With three kids, hectic schedules and lingering effects from a stroke she suffered at 28 years old, Marissa Leonard Smith knows that selling Usborne Books is the right fit for her and her family. That’s been her job for more than a year, but it didn’t take her long to realize that her options were limited when it came to where to sell the products.
“When I was trying to find different events in the area, I noticed that there weren’t really a lot that could take direct sellers,” Leonard Smith said. “I thought, ‘There should be something in the community for moms.’ ”
So, she started something. The first For Moms, By Moms event was held in April at the State College Friends School. As Leonard Smith gears up for the third event on Nov. 4, the requirements remain the same: Vendors must live in central Pa., be a mom and have their own business — any kind of business.
“There is always a stigma around direct sales,” Leonard Smith said. “I want people to realize that direct sellers are just moms trying to help their families.”
Paige Scarf, who sells LipSense products, has experienced the direct sales stigma firsthand and said she’s been told that it’s “not a real job.”
“It’s a lot of work,” the Boalsburg woman said. “It’s the same thing as going to work 8-5 or 9-5 — this is a full-time job.”
At a For Moms, By Moms event, that’s understood, Scarf said.
“At the first one, we all kind of connected,” she said.
For the inaugural For Moms, By Moms event, Leonard Smith turned to Facebook to find vendors. That’s how Terra Deyo, a State College consultant for the eco-friendly cleaning products company Norwex, got involved. There was instant camaraderie among vendors at that first event, Deyo said.
“It’s nice to be in a group with like-minded people,” she said. “We’re all just there trying to make money to support our families.”
Vendors remain a mix of crafters and direct sellers, and Leonard Smith said there’s been a waiting list for the Nov. 4 Winter Event. For this event, there’s an emphasis on holiday shopping and buying local.
Leonard Smith aims to make every event family-friendly, with giveaways for the kids. New this time around is a food vendor — Happy Valley Chef — and Leonard Smith said attendance has continued to increase at every event as more people become familiar with the name and offerings. Because State College Friends School caps out at 20 vendors, she’s now planning her largest and longest event March 2-4 at Nittany Mall. At that location, there’s space for 100 vendors.
Leonard Smith never imagined herself as an event planner, but she said all the work that goes into each — the sign-ups, the layout, the needs and requests — is worthwhile.
“I really like it,” she said. “It’s fun and you get to know a lot of different people and everyone is supportive of one another.”
She hopes to have four For Moms, By Moms events each year — one per season — and to include additional elements like live music from local bands.
“I really see it as a community event, and I see it getting bigger and bigger each time,” Leonard Smith said.
For more information or to apply as a vendor for the March event, contact Leonard Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: For Moms, By Moms Winter Event
When: 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Nov. 4
Where: State College Friends School, 1900 University Drive, State College