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‘I was married to jobs’: How a wellness brand’s married co-owners balance entrepreneurship, family and themselves

Baltimore-based Harp Vision founders April and Tyron believe mentorship and accelerators are key for small business owners trying to go full-time. But that’s not the whole picture.

"Us being working from home allowed us to take care of ourselves a little bit more." — April Harper (Courtesy April and Tyron Harper)

Some people prioritize starting a family as a life goal, while others may be more focused on their business dreams. This couple, native to Baltimore’s West side, chose both.

April Harper and her husband Tyron both attended Edmondson-Westside High School in the city’s southwest area at the same time. Despite the pair’s proximity to each other in their teen years, they didn’t meet until they both attended Baltimore City Community College.

The duo, who both manage chronic pain due to their respective incurable diseases (endometriosis for April, fibromyalgia for Tyron), would eventually become the owners of Harp Vision, an all-natural wellness brand inspired by a need to better take care of themselves.

Wellness is growing as a priority for consumers and investors, and Harp Vision’s products have more recently been sold at Open Works, Made In Baltimore, the company’s kiosk at Lexington Market and via ecommerce platforms like DoorDash.

April attributed some of Harp Vision’s brand success to mentorship — a business tool she believes is crucial for growing companies.

“They’re very important and they give you a different set of eyes and a different vision for your business, and they’re able to guide you in ways that you might not be strong, and/or different departments you may not be [as] knowledgeable,”  said April, who has a background in counseling and banking. “Through our journey, we’ve had a few mentors. [Namely], two from the Innovation Works accelerator that we completed.”

She highlighted that each mentor given to them by Innovation Works — one based in Baltimore and the other in Silicon Valley — brought diverse perspectives to the wellness brand. These insights spanned across finance, marketing, and social impact. Other local social entrepreneurship resources the Harpers have taken advantage of include Empower by GoDaddy, which just wrapped its final cohort at Impact Hub Baltimore.

Navigating family

 

On the call with Technical.ly, April, who now lives in Northeast Baltimore with Tyron and their 18- and 8-year-old sons, cautioned fellow entrepreneurs against becoming serial accelerator-goers.

“You want to make it make sense for your business,” said April.

Tyron, who has a background in teaching and banking, shared that accelerators have provided him with insights into aspects of sustaining a business.

“Me being in Baltimore City and having family members who had businesses that didn’t have all the stuff in place, I felt like in my 30s, starting a business … that it was like, ‘I’m giving people good, they’re getting me paid and that’s how it goes,’” said Tyron. “I didn’t think about all the other stuff when it comes to a business: The branding part of it, knowing who our customer is and being able to identify margins.”

The Harpers’ 18-year-old currently boasts a few college acceptances as he prepares to graduate from Dunbar High School as an EMT technician. Having participated in the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s CURE scholars program since sixth grade, he has been connected to several mentors. Similar to April, who is completing her bachelor’s degree in business, he is set to graduate this spring.

In the past year, April and Tyron, who also homeschool their 8-year-old, have recently confronted a period of grief and loss. April lost her mom in October and a close friend just before that. Both emphasized their participation in the iCommunicate Cultural Collaborative, led by local consultant Jean Lloyd. The collaborative aims to encourage leaders to develop communication and teamwork skills. The Harpers highlighted the value of being present with their emotions instead of disregarding them to continue with business as usual.

Quitting your job

Before securing a physical space for daily sales at Lexington Market, the Harpers navigated farmers’ markets while juggling full-time jobs and family responsibilities.

“I was married to jobs,” said April.

Fast forward to approximately a year ago, and the Harpers had both transitioned into full-time entrepreneurship. Embracing the flexibility that comes with business ownership, they now aim to strike a balance between personal needs and professional aspirations.

April reflected on the factors that pulled her away from the 9-5 world, emphasizing the thought that led her to embrace entrepreneurship full-time: “I don’t understand how I could really take care of me and still be at this job.”

April also described the advantages of full-time entrepreneurship, including the ability to take necessary breaks, like mental health or sick days, without requiring permission. The Harpers continue to prioritize self-care not only through their line of bath teas but also through activities like sound baths. One such event is scheduled on Feb. 10 inside Lexington Market.

“This is a perfect opportunity for individuals seeking to release anxiety and burnout from everyday life by exploring the power of sound healing,” said Tyron in a LinkedIn post.

All are encouraged to attend. Admission costs $35 before Jan. 31, and $45 after.

Attend the Harp Vision Sound Bath

Companies: Impact Hub Baltimore / Innovation Works (Baltimore) / Open Works / University of Maryland, Baltimore / Baltimore City Community College

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