There truly has never been a more important time to vote. But for a variety of reasons, you might not be exercising your right to vote. For Sara Berliner, a politically-motivated mom of two, the desire to see true change in her community (and world) prompted her to create Vote Like A Mother, a clothing company with a meaningful message. Sara spoke exclusively about voting, being a role model for her kids, and why everyone, (and not just moms) should vote like a mother.
Were you always political?
I was raised in a family that volunteered in the community and encouraged me to engage with issues I was passionate about. I was also lucky to attend a school that encouraged us to ask questions. When I started high school, I joined the Ecology Club. I learned about what we then called global warming and worked to raise awareness.
How did Vote Like A Mother begin?
I was at the March for Our Lives in NYC, which the Parkland teen survivors organized five weeks after the mass shooting at their school in 2018. My teenage cousin was killed by a gun in 2014. I felt the Parkland survivors had a chance to make legislative progress on gun violence, so I wanted to support them. My sign said, “VOTE LIKE A MOTHER” in Sharpie on cardboard.
I thought it was a good slogan, but on the subway headed to the march, it became clear it was more than good: it was powerful and resonant across generations. The idea of using it to spark conversations and build a movement came to me right away. I hopped on the subway WiFi and grabbed the URL and social media handles. I thought, “All these people snapping photos of my sign are my focus group. I can use the phrase to capture attention, then funnel donations and volunteers to nonprofits doing important work.”
How did VLAM extend to clothing?
Part of the idea from day one was to put the phrase onto clothing and accessories so that it would make its way out into the world, and to use the gear to raise money for mom-centered nonprofits. But I didn’t have any experience making clothing. I spoke to a friend who’s an entrepreneurship expert. She said, “You can launch this in three weeks.” I had my website up and was taking orders in eighteen days. That was April of 2018. I donate 100% of profits from sales at votelikeamother.org to nonprofits like MomsRising and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
What were some of the steps that you took to get VLAM off the ground?
Prior to starting Vote Like a Mother, I was a full-time children’s media creator and executive. Now I do that part-time, and part-time I work on VLAM. I had made hundreds of apps, books, animated series, toys, and games, but I’d never made something and sold it myself. I burned the midnight oil doing research: trying to learn how to make a clothing line, how to produce it ethically and sustainably, which US manufacturers were using organic cotton, which inexpensive website software was best for e-commerce. Luckily there’s a substantial amount of advice and information online, but even so, there was a ton of trial and error. I went through three printers before I found House of Print in Riverhead, NY, which does amazing work. And I learned a lot about intellectual property through the process of trademarking the phrase “vote like a mother”.
What are some of the issues you feel might not be getting as much attention as they should? Which ones are most meaningful to you?
This is a great question. Campaign finance reform is the single most impactful bipartisan change we need in the U.S. Very few people talk about it, because it seems complex and hard to achieve. But like climate change, we have to address it if we want our children to not just survive but thrive. Right now, most politicians on both sides of the aisle are more beholden to donors than to their constituents. We will never build the world we want if this practice continues. I also think people aren’t aware that child separations continue for families seeking asylum. Clean air regulations are being rolled back, hate crimes have increased significantly, and voter suppression is rampant. There needs to be more progress on legislation, corporate support, and cultural change around paid family leave, has the potential to boost our economy and enormously improve families’ lives. There’s a lot of disinformation being spread about the census, but it’s very important that everyone fill out their form, or their communities could lose services, programs, and representation in Congress.
How are you teaching your own children to be political?
The easiest thing my husband and I do is take them to vote with us. Day to day, we model empathy and kindness: caring about others is at the core of my political worldview. We talk about the choices we make: how and where we spend our money, what causes we spend time on, what issues we raise our voices about, and yes, who we’re voting for and why.
How are you involving your kids in VLAM?
My kids are ten and six. When I started VLAM, they asked if they could be my business advisers. They’ve helped me sell gear at fundraisers and my fifth-grader is impressed with what I’ve accomplished. My first-grader is sick of it, though! She’d rather have more of my time.
What do you feel about today’s political climate lends itself to VLAM?
This is another great question. I think people are sick of politics and are tuning out, especially presidential politics. I’ve found that Vote Like a Mother connects with people, especially but not exclusively parents, who are disgusted by the behavior at the highest levels in US government and who want something better for their kids and community. VLAM resonates with people who reject the binary of red/blue, left/right. They want a fresh and positive perspective that’s not about taking sides, but about looking at issues through the eyes of someone who mothers. We all come from mothers, and what we share can unite us.
What is your goal with VLAM? What would you like to see change?
My goal is to reach nonvoters and people who’ve disengaged and rally them to get involved in their local communities and to vote, using parenthood as a lens for politics. Amazingly, Vote Like a Mother resonates strongly with teens, so reaching new voters, soon-to-be voters, and children of voters is a secondary goal. My two entry points are the official VLAM gear and social media, where I share information and resources that I find useful and educational, highlight parents who are running for office, and interact with the lively VLAM community.
The change I would like to see: I would like to see more of those of us with privilege fighting for those who need our help. I want to see all children fed and no children hungry — a goal that is easily attained with political will, because the food, money, and delivery systems exist. I want the playing field leveled for black and brown children, and leveled among genders in the workplace. I would like to see your identity and whom you love make zero difference in our culture and in the eyes of the law. I want families to be able to stay together when they flee violence. I want women to have autonomy over their bodies. I want people to be able to live healthy long lives, free of the fear that they won’t get the healthcare they need, or that they will be one of the ninety Americans killed each day by a gun.
What are your plans for the future, both personally and professionally?
I’d like to partner with an organization that can help VLAM grow and reach more people. I started it to make a difference, not because I wanted to be the founder of something. So there’s not much ego in it: I just want to have as big an impact as possible. Personally, I want to grow as a role model for my kids; to accept my limitations and failures and celebrate my successes — and to find a way to have an occasional date night with my husband!