Amy Hilmes, Happy DSM


Des Moines Mom recognizes that moms wear a lot of hats. You are a mom, wife, friend, diaper changer, nose wiper, meal planner, lost toy finder, the list goes on and on!

This summer we are thrilled to feature some local moms who are thinking outside the box and making a difference in our community through the businesses they own, organizations they are involved with, and work they do. Check out the rest of the series and read profiles from previous years here


Amy Hilmes is a former marketing executive who took the leap into entrepreneurship when she started the gift shop Happy DSM in Beaverdale in September of 2020. She was born and raised in northwest Iowa but has lived in Des Moines since she attended Drake University (1986-1990).

Tell us a little about yourself and your family 

I’m married and have two boys. My husband, Steve, is a Des Moines native. My son Alex (23) is working in ER in St. Paul, Minnesota, and prepping for PA School. My son Andrew (18) graduated from TRHS in May. He is heading to Film School at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles in August. 

What do you consider the biggest challenge of motherhood to be?  

I would have to say the biggest challenge of motherhood is letting go. As moms we find ourselves in the position of having to do this all the time. There’s the physical letting go that occurs when we drop our kids off at daycare or when they take off learning to ride a bike for the first time – but then there is the ultimate letting go when they leave the nest. Then the challenge transitions into watching our kids gain their independence as they learn to trust their own judgment and make life choices. That feeling of losing control as a parent can be tough. 

What is the biggest joy of motherhood?

There is no doubt my boys are my greatest accomplishment. Hands down the greatest joy of motherhood is watching them grow into mature, kind, capable young men. 

How did you start Happy DSM? 

I have wanted to own a gift shop for years. I always thought it was something I would do when my boys graduated from college, but life’s twists and turns brought me here sooner than expected. In December of 2019 I decided to step away from a 21-year career as a marketing executive. I had two choices – stay in corporate life or take the risk and pursue this life-long dream of owning my own business. I chose the dream and went full steam ahead on planning. When the pandemic hit, I had to adapt the business model and decided to launch online. I’m hoping to evolve in the Fall of 2021 and offer regular shopping hours at my small storefront and workspace in Beaverdale. Since a big part of the business is online and involves packaging and shipping – a fair amount of the retail space is dedicated to that – so my in-store shopping space is “cozy”. 

What is your inspiration for the gift shop?

I have always loved giving a great gift paired with the perfect card. I believe the gift-giving experience should be personal, thoughtful, and meaningful. Unfortunately – with our busy lives – it can be difficult to pull this off. That’s where Happy DSM comes in. I want to make shopping easy for people who have an occasion and either don’t know what to give or don’t have time to think about it. Happy DSM can be a one-stop-shop. My specialty is a creative twist on the traditional care package. I love curating a collection of gifts that tell a story or have a theme and then packing them up in a bright and colorful happy box.

Customers can shop online and choose from pre-assembled boxes by occasion, or they can build their own. I offer local pickup, or I am happy to ship. 

What’s the best part about being your own boss?

No office politics! As of right now, I’m a one-person show. There’s no one telling me what to do or how to do it. I make all the decisions and live with the consequences. 

What’s the hardest part about running your own business?

The learning curves. I came into this with a strong vision but zero retail experience. I feel like I’m drinking from the firehose on a regular basis. I read, research, and watch a lot of tutorials. I have also learned how to ask for help – something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I am so grateful to other small retailers who have been kind, supportive, and generous in sharing their tricks of the trade.

What advice do you have for moms who want to start a business?

It’s demanding. Be prepared to work hard…but know the payoff is so rewarding because you’re investing in your dream. Give yourself permission to have boundaries and learn that it’s ok to say no. 

What do you wish you knew when you started?

More about accounting. Boy, do I hate numbers! I’m more the creative type! 😉 

What do you love about raising a family in Des Moines? 

I love the fact that my boys were able to attend Roosevelt High School and Central Academy. Not only were they challenged academically, but they also benefited outside the classroom attending one of the most diverse schools in our State.  

Quick Takes 

  • Favorite local restaurant: Centro
  • Best place to take kids: That has evolved over the years…but one constant has been the trail system – walking or biking. 
  • Favorite summer activity: sitting on my patio with family and friends enjoying a nice glass of wine and good conversation. 
  • What’s the last show you watched, thing you listened to, or book you read? I love a good podcast while I’m working at the store. “Literally” with Rob Lowe is a current favorite. (I’m probably dating myself!) He’s funny, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and has great guests. 
  • How/where do you relax? I love going to movies because it’s a great escape. I’m so excited theaters are opening up again.
  • If your life had a hashtag, what would it be? #worried 

Know a Des Moines mom we should feature? Let us know! Email [email protected] with details and we will be in touch.


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