Holly Kennedy & Ellen Jones Entrepreneur Profiles

March 3, 2020

“Go into your workshop with a willingness to be flexible with your ideas: You may find yourself learning something about your customer that warrants a change in the plan, and that’s okay!” 

Holly Kennedy and Ellen Jones both share a very similar story of what led them to CIC and to their business. They both, “are still amazed by how serendipitous it was that we found each other!” Both women are mental health counselors, but in spite of all of their training, they were both blindsided when they found themselves struggling with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety after their first children were born. “We met in a mom and baby exercise class when we were both in the weeds, and pretty quickly began daydreaming about working together someday”. Fast forward a few years, and as soon as they both felt like they were mostly out of the weeds of that disorienting season of early motherhood, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work thinking about how they could make that transition into motherhood easier for other moms. They co-founded Mother Tree Wellness Group “Mother Tree is our passion project borne (no pun intended) from our strong desire to fill the gaps that we found when we were new moms, and to help other moms recognize the tools they have to make their own paths smoother”. 

Through Mother Tree Wellness Group (MTW), Holly and Ellen, seek to create a movement for moms to make sense of motherhood by gaining control and confidence. Through workshops and consults, their mission is to inform, empower, and connect moms. MTW services are virtual, in order to meet moms where they are and allow for increased flexibility and accessibility of these opportunities. For now, MTW specializes in work with moms in the postpartum phase, from birth to two years postpartum. Their services prepare moms to: learn research and best-practices to make sense of why this season of life can be so disorienting, gain effective and easy-to-implement strategies, improve communication with partners/ family/friends, find confidence in their new roles and routines, reunite with and redefine their personal identities, and use their own experiences to support other moms along the way.

When asked what the future holds for MTW, they answered, “We have a lot of long-term goals. We want to foster a support network for moms that allows them to find their people, both locally in Charlottesville and all across the country. We want to help Charlottesville businesses enrich their office environments to better support their working moms by hosting lunch-hour workshops. We want to continue contributing to our local postpartum efforts through pro-bono counseling, trainings for local professionals, and social support group facilitation. We’re living in a country without mandated parental leave, in which the conversation around the importance of maternal wellness is just beginning. On a larger scale, we want to do our part to move the needle forward on these critical issues, to help smooth the path for moms going forward”.

Holly and Ellen started CIC with a lot of ideas, and no idea how to implement any of them. Through CIC’s Entrepreneur Workshop, they learned how to focus their ideas to one starting point, and then learned how to move forward from there. “We loved the exchange of ideas that took place every week within our small group (thanks to our facilitator, Debbie Wong!), and the way in which we all became invested in each other’s ideas and ultimate success. Every week, we got so inspired by our stellar expert speakers, and we left every class with a newfound confidence in how to take the lessons we learned and apply them to our concept. We came away each week with so many scribbles of notes for ideas, to-dos, and inspiration. Our classmates and CIC’s expert speakers created such a spark for these thoughts, and then the tools to bring those thoughts to fruition. Ellen wants to give a special shout to David Deaton for the time management tips that have transformed her everyday schedule. Holly was particularly energized by the discussions around brand development and marketing strategy. She feels this helped really refine the MTW concept and mission, and holding true to our passion and mission has been pivotal throughout the process of building our business”. 

Their biggest takeaway from the Entrepreneur Workshop was “a realization that we had no idea how much we didn’t know about running a business when we started the workshop and acceptance of the fact that we’ll come upon many more situations in the future when we don’t know what to do. Thanks to CIC, we know that our first step will be to reach out to the strong network of volunteers and mentors that CIC has fostered. We know they’ll point us in the right direction, and that knowledge gives us some much-needed peace of mind as we embark on this new adventure! Our time with CIC exposed us to so many generous, intelligent, and all-around excellent professionals in our community. We met our attorney and our accountant through CIC, and we feel confident knowing that we’re working with professionals who have been vetted by an organization we trust”.