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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Moms create family-friendly careers

By Linda White
Special to The Sun

As a working mother, Margot Somerville understands the time crunch many parents face shuttling kids to school and activities, picking up groceries, making meals and paying bills. But trying to find just the right furniture for her daughters' bedrooms was the straw that finally broke the camel's back.

"A great idea"

"It was incredibly frustrating to find resources in Toronto," says the Brooklin, Ont., mom. "I had been to a home and garden show and wondered why there wasn't a show for families with fun and activities. It was so simplistic. I wondered if there was a reason why this wasn't happening ... I researched it. Everyone I talked to thought it was a great idea."

Armed with a desire to make things easier for parents and plenty of experience in sales, event planning and hospitality, Somerville gave up an $85,000-a-year job to pour her heart into creating and producing the T.O. Kids' Show. "I didn't want to be 65 and wondering if it could have happened," she says.

Together with partners Jeanette Tobey of Brampton and Kathleen Knott of Milton, Somerville has created a show that will deliver products, resources and services for everyone in the family: toddlers, preschoolers and students up to age 13. It will also offer parent-focused advice.
Margot Sumerville, left, and Jeanette Tobey created the T.O. Kids' Show.

"We're bringing family-friendly companies together with families who need them, all with the goal of enabling parents to spend more time with their kids," Somerville says.

She quit her sales job with a print company to dedicate herself to the show. "I had a really great job. I had a single mom for a boss who was supportive that kids come first ... but having to ask for a day off was something I didn't want to do."

Somerville had spent nine years at Canada's Wonderland managing its largest corporate sales territory and a couple of years managing the sales event team at Playdium.

Tobey was a member of the Playdium team and had worked in litigation and fraud for Bell Canada. She began working from home as an event planner 12 years ago after the birth of her third child and has put that business on hold to launch the Kids' Show.

Each partner has specific roles and shares the same passion for success. "Between us, we have kids from two to 19 years of age," Somerville says. "We have our own target market in our own homes. We're able to bounce ideas off our kids and their friends."

The show -- which runs April 23 and 24 -- has been a year in the making and has attracted sponsors like

The Sun, Zellers/HBC, Pizza Pizza, Subaru, Parmalat and Today's Parent.

"For a first-year show, we're over the top at how successful it is," says Somerville. "We know it's going to be a success. How big a success, we don't know."

Already, the partners are planning to launch a show in Calgary next fall. They plan to open a show in every major city in Canada before exporting it south of the border.

Tobey believes that being an entrepreneur takes faith in your abilities.
  • The T.O. Kids' Show is aimed at families with children from newborn to preteen.
  • It's presented with Children's Tylenol and will be held April 23 and 24 at Toronto Congress Centre, 650 Dixon Rd., Toronto.
  • Visit to learn more.

  • "You have to believe in what you have and be driven. If you're willing to work 12, 15 hours a day, then you can do it. It's a big step. You need some money behind you before you can take that step, which is called courage," she says. "You have to be motivated."

    The opportunity to work from home and spend more time with her children has been a strong motivator for Somerville.

    "It's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life. It's also one of the scariest things I've ever done," she says. "I know I could never not work, but the need to be home with my kids is just as great. I've found the perfect mix."

    She believes she's being a good role model for her daughters. "It's about 100% believing in yourself ... My girls have watched me go for runs and tell me they want to do that. My little one now tells me she wants to run a kids' show when she gets older."

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