The Grace Tales Interviews Melissa Clayton, CEO + Founder of Tiny Tags
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Take us back to after your first son, Tyler, was born – what inspired the idea for Tiny Tags?
This year we are celebrating 10 years and I have reflected on my journey quite a bit. Over the years, when asked what my inspiration was for Tiny Tags I would say it was because I wanted the perfect ‘mommy necklace’.
However, recently a mentor pushed me on my deep ‘why’ and why I was so committed to Tiny Tags. The conversation quickly turned to my journey of motherhood and my own mother, who passed away three months after my son was born. When tears started to flow, I knew there was something more there.
After reflecting more, I wondered if my deep why stems from my childhood and having grown up living with my father. Although I never questioned my mother’s love for me, she struggled to show up and I think she lived her life filled with guilt.
After my first son was born, I felt incredible empathy for my mother because I couldn’t imagine having all that love inside and still not showing up because she had so much pain of her own. I wondered if I started making jewelry for mothers to celebrate their children because there was a part of me that longed to feel celebrated by my own mother.
Was my passion and dedication to Tiny Tags really the little girl tugging on her mother’s skirt saying, “I am here, be with me, visit me?” Is Tiny Tags my way of making sure every mom shows up for her child and appreciates her? Maybe. Maybe not.
What I know for sure is that children and this gift of motherhood is beyond precious. Tiny Tags is my heart and soul and having a small part in telling other moms’ stories of motherhood has been an incredible gift. So that is my long version of how Tiny Tags came to be and a look into my inspiration.
You connect with so many different mothers from all over the world – what are some stories that stand out for you?
I came across a mom on Instagram who lived in Australia who lost her child at 8 months old to a very rare genetic disorder. I reached out to her and we sent her a Tiny Tags with the words ‘our shooting star’ on the back in honor of her daughter. Since losing her daughter she has struggled to conceive and has been through rounds and rounds of IVF. We do a series called Story Behind the Tag, where moms share what their Tiny Tags mean to them and we featured her because she wanted to share her story. Her picture and her story are framed in our office alongside other Stories Behind the Tags because every day I want to be reminded of our community of moms and the stories we have been blessed to be part of.
You’re passionate about giving back to the community – can you tell us more?
Giving back is part of who we are as a company. Over the years we have organized St Jude walks, donated 100 necklaces to a homeless shelter on Mother’s Day, and donated necklaces to Boston Children’s Hospital at Christmas. I think my favorite was putting on a birthday party at a local homeless shelter and bringing food and gifts for the birthday child.
One of our most heartfelt events that we launched last year was our Love Ambassador program. On Valentine’s Day, we asked our community of moms to gather their little ones and bring flowers (that Tiny Tags provided) to their local senior center or assisted living home and give them out.
We handed out close to 600 flowers perfectly paired with a smile from a child saying Happy Valentine’s Day. Not only did these children bring joy and smiles to all the seniors – it showed our children that they alone are the gift. At the end of the day, I feel so incredibly blessed for the gifts in my life and we want to help others and pay it forward. If anyone would like to join our 2020 Love Ambassador program please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What has been the most challenging stage of motherhood for you?
I think I am entering it now as my oldest son has just started high school. I have to let him grow and trust him. He plays football so he hangs out with seniors and the question of driving with seniors has already come up. The decisions he makes and the decisions I make now can have really serious implications, and that is scary.
And what’s the most rewarding part?
The list of rewards is endless, but I think hearing from our moms and what Tiny Tags means to them is the most rewarding. We hear so many stories and while most are ones of celebration, it is the stories of loss that stay with me. I have cried with and for so many moms that are dealing with the unthinkable loss of a child or have children fighting terminal illnesses. Every day I am reminded how precious and fragile this gift of motherhood is and never to take it for granted.
If you could go back to before you started your business, what advice would you give yourself? What’s the hardest part about running your own company?
I wish I dreamt bigger in the beginning. When I started my boys were little and I was happy if made enough money to help with groceries for the week. If I had dreamt bigger I would have done things differently in the beginning.
You have celebrity clients such as Selma Blair, when did celebrities first start wearing Tiny Tags and how did this feel?
Nicole Phelps was the first celebrity to wear Tiny Tags and when she shared it on Instagram, I couldn’t believe the response. However, the absolute most pinch-me moment, running around my house, was when Meryl Streep wore our 14k gold circle pendant with her four children’s’ names on it. Not only did she wear it – she wore it for the NY Times and Washington Post photoshoots! It was such an honor because she is wearing it as a mom of four children who are grown and out of the house, and she probably misses them. Plus my grandmother was so proud and told everyone!
Was making this career change scary- what advice do you have for moms wanting to make a career change?
Talk to other women who are already in that career and ask someone to be your mentor. There are so many women-focused networking groups and other resources, from LinkedIn to Facebook, where you can find contacts much easier than when I started 10 years ago. I have reached out to so many women and am always so surprised and how willing people are to chat and share their knowledge.