When our NJMOMpreneurs of the Week Kristin Karotkin and Catherine Willhoit bonded over new motherhood in the maternity ward, neither had an inkling their friendship would eventually morph into partners in a coffee shop. But when their newly on-the-move babes made it harder to squeeze in coffee dates, they realized there was no place where they could grab a latte and keep an eye on their stroller-free kids. So these two Hoboken mamas set out to create it themselves. The result is The Hive, a space with great coffee, a beautiful aesthetic, and a designated area where kids socialize and play, while moms chat and relax, all just steps away. We sat down with Hoboken mamas Kristin and Catherine to dive into how an aha moment can turn into a reality, how taking time for yourself is crucial to making a business run smoothly, and the garden oasis they go to when they need a pedi and a mini-escape.
featured image via John Herr
Describe the concept of The Hive and how you came up with this idea.
Kristin: We both met while on maternity leave after having our first babies and joined a new mom support group in Hoboken. It started when we all initially agreed to meet for a glass of wine to compare notes on this mildly terrifying new phase of our lives. From there, we’d meet up with other moms and would go to coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, which were all fine while our kids were small and immobile. Still, as the kids got older (and squirmier), we found ourselves at a loss for where to go and would dream about a shop that was family-friendly, appealing to us, and had a little something for our children to do while we took a small break. As we both grew our friendship, it was at one of our favorite coffee shops that we had an ‘aha’ moment while juggling hot drinks and wriggly children—why can’t we create a space that suited our needs and the needs of our children?
Catherine: We were determined to create a space that put adults first in terms of design and aesthetic and the products we sell and serve but was also family-friendly. After almost a year of planning, saving ideas, dreaming, and mocking up design, our vision came to life perfectly.
Tell us about each of your backgrounds and how it influenced The Hive?
Kristin: The Hive is a fusion of my professional life and creative passions, having spent over a decade working in retail merchandising for brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, and SoulCycle, but my happy place was always in the kitchen baking and playing hostess for family and friends. I love the joy that comes from celebrating together, and I wanted The Hive to be just that, a celebration of community every day.
Catherine: I spent my career in public relations, working specifically in the beauty industry for brands large and small alike. I loved storytelling and creating awareness for brands helping them create the “magic”, and almost exclusively worked for women throughout my fourteen years in that space.
You describe The Hive as your ‘love note’ to the community. What do you hear from your customers about what The Hive has brought to Hoboken?
Kristin: We’re so proud of the customer service —many moms are working remotely or raising children without a robust network of help, so we’re happy to be a place for them to connect with us or others. Parenthood can feel isolating at times, and we love being the spot where our customers can come in and see a friendly face.
What did you discover about yourself during this process?
Catherine: I’ve found that taking time for myself each week has become vital to staying resilient enough for my family, business, and self. Some days, I’ve got time for a workout and a long chat with a friend, and most other days, it’s just a quick ten-minute meditation (in the bathroom with the door locked and white noise drowning out my kids), but even the smallest amount of time to myself makes me a better, more balanced person.
Kristin: Going to work is so much fun when you find your true passion. I am so happy walking into The Hive every day, and even though my brain is always on and I’m usually on my laptop every night, it doesn’t feel like any job I’ve had before. And to echo what Cat said, taking the time for yourself is crucial. I treated myself to a pedicure and a long walk listening to my favorite podcast today, and I feel like a whole new person.
What do you hope your children learn through watching you run your business?
Kristin: I hope they learn that you need to take risks in life and go after what speaks to your heart. I hope that our kids love growing up in The Hive and can look back and be proud of what their moms have built.
Catherine: I want them to see how fulfilling work can be. I find such joy in running my own business, although there are challenges at times. I hope that my own children can find happiness in their work, no matter what career path they take.
Tell us about some of your favorite local businesses and why you love them.
Katherine: Hoboken is jam-packed with incredible places to visit. One of our favorite coffee shops in town is called The Roost, which is downtown by the PATH, and a must if we’re ever close by. We order breakfast and lunch from Alfalfa quite often (their salads are the best in town!), and we’re also super fans of pizza from Tenth Street or Hot House. We don’t get there regularly enough, but when we need a good workout, we go to Local Barre and Jane Do, both of which have classes that are so fun we don’t even realize we’re working out. The last of our favorites is a nail shop called As U Wish, owned by the most charismatic, incredible woman named Skyy Hadley. Her shop’s backyard garden patio is a slice of heaven on earth, and her services are the absolute best we’ve ever had.
What words of wisdom do you have for other NJMOMpreneurs?
Catherine: Do your research—ask to connect with entrepreneurs you admire to get their feedback on your idea. And don’t let fear stop you from pursuing a dream. Kristin and I had dozens of reasons why we could’ve walked away from taking the leap. Yet our biggest motivation to follow through on the risk was asking ourselves, “If someone else opened this exact business, would we have regret for not moving forward?” and our resounding answer was yes.
Kristin: Agreed—starting a business is just like having a baby; there will never be a perfect time. Having solid partners and support has made this possible for us. Catherine and I have such a fantastic working relationship; we balance each other out, keep communication open, and were on the same page from the get-go about how we wanted to run our business. Our husbands and families have also stepped in big time to help us juggle our new business with our home lives. And lastly, you can plan all you want, but you can never be fully prepared for what lies ahead, so at some point, you need to go for it. If anyone told us we’d be opening a business in the middle of the global pandemic, we likely would have just lit our business plan on fire and moved on (kidding, kind of). But we pivoted our model slightly and did our best to remain true to our original mission—at the end of the day, you’ve just gotta keep on swimming.