Lyss Stern is the original Mompreneur, Author and Founder of Diva Moms.
Diva Moms is a direct-to-mom marketing company that connects a wide community of engaged mothers to top marketers, as well as each other.
Lyss offers a genuine perspective about motherhood, and has built a quality audience who spend, curate, engage and are highly-influenced by her recommendations.
Using multiple platforms such as social media, email, Internet, television, publishing, speaking engagements and events, Lyss provides companies and brands a direct pipeline to a stylish and practical audience who make 91 percent of spending decisions in their homes.
Lyss built her company by sharing anecdotes, thoughts, opinions and preferences that are honest and relatable to moms. In the process, she has become an authority on modern-day parenting and is highly sought after by mothers, media and the sponsors who know this is a $1 trillion market.
Thank you Lyss for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your entrepreneurial journey. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date?
Lyss: I'm an entrepreneur. Hopefully, a voice of influence with my peers and the people who follow me. I'm also a business woman and marketing/ media professional with years of experience. My background is in public relations and special events working for Peggy Siegal, right out of college. It was the best training you can ask for. And that’s where I met my husband, Brian. He was a junior agent at William Morris (now WME) and I was working the opening of John Leguizamo's play “Freak.” on Broadway; we met outside.
I did PR with Peggy for two years then decided to become a teacher. I went back to school and got my Master’s in Education, then taught kindergarten in a private school for six years and loved every minute of it. When we had our first son, Jackson, I found there was nothing out there (books, online, groups) that spoke to me and the experience I was going through: I was a new mom in the city. The only thing I really found was a group meeting in the back of some dingy restaurant on the Upper East Side and some woman saying, “This is how to breast feed.” I had gone with Jackson and had said, “I can’t do this.” And just like that, a lightning bulb went up in my head that there has to be something more than this.
So, I created the blog called divamoms.com, and it was me talking about my experience and speaking to a community of like-minded moms. I built an incredible community and was able to grow that into a marketing platform. Of course, with COVID, things changed. We all had to pivot. I've launched several projects/ platforms that speak to what people have gone through these last two years, and what makes them feel better.
Was entrepreneurship always on the cards for you or is it something that just happened out of the blue?
Lyss: I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit and instincts from my father, David, who started the Olde Brooklyn Soda company. Seeing his passion and commitment instilled in me a work ethic that still guides me today. As a teenager, I was required to get a job on my own, including folding clothes in my favorite boutique in Cedarhurst (Long Island). Even in college, I always had a job.
Has your entrepreneurial and leadership journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Lyss: Fortunately, there are so many examples now of strong women who have built incredible businesses or changed the world through government, philanthropy, and the arts. We call these women "entreprenistas." Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey are all inspiring business leaders. I’d love to have a private lunch with any of them.
What do you attribute your success to as a business leader?
Lyss: I would say it's because the companies and projects that I start, and the messages I'm able to impart through them to my followers, are authentic. They start at an honest place, with a desire to heal, improve, and make people feel better. If you begin with that, you will be successful.
I was able to build my platform, DivaMoms, because the audience trust me, and has kept on growing from that place of trust.
I used this to convince marketers we are a valuable, influential demographic with incredible spending power. I have a quality audience who are influenced by what I say. They approve of, suggest, and comment on my content. My followers are known to engage and also spend. Everything I do comes from an honest place.
I was able to build my platform, DivaMoms, because the audience trust me, and has kept on growing from that place of trust. - Lyss Stern
What key challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how have you navigated these?
Lyss: The challenge for anyone is to listen to yourself. Go with your gut. Always consider what other people might advise, suggest or recommend, but you are your own compass.
Of course, that's something I've had to learn, the hard way. I always felt, and still do, that I am one of the very first mom influencers. I started before anyone else and basically drew the template, but too early! Well, being first isn’t always best. Also, I've learned to be resourceful, to multi-task, and to forgive myself for mistakes. People need “room to fail.” And by that, I mean we all need space to find our legs.
At the end of the day, though, it's your name on the door, If people don’t believe in you, your values, mission and sensibilities, then don’t be afraid to make a change.
The challenge for anyone is to listen to yourself. Go with your gut. Always consider what other people might advise, suggest or recommend, but you are your own compass. - Lyss Stern
Let’s talk about your company Diva Moms. In the spirit of cause and effect, why did you launch Diva Moms in 2003?
Lyss: I had just had my first son, Jackson, but didn’t want to lose myself just because I’m now a mom. I wanted to continue to be fabulous. I wanted to wear stilletos. I wanted to have fun with my friends and have fun with my husband. Back then, there wasn’t anything speaking to moms who felt like that. I put my thinking cap on and said, “I’m going to go for this.” Sippy cups and high heels can go hand-in-hand. High chairs and high heels are not mutually exclusive.
You don't have to have one and not the other. Those first few months are daunting, and it’s very important to keep those parts of yourself and make new friends who are going through the same experience. At first everyone laughed at me. My friends had a big intervention. My husband was concerned because I never took a business class. I majored in Communications at Syracuse! There’s no way I could start a business because I didn’t know anything about it. But I said to myself, “The worst thing that will happen is that I will fail.” That's the worst-case scenario. Alright, so I fail, and the best-case scenario is that I will succeed. But I need to try this. My company grew from a blog into an actual business. It wasn’t just me taking ridiculous photos of myself because people were paying me. Companies, brands, stores got wind of me because the audience grew organically, mom-to-mom. I never advertised, and I won’t to this day. I truly believe in building the mom community through the word of mom.
Marketers and publicists started asking “Who is this Lyss? Who are these Diva Moms? We need them! We need this audience!” That’s how it started.
I truly believe in building the mom community through the word of mom. - Lyss Stern
How would you describe the value proposition and target market of Diva Moms?
Lyss: The mom market as a whole is a huge, untapped audience, recently valued at $1.3 trillion. Diva Moms is very niche audience of these women who listen and who have spending power. They hear what I have to say because they trust me. These are direct eyeballs who are a target audience for many brands. A company can spend $100,000 on an advertising page in some magazine, and they will not get a return on investment. With Diva Moms, you get that. From an early age, I was a trend-setter. I had a good sense of what the next “thing” would be, and I still do. But now, I use it for this unique audience of moms like me who are raising kids but don’t want to give up on their own needs and wants. I have my pulse on what’s out there because I am out there.
Every day I’m running around with three kids, and I observe and take moments in. I’m also an avid reader of newspapers, magazines and books. I know instantly if it’s something my mom audience would be interested in knowing about.
People need “room to fail.” And by that, I mean we all need space to find our legs. - Lyss Stern
Do you have any new books or events in the works and what are they?
I am developing some film TV projects that will empower women. So, stay tuned and I’m writing a memoir of my long hauler Covid battle. Our upcoming #mto (mom time out retreat) is scheduled for May 20th at Tyler Hill Camp and is going to be just what every mom needs right now!
Before concluding this interview, what advice do you have for mothers trying to balance family commitment with their entrepreneurial ambitions?
It's often asked "can mom's have it all?" Everyone's definition is different. To me having it all is having your health. I lost my father almost 10 years ago; he was my whole childhood. So, having it all to me means having a healthy family, a happy family and I love what I do. To me, that’s having it all and being surrounded by loved ones. But in a practical sense, no: I don’t think you can have it all. When I started out, I thought it was possible. But when you try, you’re depleted. Balancing kids, a husband, home is enough. Throw in a career or starting a business? It’s a lot. Moms need help and you’re allowed to ask for help. And that’s what I try to instil in Diva Moms.
life isn’t perfect and you’re not a bad person or mom for admitting it.
Just know there is help, we have a thriving community of people who are experiencing what you are.
life isn’t perfect and you’re not a bad person or mom for admitting it. - Lyss Stern
This article was originally published in Issue 11 of The Business Anecdote Magazine.
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