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Inspiring Conversations with Margaret Parciak of Three Yellow Starfish

Today we’d like to introduce you to Margaret Parciak.

Hi Margaret, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My family immigrated from Poland in 1993 when I was six years old; my parents moved my sister and me to the US because they wanted to escape political conflict and build a better life for our family. When we first moved to the states, we lived with my grandparents in Hamtramck, Michigan. Going from farm life to city living was a huge change. My parents relied heavily on me to solve problems and communicate on their behalf, so I adapted and learned the language quickly. I grew up different than most kids. I spent my weekends working on random projects for my parents. I taught myself things like how to read manuals and follow instructions to piece together my dad’s entertainment system and how to contact the phone company to ask about the unexpected charges on the bill for my mom. Doing these things for my parents truly shaped me into the independent self-starter that I am today.

I began making kid’s clothes in 2008 during the housing market crash to make extra money and help keep our small house out of foreclosure. I was a young mom living in Dallas, TX struggling to make ends meet. I couldn’t afford daycare, and it wasn’t easy balancing work and taking care of my son. There just weren’t any companies offering the type of flexible work schedule that a mom like me needed.

I always enjoyed making clothes for my son, so I thought maybe I could try listing some of my finished pieces on Etsy, a fairly new marketplace at the time. It wasn’t long before my side hustle grew into a full-time production, and just like that, I founded Three Yellow Starfish – my online children’s clothing shop. I was surprised to see that my little clothing shop managed to generate income during an economic downturn. I couldn’t believe how supportive people were of my work. This fueled me to keep going. I started mingling with my newfound community of makers and even doing in-person craft show events. It wasn’t long before I began to attract local media attention.

Everything was going great, but just as I started to pick up momentum, things took a turn for the worse. In 2010, I went through a divorce and had to choose between finding a full-time job and growing my business. As a single mom of a then four-year-old toddler, I opted for the stable route and put my business on hold to support my son.

Without any official experience in tech support, I managed to land a job at my local Apple Store as an iPhone sales specialist. This jump-started my 10-year long career in the male-dominated tech industry. Over the years, I made my way out of retail and into the public sector, working as the computer lab teacher at an elementary school in Richardson, TX. Then in 2013, I moved to Houston to pursue a position working as tech support for the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.

A pretty major car accident forced me to re-evaluate my life goals at the age of 29. I decided that I wanted to permanently reside in Austin, TX, by the time I turned 30. When I moved to Austin, I held a few similar positions in the tech space. I had no intention of making a career change until I got laid off during the pandemic last August. The layoff made me realize that life is short, and I decided that instead of going back to work in IT, it was time to invest in myself and focus on what I wanted to do. So I picked up where I left off with my business. From there, everything fell into place very quickly, and I was back on track in no time.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a woman working in the tech space for the last decade is combining motherhood with a tech career. Over the years, I realized most companies don’t prioritize family-friendly policies such as flexible scheduling, making it harder for the primary caregiver to get ahead. It’s not common for women to hold key leadership positions in tech either, so it wasn’t easy to align with managers who didn’t understand the struggles and needs that women with children face. I encountered a lot of resistance and had to work twice as hard to move up to higher-paying positions, often being forced to choose between work and family.

Making a career shift from tech support to running my own business has had its fair share of challenges too. I’m essentially re-learning the industry because so much has changed in e-commerce over the last ten years. It’s a daily hustle because I’m dealing with so many moving parts. My family helps out where they can, but I’m a one-woman show for the most part. It’s all worth the effort, though, and I couldn’t be more proud of how much I’ve grown as a person and as a business over the last nine months.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Three Yellow Starfish is a family-owned online kids clothing boutique based out of Austin, TX specializing in children’s clothes made in the USA. I sew the dresses and bloomers, and my mom hand-knits the hats and creates the unique accessories you see listed in our online baby clothing boutique.

We’re also super excited to announce that we’re getting ready to launch the Howdy Baby Box this July, our new subscription box for babies and kids. Our goal is to help parents bond with their little ones while exploring new ethically made children’s products. The products featured in our monthly subscription boxes are all made by small businesses owned by fellow hard-working moms across the US.

I’m most proud of how far I’ve come with growing this business in such a short time. I started Three Yellow Starfish as an online children’s clothing shop, but it’s evolved into more than that over time. We’re a brand and a culture that puts family first and strives to make a difference in the community.

We proudly support family-owned small businesses and empower the hard-working women that drive them. Please know that when you shop at Three Yellow Starfish, you purchase with purpose. Every product we put out there is designed with family in mind. By shopping at our carefully curated online baby clothing boutique, you are making a direct positive impact on woman-owned businesses and empowering female entrepreneurs all over the US by providing them with opportunities to market their talents.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
Austin is such a creative hub; we have so many artists and makers here. You can run into just about anyone at random and learn so much from their experiences. I also appreciate the city’s ‘collaborative over competitive’ vibe; people support one another here. It’s like a big city with a small-town feel. The thing I like least is probably the amount of traffic we have here. It’s nothing like Houston, but pre-pandemic; I spent about 20-25 hours per week just in the car driving to and from work, picking up my son from school, and taking him to school activities.

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Image Credits

YLK Photography, Misty Jones Photography

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