While running a packaging shop and now an ice cream store, Enterprising Boss Mom on the Street Caroline West thrives as a small business owner and a Mom. She lives the truth that treating people well matters most and ice cream helps everything.
My family and I reside in upper James City County/Williamsburg where my husband, John, and I both grew up. We have three beautiful girls, Wren, 7, Lawson, 3, and Chandler who is almost 2. John owns ATCO Fasteners in Toano and I own The Parcel Stop, an authorized shipping outlet in Monticello Marketplace. We recently purchased Bruster’s Ice Cream in Williamsburg Crossing Shopping Center. We are enjoying working and raising our family in the community we love.
Describe your most recent business adventure and the process that brought you there. I was working at The Parcel Stop when one of my customers mentioned he and his wife owned the Bruster’s Ice Cream in town for the past 18 years. He said that they were ready to retire. I told him my dad once dressed up in my mom’s bathrobe on Bruster’s PJ day to get a discount on ice cream. That day I said I might be interested in purchasing the business. A month later I was driving to Pittsburgh to start my training at Bruster’s University.
Who encouraged you as a business owner? My dad has been the one who encouraged me to own my own businesses. His father...my Papaw...and his grandad were both entrepreneurs. My great grandfather started a family lumber business in 1937 and that company is still up and running with my uncle, aunt, and cousins. My dad has an amazing eye for looking at a business and being able to see if it has potential. I grew up watching my father investing in and buying small businesses. My dad has a gift of making people feel special and loved. I like to think that I have the entrepreneurial spirit of my father, Papaw, and grandad.
What challenges you about your work? Eating too much ice cream and trying to keep everything balanced.
What do you enjoy most about each of your businesses? I love The Parcel Stop because I love my customers and I especially love my staff. Thomas and Sheila have been with me at the store for 3+ years and I am so grateful for them. I love Bruster’s because people come happy. They are celebrating something special or taking the family out for a treat. I love seeing my customer’s happy.
What's your favorite part of your work to DO? My favorite part of work is building relationships with customers and employees. I love hearing people’s stories about what they like and don’t like. I like hearing about their interests and hobbies. And I love finding similarities with people from all walks of life, young or old.
What does a good day at work feel like? Happy customers, happy employees, good music, and lots of ice cream.
How do you navigate work and family life? This is a continual balance for me. Some days I feel like I’m crushing it while other days I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. It varies every day. I try to make a conscious effect to be in the moment/now when I am with my kids and husband and to leave work at work.
Has the pandemic affected your perspective on work and family? When the pandemic began in March, I returned to work at my store, The Parcel Stop. Most of the customers I encountered were courteous and practicing social distancing. I also found that people were so grateful that we were open. Some would even bring us coffee and goodies to thank us for being available! The kindness I have seen through most people during this pandemic has been beautiful. Our neighborhood came together and set up a pantry box with groceries and supplies. Neighbors put teddy bears in their windows so kids could go on car rides to get out of the house for a bear hunt. I loved seeing people and communities come together to help one another in uncertain times.
Where do you hope to be as a business owner in ten years? I hope to have successfully grown my businesses. Also, I hope to leave the people I have encountered with positive memories when my name is mentioned. I really hope I am NOT on that TV show “My 600 Pound Life” after 10 years in the ice cream business!
What are you hopeful that your girls learn from watching you? I hope my girls learn to love Jesus. I hope they learn that they can do anything if they work hard. Also, I hope they learn to treat everyone with kindness and respect.
What advice would you give other moms making decisions about work and parenting and school for kids right now? You must do what makes you happy. If you are happy staying home, then find a way to stay home. If you thrive working, then do that. All our kids want are happy parents. And ice cream! I try to be thankful for the most basic, simple things in my life. Healthy children, healthy husband, healthy family, and friends. When I get stressed about what’s going to happen with this pandemic or when will everything be back to normal or will my businesses be ok I try to turn my focus back to the basics. My children are alive, my husband is alive. Tomorrow is not promised so I focus on what I have at this moment.
What's your best way to REST and unwind? Some days I rest by having a lazy day with my family. Other days I exercise or run to clear my head. Some days we relax with friends and family in our backyard and grill out. Other days I run as far away from my kids, my husband, and my house to a girlfriend’s house. We order Chinese food, drink wine, and wear our pajamas. My rest days look different depending on what I need a break from.
We love how Caroline lives out her values in both her home and her businesses. Her three girls are fortunate to grow up watching an Enterprising Boss Mom take on new adventures and actively care for customers and employees. Be sure to stop by Bruster's or the Parcel Stop in Williamsburg, VA to see her in action! And for more moms in action, check Family App's Mom on the Street.