Creativity, courage and tenacity are personal pillars for Dawn Mucci in both of her primary roles — mom and entrepreneur.
“I came into my business with $500 in my pocket as a single mother on social assistance,” says the mom of 3 and CEO of Lice Squad, a leading Canadian lice removal company with more than 30 franchises across the country. “If I was able to take my ingenuity and my creativity and my persistence to create a business that now actually fosters other women to start a business through franchising, anyone can do that,” she says.
THE CALL TO ACTION
Her first child, now 28 years old, unknowingly helped lead Mucci to pursue becoming an entrepreneur — in a stigmatized space no less— back in 2001.
“It was a circumstance around him coming home from daycare with head lice that got me involved in helping other mothers with the issue of head lice,” says Mucci, during an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk TV. “And plus, being a child who was very sociable with long, thick, clean hair, I was very susceptible to lice and often got it quite a bit. So I was very in touch with the stigma that was associated with lice and those feelings of shame and negativity. So when it came to me, as a young mother and my son had it, I went kind of back to that place,” she says.
Lice Squad will celebrate its 20th anniversary in September 2021.
Mucci vividly recalls the early days, struggling to balance two demanding worlds that would often collide.
“The first few years are trial and error, and it takes time to build. Just as it was about to take off, I had my twins. And I remember being on Breakfast Television promoting my business and I had been breastfeeding. And it was one of those situations where the kids weren’t there, but a baby cried. And I guess all moms can kind of relate to what would happen to you and I was on live TV. And you know, you just have to roll with things, you just have to do the best with what you’ve got. I don’t have a secret sauce to it.”
EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Mucci does not mince her words about what she experienced juggling the duel roles. “The thing that struck me was how exhausting it was to be an entrepreneur in the early days. And the solopreneur thing is a death sentence. I mean, I realized I was wearing so many hats and the burnout could come really quickly,” she says.
But she learned key lessons quickly and course-corrected to keep moving forward both at home and professionally.
“Self-care. Making sure that you’re taking good care of yourself, physically and mentally and spiritually, putting yourself first so that you have the energy to do everything you need to do as a mother and as a business owner. And then the second most important thing I think that helped was surrounding myself with amazing other women and people that that had the resources and skills that I lacked,” she says. “I was able to learn early on that the most important thing to have a relatively sane work-life kind of balance, if you want to call it that, is to delegate and to have people around you that are smarter than you in areas where you are struggling and to trust those people to be able to take those tasks and execute them. And that gives you the creativity to continue on as the visionary and do the things you need to do to bring in new business and grow and develop your brand.”
REALIZING MULTIPLE FACETS
Mucci’s personal and professional brands are wide and varied.
In addition to running an award-winning company and being recognized for her efforts as a franchisor, she is also an author and singer-songwriter.
“I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’ve learned to be reliant on others to help. And I’ve learned to ask for help,” says Mucci, thinking about the entirety of her journey. “I’ve learned that you’ve got to share what you’ve been blessed with, and what you have — to give it away and help others along the way.”
Her most coveted accomplishment? “I have to say I’m proud of my children for putting up with mom, and that they’ve all turned out really, really well.”
During her video interview with WhereParentsTalk.com, Dawn Mucci also shares:
- Tips and strategies for parentpreneurs (moms and dads who are running a business while raising children)
- Advice and alternatives for those thrust out of the workforce by the Covid-19 coronavirus, especially parents/caregivers
- What you need to know about the presence of head lice during and beyond a global pandemic
Watch the full interview:
Click for video transcription
Hello and welcome to Where Parents Talk TV. My name is Lianne Castelino.
Our guest today is a mom of three. She is the CEO of Lice Squad, a leading lice removal company with more than 30 franchises across Canada. She also heads New Dawn Distributing, and recently added yet another title to her resume that of founder and president of Canada’s Top Mayor Award.. Welcome, Dawn Mucci.
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and I appreciate the invitation.
Dawn, I wanted to start by asking you, at what point were you in your life’s journey or maybe even your parenting journey when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since as far back as I can remember. As far back as age six, I was doing lemonade stands on a busy street in Toronto, I lived in a flat above a record store on Roncesvalles, which they now call Ramsey. And I did a number of different things back then as a child or a kidpreneur, as they call them. And it just always had a knack for spotting opportunities and solving problems and just a real passion and desire to create. I believe that entrepreneurship is a form of art. And we create things of value for others through that art form.
So then, at what point on that journey, then did you become a mom,
I became a mom very young at 21 with my first son. He’s now 28. And it was because of him that well not because of him, but a circumstance around him coming home from daycare with head lice that got me involved in helping other mothers with the issue of head lice. And plus, being a child who was very sociable with long, thick, clean hair, I was very susceptible to lice and often got it quite a bit. So I was very in touch with the stigma that was associated with lice and those feelings of shame and negativity. So when it came to me, as a young mother and my son had it, I went kind of back to that place. And I remember having all those pesticides and things used in the little combs that just tore my hair. And I remember saying there’s got to be a better way. And I was doing an aromatherapy business at that time, I had new dawn aroma therapy, I became one of the first certified aromatherapist in the greater GTA area. And I parlayed my use of essential oils into my first product line. So that was my first forte into a bonafide business.
So at that point, it’s safe to say that you were an experienced entrepreneur, but you were a young mother. How did you go about finding a balance between running your own business and raising a child?
I will be honest, and tell you that there really is no such thing. You just work with what you’ve got, and where you are. I remember when I had my twins, and this is just a little bit later on in the development of my business, I was just getting it going, you know, the first few years are trial and error, and it takes time to build. But as just as it was about to take off, I had my twins. And I remember being on Breakfast Television promoting my business and I had been breastfeeding. And it was one of those situations where the kids weren’t there, but a baby cried. And I guess all moms can kind of relate to what would happen to you and I was on live TV. And you know, you just have to roll with things, you just have to do the best with what you’ve got. And I mean, I don’t have a secret sauce to it. It really is just about, I think self-care making sure that you’re taking good care of yourself, physically and mentally and spiritually, putting yourself first so that you have the energy to do everything you need to do as a mother and as a business owner. And then the second most important thing I think that helped was surrounding myself with amazing other women and people that that had the resources and skills that I lacked. So I was able to learn early on that the most important thing to have a relatively sane work life kind of balance, if you want to call it that is to delegate and to have people around you that are smarter than you and areas where you are struggling and to trust those people to be able to take those tasks and execute them. And that gives you the creativity to continue on as the visionary and do the things you need to do to bring in new business and grow and develop your brand.
It’s so interesting to hear you sort of lay that all out. It sounds so simple, but when you’re in it, you know it’s a whole different. It’s a whole different story. So at what point in your journey of having these two roles happening did you delegate, did you reach out? Did you seek out mentors because it’s not obvious for everybody, right?
The thing that struck me was how exhausting it was to be an entrepreneur in the early days. And the solopreneur thing is, is a death sentence. I mean, I realized I was wearing so many hats and the burnout could come really quickly. And the first thing I recognized was that I was burning out because there was just too much to do in a day being a parent and trying to build a business. And so that’s when I realized the most important thing was that delegation piece. And that, you know, bringing people on as soon as you can. The first thing I spent my money on was investing in someone to assist me. And from there, things got easier because that person took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. And unlike a lot of mothers, and I’m not saying how it’s to be done, or how it should be done, but I instead of, you know, having a nanny and going to work, you know, working the 60 days, 80 hour, workweeks that most entrepreneurs have to do to begin building a business, I hired someone to manage my business and be there majority of the time, so I could delegate the things that needed to be done. And I could stay home with my twins. So I would go into work two days a week and do what I had to do to support and to guide and to lead. And then I was able to be home with my children. So you know, whatever works, I always say whatever works for an individual is what you need to go with, you know yourself best. And you know what, what works for you. And mentorship is another huge thing. And I’m glad you touched on that because I honestly feel that if I didn’t have mentorship to guide me and help me, I would have wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have in my professional career. And my mothering. Quite frankly, you look to other mothers to mentor you. Like your website is a fantastic resource for her parents, right? We need that mentorship from other parents, there’s no guidebook, you have children, and you figure it out as you go. And I always say you do the same with business, but it helps greatly to have mentors to help guide you.
On that note, how would you say that being a mom helped inform being an entrepreneur and vice versa? In other words, how did the each of your roles impact the other in positive, and perhaps, you know, less positive ways?
Well, I believe that women have an innate ability to be able to communicate well. We know how to delegate and manage a lot of tasks because it’s just naturally something we have to do being parents. And, and we’re not afraid to ask for help. And reach out and lean on others it as far as parenting goes, or business ownership, the worst thing you can do is go it alone, or think that you have to have all the answers or think that you, you know that you’re not doing it right or to anyone else’s standards. I think you do the best you can with what you have. And you always reach out for help and for mentorship, and to try and lean on others to support you in your journey. Because it’s very challenging to be a parent, it’s challenging to run a business, and you combine the two things, and you can run into some pretty big obstacles. So really having a support system around you is so critical to your health and well-being and the success of you as a parent and as a business owner.
As you face the various challenges in your business, which are inevitable in any business. What would you say kept you going, that you didn’t throw in the towel, that you persevered and have really grown this this massive, you know, national company?
What has kept me going? I would say I was thinking about that the other day cuz I’m coming on 20 odd years and in business and my kids are about to go to college and university. So I’m coming into a different time of my life. And I think what keeps me going is the creativity because I believe that I call it a disease. I mean, I’m constantly having ideas and creating things and I thrive on that being able to be use my entrepreneurship as a creative vehicle. And I think what keeps me going is I just want to have a comfortable and decent life and I want to be able to build something of value that I can leave behind as a legacy. And I want to be a great role model for not just my children but anybody out there any other woman or man or a person that that wants to create, achieve something in the in the realm of a business that it’s very possible for anybody and, and for me to be able to inspire others coming from a place where I didn’t have formal education, I didn’t really have resources, I came into my business with $500 in my pocket on a single mother on social assistance. And so if I was able to take my ingenuity and my creativity and my persistence, to create a business that now actually fosters other women to start a business through franchising, anyone can do that. And I think what drives me is that ambition to prove that anyone can do it. And just, it makes me happy to be able to contribute and give back.
You talked about stigma earlier, and, you know, it strikes me it’s so interesting in your story, that the very nature of what it is that you do at lice squad has a certain amount of stigma attached to it. So not only were you trying to balance, you know, the different roles in your life, and what you just described, which is a tremendous amount of, you know, adversity that you clearly have overcome, how did you go about addressing the stigma around, you know, the removal of lice, and the very nature of what it is that you do?
The stigma, it was challenging, because I was a pioneer. And this, no one had done something like I was trying to accomplish and, you know, talking to the insurance people and the lawyers and the various people counters that you need to align yourself with at the beginning of your business that they didn’t understand what I was trying to do. So I had to, I had to explain it to them. I think any parent would automatically understand the stigma, anyone who’s ever had lice would automatically understand the stigma, I think it’s those people that have never experienced it, that tend to have a lack of understanding, and might tend to judge it in a certain way. But But that’s only because they’ve not experienced it. And I mean, it’s like, I’ve overcome many stigmatized issues in my life, I have, I’ve had a lot to challenge me a lot to overcome around the issue of stigma. Not just because I’m in the headlights business, you know, and being a woman in business, and also having struggled with some mental health issues in my career and my mothering motherhood. So I know all about stigma. And I know the only way to, to break stigma is to move through it and be an example of of it and how you can overcome it and to educate people. And it’s just all about education. And it’s all it’s all about just being authentic and transparent and sharing your story.
Currently, in this pandemic, there are many women in particular, who are being affected by the pandemic, and access to work and childcare and caring for elderly parents, etc. They’re being forced out of the workforce. What advice would you give to any of those people who might be considering becoming entrepreneurs, and particular if they are mums themselves?
Yeah, it is a challenging time. And I totally empathize. I’m, you know, in the same boat, in a sense, and we’re, we’re doing everything we can to make it over to the other side, and majority of the women that own my franchises, you know, they they’re very smart and intelligent. They are also struggling. But what I will say is, this pandemic has presented quite a number of opportunities. And I’m not going to worry too much about how women are going to bounce back because we are resourceful and we’re, we’re resilient. And I think looking at the opportunities that this has presented, like the ability to stay at home and work, the zoom meetings and the ways that we can now communicate and, and execute our work without having to spend those two or three hours in the car or missing time running back and forth to meetings. We’ve proven in the last year that all of these things can be done in the comfort of your home. And you can also look at the opportunities that are out there to be in business for yourself, but not by yourself through the franchise model. You know, starting a business from scratch is very challenging, and it will take resources, time, money, and a lot of us might not have that right now due to circumstances because of COVID. But what you could do is look at an established brand, something you’re passionate about. So if you go to the Canadian franchise Association, there’s a number of different kinds of businesses from fitness to I’d like to, you know, flipping burgers, whatever you’re passionate about, look into coming into a part of a franchise system as a way of creating opportunity for yourself. So you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself. And, and just try and look at those other opportunities that present themselves now, because of the way that things have shifted, because of COVID. You know, lots in lots of opportunities are there. So do some research and look around and see, see what you can. Because traditional jobs are, are never reliable. I mean, I’ve seen it over and over again, didn’t take a pandemic, to prove to me that you can’t count on a job. But you can count on yourself, and you can be resourceful. So, I would say that go and find something that you’re passionate about pursue it.
Dawn, what would you say that you have learned about yourself over the course of being a mom, and running a business at the same time?
I think I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’ve learned to be reliant on others to help. And I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve learned that you’ve got to share what you’ve been blessed with, and that you have to give it away and help others along the way. You know, the principles of paying it forward or paying it back is so important, because when you are able to achieve some level of success or something of value, it’s no good just keeping it to yourself. Really, it’s, it’s meant to be shared. So I’ve learned to, to want to share what I know and what I have with others. And I don’t know, I guess I I’m learning to relax a bit. Now, I really this this whole situation in the last year, with COVID. And everything, it’s taught me to just slow down, be grateful, and look for the ways I can help others, and most importantly, to just take care of myself and the people around me and really cherish and appreciate this time that we’ve had together.
When you look back on it now, what would you say that you’re most proud of, on this journey of all these multiple roles?
And I know a lot of moms, a lot of parentpreneurs you know, certainly a lot of entrepreneurs. We’re also busy that we don’t often take the time to think about that question, but what would you say that you are most proud of along this journey?
I have to say I’m proud of my children for putting up with mom, and that they’ve all turned out really, really well. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to create an opportunity for other women. So I’m proud of my franchisees that the women that have started their own independent businesses through my franchise model and the brand that I started that they believed in my vision and they’re now successful business owners themselves, that makes me super proud. And the staff and the people that I have around me at my you know, that help me with the day to day running of the business, I certainly can’t really take the credit for any of this, like for the success and where I’ve, come in my journey as an entrepreneur because that truly is a collaborative effort. It I’m only where I am because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with that that have been there for for not just me, but everybody that’s you know, got an invested interest in the business that I run that we run, sorry. So I’m really proud of my team, franchisees and my kids, my family. And I’m proud of myself that that’s hard to say cuz, you know, it’s it’s hard to like, I don’t want to seem boastful or anything. I’m very humble about everything that’s that they’ve been able to achieve. But sometimes it’s really important to give yourself a good like, pat on the back, you know, for your accomplishments. So, yeah, I have to give myself that too. Because I really never did for many, many years.
And that’s so that’s so common, right with a lot of again, moms and certainly entrepreneurs. Let me ask you, we are in a pandemic and this topic may not be top of mind in a lot of families, but any words of advice around you know, lice and the area that you know is the focus of your business and what people might should, might need to be aware of even if they are not at school all the time, etc.
Oh, absolutely. We’re actually working on some educational resources around that because what’s happened in during COVID is, you know, the social distancing is created leisa to be on a bit of a survival mode, like any organism, you know, if you cut off the supply of food, they they, you know, have to evolve, or they have to, you know, mutate in some way to be able to survive this their for their species. And so lice are on a survival mode right now. And they’re actually almost adapting to their life cycle is sort of adjusting and I was reading an article in the in the States, and I forget, I can’t cite the actual source. But it said that the lifecycle of the lice is mutating in such a way that there I’m concerned, what I’m concerned with is that when people are getting back together, and there’s going to be a lot of hugging and people sharing, close up, that there’s going to be a lice outbreak like a big lice outbreak, because you know, they are on that survival mode. And right now, we may not be seeing a lot of cases, especially in our business, we, our businesses, really slow up, slow down, but the people that are coming in, have massive infestations. Because they don’t a it’s not top of mind. B, they’re stopping all the regular things they used to do. But like checking once a week, or you know, the lice letters from the school, it’s not even on anyone’s radar, because there’s so many more important things happening. So they’re getting very severe cases that go on, and then the family units are getting it. So it’s not so much their peers at school or daycare. It’s the family units getting severe infestation. So prevention and checking is key at this stage of the game. And then when things do get back to normal. Be careful, because there will be a lot more lice cases I believe, happening and, and people need to be aware of that.
I have a final question for you, Dawn, as we sort of conclude this interview, I’m just wondering if there’s any other tips and advice that you might want to offer to parents contemplating starting their own business while having a family and they always say the first two years of any business are the most challenging? And I don’t know what the status specifically but a lot of businesses start and fail within that time frame. So how would you suggest that they set them up themselves up for success managing those two different buckets, parenting and entrepreneurism.
So again, I would say to like, surround yourself with support, and maybe not go into business, by yourself, but do it with an established brand, who already has that team of mentors and that roadmap available to you. So that would be through franchising, or buying an existing business where you get all of the stuff that the templates there. I’ve always taught people to never wait for things to be perfect. You know, don’t wait till you have enough money or enough resources, enough people start with where you are, with what you have. And just go forward and figure it out as you go. Because that is the way it’s going to happen. Perfection is the enemy of done. And if you’re waiting for perfection, before you take that step, you’re going to wait a long time, you’re going to make mistakes, it’s going to be hard. I’m not gonna lie to you the
easy thing.The first two, three years of business is his head banging. And if you have kids that add nails to the chalkboard, you know, it’s it’s challenging, but just do the best with what you have and with where you are and just take one step forward every day. And don’t forget to ask for help.
Dawn Mucci thank you so much for your time today.
It is my pleasure. And thank you again for having me.