Woman in Business Interview with Kelly Douglas, CEO of Itzy Ritzy in Naperville, IL
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally.
My name is Kelly Meyer Douglas and prior to founding Itzy Ritzy, I lived in New York City where I wrote a screenplay and worked on the feature films Margot at the Wedding starring Nicole Kidman and Funny Games starring Naomi Watts.
I began my career as a strategy and technology consultant with Accenture in Chicago and New York City. At the age of 25, I served as the youngest Executive Director at Sunrise Assisted Living of Lincoln Park and Naperville and was a top 10 female finalist for season two of The Apprentice. I received my BS in Economics, Cum Laude, from Vanderbilt University in 1998.
I reside in Naperville, Illinois with my husband and two young daughters.
What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place?
I love business and my children, so I choose Itzy Ritzy to create chic products that help busy parents (like me!). Also, I love the flexibity that owning your own business allows. I am my own boss which allows me flexibility – for instance, I have the total freedom without having to “ask permission from my boss” to leave work in the middle of the day to attend my daughters princess camp performance. The major challenge, however, is allowing myself to have down time to just relax and not feel like I should be working on the business 24/7.
Tell us about the organizations your company supports and why?
We support a variety of charities particularly in the mid-west where the effects of the economy of felt most. And we also work with local colleges to provide internships to entrepreneurial students.
What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
I have made my career out of calculated risks such as starting Itzy Ritzy. The biggest obstacle for me was giving up a significant and dependable income to risk it all on an entreprenurial venture. Taking the leap was easier due to the unconditional love and support of friends and family.
From where do you draw inspiration?
I am constantly inspired by my husband Brian. He is my source of strength, encouragement and a constant role model.
How is the current economic situation affecting your company/organization?
Despite the economic down turn, Itzy Ritzy experiences a 35% growth rate, continues to penetrate international markets, manufactures products internationally and at two Chicago factories, and continues to introduces new innovative products. My work with Itzy Ritzy has generated national and local media attention including “The Big Idea” with Donny Deutsch.
What one thing would you like to learn this year?
I would love to learn to ballroom dance and take some advanced culinary classes.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
I love the arts! Going to the theater or a live music performance is for me both entertaining and relaxing. In additon to the arts, I love “low-brow” celebrity gossip! I compare my love of celebrity gossip and trivia to men’s knowledge of useless baseball trivia. I know it’s trivial and unimportant, but it is also fun and a great break from stress.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I’d like to share some “advice” to other women (and men) looking to make the leap into entreprenurship:
-Stop making yourself feel guilty. A happy mom is a good mom.
This means different things for different women: Working full time, working part time, or being a full time stay at home mom. Don’t compare yourself to your friends and neighbors; instead, do what is best for you and your family.
-One of my friends once told me that it is harder for the kids to have you at home working yet not there for them. It’s confusing for them, as they see you and want to have your full attention, yet you are distracted by the computer and the calls. So, if possible, I advise getting out of the house on your own for some time each week to work. There are many ways to do this: while the kids are at school or at an activity bring your lap top and sit at a local coffee shop, or hire a part-time sitter for a few hours each week or as necessary a full time sitter if it works with your budget and ideology.
-Network, network, network! There are so many great women out there doing this too.
-Start a focus group. I started an Itzy Ritzy focus group with my other mom friends –they are my demographic and since they had careers prior to having children, they love contributing in a business like setting (business-like, yet while sipping on wine).
-Go for it!
Which, if any social networking sites do you belong to?
For more information visit www.itzyritzy.com