How Motherhood Inspired This LA Entrepreneur to Follow Her Instincts and Hustle Harder
Photos: Heather Roma
Parenthood is full of unexpected twists at every turn, and for Heather Roma, becoming a mother led her to an unforeseen career as an entrepreneur. After getting pregnant, the Fashion Mamas LA member realized that she wanted the best of both worlds: Staying at home with her son while still bringing home a paycheck.
Her journey as a business owner was born with the Westside Collective Truck, a vintage trailer that Roma converted into a pop-up shop. That led her to launching her own consulting business, an this spring, she's set to debut a chic Airbnb property in LA's bohemian nabe of Topanga Canyon — and guests can even shop the abode's cool decor.
Here, Roma opens up about everything from why she switched gears after the 2016 collection to the unexpected challenges she faced while going through a divorce to her top advice to other moms who want to ditch the 9-to-5 lifestyle.
What's your kid's name and age?
Hendrix, two-and-a-half years old.
Tell us about your career journey: In a nutshell, how'd you get to where you are today?
I never planned on having an agency but through the 15 years I've been in the industry so far I had lived through the life of several brands; from conception to consumer and beyond, numerous times. I'd been asked for advice numerous times through my career and always gladly gave it. But after my last brand AMORROMA, I was burnt out. I took a break for a year, switched careers, worked as a private flight attendant and traveled the world. I was single and it was just what I needed. Then I met my now-ex-husband and got pregnant. Quickly.
At seven months pregnant I came to the realization that I wanted to stay home while my child grew up like my mom had. Except I love to work, I'd never not worked and I had a family to support. I racked my brain about what I could do and thought I should start a consulting site with my services. I did it that day, posted it on Faceboook and got my first client that same day. I knew I was onto something.
Then at eight months pregnant I thought it would be a good idea to buy a vintage trailer, renovate it and start a pop up shop business as well. When Hendrix was three months old I attended my first pop up market; Open Air Market in Oakland (we had moved to the Sierras for a year to have Hendrix), sales were amazing and the shop won best vendor. After moving back to LA, I continued to build my consulting business and the pop-up events and quickly made a name for myself.
Now, in 2018 the consulting agency has grown into The Westside Collective Agency where we help people launch and grow their brands. I've recently brought on several professionals in the industry as we grow, have slowed down on the pop-up events and am in development on an Airbnb property where the curated American-made items that decorate the property will be available for sale. Guests can experience our vibe then bring [it] home after staying on our Topanga Canyon property in the original Westside Collective trailer, another smaller trailer that is currently under renovation, and a tipi lounge.
What's your best advice for raising a kid in LA?
Take advantage of all of the nature around us. Yes, LA is a city but there are also so many opportunities to experience the elements here. Why I love living in Topanga Canyon? Come visit and we can take the kids for a hike!
Tell us more about how Westside Collective began.
When I first started The Westside Collective, I carried products from my clients at Westside Consulting. Then I saw the movie The True Cost which opened my eyes to the awful business practices of fast fashion. I had always known it but turned a blind eye and I realized that I was actually selling and promoting ethically-made American brands, where my focus turned to.
In 2016, The Westside Collective trailer was open seven days a week in Venice. The day [Donald] Trump was elected, business changed for me and people literally stopped shopping. The Christmas season never happened for me that year and I decided to switch back to pop-ups for 2017; [they] were fun but exhausting as I had started going through a divorce, had my son with me almost all of the time, and my consulting business started to take over.
Now in 2018, The Westside Collective will occasionally be popping up in my vintage Land Cruiser, but most of the items will always be for sale at our Airbnb and online.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit and who/what do you credit for it?
YES. When I was five years old and living in Connecticut I used to ask my neighbors if I could shovel their driveways in the winter for $5. I began making my own clothes in fourth grade and designing look books and line sheets without knowing it. My grandmother had a designer lingerie shop in the '70s in Mystic, Connecticut and always made her clothes as I was growing up. I always thought she was awesome and I wanted to be like her!
How has motherhood had an influence on your business sense? And vice versa?
Motherhood has changed everything for me. I'd always been a hard worker but now it's like: THIS IS OUR LIFE AND OUR FUTURE. In addition, when I had Hendrix I went back to work at three months postpartum because I was the one supporting our family. I was in survival mode. I still am. Now having gone through a divorce and having Hendrix with me five days and six nights it's always a balancing act. I'm lucky to have a super chill and independent child who lets me concentrate on work when I need to and doesn't mind being at meetings and on set with me. Actually exactly how I wanted it.
You're fairly open about your experience going through a divorce. What were some of the expected and unexpected challenges that you faced?
I expected to feel sad, overwhelmed, confused and all of the things. And I did. What was unexpected was how long that would last. For basically all of 2017 I was still living in a roller coaster of emotions. I wanted it so badly to work out with my ex-husband but when both people aren't willing to put the work in, it just won't work out. I'm still sad about that but now I'm clear that it really couldn't work out in the long run. It took a long time for me to come to that realization.
Has your new marital status changed your approach to how you raise your son?
I really feel the need now to help educate Hendrix on the value of being an ethical and compassionate person and surrounding yourself with the same the kind of people; the importance of doing what you love in life and making a career for yourself from your passion.
Of course he's only two-and-a-half and I've always wanted to be a good role model, but I guess the need for me to lead as a good example is even more important now. He's already a little worker bee like I always was and is very active behind the camera on every photoshoot he attends with me. We've got a future [director of photography] on our hands! Maybe he'll make a movie on all of us Fashion Mamas one day...
Back to business talk! Lastly, what's your best advice to other women who hope to have the same lifestyle that you've created for yourself?
Be open to change. Don't hold onto something just because that's what the plan was. Take advice, always continue to grow, work hard (and smart), and be a good person. Collaborate with people who inspire you and do what feels good.