Stay At Home Moms that Inspire Series-Leslie Wall

Welcome back to the Stay At Home Moms that Inspire series! It has been a treat for me to share these incredible women with you. Each one inspires me in her own unique way, are you feeling the same? All articles in this series have been unaltered and unedited and will continue to be. I want you to hear these women’s voices and their words, not mine. I just ask the questions and have the privilege of introducing them..the spotlight belongs to each of them.”Well, that is definitely me!”. This is what Leslie said when I told her about this series about moms who stay at home full time while pursuing a part time time business they are passionate about. She was absolutely right! She is a stay at home mom but also a wife, a school volunteer, friend and the co-founder/president of Adventures in Engineering-a company she and her business partner Mary had the vision to create from scratch. So come meet my new friend Leslie Wall, you’ll be as glad as I am that you did.

Tell me about your business:“I am the co-founder and president of Adventures in Engineering, and not-for-profit educational organization, teaching STEM enrichment to students in grades K-12. We run summer camps, after-school enrichment programs, homeschool co-op classes, in-school electives, and more in the Tampa Bay area.”

How many children do you have and their ages?“I have two children: my son is 11 and my daughter is 8.”How long have you been a stay at home mom?“I have been a stay at home mom since my son was born 11 years ago. I had always thought that I would go back to work after I had a child, but, when my maternity leave was over, I just couldn’t go back–I felt like I was supposed to stay at home with him. Thankfully, my husband and I were in a position where I was able to do so.”The day Leslie resigned from work to stay at home(The day Leslie resigned from work to stay at home captured above 👆)

What made you decide to get started with this business and how long did you think about doing so before you did?“In some ways, I had a hard time adjusting to stay at home mom life. I was used to working and having deadlines and deliverables. For that reason, I guess there was always a little part of me that was thinking of ways to somehow both work and stay at home. I tried a few things along the way: I was on the board of the local MOMS Club, I took initial steps to start my own cookie mix company, I did paperwork for my husband’s company, and I worked with my husband to flip houses for a while.It wasn’t until 2013, though, that Adventures in Engineering was conceived. My business partner Mary had just moved to Tampa, and a friend introduced us. We quickly realized we were both engineers, had both worked in tech and process consulting, and were both currently stay-at-home moms. Mary had taught engineering to kids at a homeschool co-op in Virginia, and we started brainstorming what we could do here that was similar. I had lived here for a while and understood what parents wanted for their kids, so we decided to start with a summer camp. It was like something clicked into place for us–we got going right away and just went full speed creating the company. By spring of 2014, we were ready to advertise our first summer camp. It was great timing for me because my daughter was in preschool and my son was in elementary, so I would work from home during the day and also late at night. Afternoons and evenings were still reserved for my family.”Why are you passionate about it?“There was always a part of me that wanted to be a teacher, so I loved this opportunity to turn my engineering and tech experience into lessons geared towards kids. Once we began to teach the lessons we had created, too, it was so rewarding to see how the kids reacted to them. Seeing their eyes light up as they understood a new concept or saw something that they built in action was just amazing. I also love that my own kids are able to learn from what I have created–they have both attended our summer camps and after-school programs, so it is like I am working and being there for my own kids at the same time.”

Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow mom getting started?“If you find something you really want to do, just get started. Even if you can only commit 1 to 2 hours per day to it, every little step gets you closer to your goal. When we began, we started small- just 4 1-week summer camps in one location. It has taken us a few years to get to where we are now: summer camps every week this summer in 5 different locations, plus after-school programs, in-school electives, and home-school co-op classes that we run all year long all over the Tampa area.Also, if you want to be a stay at home mom, make sure that you take the time each day to focus on your kids. It is hard to balance everything, and it is tempting when you want to meet a deadline to let your kids stay on screens just a while longer so you can get it done. I have to remind myself that, if I wanted to work full-time, I could be doing so and making a lot more money than I am. I work part-time from home so that I can spend my time with my kids, so I have to check myself to make sure I am doing that.The last tip is don’t be afraid to find creative ways to get things done. When we began, we bootstrapped our way. We started with $0. In our first summer camp, our lessons included taking a bicycle apart to teach kids how it worked, teaching kids refrigeration by showing them the insides of a mini-fridge and a water cooler, and teaching the food science behind cooking with an Easy Bake Oven. We chose these things because the items needed had been donated to us. We found lots of creative ways to turn what we had into fun STEM lessons!”What challenges have you faced?“I personally have faced the challenge that continues to be an issue for me. When you are a stay-at-home mom, you are at home, so most of the home chores become yours. I have told my husband many times that I am a great stay-at-home mom, but I am not a great housewife. I have a very tough time staying motivated when it comes to getting repetitive, never-ending chores done like dishes, laundry, etc. It makes my mind happier to be accomplishing the tasks for Adventures in Engineering, but I have to stay disciplined and be sure that I am doing enough around the house so that we are not living in a trash heap.As a company we have faced some growth challenges. Mary and I see great things on the horizon for Adventures in Engineering. However, our growth has been slow because we are balancing running the company with running our households. In addition, we have had to learn aspects of running a business that are not our forte–doing taxes, creating and maintaining a not-for-profit, etc. If you start a business, it is just like motherhood–you need to be ready to do whatever it takes, including those parts that aren’t very fun or immediately rewarding.”

What have you learned about yourself or your business along the way?“I have learned that Mary and I can do this juggling act that is being stay at home moms while running a business. Today, for example, we had a brief conference call while she was in the car running errands and I was at the park with my kids. If you are truly committed to your business, you will not let it fail, and you will figure out how to get it all done.”

What are some benefits of what you do?“The main benefit is that I get to teach children about subjects that I was not taught until high school or even college. STEM subject matter can be taught in ways that are accessible and understood by small children, and it is so rewarding when we succeed in teaching advanced concepts to kids by breaking them down into simple, fun, hands-on lessons.”What are your goals as you continue?“This is the eternal question. How big do we strive to be? In the long term, we will package our content to sell to teachers and 3rd party vendors. In the short term, we continue to expand our reach locally, and are just beginning to test our material in out-of-state markets.”

Why part time instead of full time, why was this right for your family?“I think this answer is different for everyone. As parents, you always want to better life for your children than you had. My husband and I both came from homes where our parents worked. I think we both would have liked to have had our parents around a bit more when we were growing up, so we wanted to be able to provide that for our kids. Now, I am here for them whenever they need me, and I can set my schedule so that I can chaperone field trips, attend school events, etc. Right now, part-time still feels like the right choice for our family. As they get older and more independent, this may change.”

Favorite thing about being a stay at home mom:“My favorite thing about being a stay at home mom is that I have been there for every first and every big moment in their lives. It is such a blessing. I am getting teary-eyed thinking about it, so I am going to move onto the next question now.”What would you want your children to know about why mom does what she does?“I want them to know that I choose to stay at home with them because I felt that being here for them was such an important job, and it was more important to me than any promotion or raise I may have attained had I stayed in the working world.A big part of me wanting to work part time as they got older, though, was that I wanted to be a role model for my daughter. I wanted her to see that a mommy can have many important roles, both in her family and in society, and that she can use her brain in lots of different, meaningful ways.”Best memory of a successful moment doing what you do:“There are so many! I have one class that I created called STREAMers. I made up STREAM–just adding Reading to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). I took a bunch of children’s books that were fictional but STEM-related, and created a hands-on book club, meaning that the students would read the book then do related, interactive experiments/activities. I had no idea how much traction it was going to get, but I have been so pleased to have had so many schools select that class for us to teach to their students. It makes me smile every time I hear about how much the students have enjoyed it. It is moments of success like these that make you want to keep going.”Anything else you’d like to add?“First, I just want to acknowledge my husband Drew, because he is still out there in the business world getting it done every day, providing so that we can have this amazing set up. I have joked that he is my Bill Gates and I am his Melinda Gates: he works to bring home the billions, and I run the non-profit that helps people around the world. We may not “quite” have the billions or the global reach yet, but someday….Also, I want to acknowledge all the stay at home moms out there who are doing this by choice. I have met so many women who I just knew as So-and-So’s Mom, only to find out later that they had huge, booming careers before they chose this motherhood path-lawyers, doctors, financial analysts, broadcast journalists…the list goes on and on. It is amazing how much brainpower you will find in your local PTA. So, moms, on behalf of your kids who may be too young to realize how lucky they are that you made this choice, THANK YOU!”I want to thank Leslie so much for sharing her story. When did I first realize how special she was? Was it when I found out she was one of the forces behind this fantastic program for kids I’d already heard so much about? Was it when I received her message at 4 a.m. with answers to some of my questions? She was up at that time because the company’s summer camps were getting ready to start and she couldn’t sleep thinking about the preparation, which endears her to a Type A gal like myself. Was it when she messaged me later wanting to add a thank you to her husband and to every stay at home mom…hard to say…although if she didn’t have my admiration by then (she already did) it would have been sewn up in that moment!!I encourage all nearby Tampa parents, to check out the Adventures in Engineering program for your children. It is such a great, inventive hands-on idea to make learning accessible and fun! Here is a link to the Adventures in Engineering website hope you’ll come back next time for the next inspiring mom in this series! Thank you for joining me today! Janet


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