Moms, you don’t have to go through motherhood alone! On this episode, Cherissa talks with Melissa Clayton, the CEO and Founder of Tiny Tags, about living her mission of celebrating children and women’s journeys through motherhood. From staying at home with kids to the founding of Tiny Tags, she shares her personal experiences in community, in business, and most importantly, as a mom of three teenage boys.
Melissa Clayton, CEO & Founder of Tiny Tags
Melissa Clayton is the inspiring CEO and Founder of Tiny Tags – beautifully crafted jewelry that celebrates motherhood. At the start of her motherhood journey, Melissa was inspired to express all the pride and joy she felt in her heart for her little boy and created Tiny Tags as a result.
Over the years, she has heard countless stories in response to her creations – ranging from mothers finding strength through her pieces, to toddlers proudly searching for their names on their mom’s jewelry.
Her mission is to create an uplifting community focused on real conversations about motherhood – where women can come together and share love, wisdom, and experiences with each other in order to inspire and uplift others with their stories.
This episode of Pearls onBoards was produced by Mix Theory Studios, a music and multimedia studio located in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. This show features original music written, mixed and mastered by Punchboi and DJ PM, the music production team of Mix Theory Studios.
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Read the Full Transcripts
Thank you for joining us for this episode of Pearls on Boards. Today’s guest is Melissa Clayton. Melissa is the founder of Tiny Tags. She is a mom of three boys, and I am so excited to sit down with Melissa today and find out how she does it all.
So I’d love to know what your journey has been like as a mom and then also a founder of a company that’s successful.
Sure. Yeah. When I started Tiny Tags, it was never to start a business, and I think that mindset probably helped a lot. I was really someone that. Can’t sit still and was looking for something to do, and I just was never someone that when my kids were napping, was going to start cleaning the house and doing laundry.
I wanted to do something that was productive. So I sort of fell into this whole jewelry space. I used to be a C P A, I was definitely not a creative, and it started off as a hobby and so all of this pressure that I think some people might feel when you’re like starting a business.
I never had that. So for many years it was the mom on the kitchen counter. Kids napping. My husband would take the kids out on the weekends. I’d work, I’d work at night, and it was just sort of, Hey, if I can make 200 bucks a week, this is sweet. This is grocery money, this is date night. So for many years it was that, and that , made it a lot easier.
I had no expectations.
Yeah. How old were your kids
So I have three boys. So they were all really little, but our setup was really nice. We lived in California at the time and we had this insane gym that we used to go to that I got three hours of daycare every day, including your membership.
And it was like the Westin of daycares. It wasn’t this like crap daycare, and they loved it. I was able to, work out, I’d shower, and then I’d spend time on the business. And , I started to get some traction. I would spend three hours a day just working at the club, and it was only $250 a month.
So that allowed so much to happen I had no family out there, but I had the club. It was better than family.
When did it start Becoming bigger than needing the three hours a day.
Yeah, so I kept it small like that for like probably five years. Then when we moved back to the east coast and my oldest started kindergarten and the two younger ones were going to preschool a couple hours a day, that’s when things , had traction. And I remember when we finally did 350,000 in revenue and I was like, okay, like this has legs.
And then it was probably the biggest term was when my husband quit his job and joined, He was getting burnt down, commuting into Boston. I really felt as though I could do something, if I could get out of the operations and finance and really focus on sales and marketing, And we took a huge leap of faith and he quit his job.
We said we’ll give it six months. And that was the game changer. And That was the first year we hit a million, and that was a game changer for us.
What was that like? Working together, having little kids
I, it was great.
Because I think both of us were equally surprised. That year Meryl Streep wore tiny tags. We got into People Magazine. It just felt like the stars were aligned. My kids were now old enough, , so they were all like in school, so you’re not paying for preschool anymore, which was great.
But I think I finally understood what it was to build a business. I’m a pretty avid business book reader and I listen to a book called Brand Warfare.
That was light bulbs going off for me. Where at the time, before I read that book, , we had a dropdown menu. We had gifts for dads, gifts for brides, gift for graduates. And I would say my head was always spinning. And I think that year I realized after listening to that book that I wanted to focus on just moms, that’s where my heart was at.
That’s what I cared about. And I literally went home and deleted everything off because I listened. It was an audio book actually. And I deleted everything off the website that didn’t have to do with moms. And once I got that clarity, it made running the business actually so much easier because I was saying no more that, no, we’re not gonna work with that person.
No, I’m not gonna go to that expo. And it just allowed us to really have a singular voice and that made it a lot easier.
I know. I think that’s huge. I think maybe everyone doesn’t feel this way, but like when you start out you’re like, yeah, my product’s great for everyone. And you hear the advice like you really do need to find a niche and commit to that niche. And when you do, , it is so much easier ’cause you don’t have to weigh the cost of these expos or these trade shows or these things.
Or you’re just like, Nope. Doesn’t fit, not a good fit.
Yeah, and I think it really helped me tap into the why. You know, I feel like whenever I talk to other female entrepreneurs, ’cause I love the space, I love talking shop. It really is what your why. And if your why is about making money, that’s not really a why and when I really took, and that it’s another great book, it starts with why When I listening to those books and really getting like the clarity as to why this business meant so much to me, it just opens everything up.
If tiny Tags closed tomorrow, I would have no regrets. I feel like we have made our mission, we have lived our mission of celebrating children and women’s journey of motherhood it’s never been a means to an end for me. I’m not trying to just do this to make a buck.
There’s a lot bigger purpose in it for me.
Yeah. And I think if you are just doing it to make a buck, it really makes the days like hard and long, you know? Like I can’t fathom doing all the things, raising kids and doing all this stuff just for the hope of Some number in the future,
you know what I mean? did you invite your kids in the process when you were raising them? And how did they feel about it? Like my youngest son can still probably make boxes faster than anyone we’ve ever hired. So, yeah, so we ran the business out of our house, so they absolutely were involved. We used to have box making parties for Mother’s Day and Christmas and all the kids would come over in the neighborhood. I mean, we have so many great photos of our entire living room just stacked with boxes.
as they got older, they revolved in assembly. So yeah, so it has absolutely been a family business for sure. And I think for me, Because it was never a means to an end. I felt like I’ve enjoyed the journey of it and I think that is really important. So yeah, so I think having the kids, having my husband join all actually made things a lot easier as far as managing, Our family life because we both had the flexibility of working for ourselves. It’s given us a lot of freedom that I don’t think if he had stayed in corporate America, we could have done so.
And I think now that your kids are older, I’m sure you get to see like the rewards of that, right. Of you both kind of being present and being around
Oh yeah, never thought I would quit my corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom. And it’s probably the best decision I ever made for me. That I just never, when I got pregnant, I never thought I’d actually want to be with a kid, to be honest. When we moved to California, it was supposed to be 18 months. We stayed for five years and it was because of this club, which is hysterical and it’s club sport out in California. I will give it a plug ’cause it was an amazing place. They were like family to me and.
I felt like I had so many friends that were like pulling their hair out, you know, with young kids. And I was like, oh, I go to this club every day and my kids go to this daycare and it’s affordable and I get to you know, start a business there. And it really it was a game changer for us.
You know, like I think back, like everyone lived on the same street. So you had a built in support system. So I always felt like the club was sort of my extended family. It was the grandmother that didn’t live down the street that I had.
I love that.
Once the business started going and you guys started working together at home? Did you guys kind of share responsibilities at the house
It’s funny ’cause I feel like I’m a little bit old school with this. It’s probably 70 30 think I’ve always actually had a soft spot for men’s perspective because I grew up with a single father.
And, you know, I think , this is a huge generalization, but I can tell you my husband, he doesn’t really care how the laundry is. And I feel like I hear him if that’s something that you care about, that’s on you. And I kind of agree with it a little bit.
I think women have to own, at least for me, I had to own what is my realistic expectations. And just ’cause I want it a certain way doesn’t mean. It has to be a certain way, you know, I mean, he goes grocery shopping and he will buy like some of the food I wouldn’t buy, but it’s well then you can’t really bitch
you know? But we’ve come a long way. I mean, before when I was essentially a stay-at-home mom and he worked, , and it’s funny ’cause I actually think I had more of the 1950s mentality.
Yeah. Which your husband probably appreciated though, that you, you know, had a a weird perspective , you know?
Yeah, no, I mean I felt like it was the right perspective. I mean, when people complain about their partners, I’d be like, they’re at the country club all day. They’re working and I guess like I was in corporate America, I get how stressful corporate America can be, how it’s a 40 hour work week, but it’s really 80 hours of work.
So I always felt. Bad for my husband that I was getting to spend the time with the kids and have this like amazing day with them. And then he was stuck in an office all day and I was living in California and I was from the east coast and I was like, is this weather for real? Every day is beautiful.
Like I’m living a I was, and I, and that’s why I was so complex when everybody else was complaining. I also think it speaks for my personality. I, as am very much, I grew up listening to Zig Ziglar, who is one of the most probably the. The original positive motivational speakers.
And really that attitude is everything. So even still I always see the glass and my brain is just trained that way to see the glass half full. , and even more so of having tiny tags where we hear stories every day, that would break your heart. You know, moms that have lost children, moms that have children that are terminally ill, and moms that are fighting for finding cures for their kids’ diseases.
So that is the world that we live in at Tiny Tags. You know, moms that can’t get pregnant and fertility issues. It has very much even probably magnified, I can’t believe I have three healthy kids. .
And it’s not just a cliche. Like I, I truly feel that because I get it, I get because I’m, I’m surrounded by these stories every day.
And I think perspective is, is everything. my husband is former Army and so then when he got out and he worked for a Fortune five company, he would be around people that were stressed out all the time. And he’s guys like, This isn’t war, we talked to our kids about that the other day. One of ’em was grumpy. He’s four, he didn’t wanna
go to school. He’s this is the worst day of my life. And you’re like, Jack, it’s not the worst day of your life.
choose it. You get to choose like in good and bad situations, you get to choose, be happy or not be happy. And that will literally dictate the situations
with tiny tags, as an older mom, you know, and I talk to my kids about it, is being responsible for the content you consume. You know, I always say here I am a 52 year old woman, and I can be on social media and I can feel myself, oh, I want that.
And I say, I can’t imagine if I was a 16 year old girl. I can’t imagine. If I was, you know, a young person still forming who I am and seeing all of this crap you know, and I have unfollow people and I just constantly am like saying we have to be responsible for the content. We assume if someone is not making you feel good and making you feel that.
All the answers you have are within you and they’re making you think it’s in an outfit. And even with tiny tags I mean when I talk my social media image, I’m like, we cannot be a brand that is saying you need this necklace to feel whole. Because that is not who we’re like I am saying, you know what, you don’t need a necklace.
Actually, everything you need is within you. And that is so important to me that we are living and breathing that message as moms, because our kids are watching us. So it’s like if we’re sitting there living this, this want, want, want, nothing’s ever good enough.
Yeah, I agree. I had to actually get off social media when my kids were really young because I. It wasn’t good for me mentally. . I was doing a lot, I was living in Japan. My kids were six months and 18 months old and, and we were doing a lot in this in our days, and I felt very accomplished because I was training and all of these things.
Then I would get on social media and I’m like, well, my house doesn’t look like that. You know, or like just silly stuff if I wasn’t looking at social media, I would’ve never been dissatisfied with the house.
I’ve always had a, a cleaning service and I take no shame in that. We take the pillowcase and we stuff all the sheets in there. So we have like bundles in our linen closet and it’s like the reality that your house wouldn’t be lived in and looks like a modern farmhouse everywhere you see it is.
It’s just not making you feel better. And I think that’s great that you did that because it is, it’s a, it’s a lot of noise.
I remember I was pregnant with my first son and my husband was deployed and I was talking about ob, and she’s like, how are you doing? And I’m like, I just wept . I’m like, I am not a Pinterest mom. I just already know it. I don’t know how to cut carrots into cute shapes, you know?
And she’s just I’m gonna just level with you. Like all of our laundry is clean, but it sits in like bins on our dining room table because I work full time and I get off work and I don’t wanna. Put laundry away. I wanna go play basketball with my kids and cook dinner with them, you know? And she was just kinda get off the internet.
Just do what’s best for you and your family in the moments with your family. ’cause ultimately are the people you interact with in, real life,
When I had my oldest son, which is 18 years ago, his nursery was the office. I bought a T for Tyler and that was it. And I have seen what has happened to the business of baby and the noise of what getting ready for baby has become, and none of it is actually preparing you for baby, right?
Not the baby moon, not the maternity photos, not the baby gender reveal. The over the top baby shower is actually preparing you for motherhood, taking the time to look within you. And deal with your own crap that you’re bringing to the table. Making sure your marriage or your partner, whatever that situation is tight.
That you’ve got a village that actually prepares you for baby. And I know my deathbed, my kid would never look at me and say, mom, thanks for that over the top first birthday. For the maternity photos. For the house being perfect. They will say thank you for being there. And that is what we have to remember, that all our kids want. is us I have two good friends that love scrapbooking, and I just think it’s always important that we always check in with ourselves that we’re doing it for us and we’re not doing it for the gram, we’re not doing it for anybody else. So if you wanna throw an over the top baby shower, who Caress, right?
But. It’s if you’re running around, stressed out because you’re throwing an over the top first birthday party. And I always say the number one reason people get divorced is because of money and the amount of money that is being spent, to me, it breaks my heart also as a pretty frugal person.
And knowing what it costs, send kids to college. My first is going off to college this year. It’s just As long as you can afford it, just make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons is important, this is not about trying to shame anyone.
you know, cause that’s, it’s the last thing I’d ever want is anyone to feel bad about what they’re doing. It’s just always making sure we’re checking in with the right reasons.
what do you think the biggest challenge and then the biggest joy have been? Like being a mom and then a brand founder?
Biggest joy for being a mom? I feel like I had an aunt that said that one time, she’s every mother thinks you’re the first mother in the world. And I think it is true. It’s just how much love that you can have. And I’m just proud. of, I have three teenage boys and my oldest is 18 going off to college.
And I said to my husband, I can’t believe I’ve never had to ground him. We’ve never gotten into a fight. Like they’re just kind nice kids. We did an IG live, like teenagers don’t have to be these jerk kids. I feel like that’s such a misconception.
So, yeah, just the amount of joy and the amount of love that you just, I can’t believe it’s in me. So yeah. And I know the idea that my oldest is next week is the week,
You know, so I always say it’s the one job, if you do well, you put yourself out of a job anyway,
and then I think the, from Tiny Tags, it has been hearing from moms what a tiny text has meant to them. And so I think the ones that have always touched me the most have been.
Moms that have lost children. We had a mom that , she had matching necklaces for her and her daughter, and her daughter passed away and she buried her with her tanny tags. So you’re like, you hear those stories and you’re like, wow. know, We talk about the noise of mom, of motherhood.
Is to hold their tiny tags and be like, I have that love and that’s all that matters. This is what really matters in life. And to be this very centering piece is what I’ve always felt tiny tags is. So when I hear moms say that and I hear. Them, you know, when I’m honest on social media about, you know, talking about my own issues with my own marriage, talking about fighting for my marriage talking about dealing with, you know, teenage boys and alcohol and just being real, and that response of oh wow.
Thank you for being honest. And even if I talk about business, talking about. Having gotten ripped off by someone, you know, like making mistakes and not trying to make it sound all perfect. I feel like that’s where The response I get back from our community that has what has meant so much. And then our team, I mean, I love our team.
I love that when we get together, we cry and we talk about customers and how they have touched us and moved us. , I have one grandmother who has only called my cell phone for 10 years, Ricky Baker. You know, and. She called me like last year and she lost her husband, and we talked about that. So it’s I feel like it’s just been this beautiful journey and I have this real community of motherhood, which has been amazing.
Yeah. I think motherhood can feel lonely if you don’t try to find like authentic community, you know? And I love that you, Have created that space for yourself and for your customers, but also for your team,
Yeah. And I feel like that’s where, you know, the, in real life community, you know, when I first had my kids, there was no social media. You know, and that club for me was I. Everything, because every morning at eight o’clock, the same moms were there and we got to talk. And that was so important. And finding your, your crew of moms that you could just hang out with because it just made such a difference.
Oh, it does. I think it’s funny you said it in real life. ’cause I never would’ve said that 10 years ago, but now you have to differentiate. But , I think it’s true. Like in Japan, I was very fortunate to have met women because I didn’t speak lick of , Japanese.
And I met these women at the park in the first week, and I wouldn’t have survived without that community of women that, you know, we did lunches together and play dates together and park dates together. And They taught me how to take my kid to preschool in Japan and, . I think we learn a lot from each other when we’re doing it together and there’s not as much judgment. I think when you’re doing community in person with other people, you
okay. I know I’ve had you for a long time. I’m gonna ask you one question that I ask everyone. what is one piece of advice that you would give to a mom who is, you know, okay, I want to start a business, but I have kids, or I do wanna get back into corporate like, , what’s your advice for them?
Yeah, I think we’re starting a business. I can only speak what worked for me and that was to start small. , if you start making money, start worrying about the business structure. If it’s just a hobby, you don’t have to go through all of that. So if what worked for me was just starting small because I learned a lot and I. I was able to kind of chip away and I always looked at it when you have small kids at home, the only thing you could do is be with your small kids.
I think really carving out the time and starting small, you know, when I had three hours a day working on three hours a day and , laying a foundation, and I really looked at it those early years is if I could find 10 hours a week, I was laying this foundation so that I knew when they went to school.
I had something to build upon. I think it’s really hard when you’ve been out of the workforce for five, eight years and now you’re trying to get back in. Feels a lot more, I think, overwhelming.
I agree, I think just respecting the season that you’re in, right? Like the capacity that you have. Like you said, like when they’re little, it’s the few hours that you can get at the gym and just to be like, Mindful of those hours and like efficient with those hours. My kids are now, for the first time in their whole lives, not home all the time with me.
They just started school. I didn’t actually think I’d get as emotional as I did. I cried when went off. ’cause I was like, oh my gosh, I’ve spent six years with you people , and I’ve,, loved it all. But now I’m able to actually like, Grow my business. You,
Yeah. Be, be where you are. Right? Be where you are. If you’re, if you’re home and you’ve got young children, be with them. I wanna be realistic to people that have to work and don’t have daycare and all that. And Ask for help also, you know, I, I feel like that’s a big one, I remember even like when my kids were younger, you know, swapping off so we could do date night and not have to pay for a sitter, another couple, and I would swap, you know, maybe you’re going to dinner at five, but you know, it is what it is you know, to find creative ways to keep your relationships intact.
Yeah. I love it.
Yeah. Well, thanks for chatting with me.