Stephanie Uchima-Carney Nurtures a Community of Women Navigating Motherhood
Hold the line.
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- AbovePhotographed by Kate Keating Photography
Before the pandemic, while Stephanie Uchima-Carney was pregnant with her third child, she dreamed of being a career mom and running a business. She wondered how the moms she admired could do this and still hold it all together.
“I was like, ‘How are they being CEOs or building awesome brands but make it look so easy, with their perfect hairdos and perfect children matched in these gorgeous outfits?’ she says. “It can’t be real … I want the nitty-gritty.’”
So she started interviewing moms she knew, asking them behind-the-scenes questions: What did they outsource to get things done? What did they leave messy? What did their typical day look like? Did they make time for self-care?”
Stephanie soon realized that other moms craved the same dialogue. She incorporated the interviews into a podcast to widen the audience. The name of the podcast came up in the middle of one of her interviews. Her kids were all over the place, and she stopped and shouted, “Mommy’s on a call!” The person on the other end of the line said, “Stephanie, that’s your new podcast name.”
Born and raised in Redondo Beach, Stephanie left briefly before graduate school to live in San Francisco, where she worked as a management consultant. She eventually worked in cities all over the country, but her heart was always in the South Bay. “I’m an only child, and so family is really the most important thing to me,” she shares. “Being close to them is a top priority.”
Stephanie describes herself as a “giant science/weird math nerd.” At UCLA she studied math and physics, but she says she never fit in the engineering world. She explored finance and realized she had a passion for business and entrepreneurship. That took her to USC, where she earned her MBA and master’s in real estate development. She graduated in 2009 with plans of building a retail real estate empire. Unfortunately the economic crash drastically cut her options, so she pivoted.
Stephanie loves to bring people together, so she tried her hand at event planning. She often volunteers at various events, but it wasn’t until someone suggested that she start charging for her services that she decided to launch her first entrepreneurial venture. She called her company Preppy Chic Events, which evolved into catering for luxury destination weddings and big corporate events.
Stephanie has long been involved with nonprofits. She was on the board of Sandpipers, where she handled marketing and public relations. “Community and philanthropy is something that has been embedded in me,” she says. “I credit that to Chadwick School. Ever since I was probably 8 or 9 years old, I’ve been involved in giving back to the community—and plan to always be.”
She worked at her alma mater as the alumni director, fundraising and helping build that community. During that time, Stephanie and her husband welcomed their first child. “I had a lot on my plate, and I thought everything in my life could coexist. And I was apparently incorrect,” she explains. “My entire identity shifted. I added the role of motherhood and completely lost myself and had no idea who I was anymore. I ended up pregnant with another kid and then pregnant with a third.”
Stephanie gave birth to her third child, Zoe, during the pandemic. She had been dealing not only with being sleep-deprived but also with the stress of COVID-19, breastfeeding a newborn, postpartum issues and more. When Zoe was 11 months old, Stephanie was feeling off one day but decided to power through it. She assumed her pelvic pain was from the scarring of her third C-section, so she sought the help of a physical therapist. The therapist told her she was holding a lot of frustration and that she should journal more.
A short time later, Stephanie collapsed. Thankfully, her husband was home and he called an ambulance. A laparoscopy and surgery would uncover tumors on her ovaries.
As she recovered from the traumatic experience, Stephanie’s calling to help other moms deepened. “We tend to burn ourselves out, and we tend to make excuses—like it’s OK to be strained and we’re supposed to be this exhausted. And it’s not OK,” she says. “We put our kids first. When we do have the time to put ourselves first, we often have no idea what to do. And I realized that was a lot about why I lost my own identity and why I lost my way.”
Building on the success of her “Mommy’s On a Call” podcast and the warmth of the community around it, Stephanie is now working on launching the Hana collective—a supportive, collaborative community for the modern mom. She plans to open a physical space with a mix of coworking, workshops, networking events and mommy-and-me programs—all with the goal of providing great resources for working moms.
Stephanie is also writing a book, You Don’t Have To Do It All, threading together lessons from her many interviews. “As moms, we don’t like to share some stories. We don’t like to show our vulnerability, and I want to make that OK,” she says. “You need to talk about these things because I’m sure there are so many other women out there that are experiencing just what you are. You are not alone.”