Mama-to-bes have been pondering this question about style as long as there have been tent dresses and shapeless smocks: Can maternity wear ever be chic? That’s what our NJMOMpreneur of the week, Laura Diaz often thought when she was pregnant, so she decided to do something about it: The former fashion exec took out her sewing machine and whipped up an off-the-shoulder top she would wear over and over again. It was then a maternity collection was born— LaDi by Laura Diaz debuted online 3 months ahead of her first son’s birth. Seven years and 3 kids later, she’s got a thriving retail bump business, all thanks to doing what she loves and having a little patience. NJMOM sat down to talk to her about starting a business from scratch, balancing a business as a busy mom and the secret scenic spots in in Bergen County that bring her peace (hint: there’s a waterfall).
featured image via Laura Diaz
Founder of LaDi & NJMOMpreneur Laura Diaz
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field
Laura: LaDi offers a collection of stylish maternity clothes that are distinguished by the fact that they are designed to transition beyond pregnancy. I like to call them “bump-friendly”. They feature a flattering, modern cut, and a fun, youthful aesthetic that is in contrast to the clothes we find in traditional maternity stores. The designs are more on-trend and come in a variety of colors, plus they can be customized. Our collection includes sexy and unexpected details like off-the-shoulder designs, ruffles and bows in the form of tops and dresses. They are all made to order, allowing for more variety and options.
Maternity stores have to generalize on fits, styles and colors in order to produce products that appeal to the majority of the population. What happens is that styles become very basic and most of the time very “blah”. That is what inspired me to offer what was missing and start LaDi. Women now have the option to choose high-fashion during pregnancy. These fun looks come in handy when you want to look different, have a special event or have an Instagrammable moment to document.
Being patient with myself means that each day I get up early and do my absolute best in every area of my life, and every day I get a little bit closer to reaching my goals on my own terms. No matter how long it takes.” – NJMOMpreneur Laura Diaz
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Laura: I have always been a fashion designer and after getting pregnant, I realized that maternity clothes were pretty plain, so I started making things for myself. Then, I came up with an off-the-shoulder top and I just loved wearing it. That’s when it occurred to me that there may be other women like me out there! And I got the idea to open up an online shop and give it a shot. So I created 6 different designs and developed a size range for each. I also called on my mom to knit six different baby bootie styles that I thought pregnant moms would like too. At about seven months pregnant, I published the page and the rest is history. I now also offer dresses, accessories and most recently, a selection of paper flower decor that our moms use to decorate baby showers, nurseries and special events. They’ve also been a big hit!
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Laura: I love to hear my customer’s reaction to their purchases. It means so much to me that they appreciate something I made with my hands. I get to be a part of their special moments and that feels really good!
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Laura: I started designing clothes when I was 11, back in the 6th grade, when I was mistakenly placed in an art class. I then attended the High School of Fashion Industries in NY and went on to get my Bachelors degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T). Prior to starting this business, I worked as a designer for different manufacturing companies in the garment district where I learned the process of product development and merchandising. When my most recent employer closed the NY office where I worked in 2012, I started seriously thinking about what it would take to have my own business. I took that time to start going to business and fashion conferences, to learn about websites and SEO, and all of those are things I still do to this day. I have taught myself a lot of things from registering LaDi, to measuring sales and numbers and everyday I learn something new. It is a lot! Since I am naturally in a creative state of being, the business side of the dream is definitely one that I pay close attention to.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Laura: I’m most proud of being able to do what I love and to be able to innovate in one way or another. I have taken a chance by starting something of my own but it is a challenge that is worth taking on for me. As a mom of 3 boys, being present for them is really important. It wouldn’t be possible for me to see them off to school or pick them up on time if I was still working in the city. I am around for their sick days and their special school activities. I’m proud of the fact that I get up everyday to work on my dream life both personally and professionally.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Laura: Very few people know that I love to sing and that for some years, I thought I’d be a singer.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Laura: This year has been one of self-awareness and growth. It was a year of overcoming challenges and pushing past my comfort zone. My youngest is now in kindergarten full time, and I plan to use the extra time to continue to take steps to accelerate the growth of LaDi. Professionally, I’m working towards outgrowing my current status of the “one-woman show”. And personally, I’m looking forward to witnessing my kids grow and blossom. I want to create great memories with my family.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Laura: At the moment, I am most passionate about autism research because it has hit close to home with a beloved boy in my family. I think it is important to understand more about the signs of autism in order to get children the help they need early. Understanding would make us all much more patient and compassionate in general. The other charitable cause I care a lot about is the Habitat for Humanity of Bergen. They help build homes for low-income families and so much more. I have been a part of their annual tea party event. Their work is very inspiring. I have not gotten a chance to be a volunteer builder yet, but it is in my plans to do so and get my kids involved too!
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Laura: My parents are my biggest role models. From them, I learned to do onto others as you would like done onto you, that respect for another’s rights equals peace, and that being a good person is the most important characteristic you need to focus on. I have seen the positive results of these behaviors in their own lives as well as mine, and I plan to pass these on to my littles.
I have another role model, and that is my husband. I love and admire him deeply because he is the most naturally positive personality I’ve ever known. His spirit is untethered by any circumstance and he sees the absolute best in everyone. As a result, people love him and gravitate towards him as I did. He is a really special person and living with him is a privilege because I get to see him handle every type of situation in his own amazing way. He is generous and charming and an incredible support to me. He has a beautiful soul and I totally want to be like him when I grow up!
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Laura: My favorite quote to live by is: “You already have everything you need to succeed.”
It is my favorite because so often we get stuck feeling like we are not good enough, like we need something more to be complete. It struck a cord because inside I knew it was true. We are born with our talents and virtues. We come equipped with our intuition and natural instincts. And though we continue learning throughout our lives, our natural attributes are the most powerful tools we can use to fulfill our destinies. That quote reminds me to tap into those in times of need.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Laura: We live in a small town called Saddle Brook. We love it because we’ve slowly gotten to know a beautiful close-knit community. The people here are proud of their town and it shows. It’s very endearing and it’s inspiring. We don’t vacation much because our kids are baseball players. We spend our weekends during spring and summer traveling to all of their games in towns all over NJ. This year they are playing with the NJ Axemen team and it is serious!
To cool down we go to the Fairlawn Memorial Pool where we have a membership. It is a giant sand bottom pool surrounded by a sandy play area so you get a beachy vibe in the middle of a residential neighborhood just minutes away from our home. We felt like we struck gold when we discovered this little piece of paradise so close by!
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Laura: The simple things in life are sometimes the best. The things I love to do with my family are close to home. Whether in our own backyard hosting friends and family or at the Saddle River County park where we do a variety of things, both are pleasant and relaxing. On our most recent trip to the park, my husband and kids were on bikes and I was on my rollerblades, and we rode all the way from Saddle Brook to the Fairlawn area of the park where there’s a gorgeous waterfall. It is such a beautiful patch and peaceful place. We also attend the annual fair at the park every summer where we enjoy the local food trucks and live music, while the kids love the games and rides.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Laura: The best part of being a mom is being a witness to life. It is a real privilege. You get to see someone develop from the time they were born and slowly morph and grow. I love to watch them just being. I am amazed at their ideas and perspectives.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Laura: Our favorite businesses in New Jersey are mostly food spots! Most recently we’ve discovered Plank Pizza Co. Beer Parlor in our neighborhood. It is a cool spot with contemporary but rustic decor, a cute outdoor space and a very original pizza menu. The kids love the giant tots and my husband loves the huge selection of microbrews on tap that you can sample by ordering a flight. I love everything on their menu because I am a major pizza lover. I’m looking to try every single one of them!
Another place we frequent is Noches de Colombia in Hackensack because it has great ambiance and a beautiful outdoor area. On Fridays, they sometimes have live music and it’s a lot of fun! Sometimes we just go in there to grab one of our favorite treats between school activities: pan de bono. It is warm Colombian bread with a cheesy flavor that we crave when we are running around town.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Laura: The advice I would give an NJMOMpreneur just starting out is to be patient with yourself. It takes time to do it all. My business growth has been slow and steady because I started when I was still pregnant. I’d work during nap times and had to stop to breastfeed and change diapers. I did what I could and was ok with that. I still do that. One of the main reasons that I didn’t continue my corporate career of more than 10 years was because I felt that it didn’t allow any flexibility. My day including my commute would amount to 12+ hours out of my home! That would only leave room for 1 hour with the kids before bedtime and not much time for home-cooked meals or much else. I now have the flexibility to be there for my kids but that does come for a price, my business hours are a bit jumbled and limited. Being patient with myself means that each day I get up early and do my absolute best in every area of my life, and every day I get a little bit closer to reaching my goals on my own terms. No matter how long it takes.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Laura: I would love to tell all moms that they are amazing beings. I would like to encourage them to do something for themselves each day. For me, that means I get ready every day. I wear at least mascara and some lip stain, I comb my hair and I get fully dressed. It makes a huge difference in how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others. Go ahead and try it. One day when you are not feeling too hot, wear your hair out or put some lipstick on. Wear something nice. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on you. It really puts a pep in your step and others take notice.