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Moms who rock

These 10 O.C. Supermoms successfully juggle careers, parenthood, philanthropic efforts – and much more.

By Susan BelknappPublished: November, 2008

Medical professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and executives are all very demanding careers by themselves. Add to that the toughest job of all, being a mom, and you get a whirlwind of conflicting commitments, never-ending pressures and continuous demands on your time.
   
Moms are more powerful than ever, and they’re juggling parenting and career like never before. How do they do it? By e-mailing late into the night, starting their own companies so they can set more flexible schedules, utilizing their support systems and often accepting that everything may not be done perfectly, but it usually can get done.
   
Here are 10 moms in Orange County who have followed their passions and set new precedents for their children and for future generations.


Janeane Bernstein | Irvine
Rockin’ mom

No one knows better than Janeane Bernstein that moms rock; as a matter of fact, she’s made it her mission to give moms a forum to do just that. She is one of the original organizers of Mamapalooza Rocks the OC, and  now hosts a regional radio show on KUCI radio: “Momz Rockin’ the House,” which airs Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
   
Bernstein began playing guitar at age 10; she started with the electric guitar at 14. She earned her undergraduate degree from Syracuse University in education and TV, radio and film, and went on to earn a master’s in education. In her early 20s, she moved to Boston, where she got back into music and then earned her doctorate in educational media and technology from Boston University.
   
“I met my husband in Boston at a bookstore,” says Bernstein. “I had joined an all-girls band and was playing until I was 9 months pregnant.”
   
When her older daughter was 1, the family moved to Irvine. Two years later, Bernstein gave birth to a second daughter. Since then, she’s been a busy, creative, rockin’ mom who has been doing voiceover work for more than 10 years and her radio show for a year, and now has launched her own Web site, momzrockthehouse.com.
   
“It was my goal when I created my radio show to feature moms and women in the arts from all over the world and showcase their work, because there are so few venues out there,” she says. “I knew I had made an impact when I went to my mail and there were CDs from about 12 states with letters thanking me for playing their music and promoting their art.”


Dana Bledsoe | Orange
Elite executive

Dana Bledsoe is no stranger to pressure. As the chief nursing officer for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, young, fragile lives depend on her expertise. She takes that responsibility very seriously, knowing that when parents bring their children to CHOC, “They’re literally entrusting us with their most precious gift.”
   
Bledsoe, who has been a nurse for 20 years, feels this responsibility with even more gravity, now that she is the mother of two young children. CHOC (choc.org) is one of the most prestigious children’s hospitals in the country, and under Bledsoe’s supervision, it has implemented a comprehensive computer system for medical records. Recently, CHOC received Magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which is received by less than 5 percent of hospitals in the nation.
   
Juggling work and home is a challenge for any mom, and for Bledsoe that is compounded by working for an institution that never closes. Add to that the pressure of balancing tremendous budgets and navigating local, state and federal bureaucracies, medical billing and fundraising, all while young lives are at stake.
   
“When I come home at night and both my children run to the door to greet me with hugs and kisses, that really puts every day’s challenge into perspective,” says Bledsoe. “Their innocence, curiosity and delight in discovery are the greatest rewards of all.”


Anamaria Brandt | Tustin Ranch
Photo pro

Ana Brandt has dedicated her life to photographically preserving all stages of life. The renowned children and family photographer has more than 1,300 clients at her Old Towne Tustin studio and is doubling her business revenue each year.
   
It was early personal tragedy that brought Brandt to her passion and instilled her drive to beautifully capture every child’s likeness on film. When she was 2 and her brother Rafael was 6 months old, their birth mother left them alone in their New York City apartment, which caught on fire. The children were rescued and placed into foster care. Brandt’s mother continued to visit and regained custody of them when Brandt  was 4 and Rafael was 2, but that reunion was short-lived when their mother again abandoned them on the streets of New York.
    
She was adopted by a foster family and has never seen her biological mother or brother again. What’s more, she has no physical memory of what either even looks like. She has never seen a photograph of herself before the age of 5.
   
Preserving memories and capturing the bond between parent and child became a driving force. Now the mother of three children, Brandt gives back to the children who are where she once was, by volunteering her services to Heart Gallery Orange County, which posts photos of children available for adoption. Amazingly, every child she has photographed has been adopted. anabrandt.com


Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi | Yorba Linda
Fashion maven

Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi has done what very few people manage to do: convert her business school final into a successful business.
    
“In college, I went on vacation with a friend who was beautiful and curvy,” says Camarella-Khanbeigi. “I noticed that some of her clothes didn’t have labels. When I asked why, she said her mom made everything for her, since there was nothing stylish in the stores.” At the time, Camarella-Khanbeigi was working to come up with a concept for a business plan for her last semester in the USC Entrepreneur Program, and inspiration struck.
   
She spent countless hours outside Lane Bryant stores with questionnaires, becoming more and more certain this was a perfect niche market. “Plus sizes are 60 percent of the women’s population, and they deserve more stylish options,” she says.
   
After graduating, she and two partners secured backing, found designers and local manufacturers and launched KIYONNA online in 1996. ("KIYONNA" is a compilation of their names.)
   
Her designs are carried in boutiques throughout the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Germany.
    
Camarella-Khanbeigi takes her commitment to making full-figured women look and feel beautiful very seriously, and she wants to instill that kind of confidence in her daughters. Currently, she is working to get grocery stores to offer “family friendly” aisles that do not have the imagery and messaging from the magazines positioned at the checkout lines. “I’m actually grateful my daughters can’t read yet, but it’s only a matter of time, and the pictures themselves are worth a thousand words.” kiyonna.com


Genevieve Chappell | Huntington Beach
Auto ace

Genevieve Chappell has a multi-talented personality and a broad resume. She is a professional TV host, columnist and “vlogger.” Most recently, she has been host of ESPN/ESPN2’s “Garage Block” and can be seen on “Mother’s Polish Car Show” and “Russo & Steele Collector Car Auction.” Additionally, she has hosted shows for several networks with diverse subject matter.
   
Automotive and motocross are particularly close to her heart, and she continually strives to find ways of bringing notoriety to the industry. Her latest venture is the launch of Velocity Magazine online (velocitymag.com). She will do a series of “webisodes” about car events in Orange County throughout
the year.
   
Chappell is the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Kaleila, and works every day to balance her time with her daughter while giving her best to her very demanding career. “I’m very fortunate in that many of the races, competitions and car shows take place on weekends, although they are spread out all over the country,” says Chappell. “I have a wonderful husband, and, when I have to work weekends, it is his special time with our daughter. I usually leave on Friday night and get back on Sunday evening.”
   
Chappell is continuing to expand her brand with new media. In addition to hosting, she also produces online programming for various companies, such as Velocity.


Allison Huke | Mission Viejo
Queen of green

Allison Huke has long been passionate about protecting the environment and has become increasingly frustrated over the years about the number of people who don’t care or don’t understand the impact we have on the planet.
   
“Buygreen.com was born when my business partner, Doug Farquhar, and I were discussing how frustrating it was to try to find eco-friendly products,” says Huke. Buygreen.com was created as a forum to help consumers purchase green products and as a rating system that analyzes products purported to be green.      

“We’re always on the lookout for ‘greenwashing,’” says Huke. “Greenwashing” is a term used when products are marketed as green, but have very little environmentally conscious value.
   
“We are very strict with our evaluations,” she says. “Our motto is ‘There’s no black and white when it comes to green.’”
   
Huke and Farquar started by spending about eight months researching and developing the business and Web site, which officially launched in July 2007. It has grown quickly, and the company now has offices in Laguna Beach.
   
“A couple of weeks ago, we received an order from Al and Tipper Gore’s office,” says Huke. “That was surreal for me, because Gore’s movie (“An Inconvenient Truth”) was one of the inspirations for me to start Buygreen.com.”


Kim Marquis | Ladera Ranch • and • Jill Hoffman | Laguna Niguel
Haute moms

Kim Marquis and Jill Hoffman, who have seven children between them, started their business in 2006 when they noticed a lack of stylish clothing options for little boys. The women, who are both self-described “retail rats,” met through church and had babies at the same time in 1999.
   
“I’ve always loved the choices and options when shopping for my girls,” says Hoffman. “But when my son was born, I noticed a huge hole in the boy’s clothing arena.” She and Marquis decided to start Haute Boyz (hauteboyz.com).
   
“We began by researching and talking to everyone we could in the industry,” says Marquis. “We found a sewing house in Huntington Beach, but it was very expensive.” They studied countless clothing lines in retail outlets, from Target to tiny Laguna Beach boutiques. Their first big breakthrough came when they sold to a showroom in the Los Angeles fashion district.
    
“L.A. is a really tough market – it’s sink or swim. If you’re granted a meeting, you have to do a complete presentation and convince them how and why your line will sell,” says Marquis.
   
Once they secured L.A., they set their sights on New York, Boston, Dallas and Atlanta. They were recently accepted by a Dallas showroom and are working on representation in New York.
   
The women balance work and family by getting their kids involved. “Our children know this is a family business,” says Marquis. “They help fill orders and count inventory, and we enjoy this time together.”
   

Barb Odanaka | Laguna Beach
Skater mom

It can be said that Barb Odanaka is hell on wheels. This 45-year-old mother of one son started skateboarding when she was 10. Like many young daredevils, however, she gave it up as she got older. The love of the sport never left her, though, and she would find herself looking wistfully at the great skating locations she saw while driving in and around Laguna Beach.
   
“Once I began skating again, my Mother’s Day wish list always consisted entirely of skateboarding,” says Odanaka. “My husband and son would watch me from the sidelines or, when I was cruising the hills, they would follow along in the car.” She loved her reunion with the sport of her childhood but still felt something was missing – skate mates.
   
So on Mother’s Day 2004, this former L.A. Times reporter founded the Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama, which coincided with the release of her first children’s book, “Skateboard Mom,” in order to connect with other moms who loved the sport. From there, a nonprofit organization, Skateboard Moms Inc. was launched, and now it has more than 500 women (moms and “aunties”) participating in its events. skateboardmoms.com
           

Diane Truong, M.D., FAAP | Huntington Beach
Dr. Momtrepreneur

Dr. Diane Truong knows what it means to sacrifice and risk everything for a dream. Her parents, who were successful business owners in Vietnam, did just that when Troung’s father risked his own life to send his family to America during the last days of the Vietnam War. Her mother immigrated with four young children to a foreign country where she had no means, contacts or understanding of the language.
   
Truong worked hard to immerse herself in the American way of life, studying medicine and becoming a pediatrician. During her more than 10 years in practice, she was regularly asked to recommend baby skin and hair care products. When she did a little research, she found that there were few products on the market specific for use on babies. For example, to treat a common flaky scalp condition known as cradle cap, doctors often used adult dandruff shampoo.
    
A chance meeting with a chemist spurred Truong and fellow pediatrician-mom J.J. Levenstein to take the leap and create a line of personal care products. In May 2006, Baby Silk by MD MOMS was launched (mdmoms.com).
    
“We’ve been blessed with an immediate and hugely positive response from the cosmetic industry, press, buyers, celebrities and our retail partners,” says Truong. And the accolades continue to roll in. Baby Silk received a Cosmetic Innovator of the Year award after being featured in the New York Times.
   

Annie Winston | Irvine
Acclaimed author

Annie Winston is all too familiar with failure and heartbreak. Her children’s book series, “Heroical Storicals,” (heroicalstoricals.com) came from the ashes of a “ruined business and a broken marriage.” Winston had an animation company that was on the brink of a major breakthrough when financial backers pulled out abruptly. Her marriage was beginning to disintegrate, and she found herself and her three children in a battered women’s shelter.
   
However, she still had the characters she built the animation company around, and she decided to give them life in another medium. This led to writing her first book, “Daniel Boone and the Battle of Boonesborrough.” She sold more than 25,000 copies.            

“I was blessed to find great independent bookstores such as Martha’s Books on Balboa Island, who helped sell my books,” says Winston who is working on her second book, on Harriet Tubman, set for release in February.
   
Balancing work and motherhood is her greatest challenge.
 
“My greatest reward is hearing my children tell me how much they love me,” she says.



Readers Feedback:

These women are inspirational. I applaud them for going after their dreams while putting family first.
Comment at 11/8/2008
We are very proud of our Queen of Green, Allison Huke. She taught me a lot about thinking green. The best part is that she is a daughter to us by way of marrying our son,Tim, 13 years ago. We all knew that Allison would do great things in her life. Way to go, Al !!!
Comment at 11/8/2008

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