As a homeschool mom, I am always on the lookout for high quality children’s books to add to our growing home library. I usually look for these at pre-loved or secondhand bookstores so that I can buy more books at the same cost of buying one brand new book (I once was able to buy 12 books for P700 — not bad, right?)
Imagine my delight then, when a fellow homeschool mom decided to set up an online bookshop, The Learning Basket, with her friend (who is also a homeschooling preschool mom). She did this mainly because she had been receiving a lot of positive feedback and inquiries from parents who came across her blog.
How The Learning Basket began
The Learning Basket only started serving children and their families in early 2012. It is mainly a curator-seller of pre-loved children’s books and advocates the love of reading and homeschooling in the preschool years. It does not have a physical storefront yet, but its online site has already been receiving numerous orders from parents (a lot of their books have actually been sold out!).
Because of my own family’s love for books, reading and homeschooling, I jumped at the chance to interview the two homeschool-moms-turned-mompreneurs behind The Learning Basket. So, without further ado, meet Mariel Uyquiengco and Rosanne Unson!
The business idea
According to Mariel and Rosanne, motherhood ignited their passion for early childhood development. This led Mariel to train as a Kindermusik educator and Rosanne to get her Diploma/Masters in Language and Literacy Education.
“We also have a lot of interests in common: reading, writing (we were in the second batch of Tweetums Gonzales’ Joy of Writing workshops), and business,” Mariel says. The two have been firm friends for 10 years.
Though newcomers in the field of education, Mariel and Rosanne have 10 years of business experience combined — Mariel ran her own Kindermusik program until she joined another Kindermusik educator, and Rosanne has been running a coffee shop for nine years.
When Mariel started blogging about their fun learning at home, Rosanne was her first ever reader and supporter. She could not wait for her little girl to turn two so she could also start their preschool homeschool. “Reading is something we both shared even before we were moms, and a love for reading is something that we both want to impart to our kids,” Mariel explains.
“We’ve read to our kids since they were in our tummies. We know how pricey new books are and how time-consuming it is to search for good children's books, and this is why we decided to be our customers’ personal book shopper and sell only quality children's books that are found in various book lists,” Rosanne adds.
Thus, The Learning Basket, as an online shop, was “born”. Just months after opening, the shop has been flooded with customers and requests from parents for more quality children’s books.
Balancing work, business, home life and homeschooling
Mariel and Rosanne are actually IT professionals. “We met each other in college as MIS majors in the Ateneo, but only became good friends on our first jobs,” they share. Currently, they are both working part-time - Mariel as a systems consultant, and Rosanne, a systems developer, with a coffee shop on the side.
Upon starting The Learning Basket, one of the first things Rosanne did, as the one in charge of inventory, was to set up an inventory and order tracking system. “This made store-keeping and inventory management a lot easier,” she says.
When it comes to priorities though, these two moms count family first and try their best to make sure their routines, even at work and with the business, revolve around spending as much time with their families as possible.
“A lot of people say time management is the key,” Rosanne says. “I completely agree. With a two-year-old and a part-time yaya, though, I always have to be flexible with my schedule. I always have to remind myself that my family and kid come first. Work and business happen in between playing, reading a book, nursing, or putting the little girl to sleep.”
As for Mariel, she says her top priority is the time she spends with her kids, aged four and one. “All my career decisions ever since I became pregnant with my first child were based on what would give me the most time with them,” she shares. “When something slides, I hope it’s not my time with them. Mornings are sacred and dedicated to our homeschool - even though sometimes we just stay in bed reading.”
Advocating reading (and involved parenting)
More than the big bucks, Mariel and Rosanne say they set up The Learning Basket because they are advocates of reading and want to encourage parents to be their children’s first and best teacher.
“To be honest, the business is not financially rewarding yet, but when we went into this, we did not really think about the money we were going to make,” Mariel says. “Whenever people send us messages thanking us about their finds in our shop, we’re happy.” According to Rosanne, “I actually feel sad every time I ship out orders. Mariel and I really want to keep the books for ourselves! Ha, ha!”
This is why both mompreneurs refer to The Learning Basket as their “fun job.” “Our business is all about the books that we love. Most are books that we have already read to our children or are planning to read to them,” Mariel says. “We don’t sell ‘fluff’ books, like those that are based on movie or TV characters. We select classic children’s books or those that really appealed to us when we read them to our kids,” Rosanne adds.
Mariel and Rosanne know that there are a lot of moms out there who have also started businesses out of their love for their children and families. They know, too, that there are many more mothers who wish to take the leap into “mompreneurhood,” so here are their tips:
1. Do lots of research.
2. Align your business with your passion(s) - it’s so much easier to go into a business that you really and absolutely love!
3. Prepare to feel guilty when you have to be away from your kids for business, but don't let your feelings stop you from pursuing your dreams.
4. No matter what, your family should come first.
You can browse through the selection of high quality children’s books available on The Learning Basket’s online shop here. To contact Mariel and Rosanne directly, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.