Published in the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) on September 27, 1999

Internet business takes off

By Francine Brevetti
Business Writer

WALNUT CREEK – A DIMPLE-KNEED 3-year-old stands on a chair in her living room and trumpets through a rolled-up sheet of purple construction paper. In the next room, 5-year-old Charlotte, who adores rainbows, displays her latest crayon masterpiece to her mother, who is feverishly working at her computer.

Mother, meanwhile, is breastfeeding her 6-week-old son as she designs, updates and edits the next issues of three parenting Web sites.

Nancy Price of Walnut Creek doesn’t juggle all this alone. She has a partner — Betsy Gartrell-Judd, of Chillicothe, Ohio. The two mothers met on the Internet and collaborate daily.

But they have yet to meet face to face. They don’t need to.

The Internet has created a new flexibility in the workplace, and these two women are using it to build a profitable business without sacrificing motherhood. Both motherhood and her online publishing activities are full-time jobs, Price says. “Constantly pulled in different ways,” she complained that she’s not very good at balancing all her responsibilities, but she’s grateful to be trying.

“I feel very lucky to have this chance to combine work and motherhood. So few people get this chance. I wouldn’t have had three kids if I’d had to put them in day care. The Internet opens more avenues for working at home,” said the 30-year-old mom, who hasn’t slept through the night in four years.

Price and Gartrell-Judd met on the Internet two years ago, both subscribers to an e-mail list that is distributed among new mothers. When they realized they had both borne girls on the same day, they got to know each other and concluded they had the same interests: on-line support for mothers.

This led to their collaboration in creating Myria.com, a Web site that offers entertainment and support to women.

It debuted a year ago. In April they launched ePregnancy.com, which in two months doubled Myria.com’s 35,000 monthly visitors. Most recently they added the portal SheKnows.com, which offers links to a variety of material on motherhood and parenting.

Redbook magazine, Yahoo and Netscape have all cited Myria for its editorial content.

“We’re successful because we’re of the same demographic as our audience. We’re not a big corporation seeking to make money,” Gartrell-Judd said.

But they do hope to make more money. Their goal is to hire writers, create more interactive content and pay themselves salaries. That day is still a ways off, though they began operating in the black in August. The two partners in Myria Media, Inc. will launch yet another site in October: InteractiveParent.com to appeal to mothers and fathers, and address issues of childhood up to age 18.

Those sites will keep them busy for now.

“No new sites for a while,” Price said. “We can edit, but we need someone for paste-ups and administration. Luckily, we’re getting to the point we can afford to hire someone to do this.”

There’s plenty to do. Both Myria and ePregnancy provide chat rooms, seven new original articles each week and shopping affiliations. Regular visitors receive weekly newsletters on the latest editorial content.

Price and Gartrell-Judd share the workload, one tending more to author contact and the other more to editing. But they alternate loads when their personal situations, pregnancy for instance, demand it.

They generally keep in touch through an online service that allows them to communicate in real time. But often enough the phone is used during the day. The two know the details of each other’s daily lives and families.

Gartrell-Judd works a fulltime job from home, but she can handle the extra load of her partnership with Price thanks to her mother-in-law who comes and babysits every day.

While Price’s children have their needs for direction and occasionally a refereeing of disputes, she feels they make her work easier because they are capable of entertaining themselves.

She limits the amount of television and videos they can watch. But the girls can play computer games on their father Steve’s computer. They also have a playground and an inflatable pool that Price can see from her office window.

Some days are stressful.

“Some days I’m yelling, especially when I’m on deadline with a new project,” Price said.

A typical day involves lots of juggling.

“I work while they eat breakfast. Later in the morning, we do something together. We have lunch, they nap and I do more work. Flexibility is important. I’m not very good with routine.”

When her husband comes home from his job as a supervisor for a construction company, he takes over for a spell and she repairs to her computer.

At night when they watch television, she dashes into her office during commercial breaks. She intends to resume working until 11 p.m. or midnight when she fully recovers from Kieran’s birth.

Her husband Steve wishes he had more time with her. “A couple times a week, we have some quiet time together. When the kids are asleep. If she doesn’t have a deadline.”

But generally he’s enthusiastic in supporting her.

“I see how hard she works and know she’s doing it to help us and other people. She’s also been very supportive of me,” he said.

“This is really the perfect medium for me,” Price says of the Internet.

Her Walnut Creek workroom is crammed with books on the craft of screenplay writing along with those on motherhood. There’s a screenplay in her head. In a few years, when the kids are in school, she’s going to write it, she said.

Right now, though, Price said, there’s not “the place, the time or the quiet.”
 

Appeared in: Alameda Times-Star (Alameda, CA), The Argus (Fremont, CA), The Daily Review (Hayward, CA), The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA), San Mateo County Times (San Mateo, CA), Tri-Valley Herald (Pleasanton, CA)