For a Clueless Chick, Jennifer Durbin does a lot of things right.
She is building a lifestyle brand around her three “ Tips for The Clueless Chick” books – guides for handling pregnancy, traveling with kids and party planning. Durbin calls them quick-start books for the modern woman, short takes on tomes such as “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
“I came up with the concept of The Clueless Chick to say we all feel clueless sometimes, but that’s totally OK,” Durbin said. “We put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything just perfect. And of course that’s just silly.”
Durbin’s day job is information security officer at RTI International, a nonprofit institute that provides research, development, and technical services to government and commercial clients worldwide. She has worked there since 2003.
But after work, once she and her husband, Matt, have put their 2- and 4-year-olds (Tyler and Carter) to bed, she works on her Clueless brand.
“I absolutely have the best of both worlds,” she said.
Her books are sold at Barnes & Noble, and she’s working on the next one. She writes for her blog, Carolina Parent, accessories maker Holly Aiken, Breyer’s ice cream and others. She is a frequent guest on money saver and lifestyle segments on Triangle and Charlotte TV news.
This summer, a 42-part video series Durbin taped in New York in collaboration with Howcast.com was released on YouTube. One part about getting through airport security with your baby got 1,600 hits in its first three days.
“I never want anyone to walk away from an interaction with me and think: ‘She has it all figured out,’ ” Durbin said. “It may seem like that, but that’s because I work my butt off to make it look that way.”
Keith Langbo, who owns Raleigh staffing company Kelaca, met Durbin through her work as an IT expert and said he was floored to learn all she does with Clueless Chick.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything Jennifer does,” Langbo said, “and I’m in awe of the accomplishments in all facets of her incredibly busy and successful life.”
Durbin, 32, a Meredith College grad and Kenan-Flagler MBA, is following best business practices she learned in school to build her company.
“Does that mean I don’t get enough rest? Yes.”
A pregnant Durbin spent months researching all topics baby, and then she started sharing tips with friends, starting a blog. When strangers started quoting her pregnancy tips, not realizing she had written them, Durbin knew she was on to something. She decided to write a book targeted to expectant moms. That led to the book on traveling with baby, then party planning. That spurred a $10 kit she sells online to assemble a “diaper cake” for baby showers. Then there are her pregnancy note cards that can be corralled into a pregnancy journal. Sourced Media Books is national distribution of her books, and Durbin retains ownership of her content. She handles getting books to smaller bookstores and boutiques.
Durbin declined to discuss financial details of her company, but she said she has made money this year. She made a significant investment in book inventory, a publicist, trade shows, marketing and other costs to get Clueless Chick started, she said.
To avoid any conflicts with her employer, she OK’d her book deal with her bosses at RTI before she accepted. “I work 50- to 60-hour weeks at RTI, so my job isn’t suffering. Believe me, I put in the time,” she said. “I’m very fortunate that (Clueless Chick) doesn’t impact my job.”
Durbin said her goal from the start was to build a successful company that can be a legacy for her sons. Her dream, she said, is that one day her son’s girlfriend will say, “ ‘Your mom’s the Clueless Chick? That’s so cool.’ That would mean I’ve made something they can be proud of.”
Sheon Wilson is a writer, personal stylist and creator of The N&O’s monthly makeover feature, Refresh Your Style.