How Brands Mess Up Marketing To Women — Episode #183 with Amber Anderson

by May 28, 2021Blog, Podcast

Creative dynamo Amber Anderson is the founder of Tote & Pears, a branding and marketing agency with a female focus. For her, becoming an entrepreneur was about more than the business. It was about creating possibilities for her family, establishing a set of core value for her family, and aligning her business values and family needs holistically.

We first interviewed Amber on Episode #029 all about finding ways to bring work and family together, specifically through entrepreneurship.  On the earlier episode, she told us about the birth of her son and her business, and how entrepreneurship made some parts of work and family a bit easier. Now, two years later, we invited her back to talk about what marketing to women looks like, how brands and agencies can better understand their target audience, and how to build a business that works for you and your family.

Tune in to Episode #183 (full episode linked below) to hear returning guest Amber describe aligning family values with work values, the rebranding of her marketing to become female-focused, and why she is committed to keeping work and home life intertwined—all while keeping her work weeks around 40-50 hours. We also talk about how their family made the decision to move to a new city, what it felt like to be homeschooling before COVID hit, and why she values keeping work and home life intertwined.

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How Brands Mess Up Marketing To Women with Amber Anderson

The Startup Parent Podcast — Episode #183


Core values are an essential part of creating a business—figuring out your mission, vision, values, and purpose are part of the early and ongoing work of creating a startup or a small business. But what if you put a similar process in place to establish core values for your family, home, and personal relationships?

For creative dynamo Amber Anderson, our guest on this week’s show, she was deliberate about coming up with family core values. These values have helped her with decision making, collaborating better with her husband, and maintaining a sense of work-life harmony as an entrepreneur and a parent. 

Amber is the creative vision behind Tote + Pears, a female-focused marketing agency, and told me that aligning her business values with her family’s values ensures “the way that we operate in this world is consistent.” Amber even has the family’s five core values written down. (Keep reading to learn what they are!) 


When the Anderson family made the move from Phoenix to Atlanta two years ago, Amber’s husband assumed responsibility for homeschooling the couple’s six-year-old son, and also took a role at Tote + Pears. 

“Bringing him in on our business made sense because he shares the same values that I have,” Amber says on this episode of Startup Parent. At the same time, her husband reinforces the core values while educating their son. 

Here are her family’s five core values:

  • Own it: Each family member has certain responsibilities; if you mess up, say you messed up
  • Care deeply: Being empathetic is core to how they operate in the world
  • Be humble: “Nobody steps into any room that we’re in with an ego, otherwise, it’s just not going to be a good fit,” Amber explains. 
  • Embrace different: Acknowledge and seek to understand people who are different. 
  • Say what you’re thinking: Share what is on your mind in a respectful manner. 


On this episode, returning guest Amber discusses the evolution of her marketing and branding agency, which she co-founded with her husband nine years ago. About two years ago, Tote + Pears rebranded to become female-focused. “Women make over 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions,” Amber says of the decision to focus on helping companies create a long-lasting connection with women.

Succeeding at that relies, in part, on recognizing that women are diverse and that identity shifts as they enter different phases of life. 


Here’s what Amber shared about being a female-focused, women-focused marketing agency:

“Tote + Pears was kind of just the next generation for us, it was a rebrand of our other agency that’s centered around connecting companies with women and their families. And the reason we chose women — is because we think women are the thread that ties it all together.”

“At the end of the day, women make over 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions. … we also find that women at the end of the day are the ones that are struggling in many cases along several lines; whether it be understanding our roles as we navigate through different parts of our journey, motherhood, you know, work, kids off to college, widowers — our perspectives change so drastically, we thought it was really important for us to step into the space and kind of own the fact that we had a perspective. … we wanted to use that as an opportunity to do better and help companies that are trying to support women do better, too.”


“The first thing that we do is we take our clients through this journey of stepping back for a moment and taking away all the assumptions that you have about women, clearing that all out, and then laying out the basic foundation, which is: let’s just talk about her journey — her journey turning from a girl to a woman, from a woman to a wife, a wife to a mother.”

“And then within motherhood, you have the infant phase, you’ve got the toddler phase — you’ve got all these phases. Then, you eventually reach a destination in which she is most likely — in many cases — a widower, or she’s being supported now by her daughter or her children.”

“Understanding the nuances of this journey is the first phase; that women are going to go through this experience, and their experiences are important to understand so you know how to connect with them based off of where they are in that journey.”

Look at the journey a woman can go on, and the transformations that take place as you move from girl to woman, if you become a wife or a partner, if you become a mother or a parent. Each of these are powerful, important, unique moments in a life.

One of the keys to understanding marketing to women, she explains, is understanding just how many stories there are that women can participate in. Further, it’s not just a simple evolution or cycle—each stage has it’s own pivot points and nuances. Some women become parents, some don’t, some are curious, some long for it, some aren’t able to—speaking to these many stories and understanding who you are trying to reach and what they might be going through matters.



Excerpts from a transcript of the conversation

Choosing to live in a city that matches your energy (and your values)

“We moved from Phoenix to Atlanta two years ago. … it’s been amazing. We found Phoenix to be such a beautiful place to be, but it didn’t feel like home. We didn’t feel like the energy matched our energy, we were having a hard time finding like-minded families and community. We thought it would be good for us to make a change. The way we chose Atlanta was that we came to visit — I was speaking for a conference. And when we were here, people were so kind to us. And it helped that the weather was perfect. I mean, I’m not going to lie. … people were just so kind and very family centric, which has always been a core value for us. We thought it would be a good time for us to pick up and go to a place we thought we would be better connected. Atlanta has been that place for us.”

Making tag-team parenting work

“My husband now stays home. … we had always planned on switching. So for the first couple of years of our son’s life, my husband worked and helped a little bit in the business where he could, but that wasn’t his responsibility. I was home, I was a primary caregiver. And then when we moved [cities], we made the decision to have him quit his job of 17 years to be home and work part-time in our business, and then become our son’s primary caregiver. So he is now responsible for everything pertaining to planning school: he’s the teacher, he handles the meals, he handles the household. We tag-team using our strengths as much as possible. So I’m much more strategic, he’s much more tactical. And so being able to lean in on both of our capabilities has just been like the best thing that could have ever happened to us.”

‘Traditional’ family power structures as an incomplete model for modern relationships

“In my family, it wasn’t odd for my dad to take on caregiving responsibilities. I think in lots of black families, that’s the case. I mean, the mothers have always worked. We had to work. So in our case, it was never the structure of the woman should do this, and the man should do that. It was whatever needed to be done for our household.”

Valuing empathy at work and at home

“I think empathy is a big piece of what makes my husband and I tick, it’s also what makes us super different. And so in our agency, what you see is a group of people who are empathetic and thrive in spaces where they’re allowed to show their deep, caring feelings. In our home, it’s about caring about each other and caring about our family. And so that’s where I think this concept of: whatever needs to happen, whatever you need to be successful — if it’s my son, you are going to thrive better in a homeschool environment, and I care about you so much that we’re going to give you that because you deserve it. Caring is part of who we are.”  


Takeaways from this episode

📌 Establish criteria to help maintain your own sense of work-life balance 

Coming up with some benchmarks based on what is most important to you can help ensure your time aligns with your priorities. Amber manages to (mostly) stick to a 40 to 50 hours workweek by ending workdays at 6 p.m., avoiding weekend work and making sure she is actively present for her husband and her son. “Unless it hits like three checkboxes, it’s just something I’m not going to do until the next day,” she says. 

📌 Create core values for your family (like you do for your business)

Identifying what matters most to you and your family is a way to keep everyone aligned. Amber has coordinated her company values with her family values, which she says helps ensure “the way that we operate in this world is consistent.” She’s even written her family’s five core values down. Value #1? Own it — don’t shirk your responsibilities, and acknowledge when things don’t go as planned.

📌 Divide and conquer to make homeschooling work 

Delegating clear roles and responsibilities for a smooth homeschool experience. Amber’s husband, Kai-Saun, manages homeschooling on a day-to-day basis. “He owns” the operations from Monday through Friday, while Amber focuses on the business. Ahead of the school year, Amber takes responsibility for curriculum planning. She’ll either do the research or hire a consultant to help plan what their son should learn that year and then Kai implements it.


Amber Anderson, Founder of Tote & Pears

How Brands Mess Up Marketing To Women with Amber Anderson

The Startup Parent Podcast — Episode #183


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Sarah K Peck

Founder, Startup Parent

Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.

She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.