By Amelia Santaniello

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Mixing work with family can be tough for a married couple. But one duo seems to have done it, building a booming business despite very limited experience.

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“I didn’t have a retail background and I opened up a store called Hot Mama,” said Megan Tamte, the founder and CEO of Hot Mama. “I think those are two things right there that set you up for a lot of naysayers.”

But Tamte has been proving those naysayers wrong for nine years. The third grade teacher turned business mogul was recently named Ernst and Young’s Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year. So Amelia Santaniello sat down to talk to her about building a business, with kids, without any experience, and with her husband as a partner.

Watch them getting ready for a family dinner, and you can tell that Megan and Mike Tamte know how to work together. They preach teamwork to 16-year-old Allison and 13-year-old Roian, and say it’s one of the secrets to their success in an unexpected business.

“I didn’t set out to own a chain of retail stores,” Megan Tamte said. “I was a third grade teacher who then became a mom.”

Rather, she started raising her kids, and dreaming of a store for moms like herself.

“I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a clothing retailer out there that was addressing the lifestyle of a mom,” she said.

So, after years as a full-time mom, and five years of talking about her dream, Megan’s CPA husband had her put a business plan on paper. And they started seeking investors.

“Friends and family that were so tired of hearing me talk about Hot Mama,” she said, “so they were like, ‘we have to shut her up.'”

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Instead, they turned that investment into an empire, with $45 million in annual revenue, and ever expanding office needs.

“This is the space that we just moved into last week,” she said, while walking down the stairs to a new, extra level of offices.

It’s a far cry from their modest beginnings, with offices in the basement of their Edina store.

Now, there are 43 stores, spread across 15 states, not to mention a thriving online business. But it all starts with a woman who really understands the moms who shop in her stores, because she’s one of them.

“We know what creates success, and what our customers love and makes them happy,” she said.

The focus on females also extends to their workforce. Hot Mama has 625 employees, but only four of them are men. And one of them is Mike.

“So there is Mr. Hot Mama,” she said, while walking into Mike’s office. “A lot of times people think Hot Mama is all about me and it’s not. There is this brilliant man behind us.”

They work in side-by-side offices, balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Mike is the numbers guy. Megan the idea person. A combination that works perfectly for them.

“I think you kind of get a unique experience with a wife and husband leading together,” she said, “so I do believe that’s a huge part of the success of Hot Mama.”

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And if you’re wondering where they came up with the name, Megan is not the Hot Mama. She used to admire someone who had it all together, a great mom who also knew how to dress — and called her “the Hot Mama.”

Amelia Santaniello