- by Heather Hamilton, Founder & CEO of Zoe Organics
Located on the Island of Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an Eco-friendly boutique that not only sells the best products for the Eco-Conscious Parent, but also provides hip and eco-friendly alternatives for baby/toddler/big kid wear. Heather [Reed] Rider, also known as Mama Monkey, has never lost focus when it comes to selling the best products for parents who want to “Go Green” with their new baby. Heather does extensive research and tests all products that she sells, which goes along with her saying “I go crazy, so you don’t have to!” Monkey Bars also offers a gift registry that comes with your own personal shopper…Can it get any better than that?!
Heather is not only providing green goodies to this wonderful community, but she is making it her mission to provide parents and caretakers with the support that they need and deserve. Heather Co-Founded Alameda Parent Support just this past year. You can read more about this below.
Monkey Bars turned 3 this past December and Heather invited Zoe Organics to join in on the festivities. It was a great afternoon filled with Zoe Organics massages, drinks, snacks and also the debut of the super cute Luna Leggings! We had a great time! Thanks, Heather!
Here is a Q&A with Mama Monkey, Heather [Reed] Rider:
Q: Tell us a little about the concept of Monkey Bars. Was this a lifelong dream or something that arose after having your baby boy?
It was more of an accident, actually. I’ve managed successful retail business in the past, but always yearned for something that was my own. I have a background in the wellness industry and before giving birth to Kyle in 2005, I was running a spa & all-natural skincare shop. I had every intention of going further down this path, but after getting to know my son & growing with him, my focus changed a bit. I feel like Monkey Bars is the best of both of these worlds.
Q: You are a mother and run your own business. What advice would you give other women out there that are wondering if they can handle the challenges it can bring?
Well, I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but it was all totally worth it! When I began, I had been divorced for just over a year, and my son & I were barely getting by. I started this with nothing but good credit (thankfully) and a giant leap of faith. Being a single mom brought its own challenges, but we got through it, and I ended up meeting my new husband who also helps me in the shop. Aside from challenges, being a mom and running a business also has its rewards. When school is closed, I can bring my son to the shop with me & since we’re expecting our 2nd child May 30th, I’m looking forward to bringing my nursling along too.
Q: We are truly impressed with the variety and quality of the products sold at Monkey Bars. What are a few of your guidelines for selling eco-friendly products at your store?
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t bring anything into the shop that I wouldn’t use myself – so my customers can rest assured that everything in here is either something I have used, or would use with my own kid. I exhaust myself with research as well as take loads of feedback from my customers & fellow mama friends. I like to tell new moms and dads that “I go crazy so you don’t have to”. That’s pretty much served everyone very well so far, however there are a few basic guidelines that I adhere to. First, we do our best to source locally (CA/Pac NW). When that’s not possible, we go for products that are US made. When we pull in lines from overseas, we only chose reputable vendors that have earth-friendly, fair, and responsible business models. For example, with the price of cotton skyrocketing globally, India is still able to produce quality, reasonably priced Organic apparel. Plus we love to support other small businesses, and when companies are starting out, they usually have to begin their manufacturing overseas.
Q: You have a new baby on the way! What are some of your must-haves for new parents?
This is a fun one… As most moms have learned, there’s a lot of crap out there that leaves us wondering why we have certain things lying around the house, let alone why we even registered for them in the first place. In the spirit of keeping it simple (this time ’round), I’m gonna go with 3 things:
1st – a Safe, Reliable, Easy to Operate + Easy on your Body stroller/car seat system. We’re going with the Orbit Stroller Travel System. It’s got a big price tag, but after having been through my share of snap-n-go systems with the first kid, this is the way to go. Not to mention that I’ll be saving money (and my back) in the long run.
2nd – a Good Carrier. Speaking of back-saving goodies, this is a biggie. I’m not a fan of slings because of the asymmetric way they force you to hold the baby. My pick is the BECO Baby Carrier. Infant to 45lbs all in one system. And it’s organic!
3rd – Good Boob Pads. Something reusable, comfortable, and healthy. My pick here is Bamboobies – eco-friendly, bamboo nursing pads.
Q: You are also the Co-Founder of Alameda Parent Support. Tell us a little about this and why it is important to you.
When Kyle was first born, I felt great and was excited to conquer the world, new baby in tow… And then it got lonely. And cold out. And going to the grocery store stopped becoming a good enough reason to leave the house every day. When Kyle was 5 weeks old, I began participating in the state-funded New Parent Support groups offered by Smart, Healthy Babies. These groups were a Godsend. I never struggled with PPD (thankfully), but I was REALLY excited to get out of the house for my weekly meetings with other new moms, some of which I still get together with 6+ years later. These groups provided an invaluable resource for the community, and when they lost their state funding in 2008, new parents were left with nothing. Alameda Parent Support was created to help fill this void. It is important to me because I think new families don’t realize how great it is to just sit around and chat with other people dealing with very similar life changes until they are in a group. Our groups are also facilitated by licensed professionals which makes us different from casual playgroups. In addition to one facilitated meeting per week, our 6 week sessions include an informal weekly meeting (sans facilitator at a location of the group’s choosing), and a meet-the-partner evening potluck.
Q: Zoe Organics recently took part in your Holiday Party/3rd Birthday Party. What are some highlights of the last 3 years?
We’ve won some awards both locally in Alameda as well as the Greater Bay Area, however I have to say a consistent highlight is meeting new moms & dads, and interacting with them on a regular basis. We were also just approved for a city-subsidized Facade grant, so MBs will be getting a facelift very soon! We’re constantly trying to improve our visibility so we can continue to provide great stuff for new parents, but getting the word out is the first step. We’re really excited about our new look. Stay tuned for photos!
Q: What do you hope for Monkey Bars in 2012?
Since we’re extremely focused on health and wellness issues here at MBs, we’re hoping to shift more of our focus to that arena in the New Year. I’ve done a soft-launch of a food blog, but that’s just the beginning. I definitely see many more workshops in our future as well. We love food & one of my big goals is passing this love of healthy food on to the little ones. Some people are scared of the work that comes with switching over to a healthy, non-processed-food diet. I want to help alleviate some of that fear and make it simple for parents to make nutritious meals for their kids. We hope to get all of that accomplished this year! We’ll be busy…
Thank you Heather! We love your heart and vision and can’t wait see where your passion takes you and Monkey Bars!
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