Erin DuBois

By Caitlin Giddens

Business owner | Mother | Volunteer

Each Sunday night Erin DuBois makes a schedule for her family. She fills a 5-foot-tall chalkboard with activities: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, piano practice, guitar lessons. But then, invariably, the schedule will change. Although she’s a planner, DuBois has learned to enjoy the busyness of raising two children and running DuBois Furniture with her husband, Michael. She doesn’t balance business and family — she blends them.      
WACOAN: Would you describe yourself as a working mom or a mom who works?

DuBois: I would describe myself as a mom who works. When you work in a family business, family is always at the forefront. Everything we do is about family — not just about business. Whether it’s for our employees or for our family, everything is arranged around family.

WACOAN: Before taking on this role at DuBois Furniture, did you stay at home with your two kids?

DuBois: My son William is 13, and I stayed at home until he started school. I did some contract work after that. When my daughter was about 3, I went back to work for another company to do financial analysis and bookkeeping. Two years ago I came on to work with my husband full time. We’ve always known this was the eventual plan for our family. It’s been exciting to do this together.

I loved my time at home with my children. I made some dear friendships that are still important to me. But I like to be busy. I did a lot of volunteer work while I was home, but I was ready for something else.

WACOAN: What volunteer work have you done?

DuBois: It’s been important to my husband and me, for our entire marriage, to be involved in civic organizations and volunteer work.

My largest commitment has been working with the Junior League of Waco. I was president of the organization three years ago. I’d been in the organization for 10 years before I was president. The majority of my married adult life I’ve been in the Junior League. I’ve developed so many skills that have helped me personally and professionally.   

When we were younger, my husband and I were involved in the Arthritis Foundation. As our lives have gradually shifted we’ve focused on serving with our children. I’m serving on the Midway [ISD] Education Foundation board. That’s been a wonderful avenue to apply the skills I learned in the Junior League. That’s the model of Junior League — you take the skills you learn and bring them out to the community.

We’re also involved in First [United] Methodist Church of Waco, and we’re active in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. My husband and son are involved in Troop 308 at First Methodist. That’s the same troop in which my husband got his Eagle Scout. I’m the Brownie leader for my daughter’s troop. We like to find ways to volunteer that also involve our children.

WACOAN: Why is important to volunteer with your children?

DuBois: It’s instilling a sense of community involvement. And it’s showing them how to give back for all the blessings we have. The [Boy and Girl] Scouts organizations are great because there’s a leadership component. It’s a natural fit for our family.

WACOAN: What specific skills did you learn from Junior League?

DuBois: When you volunteer and manage any organization with that many women, you come away with great management skills. It’s helped me gain an appreciation for how everyone contributes to a goal.

WACOAN: After staying at home with your children, how was your transition back to work?

DuBois: It’s been challenging. It’s not a balancing act for me — it’s juggling. Sometimes what is most immediate is what gets the most attention. But my kids are resilient. The furniture store is a second home for them. When we shuttle our kids to and from their activities, we can bring them to the store.

WACOAN: How is your role at DuBois Furniture different than a typical 9-5 job?

DuBois: Every day is a challenge in retail. You never know what customers will come in or what problems will arise. I’m not a flexible person by nature. I like for things to be in order and organized. I’m also a numbers person, so I try to forecast and plan things. But that doesn’t take into account the customer’s taste.

I don’t sit at my desk — I’m on the floor walking around. We’re looking at what we need to add or sell. I’ve been learning from my husband in the past few years. He’s great at knowing what’s coming and how it will fit in the store. We get to go to the furniture market in North Carolina twice a year. That’s where we see all the new things and decide what we want on our floor.  

WACOAN: What do your job responsibilities look like?

DuBois: My husband and I run the store together. I take more of the financial role in the operations. He handles the merchandising. As far as day-to-day operations, we make all the big decisions together. Right now we’re sharing an office, but we’re hoping to change that soon. We’re side by side all day, so we don’t have to fill each other in.

WACOAN: DuBois Furniture has another location in Temple. How often do you work there?

DuBois: We’ve been in Waco for 55 years and in Temple for 12. The Temple location opened when my son was 7 months old. I always remember how long that store has been in business because it’s close to my son’s age. I try to go to Temple every couple of weeks. My husband goes more regularly. We have a fantastic staff that runs that store well.

WACOAN: When the Temple location opened, your father-in-law was running the store?

DuBois: Yes. Michael had been working at the Waco store for a little over three years, but my father-in-law was still managing everything. When deciding to open the Temple store, my in-laws sat down with us. The four of us made that decision together. They knew it would affect the next generation. I appreciate my father-in-law’s leadership and business sense for getting us to this point, and now we can put our mark on the business.

There was a moment during our junior year [at Baylor], before we were engaged, that my husband had to decide if he would take over the store someday. His parents had been supportive of him pursuing whatever he wanted to pursue, but I think he always knew in his heart this is what he wanted to do. But they had to know because they were making business decisions. He told me, ‘I’ll be staying in Waco, so you need to know now that my life will be here.’ I started sobbing, and my roommates asked if we broke up. I said, ‘No. I think I love him, and I have to live in Waco.’

We laugh at that story all the time now because I cannot imagine living any place other than Waco. I’ve lived in Waco for more than half of my life. It’s definitely my home. We’re so proud of the growth in Waco. Small businesses are the backbone of Waco, and I love contributing to that.

WACOAN: When you work in Temple, how do you handle the traffic on Interstate 35? Does that ever put a kink in your schedule?

DuBois: I’m a big Google Maps person. If traffic looks bad, I’ll go through McGregor and take [State Highway] 317. I know a few exits I can take. It’s a minute-by-minute decision.

WACOAN: What does a typical work day look like?

DuBois: We’re open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Of course, our hours for the warehouse and delivery crew start well before 10 a.m. I try to get in the office before we open, but that doesn’t happen every day. I use my mornings for meetings. I usually get in around 9:30-10 a.m., and most days I leave to pick up my kids from school.

WACOAN: What do your mornings look like?

DuBois: I get up at about 5:30 every morning. I hit snooze a few times. My morning is dictated by what time I need to be at the store. My kids get up at 6:15 a.m. I take them to school, so sometimes I get ready before I take them. Sometimes I’ll come back and get ready so I can take my time and get set for the day.

WACOAN: How does your family’s schedule change in the summer?

DuBois: The summers are always a challenge. My son is very active, and he’s gone multiple weeks of the summer [with Boy Scouts]. My daughter is going to her first summer camp soon, which is exciting. Waco has such great opportunities for kids in the summer. My daughter will go to day camps here and there. I have a huge family all over the state, so they’ll spend time with them. My kids spend a lot of time at the furniture store, but they are never lacking for a comfortable place to sit.

WACOAN: Tell me more about your kids. How old are they?

DuBois: William is 13, and he’s at Midway Middle School. Cynthia is 8, and she’s at South Bosque Elementary.

WACOAN: What activities are your kids involved in?

DuBois: William plays tennis and is involved in choir and Boy Scouts. He’s taking guitar lessons. Right now he’s in the cast for Waco Civic Theatre’s ‘Fancy Nancy.’

Cynthia does Girl Scouts and plays piano. She plays basketball during basketball season.

With owning a retail business and working on Saturdays, we are fortunate to have the flexibility to go to our kids’ activities. We make it to more activities than we miss.

But I think our kids understand that our experiences and adventures come from working hard, and that means we need to be at work.  

WACOAN: How often do you work with the Girl Scouts?

DuBois: We meet a couple times a month. I have nine second graders from various elementary schools. Girl Scouts is such a fantastic organization. We’re teaching them skills they may not be exposed to at school or home and also the confidence to work on a project to completion. It’s not unlike the skills I learned from the national conferences with the Junior League. I look forward to those Brownie meetings because the girls are energetic and ask intelligent questions. I’m usually much more comfortable with adults than children, but this has been such a rewarding experience.

WACOAN: What specific skills do you teach the girls in Brownies?

DuBois: One of our moms is the president of Central National Bank, so she came and talked to the girls about finances. Then we gave them pretend money and let them shop around at [DuBois Furniture]. We talked about the difference between wants and needs.

WACOAN: As a mother, what do you try to instill in your children?

DuBois: Treating others with kindness. When they get out of the car in the morning, I say, ‘Do your best and be kind.’ Kindness is what’s missing most of the time. When you’re kind and allow yourself to look at things in another perspective, a lot of issues can be avoided.

WACOAN: What have your children taught you?

DuBois: Forgiveness and flexibility. My kids are great when things don’t work out like we planned. They’re such creative, intelligent children. They’re a key part of our family. It’s been fun to watch them grow up and see their personalities develop and where their gifts lie.

WACOAN: What are their personalities like?

DuBois: William is hilarious. He’s a bright kid with a great way of making people around him feel comfortable. I love seeing him interact with his friends and make personal connections. With all the technology available today, we talk to him about having face-to-face interaction. He’s so good at that. I’m proud of him.

Cynthia is one of the most sensitive and kind children I’ve ever been around. She’s so thoughtful of other people’s feelings. She’s creative and loves coming up with solutions to problems. She says she wants to be an engineer so she can create things that will solve problems. But she changes her mind a lot. She keeps our family energetic and laughing. She’s a planner. She probably gets that from me. She plans game nights and activities because she loves to bring people together.  

WACOAN: What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve received?

DuBois: My mom told me when William was little that you can’t take credit for your children’s successes without taking blame for their failures. That embodies my philosophy as a mom.

I’m here to raise them and guide them — and I have the great privilege of doing that — but our goal is to release them into the world as God-loving, God-fearing adults. I try not to get hung up by any problems and also not get too high on their accomplishments. It’s all part of the process.

WACOAN: Has anything about motherhood surprised you?

DuBois: I think I had an accurate perception of what babies are like. I have two sisters who are older than me. They were honest about the difficulties of having babies and toddlers.

As [my kids have] gotten older, I don’t think I’ve been prepared for the emotional side of raising kids and being there for them. You can’t just fix it, even though that’s what you want to do as a mom.

WACOAN: How do you take care of yourself and stay energized?

DuBois: I drink a lot of caffeine. I don’t always do a good job of staying energized and taking care of myself. For a lot of my friends, that tends to be what goes. You don’t always get enough sleep. But I look at this time, with kids and their activities, as a short, precious amount of time. I try to enjoy the chaos. Even though I’d like to say I’m up exercising at 5 a.m., and we’re all asleep by 7:30 p.m., that’s not our reality. It depends on what’s going on at work and at home. We do try to get some time to sit down together. It’s not always dinner — we may all eat at different times, sometimes in the car. But we try to find time to connect with each other.

WACOAN: With your chaotic schedule, how do you plan meals for your family?

DuBois: We support the restaurant industry in Waco. I actually love to cook, but cooking comes in waves for me. I have some weeks where everything can be prepped and we eat at home. But we can tell you most of the menus in town. Because I am a planner, I’ll find a little bit of time for us to meet up and eat. We try to maximize our time together.

WACOAN: Does your busy schedule ever overwhelm you?

DuBois: It does. My husband sees that happening and tells me to take a step back. I get overwhelmed at work and at home. When I get overwhelmed at work, I’ll take the afternoon off and spend it with my kids. I take a step away from work. Sometimes my kids overwhelm me, so I find comfort in doing my job well.

WACOAN: As someone who likes to stay busy, how do you say no to commitments?

DuBois: I said I like being busy, but I joke that I don’t like that word. People use it as a description of their life and all the things they’re doing. I’ve learned I have to prioritize where my time is being spent. I have a great support system of friends, and I have three sisters that I talk to all the time. They help me make sure what I’m doing is valuable.

With kids, you have activities and homework. That may not be the most important part of your day, but it’s the most important thing for your kids. If my child has a project, I try to give that as much attention as what I do at work.

WACOAN: Tell me about your husband, Michael. How did you two meet?

DuBois: We met the first day of freshman year at Baylor [University], and we started dating sophomore year. We got married the August after we graduated.

WACOAN: What’s your favorite thing about your husband?

DuBois: He’s so intuitive of how I’m feeling. He knows when I need a break or a change of scenery. He knows when I don’t want to cook and when I want to cook. He’s the core of our family. He keeps everything stable.

WACOAN: What’s it like working with your husband every day?

DuBois: It’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be. We have our own areas of expertise in the day-to-day operations. We see eye to eye. It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

WACOAN: Do you and your husband share a calendar?

DuBois: We use the Cozi app that syncs our phones. I can program a reminder for him. We do a lot of electronic communication. Pretty much every day when I leave the office, he asks what the plan for tonight is. I tell him what we’re doing and where we can meet up or ask if he can go to the store. It’s game-time decisions around here.

WACOAN: How do you and your husband balance work and personal life, since you work together?  

DuBois: It’s hard to shut off work. We’re good about not discussing work in front of the kids. But when they go to bed, we’ll find ourselves talking about work with a glass of wine. I try to say, ‘Let’s not talk about work right now.’

Vacations have become very important for us. The staff [at DuBois Furniture] has been incredible about protecting that time for us. That’s when we recharge and come back as better parents and better business owners.

WACOAN: Where do you like to go on vacation?

DuBois: Rosemary Beach in Florida. We love to stay in a house, cook and go to the beach. With our fair skin we all burn, so we bring a lot of sunscreen.

Last summer we went to Vail, [Colorado,] with my whole family. We really like vacations where we can just hang out.

WACOAN: How has parenthood changed your relationship with Michael?  

DuBois: We were married three years before we had William. We’ve had kids for almost our entire marriage. I think we both grew up through being parents. Watching Michael, it gives me a different respect for what he balances too. Women are always asked how they juggle things, but my husband does all the things I do. He works and helps with the kids.

WACOAN: Do you have a special place for date night?

DuBois: Every day is date day. [Laughs.]

We’ll grab lunch to get out of the office. For dinner we like to go to 135 Prime. Because the store is open on Saturdays, we take Fridays off. Unless there’s a major meeting on Friday, we eat lunch together every Friday.

We take our days off pretty seriously. We try really hard not to talk about work on Fridays. In the afternoon we’ll do things with the kids. If the weather is nice, Michael will cook on the grill. Fridays are like mini vacations for our family.  

WACOAN: What else does your family enjoy doing together?

DuBois: We are homebodies when we have time to be. I love nothing more than a day at our house because that’s so rare. That’s why I love summer — we seem to find those days more often.

But we also like to go to the movies. My husband really likes to go to the movies, and that works out in my benefit. He’ll take the kids, and I’ll stay at home.

WACOAN: What do you like to do with that time alone?

DuBois: I like to read. There are always things to do around the house.

I get the question all the time: ‘Do I always get new furniture?’ We don’t change out our furniture very often. But we think it’s important for our house to look nice because that’s what we do, and we love to entertain.

When I’m home alone, I clean out a closet or drawer. That’s therapeutic for me. The kids will both be gone for a week this summer, and I could take off work and clean out things for that entire week. But I have years ahead of me to clean out closets.   

WACOAN: What does a typical Saturday look like?

DuBois: I don’t work all days on Saturdays. I look at our schedule and see when I can go to work. We try not to have babysitters on Saturdays. Our kids are at the age that they can stay at home for a little while. I like to make a big breakfast on Saturday mornings. With a teenager who likes to sleep in, that can turn into brunch. The kids may come up to work with us. Then we’ll have family night on Saturday nights.

With Boy Scouts, William is gone on campouts once a month. Our kids are busy all week. They work hard during the week with school and activities, so our kids like to relax and have time at home. On Saturdays we try to do as little as possible. On Sundays we have church, and then we get everyone set for the week.

WACOAN: How do you get everyone ready for the week on Sunday?

DuBois: I usually sit down and look at their schedule. I try to make lunches ahead of time, but there are plenty of mornings I’m making lunches. We try to get in piano or guitar practices to make the week go smoother.

I have a giant, 5-foot-tall chalkboard in my kitchen. Every Sunday night I write down the highlights of the week. I love quotes and put them on there. It’s color-coded. It’s my crazy therapy. Once that is set, I feel like I can tackle the week. We know that’s our plan for now. Just wait for it to change tomorrow.