Exploring the World Through the Eyes of A Chic Mom, with Mini Mode
Maria Benetos and Colleen Crivello are (not even arguably) New York City's chicest moms. And in honor of Mothers Day this weekend, we sat down with the two to chat about their ever-inspiring and expanding mama venture, Mini Mode. These women love deep, and love wide. They've mastered the art of being moms, without having to solely define themselves as much. They are #girlbosses, total powerhouses, and humble forces to be reckoned with. Read on for more of their wisdom and a peek inside the consciously curated world of Mini Mode...
How did you two meet?
Maria: We met through a mutual friend after we became moms. She is this cool, downtown Tribeca mom, and we all started going out together. I worked in magazines at the time — I think I was at InStyle or Bon Appetit. One night we were at dinner at Soho House, and I was like, ‘Oh why isn’t there a Net-A-Porter for kids?’. When I had kids, there was none of that cool stuff out there for them. Colleen latched onto it and we started talking. She was like, ‘Don’t hold inventory, let’s do something different…’ Next thing I knew, we were partners.
Colleen: Yeah, pretty much. Next thing I knew, we were designing logos and coming up with names. It was sort of an evolution. We researched a ton for business models and different ways of approaching it. It was a year before we launched what we started.
Maria: We knew we always wanted content. It became more of a content site as it continued to evolve. We knew we wanted to feature these cool brands for both moms and kids and show moms that just because you're a mom doesn't mean you have to lose yourself. We still surf, we still do yoga, we still go out for drinks. We love wearing Isabel Marant clothes with stiletto heels and Golden Goose sneakers with our dresses. None of that changes. We didn't feel like anyone was speaking to that sort of mom. That's how it all came about. We were like, ‘We need to do this!’
Colleen: Our focus was really on maintaining that. We joke, but MILF Mode is a regular phrase.
Maria: Hashtag MILF Mode.
Colleen: Yeah, exactly. It's a regular phrase for us, about keeping that essence of you — feeling sexy and speaking to who that woman is.
Where did you initially begin to pull all the children’s wear and lifestyle inspiration from?
Maria: I think it's constant. We're always researching.
Colleen: At first, it was always a few things: for me, at least, it was because I saw all these downtown New York moms, and moms in LA dressing their kids so cool. I had never heard of these brands before I was a mom. Once I became a mom, I heard about them through other moms and the grapevine. I was like, ‘No one’s putting the spotlight on these smaller brands from LA and Europe and Asia.’ We wanted to highlight them better. They were there, but no one was talking about them.
Maria: We want to give people access.
Colleen: Absolutely. And it’s style specific. We inspire them to do high / low. We have these cool hipster designers who are out in LA or from Sweden, but we show you how to mix it with H&M. That's the thing that shocks most moms. Our kids will be wearing something to school, and they're like, ‘Oh my god, where did you get that?’ They think it's some obscure designer. But we’re like, ‘No, no. That shirt's $4.99 from H&M.’
We do the work for them. The selection is massive, so we pick through it and say, ‘Here are the five to ten things that are super cool right now.’
What about the Mag Mode aspect of Mini Mode? How did that come to be?
Colleen: It was part of our dream from day one. When we launched, we already had six interviews with different influencers. That kind of content was always heavily woven into the fabric of Mini Mode.
Maria: But we were surprised at the success of the mom crushes. Excuse the pun, but they crush it every single time! Sometimes we’ll think, ‘Okay maybe people haven't heard of this mom yet, so maybe it won't be as popular — only because it's not Jamie King or Coco Rocha.’ But still, people love reading the interviews with these moms. It's always incredible.
Colleen: These moms are super inspiring. So many of them are out creating incredible businesses, or whatever it is. I find that all the moms are inspiring to our readers. They're inspiring to me! I actually think people want to hear the stories of quote unquote real people who had to build something and create something on their own.
And I think people are curious, especially when it comes to kids, as to how other moms manage to do things, or what they like to dress their kids in.
Maria: I agree, and then I also think it goes beyond that. It's then about, ‘How do they dress their kids really cute, and have this really cute world, but then still manage to run a business and manage to go out and have a hot bod…?’
Colleen: What did she do to get that bod? How did she meet her husband? What does she do with her girlfriends?
Maria: It's the whole package that I think is fascinating.
Well, what about you guys? How do you do it all? What are your daily rituals to stay balanced?
Maria: For me, I'm infamously getting up early. I get up at 5:15 every morning. That's when I try to get everything in. That's where I try to meditate, have a quiet cup of coffee, then I go work out, which, to me is so important in keeping me in balance and making me feel good about myself. That's something that never gets skipped. Then, it's the pockets throughout the day. I think it's the quality of time, less than the quantity. I focus one hundred percent on my kids when I’m with them — take them to school, read them stories, play around with their friends. That means the world to me. Then, we jump into work. Once we're together in the office for Mini Mode, that's all there is. We focus a hundred percent. I don't feel guilt for it. I'm teaching my girls how to be strong women who can create something on her own. I'm still a great mom, but I'm also a business woman, a wife, a fun friend. We're very social.
Colleen: For me, I try to be an early in the morning person, but I set an alarm which I’ll then snooze a couple of times. I manage to get up around 6:30. I will work out in the morning at times, sometimes it's at night, usually that's four to five days a week. I find that that's super important to quote unquote "doing it all". When you feel good, you can then contribute to the rest of your family and friends more, and in a better way. Breakfast is high on my list. I do meditate in the morning — I’ve been meditating with my daughter, which is kind of cute, so that adds a little quality time for me and her together. We do these cat cows and down dogs and stuff like that early in the morning. It's super cute. She sometimes will lead the meditation or I will and it goes back and forth. And she’s just five.
Then, like Maria said, it’s the office all day. It's from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM at least. It's full on. Our days are super packed. I usually will start answering emails at 7ish in the morning. Then I book usually two or three nights out a week with friends and my husband. Then I'm home a lot, too. I'm actually home more often than not on the weekends.
In terms of guilt, I actually think that my daughter has her own life and her own friends and her own busy schedule and school and after school and all those things, so I don't think she would even notice if I was home being a housewife. I think that she's inspired by what I do. I overhear her talking to her friends about what her mom does. When I used to have my children's brand, she used to tell her friends, ‘Oh, my mommy made this for me.’ Now she talks about Mini Mode, because our kids are often in our photo shoots, so now she says, ‘Well, I'm going to be in a photo shoot.’ I overhear her, and I think it's inspiring to her to know that a woman can be a leader, and a woman can build a business and go out there and do that and have a family and have friends that do all those things as well.
Maria: It's funny. One night when I was putting my daughter to bed, she was like, ‘Mommy, did you always want to be that when you grew up?’ I was like, ‘Be what?’ And she was like, ‘The person that gets to boss everyone around and tell them what to do?’ I’m like, ‘Actually…yeah. That was exactly what I wanted to be.’
Colleen: Now you know that that's what she wants to be!
Is there anything about motherhood, or starting this business together, that’s surprised you?
Colleen: For me, I think the most surprising part was going from being single with no kid, to having a kid. And what the identity around that was. So for us, it’s this constant reinforcement of, ‘You are still you, you are still hot, and you can still be all of these things.’ And that’s been a huge part of even my own personal journey. Having a kid doesn’t suddenly make you the mom of the past, right?
Maria: Yeah, that idea of what a mom meant in the past — I think that's been completely turned upside down. There's a whole new genre of what motherhood means. I think coming to terms with that, and redefining that for myself, was a surprise. Then also, the change in spontaneity. When you have a kid, spontaneity goes out the window. Then you regain it at some point. But not in the beginning.
I've always been very vocal. I had a hard time when I first became a mom, mentally. I was depressed and it had nothing to do with postpartum or anything like that. I was just like, ‘What happened to my life? Who am I? What is this?’ I would start crying. I'd see people out brunching and doing what they want, and I'd be like, ‘What the heck?!’ So I have to admit, it was all very, very hard at first. I adore my kids, but if I didn’t have my own outlets, I would go crazy. It’s not just all sunshine and rainbows. Like Colleen said, that’s what we try to preach on the site, because we’ve both been there and we’re both feeling that.
Colleen: We're definitely not the only ones. I think that that's also why there's just been this new uprising of women that are all promoting hot moms and what that means.
Maria: Because you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else.
Coleen: Totally. It's like the airplane, right? The oxygen mask for yourself first. When that plane's going down you need the air for yourself to help others.
Where do you feel like this new genre of motherhood is going?
Maria: I don’t know if maybe I’m being an idealist, but at least for the mom’s I know, husband and wife are equals. Me and my husband are equals. In my house, there really is no differentiation. It’s funny, because I come from an old school European family, so my parents still think it’s weird that my husband is feeding them as much as I do, or taking them out. They’re always like, ‘Oh these days the dad’s do everything!’ I was like, ‘No, I just work as many hours as my husband, and I should.’ To my kids, there truly is no differentiation in who’s giving them a bath or who’s taking care of them while the other is off at work. We’re tag teaming, and hopefully, that’s going to spread and be the norm.
Colleen: I would agree with a lot of that. I also think that just in general, the perception of what it means to be a mom is changing. And it’s not that it makes you — and I keep reinforcing myself here — but it doesn’t make you any less of who you are. I’m afraid that in the past, once you became a mom, you were considered dowdy, not sexy. I think that is erasing itself.
Maria: We were walking down the street last summer, and Colleen was wearing some small dress and I was wearing a crop top and ripped up jeans, and we just started laughing. I was like, ‘Oh my god, my daughter is six, and I can’t even envision my mom looking like this when I was six!’ My mom was like, a mom. Shoulder pads, make up, the whole thing…it was so funny, because we realized that this is a mom now. There is no difference in being who you were before and who you are now — at least, in terms of style.
Colleen: I also think the general aesthetic of the world has adopted to everyone basically dressing like they’re 28. It's like, everybody dresses in that age range no matter their age, so I also think that personal style has helped sort of make that possible. You no longer have to graduate to older clothes.
Maria: Yeah, those days are long gone. You just are who you are.
Colleen: I feel like that aids in this “everybody is equal” way, too.
What is your food philosophy with your children?
Maria: In my house, we're really healthy eaters anyway — especially me. So that just naturally goes down to your kids, right? Because if that’s how you’re eating at home, then that’s the stuff in the house. I just like them to know where their food comes from. I don’t cut anything out completely by being like, ‘Oh no you can’t ever have sugar!’ Because if they have it, then that’s a treat, and they know that. My parents never told me I couldn’t have this or that, but we didn’t eat very many processed foods. Again, because they were European and that was so foreign to them. My dad grew up in Greece with donkeys in his house. My philosophy for the most part is just to eat healthy, whole foods. But I’m not going to stop them from having some cake at a birthday party on the weekend, or a popsicle on a warm summer night.
Colleen: I’m of a similar philosophy — whole foods, no processed food. I’ve pretty much cut sugar out of my own diet, so that’s a big focus for us. Also, my kid goes particularly crazy when it comes to sugar. It’s like she’s just done a bunch of rails of coke…it’s bad. So I try to keep her away from that. I’ll just say no, and for my own sanity. It gets unreal. I think she almost has a slight intolerance to sugar or something, because it’s much more noticeable than other kids. She typically gravitates towards carbs. No matter how many vegetables I put in from of her, she’s just so carb heavy. So hopefully that will change. I talk to her about vegetables and the wonders of eating salads and stuff like that, so hopefully it’ll be there and come forward.
What’s your idea of legacy?
Maria: For me, not to sound too flowery, but I like to get shit done so I want a successful website that inspires people, but at the end of the day, I want people to remember me as doing it in a way that was still kind and nice to everyone. Like, ‘Yeah, she kicked ass, she totally took over, she ran a successful business, but she did it with kindness.’ I don't want to sound cheesy but it's just my philosophy. I want to walk away having everyone feel good when they're out of my presence. I want to be a pleasure to deal with, and to teach my girls to be the same way. Kick ass, and do it kindly.
Colleen: For me, it's in raising my daughter in way that she’s proud of me. I want for her to look up to me as her hero. Yes, I want to build a really kick as business as well, and I think that leaving people feeling good is important, but mostly, I care what my daughter thinks of me. That’s what I want to be able to leave behind.