By Heather DiPrato of Yardley Living with Photos by Frank Pronesti of Heirloom Studio
The Manley Family: 25 Years in the Making
Heather and Mike Manley's love story began 25 years ago, a connection made through mutual college friends. They married in 2006 and have three beautiful children, 14-year-old Maggie, and 9-year-old twins Eleanor and William. The family enjoys living in Lower Makefield, walking the canal, spending time together with their French Bulldog, Jane, grabbing Starbucks, and cheering on their beloved Phillies every season – with the last two seasons being especially exciting!
Heather Manley: From Educator to Entrepreneur
A graduate of West Chester University with a BSED in Early Childhood Education, Heather enjoyed a 20-year career as a teacher, first in Bristol, PA at St. Mark's School, then in Ewing, NJ at Francis Lore Elementary School. When Maggie was born, she was able to continue teaching, yet after the birth of twins, life took an unexpected turn.
“After 2 years at home with the twins, I returned to the classroom,” Heather explains. “But after one broken femur, and one ‘Level 3’ autism diagnosis, my husband and I agreed that I was needed at home, at least for the time being!” NINJA Moves: A New Venture and Passion Not one to sit still, although she was no longer teaching, Heather began doing odd jobs (often with the twins in tow!) and eventually started her first business, Random Task Ninja, where she tried to ‘fill the gaps’ for busy folks who needed help – oftentimes working moms like she had been.
“This process seemed to organically morph into 2 years of organizing peoples’ kitchens, closets, garages – you name it! The one thing that EVERY client I saw had in common was bins upon bins of clothes, with no idea what to do with them,” Heather explains.
Enter NINJA DUDS! Recognizing the opportunity to help solve a need, Heather started a local Facebook-based consignment group to help families, which soon grew to over 2500 members! “What started in my dining room,” she continues, “Is now a four-Mama operation that grows a little more each day, and I love every minute of it!” NINJA DUDS has evolved into a thriving online platform providing affordable and sustainable fashion while empowering local moms with flexible work opportunities. Learn more about this consignment phenomenon HERE.
Neighborhood & Kids’ Activities
The Manleys live in the Pebble Creek subdivision, having moved from Yardley Borough in 2017 to make more room once the twins came along. “I love our neighborhood! It's full of wonderful friends and neighbors and it is so beautiful,” Heather tells us. “It’s very green and peaceful, full of flowers, and kiddos, and walkable stretches. We're even within walking distance of Eleanor’s school!”
The family enjoys staying busy and active. “We have three great kids, and they all go to different schools, so we have lots of fun trying to keep that all straight,” laughs Heather. “Both of our daughters dance competitively at Dance Arts of Yardley and have been dancing there since they were three, and our son is also involved in a variety of activities.”
“Maggie attends Pennwood Middle School and is a member of the Junior National Honor Society. She plays volleyball for the Varsity team at Pennwood, though her true love is dance! She is the youngest member of the Senior Competition Team at Dance Arts of Yardley and spends over 15 hours dancing at the studio every week!”
“William is in 3rd grade at Edgewood Elementary School and is in their Autism Program,” says Mike. “He loves everything water-related and is a terrific swimmer. He also loves music and watching cooking videos on YouTube. He just started playing Challenger Flag Football! He's also played several seasons of soccer with YMS' Special Stars.”
“Eleanor attends Quarry Hill Elementary and is in 4th Grade,” Heather continues. “She dances on the Junior Team at Dance Arts and loves to sing and act. She's a Junior Girl Scout and she plays the piano and the violin. We also have an AMAZING French Bulldog named Jane Manley. She turned two this past July. She is a COVID dog and therefore does not like to part from us even momentarily. We are all madly in love with her!”
Heather is engaged in both a local book club and a cornhole league. “Shoutout to the ‘The Book Babes’ and ‘The Old Bags’!” she laughs. “I’m also heavily involved at Dance Arts of Yardley, doing their social media and technically considered the "Competition Teams Activities Coordinator" – my favorite activity is walking with the teams in the Annual Christmas Parade.”
“When it comes to NINJA DUDS,” she continues, “I've connected with many community members and participated in lots of activities, including Miss Marilyn, My Gym, Code Ninjas, Thalia's Salon, Stony Hill Kitchen…we've been working lots of awesome small business owners and are looking forward to connecting with many more!”
In their spare time, Heather and Mike enjoy hanging out together, binge-watching their favorite shows, and going to Phillies games. They stay active and on-the-go helping their kids do the things they love and enjoy working in their respective businesses. “I love the people I work with,” says Heather. “It's a passion of mine to make connections between friends and neighbors and the community at large…I also LOVE supporting small businesses and building a tighter, happier community!”
Travel and Family Fun!
“When our oldest was 4, we surprised her with the classic, ‘no, we're not going to daycare, we're going to Disney!’ birthday trip,” Heather recalls fondly. “When the twins came along, beach vacations were all we could really handle. Then, as we learned and lived through William's autism diagnosis, things got tough… the fear of the unknown, and a lot of ‘what ifs’ when it came to traveling.”
“That said, I'm proud that William and his twin sister had their first plane ride and first trip to Disney this past April and it was WONDERFUL,” Heather beams. Having tackled Disney, the Manleys are looking forward to more travel in the future. “Maybe even taking a trip without the kiddos one day!”
Connecting with the Community
“I'd like to share a message of gratitude with this community,” says Heather. “Though we all have our own crazed lives, we are all here for each other and helpful to one another. We slow down and chat, help each other cart the kids around, take in the mail when it's vacation season…and it's so comforting to know that people have your back and that you can bring a smile to their faces, just popping outside to grab the mail!”