Mom Muse | Samar Shaheryar

MomMuse-SamarShaheryar

Children, no matter where or under what circumstance they are born, all deserve a chance at life. We are so blessed to be able to give our children the very best medical care the world has to offer. Not all mothers have this ability and our Mom Muse Samar Shaheryar decided to do something to make a difference in the lives of mothers and babies in poverty-stricken areas, giving newborns a healthier start. Samar and her bestie Allie Wieser co-founded Baby Hero, a socially-responsible business that benefits the cause by donating neonatal survival kits to less-fortunate moms. Aptly named, Baby Hero funds the kits through the sales of clothing and toys for babies and toddlers that are not only cute, but also 100% organic, chemical-free and sourced from fair-trade rural farmers. The products are even made in a non-profit facility run by women that provides jobs for disadvantaged men and women. The Baby Hero team worked closely with leading pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Shaun Morris to develop the neonatal survival kits, who actually travels to personally deliver the kits and help moms in need. Every purchase on the Baby Hero site goes directly to funding the kits with the hope of reducing infant mortality by up to 40% in the donated regions. Don’t have babies or toddlers to buy for? You can also make a donation directly to purchase a kit and help save a life.

Photo Credit: Jamie Ousby Photography

Born in Pakistan, Samar and her family left when she was two years old and proceeded to live in a number of far-flung locales (including Dubai, Greece, Liberia, Ivory Coast and London) before arriving in New York City at the age of nine. She grew up in the New York suburbs and, after attending college in Boston, moved back to New York and started her career as a banker at J.P. Morgan. Concurrent to and after her 10-year career in banking, Samar co-founded multiple fundraising organizations targeted at improving education for girls in Pakistan and disaster relief. Her international upbringing helped shape her desire to make a difference, especially her time spent in West Africa and Pakistan, but she is a self-described New Yorker at heart. Samar met her Irish husband at a bar in Union Square. Shortly after their wedding, they moved to Tokyo, and then to Hong Kong where they had their three children — Anaia (now 5), Isha (3) and Kiyan (1). In 2013, Samar and Allie launched Baby Hero after putting their heads together to come up with an idea of how to make a difference in the lives of at-risk babies and mothers around the world.

On a lighter note, when we asked Samar how she likes to spends her free time, she shared that she “love(s) to hike, read, eat (but not cook!) spicy food and spend lazy Sundays playing with the kids. My guilty pleasures are reading British murder mysteries and random advice columns!” A girl needs to unwind and relax somehow! Helping to make the world a better place one baby at time is tough, but oh-so-rewarding, work.

MSL:  Describe your style in five words or less.
Comfort and a splash of color.

MSL:  What inspired you and Allie to start Baby Hero?  
Both Allie and I had difficult deliveries with our first children, but we were fortunate to be giving birth in a country with excellent health care. It was clear to us that if we had been in many other parts of the world, we — or our children — may not have survived those complications. Ninety-eight percent of the three million babies who die every year are in developing nations, which means saving babies is just an issue of a lack of resources, a result of poverty. As parents, we know, there is nothing more important than the health and welfare of our children, and that is true for parents in every corner of the earth. We wanted to build a company that solved the issue of preventable infant mortality by funding smart, evidence-based interventions and helped spread awareness about this issue. Our goal is to connect people and parents around the globe as they celebrate the arrival of a loved baby, giving them the opportunity to give the gift of health to a baby in a marginalized community.

We also wanted to make sure that we were tackling the root causes of poverty, which means choosing an ethical supply chain — using only fair-trade cotton for our clothes and making them in a facility that pays its garment workers well and treats them with dignity. Lastly, it was crucial to protect the planet with our choices, the planet our children will inherit, so we chose organic cotton for our clothes. We have done the hard work so every aspect of our company makes this world a better place. We call this the Baby Hero Effect — when you buy one of our products, you are not only helping mothers and babies in developing countries, but also the planet and the farmers and communities that make our clothes, plus you’re getting an adorable product to boot!

Allie and Samar with Dr. Shaun Morris.

MSL: How do you divide up company responsibilities between the two of you?
Right now, Allie is taking time off to spend with the latest addition to her family, so we are in the midst of reassessing roles. When you run a small and growing company, staying flexible is important — we often need to pitch in wherever and that is part of the fun. Traditionally, I have handled the business side and Allie manages the sales and marketing side. 

MSL: What are your long-term plans for Baby Hero?
To become the go-to baby gift for conscientious parents and their friends and family, so we can save the lives of as many babies as possible and help lift communities out of poverty, while also making baby clothes people love!

MSL: Do you design your collections?
Our creative director, Joyce Lau, designs our products. She has a playful and quirky hand-drawn style that is the signature of our brand, but we are involved with every step. We have three elements that are part of every product.

  1. A colorful reverse stitch on the onesie.
  2. Our cute and bright logo.
  3. A print specially created for each country we donate to, and we use that print inside the design of most products in some way to evoke the places they help.

Creative Director Joyce Lau and her little one with Samar and Allie. 

Joyce and Samar with their little ones.

MSL: Your favorites for holiday gift giving?
For family, experiences. My husband and I have mostly stopped giving each other products in lieu of doing things for each other or doing things together. Neither really wants to do the planning, so that becomes the gift – the giver will plan a hike, find a new restaurant, get tickets for a concert or night out. For our anniversary, I did get a gift he loved — a multimedia portrait of our family. For friends, I love gifting jewelry — something well thought out that matches their style. Etsy is definitely my go-to source for finding unique and personal gifts.

This bracelet is an example of a gift Samar found on Etsy for a friend.

MSL:  What’s the one item in your closet you can’t live without, that makes you feel both chic and comfortable?
I have a DKNY camel wrap with sleeves that you can wear down for a casual look or drape over one shoulder for a more elegant look. Ten years later I still love it.

MSL: Any advice to share regarding how you achieve good work – life balance?
Two years ago I made a pact to myself that I would stop parenting with guilt. If my children were healthy and happy, I wouldn’t spend energy on what I was or wasn’t doing right and instead just enjoy them and the experience. I went from reading a lot of parenting advice to almost none, unless I found I didn’t know how to handle something. That dynamic has helped me feel so much more comfortable with my work-life balance, wherever it is that day (because it is different every day!), and made me a better parent. I always try and remember the following two points:

  1. Children are always better off with happy parents.
  2. If you don’t model self-care, your children won’t know how to do it either.

All that being said, I am still always exhausted because I try and fit so much in — family, work and friends — but that is life and how I want to live it — in spades.

MSL:  What’s your best style advice for other moms out there?
Chunky Indian/Pakistani jewelry is a unique, stunning and affordable way to dress up an outfit.

Check out Samar’s chunky, statement necklace. Adds a pop of color to black & white.

Have a baby on your gift list? We love this three-piece holiday gift set

Or this darling reindeer onesie and book.

Baby shower coming up? Everyday gift sets include two onesies and a stuffed toy — all fair-trade and organic. Plus, Baby Hero has toddler tees and toys too for siblings too.

Or, how’s this for a gift idea for the person that has everything AND gives back? For only $10 you can donate a Neonatal Survival Kit in someone’s name (or how about 10 for $100?). Love.

Mothers in Pakistan.

All photos courtesy of Baby Hero.

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