When Stephanie Johnson isn’t talking shop with fellow mompreneur Bethenny Frankel (of Real Housewives fame), traveling nationwide to give inspirational talks and catering to celebrity clientele, you can find her cruising the aisles of her neighborhood CVS, a haunt she fondly refers to as her “happy place.” Much to the amusement of family and friends, Stephanie sometimes spends up to an hour a day in the store: munching on candy, flipping through magazines and chatting up photo technicians and checkout clerks, whom she calls friends.
It’s not that Stephanie has time to kill. On the contrary, she keeps a jam-packed schedule overseeing the growth of her multimillion-dollar company, Bed Rest Concierge. She travels frequently for appearances and speeches and is just putting the finishing touches on her soon-to-be-released self-help book: Life, Business and the Pursuit of Having it All! As if that weren’t enough, Stephanie checks off much of her to-do list dressed to the nines, with her rambunctious 2-year-old daughter Harlow perched on her hip. (Case in point: The master multitasker didn’t miss a beat when she briefly excused herself from our chat to change a dirty diaper … in seriously lofty Louboutins.)
A trip to CVS doesn’t exactly say R&R to the vast majority of us, but for Stephanie the neighborhood pharmacy serves as a retreat from the hectic day-to-day. It all started when Stephanie was prescribed 26 weeks of bed rest during her pregnancy with Harlow. Day in and day out, a glowing red CVS sign taunted her through the hospital window, reminding her of all the places she couldn’t go and all the things she couldn’t do. Stephanie began to pass the time daydreaming about a great escape. She could just see it: She’d cross the street and walk up to the automatic doors, which would slide open in greeting. Then she’d while away the afternoon, ravaging the candy and magazine aisles, soaking up her newfound freedom.
Ultimately, Stephanie’s more sensible side squelched the jailbreak fantasies. Knowing that her baby’s health was at risk, the mom-to-be decided to stay put and, after resigning herself to the 26-week sentence, began to turn her attention to a new obsession. Stephanie learned that 20 percent of women are prescribed bed rest each year. She empathized with them, imagining that they felt as helpless and isolated as she did. “I wanted to feel pampered,” she says. “I wanted to feel pretty. I wanted to feel like my former self but pregnant … and I couldn’t.”
Stephanie became consumed with finding a way to help women like her. The idea nagged at her, and before she knew it, she was drawing logos on napkins and setting up a website. Unlike many of us who dream up would-be million-dollar ideas but lack the wherewithal and drive to see them to fruition, Stephanie made things happen. She took out a $4,000 loan from her husband and got to work.
On March 28, 2011, Stephanie became a mom, and less than three months later, she became a business owner. “If you’ve got a million-dollar idea but you aren’t bringing it to the public, what good is your million-dollar idea?” she asks. “It’s nothing. I knew that I could create a business. I knew that I had enough guts. I had enough business sense, and I had enough connections to get started. I would work out the rest.”
Stephanie’s instinct was on point. Today, Bed Rest Concierge is valued at $3.8 million and was recently nominated one of “America’s Most Promising Companies” by Forbes magazine. Touting itself as “the premier maternity concierge service for women and their families,” Bed Rest Concierge provides a gamut of services for new and expecting moms and their families. Whether you need a mani/pedi on the fly, a full nursery design or just someone to talk to, Stephanie and her team have you covered.
In addition to helping moms-to-be, Stephanie hoped to use Bed Rest Concierge to open the door for other women with entrepreneurial aspirations. To make this possible, Stephanie is now offering franchising opportunities nationwide. Loosening her grip wasn’t easy for the self-proclaimed “Type A control freak,” but it was a move she hoped to make from day one. “I wanted to develop women entrepreneurs,” she says. “I’m giving other women a chance to achieve their dream, to have control over their future and to create a lasting legacy for their children.”
Stephanie has laser-beam focus when it comes to business, but she’s not all work and no play. When she’s not traveling or traipsing through CVS, you might find her playing princesses or having a PJ party with Harlow. She says this “new normal” stands in stark contrast to her 20s and early 30s, which she likens to something straight out of Sex and the City. Using her finance degree, Stephanie spent 15 years working in corporate America for massive companies such as Dr Pepper and American Airlines Center. Satisfied in her career and enjoying an active social life, she was in no hurry to settle down. In fact, she balked at the idea. But in her mid-thirties, Stephanie says she began to feel her “clock ticking,” and suddenly, marriage and a baby carriage didn’t sound so bad. As if on cue, her husband Greg entered the picture, making Stephanie a wife, a mother and a suburbanite all within two years.
Motherhood has changed her for the better by teaching her to stop and smell the roses, she says. That doesn’t mean she’s not busier than ever; just listening to her describe a typical day is exhausting. But when asked how she does it all, Stephanie’s response is encouraging: She doesn’t. She makes no qualms about employing a small household staff to help run the machine that is her life. She offers no apologies and says she wishes other moms wouldn’t either. Stephanie feels like she has it all, because she doesn’t try to do it all. If skimping on a few loads of laundry means spending more quality time with Harlow, Stephanie says that’s fine by her.
Help from others also leaves Stephanie free to oversee the growth of the empire she’s working to build (she aspires to something á la Bethenny Frankel’s Skinny Girl) and indulge her other passions such as dance and children’s rights. She lends her support to various philanthropic causes with an emphasis on helping women and children worldwide. Stephanie says that’s what Bed Rest Concierge is all about: helping other women. “I knew that it was going to benefit other women, and that was what was really important,” she says. “I just tried to fulfill a need. I really wanted to make a difference.”
Published October 2013