Des Moines Moms Movers and Shakers: Emily Butterworth, Hello Charlie


We are continuing our series on Des Moines area moms who are movers and shakers. These are women who are making a difference in our community through the businesses they own, organizations they are involved with, and work they do.

Emily Butterworth Hello CharlieEmily Butterworth began Hello Charlie in March 2015. Hello Charlie is a photography studio that provides creative direction, visual content, and styling for children’s clothing, toy, and accessory lines. Clients from all over the country send samples and inspiration for their collections and Hello Charlie styles and photographs their lookbooks. They also provide product images, styled flatlay images, and short films featuring the shoots. Hello Charlie uses local models, many of whom have been modeling regularly for over 2 years together. They also have mom models for “Mommy and Me” clients! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family

I am a stay-at-home mom of three and a wife to my best friend. We moved to Altoona from the Spirit Lake area two years ago. Caleb (6), Charlie (5), and Miles (3) are our world and we love getting out and exploring the city parks, the splash pads, and playing on our neighborhood trails. 

Emily Butterworth FamilyWhat do you consider the biggest challenge of motherhood to be? Biggest joy? 

I think my biggest challenge is how different my life has become. Sometimes I feel lost in the world of “them” and don’t get enough “me” time, but if I am ever away from them for even an hour I miss them like crazy. It’s a crazy twisted thing called motherhood and I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

My biggest joy is watching them discover the world. Watching them do things for the first time is one of my all-time favorite things. 

How did you start Hello Charlie? What was your inspiration? Is there a story behind the name?

When I had my first child, Caleb, I knew I had to stay home with him. I quit my day job and started doing freelance graphic design work. I eventually started a photography business with my sister. We enjoyed it but were getting burnt out on certain things we didn’t like about the photography business after a few years.

I started getting into Instagram on the side. I followed people who would sell clothes their kids outgrew and I got hooked on that. I eventually started selling my kids’ outgrown clothes and people loved my style for my children. I would even go to consignment stores and buy clothes to style as outfits and sell.

I started taking photos of Charlie in styled outfits and people noticed on Instagram I was a photographer as well. We would get asked by small businesses to take photos of their clothing in exchange for photos and did that for a long time. Then my husband got a promotion in Des Moines and we moved here. I started to wonder if I could do photo shoots for these small businesses as my job. I just kind of went for it and did my first one before we even lived in Des Moines. I had my nieces and best friends’ kids model for me and the business took off from there. 

Charlie has been my inspiration from the beginning because she is my only daughter and I have loved styling her since the moment I found out I was having a girl. She is into fashion now herself which is pretty fun for me.

“Hello Charlie” was born after a brainstorming session with my husband when I realized Charlie is the inspiration behind what I’m doing . Ultimately I do all of this for my children. Being at home with them has been my main focus and motivation these past few years and it’s the best motivation I’ve ever had.

hello charlie photo styling

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

I love setting my own hours and pushing my creativity as far as I can. I worked as a graphic designer for several years and I never wanted to be the one in charge. Strange right … when now I am? I had to find a niche I felt confident in and knew was genuinely my passion. It’s awesome to be able to “sleep in” with my kids, make breakfast for them and work for an hour or two, go to the park, work during naps/quiet time if I want … somedays I just watch Real Housewives … and then finish up my day when my husband is home to play with the kids before bed. I hardly ever work past bedtime and use that time to be with my husband and watch TV and just relax. 

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

I think the hardest part is that everything is on you … if something doesn’t work it’s your fault. There are no Monday group motivational meetings … you have to pick yourself up when things aren’t working and figure out what IS going to work. I also have three tiny “co-workers” who are constantly distracting me or asking for things and they don’t get any work done!

Work/life balance is also a big struggle. You have to get a routine for work hours and life hours and try as hard as you can to stick to it. It’s SO hard to shut off my brain from work. I sometimes feel like I am working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sometimes I get to the point that I just take an entire day and spend it with my kids and don’t check in on work until my husband gets home. It’s rare but when I do it it’s a good restart button for both of my worlds. 

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

Go for it. Life is WAY too short to do something you don’t love to do. Even after almost seven years of having my own business I still question whether I should be doing this especially when I don’t know when my next paycheck will be, but deep down I know it’s what makes me happy and makes me ME.

What have you learned?/Wish you knew when you started? 

I have learned I can’t do it all myself. My personality is to want to control every detail and delegate NOTHING because no one will do it “right”. I got to the point though where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore because I was too overwhelmed. This January I brought on Maria Valdez and she has changed my life. She helps me at all of my shoots, I bounce ideas off of her, text her at night when I want to go crazy and now our shoots are going so smoothly I don’t know how I even did it without her. We also brought on two hair stylists and things are just overall BETTER. I hope to someday have a full working studio with several employees. I strive to be able to do what I do best and hire the rest. 

What’s the last show you watched, thing you listened to, or book you read?

Real Housewives of New York. I love the entire Housewives franchise except the Potomac because let’s be real … no one likes that one.

Why do you call Des Moines home? 

My husband and I both grew up in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and both sets of our parents live there, my sister and her family live there … we lived there for the first 6 years of our marriage. All three of our kids were born there, so HOME home is Spirit Lake.

BUT I feel like Des Moines is slowly becoming our forever home with our little family because it feels right and we are very happy here. We live in Altoona which is the perfect small town next to the city. I have always felt like a city girl in my heart, but now that I have kids, I know I’m a suburb girl who needs easy access to the city opportunities. 

Des Moines Favorites:

Favorite spot for a date night: Malo for dinner and Flix Brewhouse for movie night

Best place to take kids: We love going to the local splash parks

Favorite summer activity: Not having to deal with the school drop off line! Ok, seriously though … this is my first summer with kids home from school and my heart is happy to have them all home for the summer

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? I’m not sure this place exists but somewhere that is 70 degrees all year long, has Target, and free babysitters

Favorite instagram accounts? I love really creative accounts like @kandelphy, @giddyupandgrow, and @monpetitshoes. All three of those accounts are my life goals for my own account

How/where do you relax? Every night I watch TV in our glorious king bed with my husband and if I don’t get that hour or two each night … I would be one crabby lady.

Connect with Hello Charlie




* Photos are by Samantha Owenson Photography; Emily’s hair and makeup by Ashley Follett; Hello Charlie team: Maria Valdez, Ami Kordick, and Kelsey Goins

Check out other Des Moines Moms Movers & Shakers: 

Becky Pospisal, The Knotty Nail

Colleen Kelly, Star 102.5 morning show

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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