How Being a Mom Got One Arkansas Girl to the White House
One day an everyday mom found herself suing the government. She wasn’t a powerful attorney, a famous politician, or even a wealthy celebrity. She was a typical southern girl, loving her family, growing her own company, and sipping sweet tea.
So what made her brave enough to take on the federal government?
Rhea Lana describes herself as quiet and introverted, especially while growing up. But an introvert can make a great mom, so she was thrilled when she and her husband, Dave, were gifted with children. She spent her days at home with her three kids changing diapers, folding laundry, sweeping floors, preparing dinner, carpooling to soccer practice, splitting up sibling fights…you know. Typical mom life.
In the diaper bag days, she never envisioned herself in a legal altercation with the White House. And she certainly never expected to testify on Capitol Hill.
But God was using those dedicated days of motherhood. She was faithful day in, day out. She worked joyfully, tirelessly in the home. All the while God used her perseverance to grow leadership qualities in her. To grow confidence in her. To grow more dreams in her heart.
Those small daily diligences of motherhood—thinking on her feet, problem solving, turning goldfish and cheese sticks into an extravagant meal—are the fundamental skills she relies on most today as CEO and founder of Rhea Lana’s, the nation’s premier children’s consignment venue.
In 2013, she needed her years of commitment to fairness and courage to counter the Department of Labor’s accusations against her thriving company. They suggested that her business model of inviting moms to volunteer at her national consignment events violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The hundreds of moms who enjoy being paid with early shopping, discounted deals on all their family’s goods, and comradery that every mom longs for disagreed. So did Rhea Lana.
She fought back. For herself and for every mom in America who wants to clothe her family for a fair price and participate in a fun local community event. C’mon, how bad can it be?
We caught up with Rhea Lana to get the inside scoop on her recent invitation to the White House to speak directly with congressman on behalf of small business owners everywhere.
By the way, she won the first round! Apparently, her motherly patience and perseverance combined with gentle and nurturing communication is still able to convert even unruly grownups. Read on to get the behind the scenes details from last week’s trip.
Q: How did a sweet southern girl like you end up on Capitol Hill?
A: The International Franchise Association invited me to testify before one of the House Education and the Workforce subcommittees. It sounds very professional, but it was simply my chance to tell my story. In sharing my story, I also brought awareness and support to my bill: The Children’s Consignment Event Recognition Act of 2017 (HR884 and S313.)
Q: We know looking good is important to you, so what did you wear to such a big event?
A: Bleeding blisters on the heels and balls of my feet taught me 3 years ago that looks are important, but comfort is key. It’s hard to smile and be friendly when each step is in pain. So this time around, I was more prepared. I found a pair of classic nude pumps that complimented by day one outfit: a sleeveless classic light blue dress from Dillard’s with a white jacket. This professional but feminine suit served me well as I visited with key senators and congressmen, garnering their support of my bill and discussing necessary changes in business regulation.
My comfy and cute nude pumps worked with my day two outfit also: a black tweed two-piece suit with small fringe on the skirt and buttons on the jacket for testifying before the subcommittee.
I was thankful that I felt put together on the outside because I was so sad, too. That morning when I slipped out of the taxi to meet the International Franchise Association for breakfast at the Capitol Club, I left my black coat behind. It wasn’t just any old coat. It belonged to my husband’s precious grandmother, gifted to me by my mother-in-law who we lost to cancer many years ago. This vintage and special black coat was my favorite for any fancy occasion. It made me feel like I had the support of generations of women rooting me onward. But I couldn’t let my emotions distract me from the important job I was there to accomplish. I knew that even that heritage of women was counting on me to communicate warmly and effectively with focused emotions.
Q: How did you celebrate the progress on your legal case against the Department of Labor?
A: We couldn’t celebrate alone because we never could have accomplished this alone. We were invited by our attorneys to eat dinner with them at a private restaurant, University Club. It was in celebration of the great work they did in the preparation and filing of our brief in early February. We are very grateful to these attorneys with Cause of Action Institute, a nonprofit government watchdog organization. We could not afford to sue the government without them. They are extremely talented attorneys who care about our story and believe in economic freedoms for Americans.
Immediately after the hearing, my husband took me to lunch at the Trump Hotel.
It was absolutely beautiful! It’s the old Post Office and a special mix of old and new. That evening after our celebratory dinner, we went to a movie at E Street Cinema on 11th Street to see La La Land.
Q: So what’s next for you? Are you headed back to Washington?
A: We’re not sure what will happen next. I just published an op-ed in Forbes which tells our whole story. We have three different chances to resolve this: win our case, pass our bill or get a settlement with President Trump’s new Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. I’ll go back to Washington if I need to. In the meantime I’ll continue savoring and building the friendships with these precious people. Here’s a sweet note that I received from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who was on our subcommittee.
Q: What would you say to encourage other moms?
A: I would encourage women, in business or in any personal pursuit, to step out of their comfort zone. Be brave and keep developing leadership skills. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your home life or have bigger dreams than motherhood. We all know that motherhood is hard and uncomfortable at some point every day. But those are the experiences, I rely on most now as a CEO managing people and solving problems.
When I began suing the government, I was suddenly forced into national live TV and radio interviews and other stressful speaking opportunities. In the beginning, I hated them and was practically sick each time an interview approached. I was terrified that I would not be able to speak a single coherent thought. Surprisingly, I did pretty well and communicated better than any of us thought I could. I didn’t have formal training. I have never taken Toastmasters.
But I realized I have the experience I need. God had been preparing me for this over the last two decades as I committed to live intentionally in each season of my life with excellence and dedication.
I’m finally gaining a little confidence. I am still nervous, but I’m discovering a new skill that I would never have known about myself if I hadn’t been pushed out of my comfort zone into some high pressure situations.
So, women, try new things. Consider what you enjoy and what you are good at. Then work hard, pursue your passions, and become excellent. Did you know it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill? Start now!
And never underestimate your role as a mother. The little lives you’re growing and changing each day matter, more than anything else. You never know when God will use your obedience in motherhood to change even more lives around the world.