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Life and Work with Bree Pitluk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bree Pitluk.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I think about where I am today, I think of a few things: I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’ve got an incredible family, I’m excited about the future, and I’m finally allowing myself to feel fulfilled in more areas than just motherhood.

As a kid, I was never someone who had a good answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For the most part, it made me panic a little bit. Not being able to automatically say teacher, or engineer, or fashion designer made me feel as though I lacked direction and ambition. It wasn’t until I was a lot (a lotttt) older that I realized by not putting myself in a box from the get-go, I was actually allowing myself to be open to all of the different opportunities that would eventually come my way. It was okay to not have my life perfectly planned out. It was okay to try different things to figure out what I truly liked or didn’t like. It was okay to not be great at everything. And it was okay to take a little longer than some to find something that really worked for me.

When I graduated from college with a degree in Public Relations, I left knowing I had enjoyed my classes but felt completely unprepared for what my next move should be. I had a couple of internships along the way but, to be honest, the world of Public Relations that I knew intimidated me and never felt right. After spending so much time and money on my degree, it seemed ridiculous to not do something in that field. But that’s exactly what ended up happening. It took a long time and a lot of random jobs (glorified telemarketer, lifeguard, swim instructor, personal assistant, territory manager, business associate, program manager, and website rater to name a few) to get to where I am now. I was quite literally ALL over the board. I used to be embarrassed about all the things I had dabbled in, but now, I realize how beneficial each role was in helping shape who I am today.

As soon as I became a mom, things kind of came to a screeching halt in terms of career goals. I had planned on going back to work in some capacity after about four months of maternity leave but my mindset quickly changed as my new normal slowly started to set in. Aside from the insane cost of childcare, I was adamant about not missing a single one of my son’s milestones and I was preemptively upset about only having a small number of hours with him every day before and after work. So, after tons of lost sleep, tears, insane feelings of guilt, hours of number crunching, and a million conversations with my husband, I officially put in my notice.

This was a really frustrating time for me. I felt like I was letting my coworkers down and throwing away all the hard work I had put in. I knew I wanted to stay home with my son, but I also loved my job and wasn’t ready to let it go. I hated knowing that I wouldn’t be bringing home consistent paychecks or having the financial independence that came with my own salary. I knew I still had the desire to do something outside of taking care of my son, but I needed it to be incredibly flexible and I had no idea how to find a job that would make sense. My husband was completely supportive and never made me think twice about any of it, but I struggled. I felt guilty no matter which way I looked at the situation. I knew how lucky I was to even be in a position to decide if I wanted to work or stay at home with my son but I was anxious about how it would all unfold once the decision was made.

It’s been two years since I decided to stay home and, although there are still things I miss about my old job, I’m incredibly happy with what my life looks like now. It took nearly that entire time to get to a spot where I felt at peace with my choice, but I’m finally here! It was definitely a process. I let myself soak up all the goodness that is staying home and giving all my focus to my son, but I started to get the itch to do something outside of being a mother about a year in. I had done some part-time stuff early on but nothing I worked on got me very excited and I was desperate to feel more fulfilled. Every single day, all day long, the only thing I ever focused on was my son. It was so much of what I had dreamt of since he was born but I also started to feel like something was missing. I needed an outlet, I needed my own space, I needed the chance to actually miss him.

So, at the beginning of 2019, I took a leap of faith and opened up a kids’ hat shop online called Rad River Co. It was something I had thought about for a while but made up every excuse in the world for why it wouldn’t work. After some encouragement from my friends and family, a ton of research, and spending an obscene amount of time with my new bestie, Google, I finally decided to go for it. I went all in and it’s been the best thing I’ve done in a very long time. Running a small business has allowed me to focus on something outside of myself or my son, flex my creative muscle, make decisions that get me excited, and help provide a source of income for my family, all while having the flexibility to still be home with my son. I know it’s only the beginning but it’s already been a dream come true.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
When it comes to success or life in general, I don’t think there’s such thing as a smooth road. You could have all the time, money, and resources in the world and you’ll still come across some unexpected bumps. My story is no different. Most of my struggles have had to do with feelings of inadequacy.

On top of being painfully indecisive (just ask my husband), I’ve always had a deep-rooted fear of failure. I’ve been this way my entire life and this combination has affected more areas in my life than I sometimes care to admit. When a series of opportunities or choices are in front of me, I often get overwhelmed and I’m too scared to screw something up that I end up never making a decision at all. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves me feeling exhausted and disappointed in myself. It’s been a learning process, for sure, but I’ve slowly started to realize that action is better than inaction. It really hit home for me when I was launching my business. If I had waited until I felt completely confident or until everything was perfect, I would’ve never launched. Did I wish I had better or more photos on my website? Of course. Did I wish I had more hat designs to sell right off the bat? Sure. Did I wish I had perfectly designed marketing assets? Definitely. All of those things would’ve been amazing to have, but not having them didn’t make my launch any less feasible or exciting. No one expects you to be perfect, especially if you’re just starting out. One piece of advice I have is to give yourself some grace. Realize that you’re your own worst critic and know that finishing something that’s imperfect is usually better than never finishing something at all.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to ask for guidance. A lot of the answers you’re looking for are already out there and if someone is willing to share their knowledge and experience, don’t be afraid to take it. There’s no point in working harder or making the same mistakes as those who have gone before you. Learn from others and save yourself time, headaches, energy, and money. And then, pay it forward if you can.

I also think it’s important to know your limits — both mentally and physically. When I first became a full-time stay-at-home mom, I felt like I was being selfish if I asked for any kind of assistance with taking care of my son. I felt like it was my job and it shouldn’t be something I needed a break from. I wasn’t working outside the home and I had convinced myself that I was greedy if I wanted some kind of help with him. It wasn’t until he was about a year and a half that I finally got over that feeling and enrolled him in part-time daycare. I was able to find a facility that had a gym for me to exercise in, a cafe for me to work in, and also included onsite childcare. I definitely felt the need to justify it a bit but knowing that I was able to maintain my health and my business while my son was socializing and being exposed to care outside of myself gave me the confidence that I needed. It’s been a few months and the guilt has finally faded. I’m fully aware that this isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but I think it’s important to get help and take time for yourself no matter what that looks like. Whether it’s getting a sitter every now and then so you can run errands alone or asking your partner to take on the nighttime routine with the kids so you can enjoy thirty minutes of silence (and maybe pint of ice cream), you have to remember to take care of yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s really hard to take care of anything or anyone else.

One last thing: surrounding yourself with people that believe in you and support you is important, but you are the only one that can make things happen for you. When you believe in yourself, your potential is limitless. And after you believe in yourself, go do whatever you want to do! Don’t wait until things are exactly as you want them to be. You can always improve and pivot, but if you never take the first step, you’ll never have the opportunity to do either. The quote, “Good things come to those who wait”? I’m not here for it. You’ve got to make things happen. If you keep waiting for that magic moment or for success to find you, you’ll be waiting forever.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I wear a few different hats, but mainly I’m a mom and owner of Rad River Co. I also run a motherhood-focused Instagram account and blog called Go Get Your Happy On. I love keeping a digital scrapbook of ours lives, sharing things we’re interested in, places we’ve traveled to, and hopefully providing a laugh or two. Life, especially when it involves parenting, is weird and hard and complicated sometimes, but if you’ve got a sense of humor about it all, everything seems a lot less scary. My social media presence is mainly a highlight reel, but I’m not afraid to keep it real, keep it honest, and keep it funny. My hope is that when people see me mothering, running a business, or sharing my life online, they feel inspired, happy, and part of a community.

When it comes to Rad River Co., I’m really proud of how far we’ve come in such a short time. I had an inkling people would be on the hunt for neutral hats for their littles, and it turns out I was right. It’s really validating to know you’re providing people what they’ve been looking for for so long. We saw how common bright colors, busy patterns, and weird fits were when it came to kids’ hats and we didn’t want to be like the rest of them. I think we’ve achieved that and our customers (parents and kids!) are stoked because of it.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
I grew up knowing that hard work is everything and giving up is never an option. My parents have always been ass-kickers and they instilled that in me.Whether it was in school, sports, or life in general, I had to show up, I had to do my best, and I had to finish the task at hand. I think growing up that way gave me a mindset for success. I’m probably harder on myself than I should be sometimes, but it’s usually because I want to live up to the standards I’ve known my entire life.

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Image Credit:
Rylee Baisden

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