It was an idea born of necessity. Sally Robinson, like many moms and grandmothers, never had enough hands to juggle the children, phone, purse, car keys, groceries. So, she went home and stitched together a hands-free purse alternative—a small clutch with a detachable strap that could be worn on your wrist, clamped onto a grocery cart, stroller or even on the rail at Churchill.
Soon, daughter Dana, a marketing executive, joined her efforts, perfecting the prototype and getting distribution in local boutiques for the accessory they named the Pursekeyper. Flash forward eight years and the product they began making in Sally’s basement is now the Keyper, manufactured in Somerset, KY, and sold on line at MyKeyper.com.
This year, they’ve received sorority, NCAA and NFL licensing. Now, the single mom and her mother are starting to enjoy the success they’ve worked towards for nearly a decade. Dana shared with TOPS what this journey has meant for her and her children.
Tell us about your family.
I have two great kids– Andrew, 14, and Sophie, 12, – and I am so proud of them. They enjoy almost all sports and are very active, so they’re surrounded by great friends and amazing coaches. Andrew plays football, golf, tennis, lacrosse, basketball, and also swims. Sophie loves field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and swimming. She has recently taken up sewing, which my mom is helping her with. My mom is a fantastic seamstress and the inventor of the original “PurseKeyper,” (now called Keyper) so it’s great watching Sophie inherit that talent as I can’t sew a button on! They’re also great students and love school.
What do you love most about your career?
Having friends show me their Keyper they have used for 8 years and hearing how they still use it and love it! Getting to work with my mom to take a product that she invented into the marketplace. We have evolved, redesigned, rebranded, and refocused – and I am more excited today than I was launching in a hundred Dillard’s stores in 2010. I have been a sponge, learning so much over the years. I can’t believe my mom’s simple idea now has NFL, NCAA and sorority licensing! I also love being able to have the flexibility to take my kids to school and pick them up most days. Even if it means working until midnight, I am able to be there for them, which is extra special.
How do you balance career and family?
I couldn’t do it without my friends, neighbors, and family in Lexington and Somerset. They know I will ask for help when I need it, and I try to reciprocate when I can. I do roll my career over into my daily family life. I will stop a neighbor and ask if they like a certain color, or when at a kid’s event, I will ask the other moms for feedback. I know I drive them crazy at times, but it helps me do career and family at the same time.
What are some of your biggest time challenges?
Making time for friends and extended family.
How do you handle them?
Facebook, texting, and other means of communication– rather than beating myself up because I don’t have time for long phone calls or a girls’ night out with friends. Luckily, we have family text threads, and I have group threads with friends, so I can stay in touch when I am having to focus my time on my kids and my business.
Do you try to share any aspects of your work with your family?
Every aspect! I love that my kids have watched every minute of this journey. They have helped put hang tags on, delivered to Kroger stores, listened to me get excited about something like the NFL and then getting frustrated when it takes a year to finally happen. They are learning the word perseverance firsthand for sure! I am hopefully teaching them when you believe in something, don’t give up. When a window closes, another one opens. So far, we have opened and closed and opened a lot of windows!
Do you have any time for hobbies?
Not really. Every summer, I want to play a round of golf (which I grew up playing) and learn tennis. Didn’t happen again this summer. I do enjoy running and cooking nice dinners for the kids. They don’t order off of the kids’ menu anymore at 12 and 14. So, I enjoy introducing new foods to them, which has become a hobby.
What values do you try to model for your children?
Kindness, love, compassion for others. “You have to be a friend to have friends,” I always say. I am also trying to teach them to be true to themselves and to believe in themselves.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
My kids for sure. The new rebranded Keyper, especially since my mom has taken a step back from the company. I stepped up… learning every aspect of the manufacturing and sourcing she was doing, which was another challenge for me, but I am very excited to finally have everything in place. Another exciting development I am proud of is the Keyp It Together Foundation. KEYPER will be giving 5% of gross profit to aid women and children who find themselves in unexpected, challenging situations. The goal is to provide financial support during a difficult time to help them “keep it together” and keep life as normal as possible during their challenging time.
What is your advice to other women who are juggling careers and motherhood?
Stay focused and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being a mother is a full-time job. Being an entrepreneur is a full-time job. I used to plan ahead. Now, I find myself making daily lists that turn into hourly lists just to stay focused and try to get everything done. And, I do ask for help when I need it. Luckily, I am blessed with an amazing support system all around me.