Houston’s Top Mompreneurs

Honoring Houston moms who are also small business owners and who embody the best traits associated with both motherhood and entrepreneurialism.

by Sara G. Stephens

You nominated them. And we’re honoring them. These Houston moms cultivate their personal passions as thriving entrepreneurs, while nurturing their families with motherly love. They excel at both endeavors with bright determination, studied wisdom, and an extra helping of heart. Meet your favorite Houston mompreneurs!

rakedaRakeda Rianna Sharber

Kids: Nessaja (12), Jaden (9), Nikko (6), Zion (4)
Business: Papillon, a creative photography boutique
Family pastimes: Rollerskating and going to the movies
Fave Houston family hangout: The Aquarium
Why she loves her work: I love the connections I make with my clients. Being able to document their major milestones and watch them grow through life gives me a beautiful, daily reminder of how precious this journey is.
Best “mom tool:” Chrysler Town & Country–the space for my 4 munchkins, DVD player and tons of storage makes getting around town a breeze.
Fave business tool: My camera (Canon 5D Mark II). 
Top parenting tip: Be intentional about creating the kind of relationship you want to have with your children. Time is fleeting. The hugs, kisses, sweet words, encouragement, and quality time you spend with your little ones now will grow into a beautiful relationship they will treasure forever.
Top small-business tip: Balance is key. There is a time for business and a time for pleasure. A time for structure and a time for creative freedom. Maintaining balance in your business will reduce the likelihood of “small business burnout.”

valerie.2Valerie Koehler​

Kids: ​ Will (27),  Steven (24)​
Business: ​ Blue Willow Bookshop, neighborhood bookshop​
Family pastimes: Catching up, playing board games.
Fave Houston family hangout: Astros games​
Why she loves her work: ​I love connecting readers to good books for all ages.​
Best “mom tool:” ​A good paper calendar ​​helped through all the years of baseball, cheerleading, etc.​
Fave business tool: ​Google Drive and Dropbox.  We have a big staff, and they don’t all work the same shifts, so we need a place to put important info that everyone can access.​
Top parenting tip: ​Don’t stress over the things you cannot change.  ​​They will get to college potty trained, I promise.  Also,  I cherished the nightly reading time with my boys, which I did throughout middle school.  It was a special time for us. 
Top small-business tip: ​ If you are considering retail, get a retail job and figure out if it’s for you.  ​​It doesn’t matter what you are selling.  It’s all the other business procedures you need to learn.  You need to see if you have what it takes to keep those doors open for business.​

susanSusan Cooke Peña

Kids: Angelina (20), Julia (18)
Business: Htown Properties, real estate; SCP Designs, art and art merchandise
Family pastimes: Going to dinner, movies at home or the theater and concerts.  We are music lovers!
Fave Houston family hangout: One of my kid’s favorite places is Barnaby’s to eat.  Once in a while we like to go to the zoo and the museums and occasionally the Alley Theater.  This city is rich in culture. 
Why she loves her work: As a real estate broker, I’ve made many friends, and I like being connected to my community.  As an artist, it’s the chance to let my creative side come through. 
Best “mom tool:” My cell phone!
Fave business tool: My cell phone and my Supra key to see property.
Top parenting tip:  Always stay connected.  You always hear you can’t be friends with your children.  I disagree.  We have always have communicated freely on any topic, and I have never felt them drift.
Top small-business tip: I look at my customers like family and protect them, and I make sure they don’t make the wrong decision.  This has resulted in many referrals and repeat business.

meenaMeena Kankani

Kids: Karuna (18), Anuj (15)
Business: SWASTH Yoga, in Katy
Family pastimes: Movies, gardening, and reading books on natural remedies
Fave Houston family hangout: Shopping malls and food places
Why she loves her work: I enjoy seeing the happy faces with their newly acquired confidence about health after the yoga sessions.
Fave “mom tool:” Recipe books
Fave business tool: PDA
Top parenting tip: Promote regular exercise for yourself and your children. It helps to manage the hormonal havoc, besides all the other benefits!
Top small-business tip: Having happy clients is the most important thing.

alisaAlisa Murray 

Kids: Victoria Ann (16), James Edward (12)
Business: Alisa Murray Photography, fine art portraits, specializing in maternity, newborn and family; Alisa Murray Weddings,  fine art weddings and boudoir; Alisa Murray Media, SEO, web sites, marketing and PR services
Family pastimes: I love hanging out with my children at the beach, by our pool and in fine dining establishments all over the country. They also love Broadway and family movie nights.
Why she loves her work: I love making art that will be with families forever. I love being trusted to be their portrait artist and capturing who they are for their legacy, fine art “wall of life” collections.
Fave “mom tool:” I couldn’t live without my husband. We’ve known each other since the first grade and have been married for 25 years. He is the balance in raising the children.
Fave business tool: My husband, Brian, who works behind the scenes, retouching and perfecting my original vision. Without him and his artistry, a Signature “Alisa” Murray portrait would not be possible. 
Top parenting tip:  Have patience. Find out what your children are really good at and interested in and be their biggest cheerleader. Point them in the right direction and teach them ethics and character. All the rest will fall into place. Oh, and each child has to be parented differently.
Business Tip: Persevere. Do not let anything stop your passion and path. Set a goal, make a plan and blaze a trail getting there, and most of all be careful what you wish for! 

lisa.mLisa Malosky

Kids: Dylan (15), Luke (13)
Business: Lisa Malosky Productions, specializing in documentary, corporate, commercial and non-profit videos
Fave Houston family hangout: Our family likes to get up and move. You might find us at Memorial Park, walking the dog or running the trail. We also love the water and the beach.
Why she loves her work:  I love being my own boss, and I love telling stories, so I have found the perfect job! My journalism career has given me the opportunity to meet amazing people from all walks of life, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Fave “mom and business tool:” My phone! I simply could not do what I do without the ability to stay in touch 24/7. I don’t answer emails or make phone calls in the middle of the night, but I often answer calls and return emails during my runs at Memorial Park. My phone allows me to operate much more efficiently.
Top parenting tip: Love your children unconditionally, but always give them boundaries. They are happier and more productive with a fair set of rules.
Top business tip: Stay engaged. If you don’t stay current, the business will pass you by. I am also obsessively prompt with emails and phone calls. Do NOT keep people waiting!

Ebony+and+SaniyaEbony L Towns

Kids: Saniya-Symone (8)
Business: Maid to Shine Services LLC, a cleaning & organizational company; Kam & Niya, a business started by my daughter and her friend to empower children; Diamond Footprints, Inc., tutoring and mentoring service
Family pastimes: My daughter and I love to watch Shark Tank together. For relaxation, we love to sit out by the pool and enjoy BBQs with our family.
Fave Houston family hangout: One of our favorite restaurants is Peli Peli located in the Vintage Park area. We also like to visit the Children’s Museum and Posh Tea Parties ( Northwest Mall).
Why she loves her work: I love knowing that my hard work will continue to grow into something bigger than I could even imagine. I love seeing the smile on a client’s face based on the results of my service.
Best “mom tool:” If my daughter tags along with me to a business meeting, I make sure all iPads, iPhones, and iPods are fully charged and loaded. A big purse holds snacks, first aid kits, etc.
Fave business tool: I need my iPhone to update my calendar and to take notes and photos of every idea I see. I use 17hats, which helps manage all of my business apps on one platform.
Top parenting tip: I include my daughter in all of my goals so she doesn’t feel left out. I also equally invest time in my daughter’s goals. Both of us have vision boards, and we check off our accomplishments.
Top small-business tip: Celebrate the small wins and celebrate your supporters. Be willing to fail fast and fail forward, so that all of your misses can be used as learning opportunities.

sharonSharon Pascual-Diaz

Kids: Tomaz Nicolai (14), Antoni Pierce Diaz (13), Javier Alejandro (10), Yanis Viktor (8)
Business: AGame Fitness, designer and custom-made competition swimwear, costumes, props & accessories.
Family pastimes: Games, outdoor recreation/sports, beach fun, swimming and playing at the playground. I desire to exemplify the old adage, “A family that prays/plays together stays together.”
Fave Houston family hangout: The Buffalo Bayou Park, especially Johnny Steele Dog Park and Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark. We look forward to investing in canoes/kayaks so we can float down the bayou.
Why she loves her work: It gives me great joy to make a suit to accentuate the finest art form (the human body) and frame the hard work that my athletes have worked so hard for.
Best “mom tool:” My phone, for scheduling, looking up answers to questions, camera, and navigation. Also, Netflix and a First Aid kit.
Fave business tool: I use the internet to monitor and research competitors, customers & suppliers. I have my own website to promote my business and an online store to sell products. I network thru social media.
Top parenting tip: Logical consequence, rather than punishment. If my son forgets to bring his project to school, and I lose half an hour because I had to bring the project to his class, I have him do 30 minutes of chores to compensate for that time I lost.
Top small-business tip: Customer service is the key. I may own my own business, but I view each client as my boss. I listen to their wants and needs and am sensitive to their expressions with how they say things, along with their body language.

shariShari Penner Riesenfeld

Kids: Brandon Boyle (25), Kirby Boyle (23)
Business: Mad Science of Houston
Family pastimes: We have always been home bodies, so hanging at home playing games, watching movies, and ordering food in is the best for us–true quality time.
Why she loves her work: There is nothing that can compare to seeing that proverbial light bulb go off over a child’s head when “he gets” what it is we are teaching, and the huge grin that always accompanies it!
Best “mom tool:” Of course, the cell phone is the first thing to come to mind, but what I feel has really set me in good stead was the ability to put things in perspective; in the grand scheme of things is it really worth “the fight.”
Fave business tool: Ears. Really listen to your clients. Make sure you really hear them, and make sure they know you do.
Top parenting tip: Remember that, “This too shall pass!” Everything is a phase, although some aren’t as pleasant or fun as others, and some last longer than others. But it shall pass.
Top small-business tip: Own up to whatever it is you did, regardless if it’s good, bad, or ugly, and then do right by the person, customer or employee.

Mompreneur Musings

“The kids and I were putting up a mini Christmas tree in the boys’ room. When we lit the tree, Nikko, who was 2 at the time, sat on his bed beside me to admire his work of art. He rested his head on my arm and said sweetly, ‘Happy Holidays, Mama.’ This memory still warms my heart four years later and reminds me how special little moments with family can be.” – Rakeda Rianna Sharber, Papillon

“My kids grew up here at the shop.  When they were sick, I set up a pallet in the backroom and put on a book tape and brought in the juice.  They met so many fascinating people. They travel the world now and always bring back stories of meeting someone who has shopped in here.” – Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop

“Being a single mother for 13 years, my poor children have been dragged to showings, looking at property and seeing me solve problems all the time.  It’s been key in them determining which direction to go in their future, and it’s not real estate, but I love it!” – Susan Cooke Pena, Htown Properties and SCP Designs

“I had one client who came to me with couple of years with multiple health problems.  In spite of all her health challenges, one thing was unique that she had a very positive attitude. She was totally transformed after undergoing just one month of yoga therapy. She is very happy to be in control of her own health.” – Meena Kankani, SWASTH Yoga

“My kids have no real memory of my career as a TV sportscaster. They were only 4 and 2 years old when I left my full time on-air job. So, they know me as the mom who coached their basketball games, made every school party, and was home when they arrived after school. Now, I continue to get to as many things as possible and try to arrange my schedule to fit theirs, but they are old enough to understand why I do what I do. For that, I am grateful.” – Lisa Malosky, Lisa Malosky Productions

“It is so fun to watch my daughter grow and develop her personality and opinions. I think I learn just as much each day through her as she does from me.  I still consider myself a young adult, but of course in her eyes, I’m ancient. So every piece of advice or instruction that I give her is so ‘old school.’ Just recently she asked me if things such as cartoons, gymnastics, and radio were even invented when I was a kid.” – Ebony L Towns, Maid to Shine Services, LLC

“I go to a mega church where there are many wise and successful elders. One Sunday, my children and I were recovering from being sick and were in that sore, itchy throat, coughing stage. In observance of our misery, an elder approached me and gave me a home remedy to clear those flu, cough and cold symptoms for years, as it’s worked for her for decades. This remedy consists of habaneros, onions, ginger, garlic, horseradish, and rice vinegar. I made 3 quarts. Three of my boys and I took this remedy, and our symptoms cleared almost immediately. We have not been sick yet. One son took only a tiny sip, as his tongue felt like it was set on fire. He got sick again and will only take over- the-counter cold medicine (He was terrorized from the dramatization that occurred as his brothers and I partook in this sadistic way of healing– all videotaped).” – Sharon Pascual-Diaz, AGame Fitness

“I am now doing birthday parties for moms and dads who used to be Mad Scientist’s children. That blows me away.” – Shari Penner Riesenfeld, Mad Science of Houston


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