Talking Shop with Rola Amer, Founder of Choulala Box

As a parent, you’re CONSTANTLY picking your battles. It gets really exhausting to fight and negotiate (which is never a good idea, btw, as former Talking Shop alumna Catherine Pearlman taught) and often, we’re too quick to take control and make decision for our children.

But here’s something to consider: when we take over and rob our children of the chance to make decisions and act on their own, we deprive them of essential opportunities to grow their self-confidence, independence, and motivation.

Meet Rola Amer: the inspiring mom business owner (and biz school grad!) who is revolutionizing the way we tackle one of the biggest parent-child battles — getting dressed for the day. Rola is the founder of Choulala Box, a subscription-based, capsule wardrobe box for kids that helps them learn to self-dress and exercise their independence — and makes the most of our time.

Her trailblazing BLAST™ Method educates parents on how to build a capsule wardrobe for their children that represents their lifestyle, while also giving instructive, easy-to-follow categories for children to empower them to express themselves and foster independence and confidence.

What’s more, Rola was a winner of Winter 2020 High Five Grant from The Mama Ladder; and Choulala Box a 2019 National Parenting Products Award winner for Best Family Product. NBD.

On today’s Talking Shop, Rola talks about what inspired Choulala Box, how kids specifically benefit from the autonomy of self-dressing, and how letting go of a perfectly-curated life transformed her life.

Everyone, meet Rola!

About You:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Rola, previous pharmaceutical marketer, founder of Choulala Box, and mom to a boy and a girl living in Montreal, Canada with an incredible hubby and the kindest cat. 

How did Choulala Box get its start?

As a working mom of two, I found life to be unforgiving and I became obsessed with making the most of our time as a family. I not only didn’t find time to shop for my kid’s wardrobe needs at traditional retailers, but I also couldn’t find any one online retailer that could help me simplify the process of what they needed each season. I also discovered that kids’ sense of independence starts as early as 2 years of age when they exert their will on everyday routine. For me that was what my daughter wanted to wear each morning (aka morning tantrums).

As a second-time mom, I knew the power in picking and choosing my battles. That’s why I empowered my kids early to do things on their own, starting with self-dressing. I started to watch my 2-year-old gleam in confidence for getting it done ‘all by herself,’ and that’s when I realized that if we simplified wardrobe categories for them and their parents, we could build a generation of kids whose parents use fashion as a vehicle to empower, inspire, and connect with them while having one less thing to do each day. That is EXACTLY why I founded Choulala Box and the BLAST™ Method for wardrobe selection. 

Why is autonomy so important for children, especially with self-dressing?

Parenting Experts and psychologists all agree that self-dressing is more than a simple task of putting on and off clothes; there are emotional benefits attached to it. In fact, finding the time and patience in teaching our kids the art of self-dressing as early as 2 years of age allows them to develop in 6 key developmental milestones:

  1. Fine Motor Skills: when they learn to button, zip, buck and snap themselves up
  2. Gross Motor Skills: when they learn how to balance and coordinate their arms and legs for putting clothes on and off. 
  3. Cognitive Skills: when they learn the sequences that clothes go on. 
  4. Linguistics: when they learn the different types of clothes, colors and sizes. 
  5. Time Perception: when they coordinate the right pieces for varying weather conditions
  6. Confidence: when they learn to express their unique sense of styles through their outfit choices. 

How did you develop the BLAST™ method?

I couldn’t keep up with how quickly my kids outgrew their clothes, and living in Montreal where we have all four seasons, it was hard to keep up what they needed every couple of months. I also wanted to be mindful in our purchasing and to do that, I needed to simplify how I thought and planned for what they needed. So I started to educate myself on capsule wardrobe building.

Given my marketing background, I also knew that the best way for any learning to stick was to come up with a catchy acronym and that’s how I came up with the word BLAST™ to cover all 5 categories of any wardrobe. From there I applied all my learning about capsule wardrobe building while keeping at the core of my mission in allowing kids to self-dress to self-express. So our BLAST™ Method educates parents how to build a capsule wardrobe and at the same time, how to build one that represents their lifestyle while giving categories for their kids to express themselves to foster their independence and confidence.

What makes you passionate about what you do?

My kids, other kids ,and helping parents to simplify what I find to be a daunting and never-ending task that can also be a huge budget drain. 

You talk about the “evolution of letting go of a perfectly curated life.” Why was this transformative for you?

It was HUGE for me because I am a perfectionist and extending that into my first time as a mother, I placed value on how we appeared as a sign that I was a good mother. I wanted to present this pristine and perfectly curated life to the outside world, thinking that they would see me as a superstar mom. My son was always in outfits I handpicked, perfectly coordinated; I never thought about what his likes and dislikes were.

What I came to realize the second time I became a mom that NO ONE has it all together ALL the time and that it didn’t matter what the outside world thought, but rather what I was doing at home to instill confidence and independence in my kids. So when my daughter started dressing herself, she didn’t always look or select pieces I personally loved but what mattered to me was that she was proud of herself, growing in confidence and independence daily. As a result, I was ok to go out in public with her mismatched and all!

What has been the most rewarding part of building your business?

Meeting incredible moms like me who made a similar sacrifice to leave a high-powered corporate career to put their kids first. When I walked away from a corporate career I loved to put my kids first, I felt so alone because I hadn’t met such women. In this journey though I am meeting more women like me and beyond. I am in awe of all the moms slaying building a business of any sort while putting their kids first. 

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a female business owner?

Trust your gut! I came from a marketing background but I doubted my ability to digitally market my brand. So I made the mistake of hiring ‘experts’ in the field who I painfully found out couldn’t deliver results for me because no one can tell your story as well as you can. That’s why I had to reel in the marketing/story-telling aspect back to me and that’s when I started to see success.  I should’ve trusted my gut that I could do it, rather than having wasted months and years on others telling me how it should be. 

What have been the biggest challenges?

Work-life balance. I underestimated how much work would go into building and owning a business. It is more than a full-time job and so is being a mom, so I am definitely still finding it a juggling act to do it all because I am passionate about both. 

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t get stuck on getting it perfect to get your product or concept out there. Do your market research but launch quickly because your best research is real-life customers. Surround yourself by other passionate entrepreneurs — it’s your lifeline to help you navigate the tough and good times. And start small before you scale because you will tweak and pivot along the way. 

How have you been able to find balance (or harmony) between your parenting role and your business? 

I haven’t…I am still searching! But on a serious note, I’ve just accepted that I can’t get to everything and perfectly, so I prioritize and don’t get stuck in perfectionism. Also, I find being super organized on Trello and Google Calendar helps me a ton. 

The Fun Qs:

What is your favorite way to connect with your children?

My favorite thing is to put on music while we are getting dinner ready and dancing and singing together. So much fun! 

What was the last funny thing your children said?

My son is vowing to punch COVID-19 if he rains on his Thanksgiving Dinner Parade. It’s a time we all get together as a family and we have such a great time. It made me laugh because he’s not a violent or aggressive kid but COVID-19 has crossed the line for him. 

What is your favorite out-of-office activity?

Obsessed with taking a bike ride on any kinda day – sunny or rainy. 

What is your favorite dish?

I am a sucker for an old fashion burger with fries.

Find Choulala Box on the web here and on Instagram @choulalabox.

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