Colleen Mook is, without question, the single most inspiring person I have met since starting my journey as a blogger. You know those people who accomplish so much that you wonder if they somehow have more hours in their day than you? Colleen is one of those people. She does not just overcome obstacles. She conquers them with a smile. Colleen is as ambitious and organized as she is warm and kind. Her company, Baby Be Hip, and its products have been featured in national parenting magazines and on Good Morning America. Colleen has appeared in various television, print and online media, including The TODAY Show, for her accomplishments in building a successful brand while raising a big family with challenges of its own. Here is Colleen’s story over overcoming obstacles and creating success:
I wouldn’t say I had an “a-ha moment” as much as an “a-ha few years”. My enlightenment came through a personal journey I began about seven years ago. It started with a wake-up call to accept the things in my life that I cannot control. It ended—or it continued, I should say, since I’m still learning—with the realization that I can create the outcomes I want in my life by creating an opportunity-rich environment and taking action.
Let’s start at the beginning. Seven years ago, I had the world right where I wanted it. I had two children—a four-year-old daughter, Molly and a two-year-old son, Gavin—and another girl on the way. I had left my corporate job four years earlier and started my own business. I had a happy marriage and a happy social life and not a complaint in the world. Even when some of the pre-natal tests raised some questions about the baby, they were dismissed and we had the all clear.
Then it all changed right before our eyes. Shortly after the birth of the baby—a beautiful little girl we named Ellie—the doctors whisked her away. This was not unusual for us, as our first two were delivered by emergency c-section and our son had required some extra attention in the NICU. What was unusual was some of the chatter related to our Ellie and some abnormalities the doctors were observing…ear pits, cardiac abnormalities, enlarged ventricles of the brain. After genetic tests were performed we learned that our Ellie had an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality so rare that she is the only known living case in the world. This meant a totally uncertain future, starting off with heart surgery and several hip surgeries and lots of minor ones too. Today, seven years later, she cannot walk unassisted, remains in diapers and has yet to speak. Our “perfect” life, derailed.
After a few hours of tears, my journey began. I realized that this was my new life, and that there wasn’t anything I could do to avoid it. My husband, Brad, and I decided to embrace our circumstances, to share them with others, and to find the positive in our new path. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset,” the saying in our house goes. And by accepting Ellie with love as our third perfect child, we turned a negative into a positive. Ellie’s condition was out of my control, but it was okay. We were going to be fine. This moment of acceptance—moment of peace—was the first step toward retaking control of my life.
Fast forward a few years. We again have the world right where we want it. Three healthy children, though each challenging in their own way. Ellie continues to require significant attention and resources, but it is our “new normal”. And we decide to resume pursuit of our lives’ dreams. Brad and I decided to have another child, and shared the news of my pregnancy with family on Thanksgiving, which also happened to be Ellie’s fourth birthday back in 2009. Yes, it certainly surprised many concerning our daily challenges but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for me and my family.
After the birth of our fourth child, Delaney —a perfectly healthy girl—I decided to redouble my efforts on my business, Baby Be Hip. I entered a business competition, and won. I established great networks and contacts and, having learned the importance of community after Ellie was born, joined a community of awesomely supportive women entrepreneurs. I found my way onto the Today Show, and saw my products on Good Morning America. Every day I set new goals and stretch to reach them, and I am more knowledgeable and confident than ever before (and my business continues to reach new heights).
It was only after I was able to come to peace with the cards I was dealt, and then take that determined step forward, that I was able to fully put my life back on track. It was tough to see in the moment, but it is really all about accepting the things I can’t change and doing something about the things I can change. You have to cross that bridge to get where you’re going. And it was in crossing that bridge that I think I found my marbles.
Colleen Mook is the founder and CEO of Baby Be Hip (www.BabyBeHip.com), a web-based retailer of personalized baby gifts. Colleen launched Baby Be Hip in 2002 after leaving her corporate career to raise a family. She is a member of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence and is a winner of the Make Mine a Million Dollar Business award and the Lifetime Moms Spark & Hustle award. She has taken an active leadership role in her community, including speaking on her experiences with the special needs of her daughter Ellie and educating children about differences, respect and tolerance. Colleen is also a co-founder of Sunshine Hope (www.sunshinehope.com), an enterprise focused on empowering kids to overcome challenges and become happy, fulfilled adults. Colleen is wife to Brad (her better half) and proud mom of four amazing children.