By Ashley South
Dr. Cathy Subber describes herself as a woman who strives to create a better version of herself at every opportunity. Despite challenges and new situations, Cathy embraces what the world puts in front of her and turns it into something that could help someone else. “The core of who I am is a person who takes in the world in a way where I will never stop looking for love, gratitude, and abundance no matter what happens.” This outlook, coupled with her seemingly endless drive, power The Branch Moms Community.
Cathy grew up in central New Jersey and was a swimmer and diver. Despite her athletic success, she told us that she was awkward and lacked self-esteem. At 17, her skill as a diver earned her a spot at a training camp in Florida that taught her new dives. On the last day of the camp, she attempted the hardest dive she learned that week. Unfortunately, she landed flat on her back, which ended her diving career and created a back issue that was sometimes debilitating. Because of a series of failed treatments, Cathy was desperate to try anything.
When she was 18, someone suggested Cathy visit a chiropractor. After her first visit, she noticed a significant change. She began feeling better, and her daily headaches also went away. Because of her experience, she found a new passion and decided to go into the field to help others. Her own chiropractor graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic. Admiring his skill, Cathy moved to Iowa to attend that same college.
Iowa forged Cathy’s confidence. She shared, “I sat in the auditorium on the first day. No one knew me. I could be anyone. I took the opportunity to reinvent myself. I faked that I was outgoing. I faked having confidence.” Even though her heart was pounding with every new interaction, she kept up the ruse. That approach made her friends quickly, and she simply decided to stay in the role as a confident, happy, and outgoing person. She tells us with a laugh that she spring-boarded into a different version of herself. (Okay, that is pretty funny!)
After graduation, Cathy began work for a doctor in the Quad cities. One of her patients mentioned that his brother was selling a practice in Naperville and asked if she might be interested. She had actually just been to Naperville for a seminar and thought, “that place is pretty cool!” She decided to check out the prospect and made an offer within a few hours of seeing it. A full decade after working and living in Naperville, once again happenstance changed Cathy’s life trajectory.
A woman named Kelli Thompson moved here from Florida and became a patient. When Cathy had a part-time position open up, Kelli applied for it. Cathy liked her energy and hired her. Kelli was six months pregnant and excited about her impending arrival. She and Cathy talked about her baby shower list. But Kelli was more interested in knowing which mommy-and-me classes were best, what doula to hire, and which series of bottles worked for other moms, and which did not. Kelli was unable to find the advice and community she sought through online searches. Facebook was largely still a college networking tool. One day, Kelli remarked to Cathy that she kept dreaming of starting a community for moms. Cathy supported Kelli in her dream, offering help in creating a logo, business cards, and a website.
The group started as the Naperville Moms Network. In one month, the website had 100 mom members, achieved mostly through Kelli’s grass roots efforts of handing out cards wherever she saw local moms. (Target was a 2nd home to her as it is for many of us.) In one year, the site had over 1,000 mom members. Two years later, Kelli’s family was transferred to Texas, and they would not be coming back.
There was no question. Cathy was the natural successor. She had attended the luncheons, knew all of the active mom members, and provided funding when needed as a business sponsor. Cathy’s boys were 8 and 7, and she personally loved the space the community had created for moms to connect. She didn’t want it to go away. Cathy rebranded the group as The Branch, and it has two taglines: “You are always invited,” and “You are never alone.”
The Branch’s taglines come out of Cathy’s adult reflections on her teen years and the loneliness she sometimes felt. She now has the capability and mindset to make connections, and she strives to create an uplifting, safe space for local moms to ask questions. The group’s rules stipulate that the community remain a positive one. Posts are approved and moderated in accordance with their guidelines, and no direct advertising is allowed. Moms may ask for simple pediatrician referrals or help finding a hard to replace toy, or they may delve deeper into discussions about postpartum depression or feeling overwhelmed.
Cathy’s recommendation on how to make successful connections: Be vulnerable. Step outside of your comfort zone. Be nervous but come anyway. So many people like you are looking for the same connections and have a desire to build new relationships. Take the first step and say hello. “I feel like I was put on this planet to help connect people, to raise my hand, and tell everyone out loud what I’ve gone through. I want to help moms and make them feel that they are not alone.” To do this, The Branch has Facebook groups, a website, a blog, a newsletter, and hosts local events like playdates, mom’s night outs, and networking luncheons.
Today, The Branch Moms Community has over 55,000 members! When asked what she sees for the future of the group, Cathy says she is just going to water it, give it sunshine, and talk happy thoughts to it. She plans to let it grow to where it wants to grow.