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Debbie Cornelius is making her mark

Sharon Aschaiek

Balance: It's what most North American people strive for in a high-octane labour environment that seems to be conducive to anything but that.

At a time when financial pressures necessitates, in more and more cases, that both parents work, when we work longer hours to achieve the ever-growing demands of today's workplace, and where we are bombarded by appointments, social commitments and children's soccer games/dance recitals/swim classes, balance becomes more and more difficult to fit into our preposterously crammed daytimers.
(Above left) Much of Debbie Cornelius' (centre) motivation for pursuing a home-based business was to spend more time with her children Laura, 2 and Katherine, 4. Above right, a sample of her LifeCast statues.

Debbie Cornelius of St. Catharine's, Ont. is an example of someone who got caught under the weight of daily life. Having spent 18 years working in sales and marketing for companies such as Kodak, Nivea and Lever Canada, the new mother was looking for ways to spend more time with her children.

While on maternity leave with her second child last year, Cornelius spent time finding ways of preserving her children's handprints using various kits. Not satisfied with the results, she experimented with various methods until she found one that worked.

"It took patience and several months to develop and then perfect a way of achieving detailed raised prints," she says.

Having discovered how to situate the prints into attractive bronze plaques, Cornelius began working to create cast busts of children's hands and feet.

"They had always intrigued me, and I began experimenting and exchanging knowledge with artists outside Canada," she says. "After much time and dedication, I developed a technique that got me to where I am today."

The response she received from friends interested in her services compelled her to take action and successfully launch her own home-based business, Wee Piggies and Paws.

Using her well-developed marketing and business skills, she launched the Web site, which offers her services, along with do-it-yourself moulding kits for prints.

Plaques, which usually consist handprints, footprints, dog paws (!) start at $44.95. Her LifeCast statues of hands, feet, combination parent-child casts and more range from $89.95.

Over the last 14 months, business has grown, both through word of mouth, her participation in fair and her Web site.
Cornelius' plaques makeup the product line of her business, Wee Piggies and Paws.

But the biggest payoff for Cornelius has been the one-on-one time she gets to spend with her two daughters, Katherine, 4, and Laura, 2.

"The best thing about working from home is I can drop what I am doing to savour the special moments in my children's lives that only happen when you least expect them," says Cornelius, 38.

Cornelius began receiving inquiries from customers, who wanted to know how they, too, could run such a business from home.

So she decided to turn the business into a franchise, again drawing on her business acumen to come up with a solid package. Her plan, if all goes well, is to expand her franchise across Canada, the US, and perhaps overseas.

Having found an ideal balance between work and family life, Cornelius is all too happy to share her secret with others.

"I feel like I have managed to find the perfect balance between career and family life, and I cannot help but want to share it with other moms," Cornelius says. "I have the ability not only to help other moms find balance in their lives, but also to affect positively the quality of their children's lives."

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