Sterner juggles life
ALLIE STERNER and her 3-year-old daughter, Mia, at the Sandbox.
On a Friday night, your average 22-year-old in Sonoma might be found sitting out front of the Swiss Hotel drinking glariffees, listening to some live music at Murphy's Irish Pub or perhaps sampling tequilas at Maya.
But not Allie Sterner - she's either taking care of her 3-year-old daughter, Mia, studying for her nursing degree, doing charity work as the president of the Butterfly Fund or prepping for the next day at Sandbox, the new and gently used baby, kids and maternity clothing store she owns.
"Every time I start to doubt myself, I look at Mia and I have to keep going, she's my reason," Sterner said, adding that living with so many responsibilities does take its toll. "It's hard, I don't get a lot of down time. I feel like I'm about 40, maybe 50."
For many, getting pregnant at a young age is a hindrance to finishing school, starting a business or accomplishing other goals in life. For Sterner, it was dogged motivation. She is determined to prove you can have it all - it just takes a lot of energy and perseverance.
"I've always worked hard in my life, I never do anything halfway," she said.
Sterner's parents taught her the value of a dollar - insisting she earn her own way for the items she wanted. While many of her friends were given the creature comforts in life, Sterner prided herself on starting work at 15 and often held down two jobs. When she began working at the Sandbox in 2008, she quickly proved herself and was named manager by former owner Liz Bahrenburg. When Bahrenburg moved to Long Beach, she left Sterner in charge, but found it difficult to run a store from that distance.
With Sterner still at the helm, she put Sandbox on the market in July, but there were no bites. Last November, Sterner put in an offer on the consignment store and by Jan. 1, she was the proud owner of her own business.
"I wanted to keep it up. It's a really good store and I knew I could do a lot with it," she said.
One of her major new projects at the store tied into her other passion of volunteering.
Sterner is president of the Butterfly Fund, a nonprofit her mother runs that aids families with children who have catastrophic illnesses, specifically focused on Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic skin condition where the layers of the skin are not properly adhered, meaning the slightest touch or friction causes it to tear like tissue paper, leaving painful abrasions all over the body. The Butterfly Fund was started to aid Valley resident Cody Cordellos, who was born with EB, but has grown to help families all over the country with financial and material support.
One such material is Kicky Pants, a line of clothing for children made from organic bamboo, which is less irritating to the skin and more breathable. Sterner began carrying the line at Sandbox, and donates all the proceeds from sales to the Butterfly Fund. She also reached out to the Kicky Pants company and has gotten numerous items donated to families living with EB.
"It's some of the only clothes these children can wear," Sterner said. "They are such a good company and have been so generous with us."
When she's not working or hanging out with Mia, she's aiming her sights on becoming a nurse. Sterner is wrapping up her general education requirements at Santa Rosa Junior College this semester and plans to apply to the school's nursing program next year. She is considering becoming a labor and delivery nurse, or perhaps working in oncology, a department that inspired her after she spent several years as a board member with the nonprofit Children's Cancer Community.
"Every time I get stressed or upset about something I have to stop and be thankful we're all healthy," she said, adding that she's seen too many families that aren't as lucky. "You look at these families that are going through all of this and it's shocking how positive they stay all the time."
No matter what life throws at her, she continues to find the motivation to keep pushing for her goals. "It's not a walk in the park. But it will be worth it," she said.
Sandbox is located in the Marketplace Shopping Center at 201 W. Napa St. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.