FIVE X FIVE: Lisa Ridd
The Tot FIVE x FIVE invites inspiring mamas to answer five questions on motherhood and curate five products they can’t live without. Here we talk to Lisa Ridd, Founder of Smitten Films, and Tribeca-based mother of 3.
Lisa On Motherhood
1. How did the idea of Smitten Films come to you?
I had my first baby in 2009 while I was living in London. It was the advent of the smartphone and I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends. In the first year of my son, Jude’s, life, I took thousands of pictures and hundreds of videos of him (hello, new SAHM!) but I had no way of sharing just the best parts with all the people I loved most. I had left my job in film production (after a 7 year career in finance) to stay at home with my baby and with the knowledge I amassed over the 1.5 years in production, I started playing around with my footage. I had learned how to tell a story while working in production, and now I knew I had a story to tell and I just had to teach myself how to edit. I selected the best pictures and the best parts of each video, edited them together with music, added titles and effects, gifted it to my husband for his birthday (also shared it with my family and friends around the world), and viola, the first Smitten Film was born! Everyone was smitten with the end result, and I knew that other busy mamas making beautiful memories must have the same problem. Another baby, 2 years, and an international move back to NYC later, I officially launched the business in 2013.
2. Did you have an ‘all in’ moment when you knew you could make it a full time job?
It was a very gradual, organic process. I started the company not knowing exactly where it was going to go as I wanted demand to guide its growth. I invested $30,000 of our own money and used it to figure out certain legal/operational obstacles and hire a graphic designer to develop the brand identity + website. I took my time with this process – probably about 6-8 months – before I even started making films for clients. I worked 3 days a week to start, out of our apartment in Tribeca. It was such a lonely time because none of the female entrepreneur groups were up and running yet so I figured everything out on my own without advice or guidance from anyone – as a result I made plenty of mistakes!
I can’t even remember exactly how I landed our first client but once I had the first one in the door, she referred us to a friend, who referred us to a friend, and so on and so forth. It grew very word of mouth and organically in those early days (with a few bits of hyper local press) and for a while it was still just me, working out of my apartment! At some point, I knew I had to hire someone else if I wanted to continue to only work 3 days a week so I made my first hire, our senior editor who is still with us today! About 3 years ago, after 4 years in business, I knew that the brand and the company could be so much more so I decided to start working full time, invest in refreshing the brand, hire a larger team of editors (who are still all with us today) and invest in a real marketing strategy. So that brings us to where we are today: a team of 6 + additional freelancers all working towards Smitten’s higher purpose: helping busy mamas enjoy the beautiful memories they have created for their families and to inspire them to create more.
3. With so many toddlers and kids seeing parents on their phones more and more, how do you talk to your kids about technology and social media?
First and foremost, I try to lead by example. I am not constantly on my phone when my kids are around – I generally try to leave it in another room entirely when I’m with them. My 11 year old son got a phone for his elementary school graduation, but so far we’ve kept it limited to texting, calling, and FaceTime. The idea is to give him access to other parts of his phone gradually – once he gets the hang of each step (or “phase” as we have been calling it, taking inspiration from the way our leaders have defined COVID protocols), he gets to move onto the next phase. He has been in Phase 1 for about 5 months though, since he’s not really getting texting etiquette (you can’t text your grandfather “hi!” all day long!). His dad and I are playing the long game. Getting used to a phone and it’s allure and demands is not something that 11 year olds have ever had to do and it’s just information overload if not taken slowly.
We talk to our older two (11 and 9) about the neurological impact of devices and how they are designed to keep us tapping. How they are not good for our brains, especially theirs, which are still developing. We discuss that it’s okay to use devices in moderation, but until they have fully formed brains that can understand how to moderate addictive behavior, we will be the ones monitoring their usage. They get frustrated by the limitations that we put on screen time, but I hope that by bringing them in on the reasoning behind it, they can understand our position a little better. This is all so new for parents to navigate that it’s not like we have it all figured out! We are just doing what feels right to us with the information that we currently have.
4. As a mama of four and entrepreneur, what type of support system do you have in place that helps you manage your day to day schedule?
My husband is beyond supportive and always has been. He was the catalyst for for me to leave my unfulfilling job in finance. He was the one who encouraged me to go for it with founding Smitten Films. He is the one who still supports its mission every day, while also checking the monthly P&L to make sure our investment in the business still makes sense (I have never taken outside funding)! He is my number 1 support system. Of course, our nanny is also a key contributor to things running smoothly on a daily basis. With COVID, our kids are on a hybrid schedule, so making sure I am as productive as possible during the hours they are in school has been key. I support them a lot with their remote learning, so trying to be my most productive while they are remote just ends in frustration.
As for hacks and tips, here are a few that I love:
- Color coded Google Calendars, with a weekly printed out Google Doc (goes on the fridge) that spells out every single kid’s activity each day including time, location, and who is responsible for getting them there and back (it changes every week).
- We have a Google Sheet that has all of our weekly food staples – every Friday my husband or I update the quantity of each line item based on what we have left. We subscribe to a website that emails us recipes + shopping lists every Friday so we add the items we need for the following week to the same Google Sheet by Friday EOD. We then put in an order at our local Whole Foods via the Amazon and 2 hours later, it’s at our doorstep! This means that we have all the food we need to cook homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 7 days without spending hours picking out recipes or even shopping! I’m not saying you have to use our system, but find a system that works for your family (this one took us years to perfect) and stick to it so you’re never scrambling for dinner at 5pm on a weeknight.
- Amazon subscribe and save for household staples. I never run out of diapers or toilet paper (even during peak pandemic) and I LOVE THAT.
- I rely on Trello for my short and long term to do lists.
5. We know you love NYC! What are your top 3 things to do there with your kids?
My kids adore the Natural History Museum so a morning spent there (you can buy timed tickets) + afternoon in Central Park is pretty perfect (with Shake Shack to go for lunch, of course).
I always love a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and wandering through DUMBO and ending at Jane’s Carousel.
We love strolling through neighborhoods with great food, like Chinatown, to not only eat authentic food but to take in all the different sites and sounds those unique neighborhoods have to offer.
Lisa’s picks from The Tot
“All 4 of my kids have sat in these highchairs and they truly grow with your child (and look chic too!”
“I often give this one piece as a gift for a new baby. I am sucker for the sweet angel wings on the back – they totally elevate a simple onesie into a gorgeous gift.”
“I have my eye on this kitchen set for baby #4 once he starts standing”