Meet Michelle Buelow, 43, the owner and founder of Bella Tunno, a fashion-forward and philanthropic baby accessories brand best known for its colorful, modern and fun designs. Michelle founded her company in 2005 during her first pregnancy and after the loss of her brother. In an effort to diminish the stigma against addiction and to fund a grant that would complete her brother’s doctorate research, she created the Matt Tunno Make A Difference Foundation as his legacy. In 2013, Bella Tunno began donating one meal to one American child for every product sold through Feeding America. They have donated just shy of 2 million meals. Michelle does this while taking care of her two girls, ages 14 and 11.
CharlotteFive: What does a typical day look like in your house?
MB: My husband is a night owl and I’m a morning person. He stays up late and gets a lot done and I get up early in the morning. Because it’s us three girls in the morning we have this mantra: “Every woman for herself!” My girls are really good at being self-sufficient. My mornings are awesome because my girls know that the responsibility of whether they have a good day or a bad day lays in how well they plan the night before and if they get up the first time that their alarm goes off. There’s music on in my house in the morning and people are dancing and happy and they’ve taken care of what they need to take care of.
C5: How do you deal with Mom guilt?
MB: Mom guilt is very real. I am a firm believer that you can have it all, I just don’t think that you can have it all at the same time. You have to take each day to figure out what you want to focus on. I travel a lot and my husband travels a lot. Sometimes those trips are international. I think that it has been really cool for my girls to see that Mom and Dad both are doing things that we believe provides significance to the world. Both of our jobs in our house are treated with an equal level of respect and importance. We’re just two people who are trying to leave their mark on the world and the roles our girls play are a big part of that.
C5: How do you manage your time between working, being a mom and taking time for yourself?
MB: The time for myself definitely fell off while the kids were younger. I think that’s something I made some mistakes in because girlfriends and self-care are pretty critical and that goes back to having it all, but not at the same time. As they have gotten older, that has become more of a priority. I have a trip planned in a couple of weeks with some of my girlfriends. I didn’t use to go to business conferences because I didn’t want to leave my girls even more than I already had to leave them to work. What I realized was that I wasn’t growing as a person or as a leader the way I wanted. I wish that I could tell you that I do yoga and I go running four times a week. That level of self-care ended the moment that I had my first child.
C5: How do you handle days that are overwhelming?
MB: At the end of the day, I’ve learned to give myself a little grace. I know that my motives are really clean and I know that it’s going to work out. And I know that if it doesn’t, then there’s a reason for that, too.
C5: Who is another working mom in Charlotte that you admire?
MB: Lisa Thompson; she owned a brand called Ivy Citizens. I love the brand and what it stands for. She makes a great product and she knows how to build a brand and do it right. I think we have a shared vision in how we want to be working women and really good examples as moms.
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Responses were lightly edited for brevity and clarity.