Woodmere native Lyss Stern has battled Covid-19, and had to deal with the added challenge of a struggling business amid the coronavirus pandemic. She responded by coming up with three new ideas for businesses.
Stern, 46, now a resident of New York City, is an entrepreneur and marketing executive. Her 17-year-old event planning and marketing business, DivaMoms, which relied heavily on in-person events, came to a screeching stop last March.
“DivaMoms went to a halt with there being no more events, and while I was nursing myself back to health, my daughter got involved with arts and crafts,” Stern said. “I noticed she was playing with one of my masks, and she started decorating it. That was a light bulb moment for me.”
That moment led to the creation of Kadoodle Kids, a company that sells do-it-yourself kits that encourage children to decorate their own masks. “I reached out to my two business partners and gave them this idea,” she said. “It gives parents a break as well, since the kids really focus on decorating. It’s really taken off — people from across the country have been contacting us.”
Last March 23, Stern learned that she had Covid-19, and she regularly sought guidance on treatments from her friend Liza Maltz. “Even with my mild case of Covid, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy,” Stern said. “We didn’t know a lot about Covid in the spring, and I truly believe that Liza helped nurse me back to health. I would take vitamins and use holistic approaches because of her.”
Stern is still not fully recovered, and is considered a “long-hauler,” continuing to experience a range of symptoms and side effects. “I’m very vocal about having Covid, because I think people need to know that this is real,” she said. “I’m still trying to get my full energy back.”
Maltz is a doula, trained to advise, inform and offer emotional and physical comfort to an expectant mother before, during and after the birth of a child. She said she did not have any magic ingredient to help Stern through her illness.
“I became Lyss’s Covid doula, and I helped her navigate the healing process, since it was very overwhelming for her at first,” Maltz recounted. “I just used my intuition and guided her through the process. We thought that we needed to do this for everybody, so we started sending out care packages.”
The packages turned into another business for Stern, called ChamamaNYC. They are Covid-19 care gift boxes for people affected by the virus.
“People started reaching out to me on social media, asking for recommendations on how to treat Covid,” Stern said. “Liza and I put our heads together and decided to start a curated Covid care-package company. We’re both not doctors, but we know how to make people feel better.”
Stern had what she described as another eureka moment when she visited her childhood summer camp, Tyler Hill Camp, in Pennsylvania last summer. “I was sitting by the lake, and thought that I [could] use a weekend alone here,” she said. “That’s when I thought of the DivaMoms Getaway Weekend idea.”
The concept was a Covid-safe weekend getaway retreat for mothers at the camp. The getaways began in September, and, Stern said, more have been scheduled for this spring.
Wendy Siegel is a co-owner and director of the camp, with her husband, Andy. Wendy, who said she had known Stern for “as long as I can remember,” acknowledged that she was unsure about the weekend-getaway idea when Stern first pitched it to her.
“I thought, ‘How would moms during Covid be able to get away from their families? How could we keep them guaranteed safe and healthy?’” Siegel said. “But after Lyss and I talked it out and played out every scenario, I thought it was the best idea I’d ever heard.”
Siegel described Stern as caring and honest. “Lyss is a total go-getter, and someone I’ll always want on my team,” she added. “She is creative, and does not take no for an answer when she knows something can be done. She is also a connector, and seems to be adored by everyone that knows her.”
For entrepreneurs, Stern said, now is a good time to pursue passions and dreams. “Seeing women reinvent themselves during this time has been so nice,” she said. “My advice to other entrepreneurs would be, now is the time to reinvent yourself and pursue your passion. If you have a passion, put your pen to the paper and act on it.”