617.501.4008 cara@carasoulia.com
Shagun Sharma, Founder Naytra Couture

Shagun Sharma, Founder Naytra Couture

Meet Shagun Sharma. She is the Founder of Naytra Couture based in Wellesley, MA.  Naytra Couture produces hand crafted, wearable art in the form of tunics, blouses, and scarves.  

All Photography by Cara Soulia, Boston Portrait Photographer

Boston Portrait Photographer

I was introduced to Shagun early in 2020 by a mutual friend. My first ‘meeting’ with her was over the phone.  As Shagun told me the story of how her business was born, I could hear the incredible passion in her voice as she spoke about her business.  I could completely relate to that feeling of being so invested in your business and so excited about the product you are creating that you think about it around the clock – sometimes to the point of ignoring your family!  As she described the amazing process by which her garments come to life, I couldn’t wait to see them in person.  From that first call, I knew Shagun would be an excellent candidate for my “A Mother’s Work” portrait series.  Not only is her personal story fascinating, but the very long path she has been on to finally bring her idea to life is absolutely awe inspiring!  Shagun transforms beautiful artwork from remote villages in India into timeless silk garments that anyone can wear. I am so proud to highlight her story on my blog.  

A Mother’s Work:  Shagun Sharma | Founder of Naytra

Naytra Couture Website | Naytra Couture Instagram | Naytra Couture Facebook

Boston Portrait Photographer

Tell me about yourself.

I grew up in a family of four in India — it was me, my mom, my dad and my younger sister. We were a very close-knit family, but I always had an especially close relationship with my dad. I was greatly influenced by him, and I know I am where I am today only because of him.

For instance, I always thought I was going to pursue something technical after college. I had studied math during my undergrad, and thought the next logical step was getting an MBA. My dad, however, never believed in being limited to one path. When he visited the National Institute of Technology (NIFT) in Delhi, he knew I was going to fall in love before I had even seen it myself – math degree or not. And he was right.

When I was at NIFT, I was introduced to Madhubani paintings while taking a course called “The Influence of Ancient Indian Art on Textiles and Fashion.” I had never seen artwork so beautiful, breathtaking, and intricate. I fell in love instantly and knew I had to find a way to share these magnificent designs with the world.

And then life happened. I met my husband Sanjeev, we got married, and before I knew it my daughter Diva was born. Then we moved to Canada in 2001, where we had our son Neil. It was then that I got my MBA Degree in Toronto like I always thought I would, with a focus on marketing and business strategy. From there, I went on to work for companies like Hallmark, and Walmart Canada, eventually moving to TJX Companies outside of Boston. I quit my job in 2015 to spend time with my kids before they left Boston and started their own lives. Now that my son Neil has left the nest and gone to college, my husband Sanjeev, encouraged me to follow my dream. Hence the birth of Naytra.

Boston Portrait Photographer

Tell me the story of how Naytra Couture was born (what the name means, your mission, etc).

Naytra means “eyes” in both Hindi and Sanskrit. My fascination with eyes goes back to my NIFT days, when I was introduced to Madhubani paintings. Madhubani is a folk art practiced by women in rural villages in India’s Mithila and Madhubani regions. This practice goes back centuries — 2,500 years to be exact. In the olden days, the women in these villages would paint the homes and buildings in town during festivals and special occasions. They would create these breathtaking masterpieces by using dyes from plants and vegetables in their gardens and suddenly these small villages would come alive.

Aside from the intricacy of the designs and the vivid colors, I have always been fascinated and intrigued by the way the eyes are emphasized in these paintings.  All animal life is depicted with big, bold, striking eyes. These eyes always resonated with me as I believed then, as I still do now, in Shakespeare’s words, that one’s “eyes are the windows to your soul”. Our eyes are a window to our inner world —our feelings, thoughts and views of the universe.

Take me through the process of how your garments are made, from how make the design to how the fabric is created.

Our journey starts with the female artisans themselves – we work directly with female artisans in remote villages in India who create exclusive artwork for Naytra.  After I receive the artwork, I have to conceptualize how to transfer the artwork from its current 2D form into a 3D context as a tunic, top, scarf, etc.

The next step is sending the artwork to the factories. These factories produce 100% mulberry silk with the highest level of certification possible for silk – OEKO-TEX standard 100 certified. Not only is this fabric free of any harmful substances, it is also environmentally friendly. Once the designs get to the factories, the designs are printed onto this silk It’s a slow, tedious, but extremely rewarding process.

Once printed, each piece is hand cut and hand-sewn – silk is extremely delicate and must be handled with the utmost case. Finally, after undergoing a rigorous quality check process the tunic, blouse, top and scarves are brought to the marketplace.

Tell me more about the philanthropic components of your business.

My brand and business are based on three pillars that I am very passionate about – women supporting women, sustainability, and giving the gift of eyesight.

Women supporting women: Supporting female artisans and their communities.

I began by reaching out to female folk artists living in remote Indian villages. The artwork they create is absolutely mesmerizing.  I wanted to eliminate all middlemen and work with these artisans directly, make sure they were being paid a fair wage for their artwork and support them and their communities.

Sustainability: Taking care of our mother earth.

It is each of our responsibility to ensure the best future possible for our future generations. To do our part, we have adopted an absolutely no plastic policy. We use 100% pure mulberry silk – no man-made fiber at all. All the packaging material used is eco-friendly and your Naytra tunic or scarf will come in a special design cotton bag, with a recycled paper box and with hand-tags made out of recycled paper. These will be attached to the tunics with a silk or cotton ribbon.

Naytra: The gift of eyesight.

Did you know that there are 55 million people in the world who are visually impaired? These people cannot enjoy the riot of colors existing in nature, fashion, and art that you and I take for granted when we wake up every morning. While I was disheartened to learn this, a glimmer of hope stemmed from learning that 80% of these visually impaired people suffer from curable blindness.  I was inspired knowing that there was something I could do to help. I aspire to work with you to cure blindness. Every time you purchase a piece from Naytra, you are giving someone the gift of eyesight. This is our gift to the world.

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time and how do you manage it?

Well, the most challenging part about running your business is that the business becomes your baby — and in this process your other babies at home can feel neglected. The balancing act between the two is really challenging. I miss out on the little things, like being with my family and watching TV at the end of the day. I feel like I’m not present with them – even if I’m physically in the same room. Simple things like cooking for my family, which is so therapeutic for me, has taken a back seat. But I try my best to find a balance and enjoy every little bit of time that we spend together.

Boston Portrait Photographer

What is one of the best pieces of business advice that someone has given you?

I was a newly minted Assistant Production manager at the start of my career at an apparel manufacturing factory, and my manager was an old and highly experienced gentleman, who taught me invaluable lessons that I will always remember. One of these lessons was to never accept “no” as an answer. I learnt that it is very easy for people to say no when you ask them to do something.  My manager taught me to challenge that “no” — to work, to fight, and to grind until I got what I wanted. It’s always an unnerving process but it is the best advice I have ever gotten – never to accept “no”.

Naytra Couture Website | Naytra Couture Instagram | Naytra Couture Facebook

Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!


Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images in a unique and artistic way. See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session.   

A Mother’s Work: Marissa Goldstein, Founder: Rafi Nova

A Mother’s Work: Marissa Goldstein, Founder: Rafi Nova

Meet Marissa Goldstein. She is the Co-Founder of Rafi Nova, a fair trade textiles company based in Needham, MA that produces face masks, pouches and bags out of ethically sourced materials from Hmong artisans in Southeast Asia.

All Photography by Cara Soulia, Boston Family Photographer

Boston family photographer I first met Marissa when her family participated in The Front Steps Project, (a global social mission I co-founded to photograph families on their front steps in exchange for a donation to a local charity).  In exchange for her family photo, Marissa made a donation to our GoFundMe to support the community council in our town Needham, MA.  But because of Marissa’s dedication to supporting her community, Rafi Nova also made a $1000 donation to our causel!  We are so thankful for her generosity. Amazing!!

Boston family photographer

Not only is a Marissa a powerhouse business woman running a fast growing company in a constantly changing marketplace, she is a wife and amazing mama to TWO sets of twins!! To say she is juggling a lot is an understatement! If you haven’t heard of Rafi Nova before, I encourage you to check out their website and watch the video that so beautifully describes their mission of running a fair trade company and their passion for creating products for adventurous families.

The products Rafi Nova makes are beautiful and practical and their materials are ethically sourced.  Their masks are fashionable, super comfortable and are the ONLY ones my family wears! I’m so thrilled to feature Marissa in my “A Mother’s Work” portrait series and to share her inspirational story about how her company began and how it has completely transformed during the pandemic.  

Don’t miss the PROMO CODE at the end of this blog post for 15% off Rafi Nova products!

A Mother’s Work:  Marissa Goldstein | Founder of Rafi Nova

Rafi Nova WebsiteRafi Nova Instagram

Boston family photographer

Tell me the story of how Rafi Nova was born ( what the name means, your mission, etc) Rafi Nova is a social enterprise on a mission to create products that meet the ever-changing needs of families while connecting global communities. Founded as a fair-trade fashion brand to equip adventurous families with sustainably made travel bags, the company shifted focus to face masks to solve the urgent needs of families and communities. Veterans of sustainable product manufacturing, Co-Founders Marissa and Adam Goldstein named the company after their two sets of twins and travel partners: Raya, Efi, Noa, and Eyva.  

You have completely shifted your focus during the pandemic from backpacks to face masks!  How did you decide to make this shift and what has it been like to have such a significant change in your business model?

Our business model has always been centered around the idea of helping communities, so when Covid-19 hit, it became very clear to us that there were communities here in the US that we wanted to help. When our 4 year old daughter Eyva came up with the idea to start making masks, we immediately decided to put our resources towards this effort.  Of course it has been challenging having to shift our business so drastically, but we are incredibly grateful for the success the masks have had. We have added team members, moved into an office space, sold hundreds of thousands of masks, and donated an equally large number. None of this would have been possible had we not changed our focus, so even though the growth has been staggering, it is also exciting.   

Tell me more about how Rafi Nova is donating masks to front line workers during the pandemic. When we first started making masks, frontline workers urgently needed personal protective equipment, so we set up a program where we donated a mask for every purchase made. This was our first step, but we are proud to say we have worked with and donated masks to many other organizations. Since March we have donated over 40,000 masks, and made monetary donations to the NAACP, TransParent, and the ACLU.  

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family ( TWO sets of twins!!) at the same time and how do you manage it?

The biggest challenge is without a doubt time – there never seem to be enough hours in the day! It can be near impossible to feel like you are doing a good job being both a business owner and a mother, but I have learned that the best solution is to set my expectations low and not be so hard on myself.  I manage everything by planning ahead as best as possible, particularly when it comes to my children. I am grateful to have an amazing nanny who stays with the children when both my husband and I are at work, and a spouse who shares the load with me as much as possible. I always try to remind myself that I can’t do everything alone, and that it is okay to need help.  

I love that your business is a joint effort between you and your husband (and that you are high school sweethearts!!)  What is it like to work with your spouse – the good the bad the ugly 🙂

Yes, it’s true that we are high school sweethearts – we met when we were both just sixteen and have been together for almost 20 years!  Being in business with a spouse has many challenges, but it has an equally large number of rewards. Although we work together, we made sure to have defined, separate roles so that we do different things within the company. This works for us, because even though we have very different skill sets and views, we also have complete trust in one another. Something that is a challenge for us is the fact that work can easily become 100% of our time. We do our best to establish boundaries and not talk business at home, but it is definitely hard.

What is one of the best pieces of business advice that someone has given you?

I received the best piece of business advice when I was getting my MBA, and the concept is entrepreneurial thought in action. Essentially this means that you should embrace and confront uncertainty rather than avoid it. It emphasizes smart action over planning, and that you need to move quickly and be able to pivot.  This made me realize that while you could spend years planning a perfect business model, you can’t always plan for reality. It taught me to take risks that I could stomach, to be reactive, and to shift my direction if necessary.   

I know you in the past you have lived half of each year in Vietnam. What is the best (or hardest? or funniest) thing about traveling abroad with young children?

The best thing about traveling abroad with young children is being able to show them the world. We can show them people who look different from them, foods that they have never tried before, and new ways of transportation. It gave us the opportunity to come out of our comfort zone as parents, and the entire experience taught them so much more than they could have ever learned in a classroom or from a book.   The worst thing is literally just having to be on an airplane with them for 24 hours, followed closely by the 24 hours of jet lag once we arrived. But as difficult as those two days are, we always remind ourselves that it is only two days, and that they will be over soon. 

I have to ask, what was the first thing you or your husband said when you found out you were having a second set of twins?

When we originally decided to have a third child, we thought that having a single would be easy and allow us to continue on with our lifestyle of travel and adventure. I found out that I was pregnant right before we left Vietnam, and immediately had a strange internal feeling about it being twins despite all the doctors telling me how uncommon it was.  When we saw the ultrasound, we knew exactly what it meant and were initially upset. Going from 2 kids to 4 is a huge jump, and we knew that having twins again would be a major challenge. But we quickly felt guilty for being upset, and began to focus on what was really important to us; having two healthy children!

Is there a promo code I can share with my audience for Rafi Nova products?  

YES! It’s CARA15 

Website |Instagram

Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!


Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images in a unique and artistic way. See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session. 

Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz | The Farmhouse & Buttercup

Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz | The Farmhouse & Buttercup

Meet Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz, the Co-Proprietress of buttercup and The Farmhouse, two farm-to-table restaurants in the western suburbs of Boston.

Photos by Cara Soulia, Boston Photographer | @carasoulia

Interview and copy by Kristen Collins | @findingforty

Boston Photographer Cara Soulia creates a portrait of Buttercup proprietress Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz

I’ve known of Dora for several years. She has a low-key and really positive reputation in the Needham (where I live with my family) as a business owner who isn’t just in town to run her restaurant, The Farmhouse, but also to participate and give back to the community.

Like every entrepreneur in my A Mother’s Work series, Dora is much more than just a restaurant owner. She’s a partner, spouse, mother, daughter, sister, friend.

She’s also a Dream Chaser. 

We got together to talk about her life, family and restaurants before COVID-19 turned the world upside down. I’ve held on to this post for over two months, wondering how I could edit it to reflect the realities of today. Rather than change the content, I’ve decided to edit out the timely details that are no longer relevant, but share the post as it was written in March. 

Dora’s story represents that of every local restaurant owner around the world. She spent her entire adult life working to turn her dreams into a reality while raising two children and giving back to her community. 

Today, amidst this crisis, she is working tens times harder to stay afloat. Read on for Dora’s story, and please consider supporting her — and all local entrepreneurs — in the weeks and months ahead. 

The Farmhouse is open for PICK UP and DELIVERY from Tuesday – Saturday. They’re serving family style meals, including their fantastic tacos, as well as beer and wine.

buttercup will be opening it’s PATIO for dine in on Tuesday June 9 for dine in service. Tuesday – Saturday 4:30 – 9:00 pm.

buttercup is also offering PICK UP and DELIVERY from Tuesday – Saturday. They’re offering a wide menu of locally-grown items from Dora’s Sunwashed Farm in Framingham. Also, check out their plans to host an Argentinean Dinner at the farm in August.

A Mother’s Work:  Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz| Co-Proprietress of The Farmhouse and Buttercup | Photos by Boston Photographer | @carasoulia

Buttercup Website | Buttercup Instagram

Farmhouse Website | Farmhouse Instagram

I’ll never forget the time a few years ago when I first saw Dora. I was having lunch with a friend and noticed a woman bouncing from the kitchen, to the bar, then to the customers at The Farmhouse. Later that day I spotted her wearing mesh shorts and running along on the sidewalk in Needham’s active downtown. Turns out that after the lunch rush, she was logging some miles as she trained for the Boston Marathon. 
 
Having the chance to chat with her for A Mother’s Work was fantastic. Not surprisingly, her story has a lot more depth than I would have expected. But, isn’t that always the case with entrepreneurial women?
 
 
Tell me the story of how your business was born.
 
(She takes a deep breath, then releases).
 
It has been a lot of work, but it’s truly a culmination of a dream that Gabriel and I have had since we met in New York in our early 20s. We were both working at Beppe, one of Cesare Casella’s restaurants, and – like most young adults – trying to find a way to live on our own, pay the bills and keep our heads above water.
 
I was a server and he was a back server. We loved the atmosphere and we thrived on the adrenalin that percolates in a restaurant: the energy that comes along with creating something outstanding from basic ingredients, welcoming and interacting with guests, making it all happen in the back. Restaurants – when managed well – create family. 
 
We fell in love and created dreams together. Opening our own restaurant was on the top of the list.
 
 
Was this always the plan, to be a chef and a restauranteur? Was this your childhood dream?
 
No, like many children and teens, I had lots of dreams. The real question was where would dreams take me.
 
I grew up in Wellesley and had the theater bug. I went to Emerson for college and headed to Los Angeles afterwards to pursue my TV and film career. My interests led me to theater vs. TV/film, so I found my way to Shakespeare and Co. and then New York, where I landed at a small theater company.
 
I was working in restaurants. And my goal was really just to pay the bills. But it turned out that I loved it.
 

I’m going to assume it wasn’t that straightforward…?

Of course not (she laughs).

Gabriel and I married in 2003. We started saving money to open a restaurant in New York. Sophie arrived in 2004 and we found ourselves heading back to Gabriel’s home in Cholula, Mexico. Our “first restaurant” was actually a small business where we cooked lunches for local government businesses. We juggled it with a toddler and another one on the way. 

GianMarco was born in 2007. By then I was back in the Boston area. We worked in a lot of outstanding restaurants in Lincoln, Cambridge, Concord and Boston. I got to know a lot of the local farmers, which inspired me to start my own farm. We pulled it off by purchasing a home built in the 1800s in Framingham. We have a ton of land, so I went crazy growing my own vegetables, most of which end up on tables at our restaurants.

The Farmhouse opened in 2013, and buttercup followed five years later?

Exactly. We had a vision, long before it was trendy, to create a restaurant that was all about living off the land. I used to visit my family farm in Cornville, Maine as a kid, so I’d seen firsthand that farm-to-table was possible. 

Thanks to the strong Needham community, The Farmhouse built a steady clientele early. Gabriel and I worked 24/7 for a few years, but thanks to fantastic staff, we started to find balance between work, home, parenting and everything else.

We decided to divide and expand, opening buttercup in Natick Center almost two years ago. Today, I run buttercup while Gabriel focuses on The Farmhouse. 

What is your greatest motivation with the restaurants?

Many things. I love working. I love being at buttercup and I love the adrenalin that comes with a successful night, a great crowd, happy customers.

I’d say the staff is a huge motivator for me. Since I have been in restaurants all my adult life, I’ve seen businesses that really value their staff and I’ve seen places where they could care less. Restaurant life is hard work. Physical work. Our goal has always been to run businesses where we treat our employees with integrity. Like family. 

 
 

 

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time? 

When the kids were younger, the hardest part was running in so many directions. We were lucky to have a lot of help from my mother and brother, but we were working at top speed. We’d work opposite shifts to make sure one of us was home as much as possible. We worked really hard to be present in the moments of love with my children.
 
I have this great memory of a day when GianMarco was five years old. I had a Vespa. I figured out that I could get 16 heads of lettuce and GianMarco on the bike and get to the restaurant. I remember his little hands. Now I can’t hug him in public because, well, he is 12.
 
With Sophie, I have a beautiful memory of a day with Sophie. She was so small. I was pregnant with GianMarco. We were sitting together and she was eating a peach. I could smell her and sense her peacefulness and smell the peach, too. I’m not sure why that memory is so engrained in my brain, but it’s there. My connections with my children are very strong, even if our lives are busy.
 
 
 
Your kids are teenagers. What’s it like now? Do they come to the restaurants?
 

Things are different now. The restaurants can run themselves if we need to be home, though we both love to be at work. It fuels us and that’s important to us as people.

Our kids are older and really independent, too. Sophie has been running her day-to-day for a long time. Even several years back she was getting herself off to school on her own: making her lunch, getting dressed, getting on bus. I give my kids lots of credit. They make it happen. 

Sometimes the kids help at the restaurant in the evenings. They do everything! Dishes, food preparation, food running, back serving. You name it. GianMarco can cook! 

Otherwise, they’re typical teenagers. Sophie is interested in psychology, art and film. GianMarco is into sports and student council. I feel lucky. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point. In many ways, it’s been for them, but it’s for us, too, and the people we meet along the way.

Website |Instagram

Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series and see more images by Boston Photographer Cara Soulia here.


Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images of families in a unique and artistic way.  See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session with a Boston Photographer for your family. 

A Mother’s Work:  Stacy Madison | Founder, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Stacy’s Juice Bar, and BeBOLD Foods

A Mother’s Work:  Stacy Madison | Founder, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Stacy’s Juice Bar, and BeBOLD Foods

Meet Stacy Madison. She is the Co-Founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips and Stacy’s Juice Bar in Needham, Massachusetts.  Stacy is also the founder of a new venture: BeBOLD energy bars.

Photos by Boston photographer Cara Soulia.

Boston photographer Portrait of Stacy Madison

A Mother’s Work:  Stacy Madison | Founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips, Stacy’s Juice Bar and BeBold Foods

Website |Instagram

One of my very pasttimes is to listen to business podcasts while I’m editing photos. One of my very favorite podcast is How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz on NPR. I was so thrilled when I realized Guy interviewed Needham’s very own Stacy Madison last May.  I always knew the founder of Stacy’s Juice Bar was also the founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips, but I never knew all that transpired in between those two business ventures. And now she’s adding in #3: BeBold Foods.

I was so inspired by Stacy’s story: her candor about divorce, raising twin girls as a single mom, her battle with breast cancer, and the struggles of being a working mom.  I knew she was a perfect candidate for my A Mother’s Work portrait series and was thrilled that she agreed to participate.

I met up with Stacy at the juice bar in October and she was just as down to earth as I expected. Read on to learn more.

Boston-Photographer-Cara-Soulia-Stacy-Madison-Juicebar-Needham_0005

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in Upstate New York but moved to Sharon, Massachusetts when I was 13 years old. Growing up we didn’t have cell phones or the internet so we made our own fun. We played outside, rode bikes, pulled wagons with the lawnmower and played with fire in the woods. All the things you do as a kid when you don’t have a phone! I moved to Sharon in my freshman year of high school, so that was difficult. I didn’t know anybody and everyone had their friends from junior high.

Was there something that influenced your path to becoming an entrepreneur? When did that turning point happen?

I think two people influenced my path to becoming an entrepreneur. One my father who a psychologist but he always had entrepreneurial ventures on the side. I think he wanted to be an entrepreneur but he was a psychologist with a family to support so entrepreneurial ventures were too risky. Second my sister, I saw her running other businesses and starting her own so I saw firsthand that it was achievable. The turning point for me was when I was living in Hawaii and working for a startup operation. I learned how to run a business and the amount of work that went into it. Unfortunately, I was called into a meeting where I thought I was getting a promotion and I unexpectedly got fired. So at that point, I took what I learned from that company both what to do and what not to do, and began my journey.

You’re literally a brand in many homes, but you’re more than famous pita chips. You’re a mom, a friend, boss, community member. If you could give yourself an attribute as a brand, what would you want it to be? 

If I could give my brand an attribute I would want it to be inclusion, humanist, realist but ultimately BOLD. BOLD to me is something that inspires you and others to be the best versions of yourselves you can be. I teach my kids to take a second before anything they do and reflect if they are being a leader or a follower. I’ve taken that parenting motto and turned it into a brand.

What was it like raising two babies/ young children while running your business? What were the hardest things? What was the gift? 

And, what’s it like with teenagers?

Boston photographer

I would describe raising two babies while running my business as a run-away train. There is no slowing down. The hardest thing was that I had to make a lot of scarifies to have the future we have today. I missed out on the first few years of their lives but I had to do what I needed to do. On the bright side, I was able to be flexible and make my own schedule, and if I needed to I would just bring the girls to work with me. Now that they are teenagers it is much easier. I still worry but I worry about them differently. It is so rewarding to watch them grow and become women. I’ve watched them become leaders and stand up for others who may not feel like they have a voice. All the things that make you proud as a parent because you are no longer only meeting their needs but seeing them grow into the people you wanted them to become.  

How would you describe each of your children? What are some of your children’s favorite foods/juices?

I would describe one as an overachiever and the other as a free spirit. Their favorite foods are steak and pasta. They love acai bowls from the juice bar because they first had them in Brazil when they were younger and they still love them today.

Why Needham for the Juice Bar? 

I chose Needham for the Juice Bar because I live the Westwood but Needham had a better town center. With it only being 5 minutes away it’s been a great place to run my passion project.

Boston photographer captures Stacy Madison at the Juice Bar in Needham, MABoston photographer Boston Photographer Stacy's Juice Bar NeedhamBoston photographer

Do you have a favorite item at the Juice Bar?

I eat at the Juice Bar every day so I rotate what I get, but my current favorite is the toasted salmon avocado sandwich with a cashew spread. My favorite juice is the detox lemonade and my favorite smoothie is the acai bowl or grasshopper smoothie.

Community clearly matters to you — why?

The Juice Bar has made an unexpected difference in the community. Being there for people if they want to make a healthy choice has changed lives.

What is one of the best pieces of business advice (or life advice?) that someone has given you?

Listen more than you speak. I have not only used this with my kids but also with employees and people who are upset. When I listen I avoid sticking my foot in my mouth. I also like to look at each day as a new page in a book. We have the opportunity to write it ourselves and control what our future looks like.

What advice would you give someone asking: I’d love to start my own small business but don’t know where to start.

You’re lucky because you have more resources than I had back when I started my company. Immerse yourself into the industry. If it happens to be the food industry read books, attend trade shows, walk around grocery stores, start living and breathing it first. Then turn to local organizations. For food, there is a specialty food association that will have great advice for new ventures and entrepreneurs.

Is there a promotion I can share with my local audience for Stacy’s Juice Bar? Or for the BeBold Bars?

Between 2/5 – 2/14  anyone who mentions “Cara” (That’s Me!) or this blog post gets a free BeBOLD bar with a $10 purchase. 
 

Website |Instagram Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!


Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images in a unique and artistic way. See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session. 

A Mother’s Work:  Nicole Ledoux, CEO & Co-Founder | 88 Acres

A Mother’s Work: Nicole Ledoux, CEO & Co-Founder | 88 Acres

Meet Nicole Ledoux. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of 88 Acres, based out of Dorchester, Massachusetts.  

88 Acres makes craft seed bars, seed butters and seednola from simple wholesome ingredients.  Their products are free of nuts, dairy, gluten, soy, and a number of other popular allergens, which is pretty amazing for those who suffer from allergies, but the best part is that their products are absolutely delicious!!

Nicole co-founded 88 Acres with her husband Rob Dalton.  Both Rob and their son Emmett suffer from food allergies, which is why it was so important for them to create a company that makes allergen safe products.  

The story of how 88 Acres was born is amazing and I hope you will read on to learn more about this wonderful local business.  Also, don’t miss the coupon at the end of this post to take advantage of 20% off an order of 88 Acres products!

 

A Mother’s Work:  Nicole Ledoux | CEO/Co-Founder 88 Acres

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I first met Nicole about 15 years ago when we worked together at a finance company in Boston.  We were ‘cube-mates’ and sat next to each other every day, all day for years!  Needless to say, we got to know each other pretty well.  Looking back on that time, I remember how Nicole always used to be the one bringing in delicious snacks that she had whipped up in her kitchen the night before.  If only we knew then what her late night kitchen tinkering would eventually become!  I’m so thankful to have had that time with Nicole and I’m so proud of the success she and her husband Rob have achieved with 88 Acres.   

Tell me the story of how 88 acres was born.
 
The story of 88 Acres is really a love story. My now-husband and co-founder, Rob Dalton, and I met on match.com back when that was the only way to meet online. On our 4th date, we were out to dinner and he almost died when his dinner was cross-contaminated with nuts. Rob is deathly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and I don’t have any food allergies. Honestly, I didn’t want to eat crappy “allergy-friendly” food for the rest of my life (and neither did he!). I started making him snacks in our tiny basement apartment kitchen that he and I could share together and 88 Acres was born.
 
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time and how do you manage it?
There is basically no work/life balance, and I’m okay with that. I actually think that work/life balance is a mystical unicorn that doesn’t exist. We love what we do and we’re passionate about making 88 Acres successful. That’s not a 9 to 5 job. When we’re at the office, we are heads down cranking out as much work as possible before one of us has to leave to pick up our son Emmett at 5:15. Most nights he begs to go to the office before we go home. He’s obsessed with our team and loves coming to the office to help take out the trash, water the plants, and watch the commuter rail out the window. We go home, eat dinner and enjoy uninterrupted time together and don’t check cell phones or laptops until after Emmett goes to sleep. After we eat dinner, we usually do a few more hours of work before heading off to bed. It’s madness, but we make it work. I love that Emmett is exposed to our business and gets to see his mom and dad working their tails off. I hope it teaches him to work hard, take risks, and surround himself with passionate people.  
 
What’s the story behind the name?  
 
I grew up on an 88-acre farm in North Brookfield, MA, and the core tenets of the company and the brand today are an extension of that experience. 
 
What was your career before becoming CEO of 88 acres?
I spent a decade in finance before launching 88 Acres, in various trading and portfolio management roles. Before meeting Rob, I definitely never thought I would leave finance to start a food company!

When you were little, was there something specific you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was little, my family used to tell me that I would make an excellent lawyer (let’s just say that I enjoyed arguing my cause from a young age…). At one point I wanted to be the first female president. I think I just wanted to be in charge of something, which I suppose, is pretty fitting.
 
I love that your business is a joint effort between you and your husband.  Tell me more about what it’s like to work with your spouse – the good the bad the ugly 🙂
Working with your spouse is definitely not for everyone. I actually love it though. Rob and I have very different, almost opposite skill sets and personalities that really complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Starting a business is such an all-encompassing endeavor and I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than Rob. There’s no one that I trust more, and our marriage and business partnership requires that we sort out all our differences at the end of the day, so nothing from work can sit and simmer. We spend a LOT of time together though, so we try to make sure that we get some time away from each other every once in a while (doing yoga, going for a run, etc).
 
What is one of the best pieces of business advice that someone has given you?
Have a network of other entrepreneurs that you can bounce ideas off of, and vent to. It can be pretty lonely being the boss, and other founders know what that’s like. 
 
There are so many granola bars and seed butters on the market.  What sets 88 acres apart from all the rest?
Everything that we have created and launched started with tinkering in our kitchen – initially at home and eventually in our office R&D kitchen. We don’t create food in a lab based on a specific set of analytic parameters. We aim to create foods that taste amazing and meet an unmet need in a category. If it doesn’t pass the taste test with our team, family and friends, then it doesn’t make it in front of potential partners, let alone coming to market. We believe that we’re driving innovation across brand, protein sources and approachable, yet unique flavors. 
 
I’ve been eating your granola bars since the beginning, but your seed butter is new for me!  It’s delicious all by itself, but I’d love to hear your favorite way to eat 88 acres seed butter? 
This one is tough because there’s so many amazing ways to enjoy seed butter. I love to add it to my smoothies and bowls of oatmeal in the morning. I also love challenging myself to come up with interesting seed butter and jelly pairings for a killer SB&J sandwich (chocolate sunflower seed butter with jalapeno apple jelly is a current favorite). Our watermelon butter is an amazing base for salad dressings and sauces. But since we launched our seed butter in single serve squeeze pouches, you’re most likely to see me eating it straight up from the pouch. 

Is there a coupon code I can share with my audience?  

Yes, use the code SOULIAPHOTO  for 20% off the entire order, one use per customer)

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Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series here!


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