July’s Mom You Should Meet has been such a pleasure to get to know and research for today’s post. Norrinda Brown Hayat is one of those women you can’t help but soak up everything they have to say, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be in tears by the end, too!
Norrinda is a lawyer by day and round-the-clock entrepreneur, she splits her time between Washington D.C. where she is an attorney with the federal government, and her hometown of Philadelphia where she runs the city’s most beloved bakery, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique.
Norrinda grew up in Southwest Philadelphia, and spent much of her childhood in her grandmother Betty’s West Philadelphia kitchen. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1999 in History and then from law school at the University of Virginia in 2002.
In 2004, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique’s first location was opened. The vintage-modern bakery quickly became the go-to spot for cakes, cupcakes and other sweets. It wasn’t long before Brown Betty developed a reputation for rich confections, reminiscent of the fresh-out-of-the-oven nostalgia desserts from her grandma Betty’s kitchen that filled Norrinda’s childhood.
On top of lawyer, baker, mother and wife, she recently added “book author” to her impressive resume with the release of The Brown Betty Cookbook!
Norrinda and her husband Fareed are the proud parents of baby Kingston and are expecting their second child this fall. Family is everything to Norrinda, with a strong connection to the generations before her and to come. Read her awesome interview below!
1. We know as a business owner you take on so many roles – accountant, PR, book author, janitor, you have to do what you have to do. What is the hardest part, the most rewarding part, the part you never want to do again, the part you could do all day everyday?
I do not think there is any of it I would never want to do again. I have loved it all really. I used to wake up at five a.m. and frost cupcakes and then sell those same cupcakes upfront and to be honest I miss being in the kitchen and behind the counter sometimes. Early mornings in the bakery were really quite serene to me. Plus, in those days, I really got a chance to know the staff and the customers and there were definite benefits to having that frontline interaction. I guess I am at the point (especially now that I have a family) where I feel like it is not a question of whether I WOULD do certain things, but if I SHOULD be the one to. If I had to be the one to mop the floors still every night, frost the cupcakes and sell them, is the business growing properly?
What I love most is the brand development and planning for the future. That’s the exciting part for me. What I dislike the most is facing an unsatisfied customer. It still upsets us when a customer is disappointed in our product.
2. What’s your typical day like?
If I am running the bakery and going to my law offices I wake at around 6 a.m. and start getting dressed and making breakfast. Then I take Kingston to his program. I head into the office. I usually try to respond to Brown Betty emails and calls during my commute. I will do legal work for about eight hours from the office and return calls and emails for Brown Betty over lunch. Then I meet Kingston and Fareed. We will have dinner out or head home for dinner. Then head to the park or do some other activity with Kingston. I will give Kingston his bath and do his bedtime routine. He goes to sleep between 8 and 8:30. We are lucky once he is asleep, he does not wake up! So Fareed and I will both start working again for a few hours. We may watch a movie or discuss the news after that and then we go to bed around eleven p.m.
On the days that I work exclusively for the bakery I try to pack as many meetings in as possible. I may grab an eight a.m. train into Philadelphia, grab breakfast at the train station before I get picked up and head straight to my first meeting, which varies depending on what the bakery has going on. Somedays are filled with non-stop media meetings and others are with business development meetings and sometimes there is a mix. Sometimes I have time to grab lunch in between and sometimes I do not. Now that I am pregnant again I have to eat and my Dad is kind enough to meet me wherever I am and bring me lunch. I usually try to chat with the bakery’s manager and hang out with the staff either before or after the meetings start just to get a sense of what’s on their minds, what customers have been saying and if they have been facing any challenges. Always at the end of the day I debrief my Mom and partner, Linda. She is the mastermind in the kitchen and lets me and my sister, Norrina, handle the business end, so we report back to her after a busy day of meetings what we have planned, so that we all stay on the same page. And then I go back to 30th Street station to head home. Those days are probably the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. At the end of them, I feel like I really advanced the ball.
3. How has adding a baby and one on the way changed the way you do business?
I am trying to work smarter. I try to ask myself whether I am the only or best person to do every task that I do for the business or what value-added I bring as opposed to a member of the team. Things that can be delegated, I pass along. It is not that having me there wouldn’t make a difference, but I try to decide whether the difference is big enough in the larger scheme of the business and the brand and do only those things where the answer is yes. Previously I thought I had to be involved in everything. Now with kids, I am also more efficient. I work on the train instead of daydream or call a friend. I work at night after Kingston goes to bed instead of watching TV or reading a book. I try to use downtime to be productive.
4. How do you balance motherhood and family life and your business?
My husband would likely tell you I do not have balance because I work a lot. But I do try! I used to work literally twenty hours a day if I had to between the firm and the bakery and I definitely do not do that anymore. Now I want to leave time to play with Kingston, laugh with Fareed and sleep eight hours every day! I have tried to make those three things non-negotiable and sometimes that means every email is not answered that I intended to, some meetings are shorter than they would otherwise be or I say no to engagements I would otherwise attend. That is easier said than done and some days I am better at it than others, but that’s my goal. I also have to say, I would not be able to keep up the pace I do if my husband was not so supportive, really hands on with Kingston and better at cleaning than I am! We also have part-time help in the home and my parents are really great about helping out wherever they can as well. So I have a village that helps me keep my life as closed to balanced as possible.
5. Do you have any must-have products as a mother?
For me: my Clare Vivier Minisac. I am a big bag or clutch kinda girl. But that just isn’t practical when you are at the aquarium or the park with a toddler and need your hands free. So I decided to give a crossbody a try and it has changed my life. I don’t even think about it for hours. And it is cute enough that I still feel like me.
For Kingston: We are California Baby crazy over here and have been since Kingston was a small baby. I love the bubble bath/shampoo, lotion, sunscreen and bug spray, in particular. You don’t mind that you have the scents on you after bath time and the sunscreen is so much easier to rub in than any other baby sunscreen we have tried (which you wouldn’t think is a big deal, but Kingston only gives us a couple of minutes to get it on before he runs off). Right now we are also fans of the Zoli Baby Straw Sippy cup
because it has this weighted straw that moves around with the liquid.
6. What do you want your kids to remember you for in fifty years?
I will want my children to remember that I loved them with everything I had. That I tried to make this world a better place for through my work outside of and inside of the home. I want them to remember my laugh. And, I want them to remember my cakes (of course) in the same way that I still remember my Grandmom and Mom’s cakes. Those cakes were made with so much love!
More Moms You Should Meet: a blogger, a writer, an artist, a designer, an ex-pat, and a magazine editor!
Photos by Courtney de Jauregui of ErinheartsCourt.