Sharon Blumberg isn’t a typical do-it-yourselfer. Nor is she a dilettante or pseudo-artiste with an affinity for Pinterest. Creativity is her way of life. In fact, she exudes it. Not only has Sharon put her creative bent to good use at home (she has three seriously creative kids), but she’s also found a way to funnel her imaginative juices into a viable source of income with CHOOZE, the brand she launched in 2011. “I need an outlet for the never-ending ideas in my brain,” she says. “This was the perfect thing for me to do.”
The lifestyle brand started with a line of shoes inspired by the youngest Blumberg’s proclivity to mix and match footwear. When 6-year-old Ayla was younger, strangers frequently asked about her unusual style. Sharon says her daughter would confidently respond, “I just like it!”
A longtime proponent of fostering creativity in children, Sharon’s wheels began to turn. She realized her daughter probably wasn’t an anomaly and started experimenting by doodling on plain white tennis shoes. She used complementary colors but made sure the right and the left shoe were never quite the same (think: butterflies and peace signs or flowers and polka dots). Sharon’s test market, her children and their friends, raved about the shoes, and within nine months, the CHOOZE line was being debuted at a Las Vegas shoe show. Today, CHOOZE is available in seven countries and has grown to include women’s shoes, a baby line and, most recently, backpacks.
Sharon is thrilled but humble about the growth; she seems almost awestruck by her own success. She recalls the surprise she felt when she first saw a pair of CHOOZE shoes on an unfamiliar child at NorthPark Center. The child’s parent had seen a write-up on the brand in an issue of DallasChild and went out of her way to find a pair. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s so cool. Where did you get those?’” she says.
CHOOZE may be Sharon’s brainchild, but it’s truly a family venture. Sharon’s husband Marc is CEO of CHOOZE, and the Blumberg children regularly contribute their own design ideas. Sharon trusts their opinions and uses her kids as a sounding board for new products. Coming up with designs for shoes isn’t much of a stretch for the Blumberg children, whose artistic pursuits are encouraged at every turn. Sam, Ari and Ayla enjoy a playroom full of art supplies and inspiration for projects galore. “I think all kids are born creative,” Sharon says. “It’s our responsibility to feed that and give them the tools they need.”
Sharon recognized her own knack for creativity at an early age. In high school, she spent hours creating splatter paint pieces, leaving everything in her wake coated in color. She went on to study interior design in college, but after graduating Sharon opted to start a business painting murals for baby rooms and selling hand-painted furniture for children. Long before she became a parent or CHOOZE was even a blip on her radar, Sharon felt a calling to spark children’s creativity. She says this – at its core – is what CHOOZE is all about: inspiring kids to express their creativity and individuality. As a Good Returns company, CHOOZE also makes a difference. At the end of each year, CHOOZE invests its profits in anti-poverty programs across the globe. Sharon says her goal in creating the company wasn’t just to make a buck but to do something that would give back. This, she says, is what keeps her going each day. “Knowing that what we’re doing has an impact motivates me at work,” she says. “And knowing that what I’m trying to do with my children in helping them be healthy, well-rounded people motivates me as a mom.”
Though it isn’t always easy when you’re piloting the growth of a rapidly expanding company, Sharon does her best to be an involved parent. She makes it a point to leave work behind each day when it’s time to pick up her children from school. Sharon admits it’s not always easy to put down the cell phone down and ignore the chime of an incoming email, and at times she feels overwhelmed. She’s careful to point out that her home is like many others: imperfect, sometimes messy and occasionally brimming with sibling squabbles. But Sharon says there’s lots of laughter too. “We have our struggles as parents,” she says. “It’s life. It’s normal. It’s just a matter of how we teach our kids to react to the stresses that go on. It’s a constant learning process.”
When the stresses stack up, Sharon escapes to yoga, which she refers to as her “savior.” A longtime practitioner, Sharon says yoga has taught her strength, balance and flexibility on and off the mat, skills she applies daily in every arena of her life. “I’m a mom,” she says. “I have three kids. I’m running a business. I have days where I end up in tears because it gets overwhelming. That’s normal. As long as I know my purpose – at home and with the business – it keeps me in check.”
The phrase “fostering creativity and confidence in children” is heard on repeat around Sharon, but it’s never spoken casually. It’s Sharon’s life motto. “If we can foster those two things in our children, then we really believe they can do anything,” she says. “They can conquer the world.”
Published September 2013