July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Leah Lukowski taught in the Omaha Public Schools district for five years before she decided to stay home with her son, Caleb, and her daughter, Erica. “I’ve been home for three years now,” she says. “My husband, Lukas, and I weighed the benefits, and it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Last September, however, Lukowski stumbled upon an idea for a small business that she could run from home while watching her kids. Her brother, a local acoustic musician, had mentioned how he wanted to book more shows but was struggling. “Most musicians have day jobs, so it’s hard to get seen,” she explains. “And private events usually have a hard time getting in touch with musicians for hire. That’s when my brain started ticking.”

Leah Lukowski, owner of Omaha Musicians Live.

Leah Lukowski, owner of Omaha Musicians Live.

Lukowski did some research, finding several websites listing musicians for hire around the country, but she never found one specifically for Omaha musicians. That was the impetus for Omaha Musicians Live (OML).

Not only does Lukowski provide listings of local musicians, she also schedules their gigs with bars, restaurants, weddings, and corporate and private events. From home, she is able to handle contracting, work with clients on music selections, and recommend appropriate soloists or groups. “It’s just like event planning, only just the entertainment side,” she adds.

She works about 30 hours a week, not including attending the events, which she often does to help the musicians. But that’s because OML is all about customer service. She even follows up with clients after events to make sure things went smoothly or to see where she can improve her services.

Lukowski handles contracting, work with clients on music selections, and recommends soloists or groups.

Lukowski has been running Omaha Musicians Live (OML) for about a year.

OML has kept her fairly busy. In fact, she’s currently managing Midtown Crossing’s Street Vibes concerts, which run through October. But working for herself has its advantages. “I set my own schedule, coordinate with my husband so that one of us is always with the kids, and am able to be home if one of my kids gets sick and needs to leave school.” Eventually, she’d love to expand OML with a storefront and a staff.

Still, like all moms, she worries about how much time she’s giving her kids, even though she is home with them. “I think there’s always a conflict between business and raising your children. It’s a constant struggle,” she says.

Sometimes, that struggle can even be something as simple as just being able to work with clients without the kids interrupting, says licensed esthetician and mother of three, Joy Sakalosky.

“It would be easier if I had an office to go to [because] working from home has its distractions,” she adds. “But you really can’t beat the commute of just walking downstairs and not having to pay rent!”

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Joy Sakalosky, owner of Via Mia Spa.

Sakalosky has been running Via Mia Spa, a state-licensed, in-home spa since 2011, providing waxing, skin-care services, and makeup artistry to a clientele mostly consisting of other moms “because they know they can bring their kids along, if needed.”

She always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. “I did try part-time when my oldest was born, and even that was too much time away from him for me. My husband, Todd, and I eventually worked it out so one of us was always home with him.” By the time she had her second child, she was a full-time mom, doing freelance work for a cosmetic company.

When her oldest started kindergarten, however, it got Sakalosky thinking about what she would do while her kids were in school. “I wanted to have the flexibility to go on field trips and volunteer in their class activities, but I wanted to do what I had been licensed to do. We were outgrowing our starter home anyway, so we decided to look for a house that would accommodate an in-home spa.”

Via Mia Spa is a state-licensed, in-home spa that provides waxing, skin-care services, and makeup artistry.

Via Mia Spa is a state-licensed spa in Sakalosky’s home.

Like Lukowski, Sakalosky is glad to run a business she loves and still have the opportunity to raise her kids from home.

“That’s why [working from home] is great,” says Megan Filipi, who makes personalized albums for her business, Quote Ya! “It’s flexible and convenient. I can work when I need to and still pick the kids up from school or go to their activities.”

Filipi worked as an RN for a while before deciding to stay home with her kids, Aidan, Lucy, Jack, and Maeve. “I couldn’t imagine caring for someone else as an RN while someone else was caring for my child. So after the first two kids, my husband, Aaron, and I chose the stay-at-home plan.”

Megan Filipi, owner of Quote Ya!

Megan Filipi, owner of Quote Ya!

Quote Ya! actually came about after Filipi received requests for personalized mementos. “We did our own personalized guest cards at our wedding, and it was such a hit. Guests loved writing to us, and we loved reading their sentiments. It is so much more personal than a guestbook filled with signatures. And then we kept hearing from people about those cards, so we created a business based on that experience.”

The albums Filipi makes are for (but aren’t limited to) weddings, funerals, showers, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new babies, and retirements. “Customers purchase albums, which come with cards specific to the occasion. Then, guests can write quotes, thoughts, feelings, or draw pictures on the cards so the moment is captured forever.”

The best part for Filipi is that her business allows her to be creative and relaxed. “I’m able to laugh, have fun, [and] spend time talking and reminiscing about favorite quotes and experiences with my customers. No one is watching over my shoulder, telling me what to do…[I’m] on my time.”

Filipi had personalized guest cards at her own wedding, which gave her the business idea.

Filipi had personalized cards at her own wedding, which gave her the idea.

Both Filipi and Julie Sudbeck, owner of vintage store Hunt and Found, have it easier than most stay-at-home moms turned business owners because they have online stores that reach more customers across the globe.

“The benefit of having the online shop is I may not be working, but the shop is always open, and shoppers are always shopping it,” says Sudbeck, who has been a stay-at-home mom for 21 years now.

“It was my decision to give up my career to stay at home with my kids,” she says. “We were fortunate that we could afford it financially.” Sudbeck and husband Chad have four children: Madison, Alexa, Sydney, and Blake.

Julie Sudbeck, owner of Hunt and Found.

Julie Sudbeck, owner of Hunt and Found.

Sudbeck describes the beginning of her business as more of a journey into her passion for decorating rather than a “Hey, let’s start a business!” kind of thing. “I always had my nose in decorating magazines, trying to see what was new in the decorating world…I would often admire the fantastic, old, vintage, one-of-a-kind furniture or décor, wondering where in the world they are getting these items.”

She got her answer one weekend while at her lake house in Okoboji. The weather was cold, so she decided to venture to her first flea market. “There I stood in a vastness of old suitcases, wood crates, chipping painted furniture, rusty metal—exactly what the magazines had in their designer rooms.”

Besides her love of decorating, one of the main reasons why Sudbeck started her business was because her mom had just passed away from a brain tumor. “I was facing an enormous void in my life, and I knew a distraction was needed.” A month after her mom’s passing, Sudbeck sat down and created her shop on Etsy, as she had collected a rather large inventory of vintage items.

Sudbeck's most avid vintage customers are from Australia.

Sudbeck’s most avid vintage customers are from Australia.

Hunt and Found has done well, too. “I sell to decorators, wedding planners, restaurants, wineries, magazines, photographers, movie sets, productions companies…I can offer vintage at what is considered high-priced for the Midwest at an affordable price to someone living in New York City.” Sudbeck says her most avid customers are from Australia. “They love American vintage!”

Mostly, she loves working from home because she can work as little as a couple hours a week to as many as 40. “Thanks to technology and my iPhone, I can answer e-mails or quote shipping while sitting at my son’s orthodontist appointment…daughter’s tennis lessons…while the kids are swimming…I really like the option of running a home business.”