DIVa moms by LYSS Stern
Diva Moms (divamoms.com) is a direct-to-mom marketing company started by entrepreneur Lyss Stern that connects a wide community of mothers to marketers seeking this valuable demographic. Lyss’ followers are a high-quality audience who regularly engage with one another on her social media, attend “Diva Moms” events, buy products endorsed by Lyss and follow her across the many mediums spreading her message. Through a database of a million moms – who represent 91 percent of the spending decisions in US homes – Lyss has established herself the true “mom-preneur” who is highly sought out for marketing campaigns, speaking engagements, TV appearances and sponsored events. She is also the author of "Motherhood Is A B#TCH, 10 Steps to Regaining Your Sanity, Sexiness and Inner Diva," which she co-wrote with Sheryl Berk.
Question: In one sentence, what is DivaMoms?
Lyss: We are a direct marketing company for moms everywhere.
Q: What is the broader purpose?
Lyss: Companies – brands, publishers, events, products – hire DivaMoms because I have a quality audience who are inﬂuenced by what I say, approve of, suggest, comment on. My followers are known to engage and also spend.
Q: Why so?
Lyss: Because I’m genuine. What I say is honest and relatable. Companies that hire DivaMoms – in essence, me – have to ﬁrst get my seal of approval. For example, if it’s a food company, it has to be something that I’d eat ﬁrst or feel comfortable serving to my kids. I get approached by everyone – ﬁtness studios, coffee brands, tutoring services for kids, etc. They have to pass the Lyss test.
Q: Why is you audience so important to brands?
Lyss: Because I have moms that listen and who have spending power. They hear what I have to say because they trust me. These are direct eyeballs who are a target audience for many brands. A company can spend $100,000 on an advertising page in some magazine, and they will not get a return on investment. With DivaMoms, you get that. I don’t guarantee it, but I have enough examples that show my audience is incredibly valuable to their efforts. The mom market as a whole is a huge, untapped audience.
Q: And they rely on your recommendations?
Lyss: From an early age, I was a trend-setter. I had a good sense of what the next “thing” would be, and I still do. But now I use it for a different audience – moms like me who are raising kids but don’t want to give up on their own needs and wants. I have my pulse on what’s out there because I am out there. Every day I’m running around with three kids, and I observe and take moments in. I know instantly if it’s something my audience would be interested in knowing about.
Q: Your personality, even your name, is very much a public part of you online. Where’s the separation?
Lyss: I do put a lot of who I am out to my audience, but I recognize there is business time and there is personal time. The outside Lyss is more business-minded. Sure, I have fun with it and engage my followers with humorous banter, but it’s still a business. I’m a trusted conduit between marketers and a very big audience. But at the end of the day, or when my kids and family need personal time, I won’t hesitate to put down the phone and be “present” so they get the best of me. Our kids – and I think that applies to everyone in my community – come ﬁrst no matter what. If I’m in a meeting and one of my children need me, there’s no question what decision I’m going to make. It’s who I am and I’m not afraid to say it. Through DivaMoms, I’ve built a community of women who I love to hear from. The beautiful thing about this group is that when we do come together at events, we meet and bond because we are like-minded. There is something very special about that. Many of us have met friends we will keep forever.
Q: You do portray a very realistic window into the world of a busy mom.
Lyss: I never portray anything as perfect in my life. I don’t want anyone to ever think it is, because it’s not. I don’t have a team of people taking selﬁes of me around town – what I post is real. And I’m annoyed with the overuse of the "blessed" hashtag. You’re not blessed if you got a big Mercedes with a big bow on it. You’re blessed if your children and family are happy. I don’t want to see someone in a selﬁe on a private plane. I like to keep it real. I’m married 17 years, and I’ve been working for 20. My husband, Brian, and I have three kids and a dog. And I talk about this every day. I even wrote a book about it, Motherhood Is a B#TCH!. Not every day is rainbows and unicorns. It's real life and it's a roller coaster. Putting it out there online lets people know that I am real.
Q: Can moms have it all?
Lyss: Everyone's definition is different. To me, having it all is having your health. I lost my father four years ago; he was my whole childhood. So, having it all to me means having a healthy family, a happy family and loving what you do. But in a practical sense, no, I don’t think you can have it all. When I started out, I thought it was possible. But when you try, you’re depleted. Balancing kids, a husband, home is enough. Throw in a career or starting a business? It’s a lot. Moms are allowed to ask for help. And that’s what I try to instill in DivaMoms: Life isn’t perfect, and you’re not a bad person or mom for admitting it. There is help. We have a thriving community of people who are experiencing what you are.
Q: How did you get your start?
Lyss: My background is in public relations and special events. I worked for Peggy Siegal right out of college. It was the best training you can ask for. And that’s where I met my husband, Brian. He was a junior agent at William Morris and I was working the opening of John Leguizamo's play “Freak” on Broadway. I did PR with Peggy for two years and got burned out fast, to say the least. So, I decided to become a teacher. I went back to school, got a master’s in education and taught kindergarten in a private school for six years. I loved every minute of it. When I started out, there were just a few mom blogs that spoke to me and the experience I was going through. The only thing I really found was a group meeting in the back of some dingy restaurant on the Upper East Side and some woman saying, “This is how to breast-feed.” I had gone with Jackson and said, “I can’t do this.” And then a light bulb went on in my head: There has to be something more than this. So I created a blog called divamoms.com, and it was me talking about my experience.
Q: It was the time of “Sex and the City” when women were celebrating being glamorous, sexy, social.
Lyss: Yes, and I didn’t want to lose myself just because I was now a mom. I wanted to continue to be fabulous. I wanted to wear stilettos. I wanted to have fun with my friends and have fun with my husband. I put my thinking cap on and said, “I’m going to go for this.” Sippy cups and high heels can go hand-in-hand. High chairs and high heels are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to have one and not the other.
Q: What was the reaction?
Lyss: Well at ﬁrst, everyone laughed at me. My friends had a big intervention. My husband was concerned because I never took a business class. I majored in communications at Syracuse! But I said to myself, “The worst thing that will happen is that I will fail.” Alright, so I fail. And the best-case scenario is that I will succeed. But I need to try this.
Q: In a way, you were a trailblazer.
Lyss: When I started, there weren’t any mom blogs. Today, everybody's a mom blogger. My company grew into an actual business. It wasn’t just me taking ridiculous photos of myself because people were paying me. Companies, brands and stores got wind of me because the audience grew organically, mom-to-mom. I never advertised, and I won’t to this day. I truly believe in building the mom community through the word of mom. Marketers and publicists started asking, “Who is this Lyss?Who are these DivaMoms? We need them! We need this audience!” That’s how it started.
Q: How are you monetizing this?
Lyss: Companies can buy different packages – email blasts, sponsored social media posts, events. But, again, they have to pass what I call the “Lyss Test.” It has to be something I believe in and use myself and family-related.
Q: How have you created this bond with moms?
Lyss: They come to me all the time, sometimes publicly online, and also privately. Whatever I tell them, they know they are getting something authentic.
Q: What are some things you do to relax? Ofﬂine time.
Lyss: I take Core Fusion; it’s a Barre method class. I try to do it three to four times a week. In the morning, I like to go to Flywheel, which is a spin class. I like walks in Central Park or ﬁnd a coffee shop and curl up with a great book for a little bit. I like to disconnect, which is very important. Putting the phone down and breathe. Just let me breathe. And I love to read at night. And I love to take a bubble bath. It's important you need to take care of you. Because if you don’t, no one else will.