For mamabare’s new series, Like A Boss, we showcase companies (and the people who lead them) that aim to encourage, unite, and spread a little love. We invited Melissa Lyons, founder and creative one-(wo)man show behind small biz Grins and Grace, to share her experience juggling motherhood and running a successful company.
The unique idea for this shop came to Melissa at the most opportune time: right when she was deliriously exhausted, 7 months pregnant with her second child, and endlessly chasing her toddler around the house! She recognized a need for busy, tired mamas to access dependable, comfy clothes for themselves. Melissa sought to pair practicality for women with a daily dose of happiness – offered in the form of cheeky sketchings and witty words.
Grins and Grace found its name in the most endearing of ways: Melissa and her grandmother, Grace, have always shared an exceptionally close bond. Melissa knew that if she ever had a daughter, she would honor her grandmother by name. So, after years of trying to start their family, Melissa and her husband welcomed a daughter four years ago and, as promised, chose Grace as her middle name.
The home business was then christened “Grins” – a reference to her daughter’s cheery disposition and Melissa’s desire to help tired mamas chuckle – and “Grace” – an honorable nod to two generations of important women in Melissa’s life, paired with her desire to encourage mamas to be more gracious with themselves through the tougher seasons of life.
The company boasts fun prints like the Don’t Mess with Mama Bear tee. Melissa first imagined the look in her head, then set out to sketch it. She was aiming for an image that would depict the fiercer side of mothering rather than focus on the “beautiful” or “feminine.” Although she hasn’t ever had to be that ferocious with anyone just yet, Melissa’s goal with this shirt was to highlight the raw, powerful mama protecting her young.
For another of our favorite designs, Melissa sought to encourage a dear mama friend of hers who had recently lost her sweet baby boy. The reminder is simple yet powerful: Together in Motherhood. Becky Dickerman, Melissa’s friend and inspiration for this tee, hosts an incredibly uplifting Instagram community which unites grieving families: “still standing, still breathing, hearts broken but still beating.” After the loss of Becky’s son Henry, Melissa felt helpless and at a loss for words. Instead, she did what she does best – she designed this t-shirt to remind Becky (and all mamas) that you are not in this alone.
Putting her art degree to good use, Melissa runs shop out of Virginia, where she draws each design by hand. Her greatest inspiration comes from nature. The similarities between adventure in the wild and motherhood is undeniable. When asked how she’d describe this parallel and her inspiration, Melissa explains:
“It’s exciting, stressful, exhausting, discouraging, triumphant, and at the end of it we all look back and say, ‘Wow! I can’t believe I just made it through that!’
And inevitably we look back after some time and wish we could relive the adventure all over again.”
So how does Melissa successfully run Grins and Grace while busting it as a full-time stay-at-home mom to two? Like most of us, she’s constantly juggling and feels pulled in two opposite directions. Struggling with the elusive balancing act, Melissa honestly opens up:
“At the end of most days, I feel guilty that I have been on my phone too much.
Outside of Mom-life and the business… there isn’t much time for anything else.”
Her supportive husband steps in big time on weekends to take care of the kids and cook while she’s hard at work in her office (aka guest bedroom) filling orders, packaging, replying to emails, and all that jazz.
Her creative business, however, offers her a purpose beyond Mother or Wife:
“I fear losing sense of self and forgetting who I am and what I want for my own life. This business is my connection to the outside World. It’s mine to take in whatever direction I please. To put in as much or as little as I see fit. [Grins and Grace] has given me the opportunity to build a community I’m proud of.”
At times, Melissa worries she’ll be the only one laughing at her own jokes. She often second-guesses many of her designs for fear no one will get it. Yet her wit and sarcasm connect with many mamas no matter what stage of motherhood they find themselves in.
Her whole purpose with Grins and Grace?
“I thrive when others laugh and find humor in my struggles […] The shirts I design remind moms they are not alone.
And yes, some days stink, but let’s just find the humor in it. (at least until our kids move out and let us sleep again!).”
Customers hail from all over the world, mostly impressed by how ultra-soft and flattering the shirts are. Melissa personally sampled a ton of tee options when first starting out, and she prioritizes options that are mama-friendly: easily washable, non-shrinking, and able to stand the test of clingy toddlers or babies with full tummies.
The shop offers amazing gift options for moms, in-laws, friends, and sisters! Besides our favorite t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, totes and caps are also available. Melissa will be accepting orders until December 12, 2018 to ensure holiday deliveries.