland home.

When Raja needed an interior designer, she didn’t turn to Yelp. Instead, she reached out to her network of fellow moms: Would anyone be willing to trade services with her? She was quickly flooded with helpful responses.

Afterward, she found herself thinking of a way to tap into the collective power of moms like her, who were willing to trade or buy services from mothers wanting to make some extra cash—but on their time, in a way that fit with their schedule. In 2015, she created an online community board called TRADEMOMS where women could swap services among one another.

Last year, she got an email from Suzanne Schreck, who lives in Novato. Schreck loved the idea. “I used to work in high tech and I had lots of women on my team who would go and have babies. Some of them would come back, some of them would stay at home and work,” Schreck said. “It was always running through the back of my mind: How can we harness the talents of moms who want to be able to work just part time?” She joined Raja and revamped the site, making it user friendly and adding features.

Now, TRADEMOMS, which officially launched last fall, isn’t just a bulletin board. After joining the site, women can list their products and services for sale or trade. Unlike Etsy, TRADEMOMS doesn’t charge a listing fee—instead, it takes a cut of 10 percent of the sell price—so users are encouraged to create as many listings as they’d like. (Despite the name, it’s not just for mothers. “It’s a very pro-women site, whether you decide to have children one day or you don’t want to,” Raja said. “We support all women.”)

They also have a Facebook group in which more than a thousand members talk about the struggles of balancing work and family life—a challenge the founders are familiar with. “I don’t think the code has been cracked yet, and I’m hoping that through TRADEMOMS, we will be able to get closer to an answer,” Raja said, referring to the tension of working while trying to be a present parent. “We moms have tons of experience and skills to offer, but, true, there are heartstrings involved. I live it every day. Part of me wants to be home to do certain things. Part of me needs to mentally engage somewhere else.”

Raja sees part-time work as the solution. “Unless you’re in tech or consulting, it’s harder to go part time—unless you’re doing an hourly job, and after 15 years of experience, that’s not going to cut it.” With TradeMoms, a woman can work as much or as little as she’s able, creating a schedule that fits her life.

Raja and Schreck are still spreading the word about TRADEMOMS, but they’ve already amassed a group of users offering everything from bath bombs to interview coaching to lactation support. Eventually, they hope to expand, but for now it’s focused on Northern California users. That local focus makes it a boon for those wanting the convenience of online shopping but with the added benefit of supporting a local, women-owned business, Schreck pointed out. “Women love to shop,” she said. “And also, women are time constrained. But sometimes you just don’t want to go to a generic site; you do want to shop local. I think with TradeMoms, it’s a great way to actually achieve that.”

It’s also a way for women to test a new career or interest. Raja worked in retail management for years, but also has a passion for making her own skincare products (which you can purchase on the site.) Raja and Schreck work directly with their users, emailing and talking on the phone with them as they use the site, allowing moms to spend more time doing what they love and less on logistics. A woman who works full time and crotchets to unwind might make lovely scarfs, but not know how to build a website or set up PayPal. With TradeMoms, she can simply sign up and start selling.

“We know not everyone is going to be able to set up a shop, be technically literate, be perfect at marketing, write out a perfect profile,” Schreck said. “We understand that moms need help sometimes, and we’re here.”

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