4 Mothers On When They Felt Ready To Start Their Own Business
One of the most fun parts of getting to know other women who are taking time off to enjoy motherhood is that inevitably, someone at the power play date is always noodling on an idea. Historically, I've always been in the camp of making a million excuses why not to start something - Mother Untitled is perhaps the first idea that I felt committed to growing and rallying people around. So, I've been curious about how other women feel ready - how they validated doing it before they made money, what motivated them, and their advice in getting off the ground. Here's what I've heard in talking to a handful of women who have launched their own companies after becoming mothers:
Lisa, mom of 3 kids, age 8, 6 and 2.5, filmmaker & Founder of Smitten Films
I was motivated by two things: 1) passion and 2) the need to do something outside of the home. Re: passion, I know it sounds SO cliche but I really believed I had solved a problem for myself and wanted to solve it for other people too. Re: #2, this is a far more complicated driver, but I needed stimulation, validation, you name it.
It was really hard for me to pull the proverbial trigger. A few things helped: 1) modeling everything out in a spreadsheet so that I felt comfortable with the amount we were investing and how I thought I could make it profitable 2) having both kids settled in pre-school so I had at least a few hours a day where I wasn’t paying a babysitter to look after them (though I was doing that 3 days a week) 3) a husband who, while supportive, was going to hold me accountable to the targets I had set out for myself 4) running the mantra ‘you have to spend money to make money’ through my head constantly.
I got so much advice in the initial stages (and continue to do so now) so I can’t say there was one thing that really did it for me. I would say talk to as many people as you can because every little bit of perspective helps.
Alex, mom to a son, age 1.5, founder of e-commerce company, Paper Cape
I sent out a survey to the 200 moms in my life asking questions like where they buy their kids' clothes, how much they expect to pay for certain categories, what drives their purchase decisions, what they think is missing in kids and baby apparel, and even what they thought I should name my brand. I also did and continue to schedule interviews with parents who I know have great taste and who put a lot of thought into the types of fabrics and styles their kids wear. I refer back to these data points every time I'm making a major product or brand decision.
After my son was born, I was surprised that the bar for how interesting my work day was actually went up. If I was going to spend the day away from him, I wanted to be sure I was doing something that felt impactful. I also felt that my professional identity was the part of my life where I could have successes that were separate from motherhood and that became an important balancing perspective. I've been in online retail throughout my career and am strongly philosophically opposed toward the trend toward disposable fashion, so I was excited to build a new heritage brand for kids and baby.
The insight that helped me take the leap from a self-confidence standpoint was talking with a venture capitalist about whether I had any right to start such a company. She pointed out that I have an MBA, that I'm a parent (identify with my target customer), and that I have seven years of experience in the apparel sector. She said worries that female founders always think they need more experience and accolades while men dive right in. She made me stop wondering if I needed more _______ before taking the plunge.
Marissa, mom to 2 kids, age 5 and 3, photographer
Starting my business was a very scary and daunting experience. I doubted my talent and if I would be any good. I worried that I would invest all of this time and money and be an enormous failure. I still worry about these things all of the time. My husband has been my biggest supporter, encouraging me to pursue my dream and helping me stay realistic in what I could accomplish. From early on he had me create a P&L spreadsheet to keep track of what I was spending versus bringing in. At the beginning I did a lot of shoots for clients at a discount and asked for constructive criticism on how things could be done differently. A friend told me that my taste would always exceed my talent and I should always strive to my taste. To me that's amazing advice because it gives me a goal to constantly be working towards, a motivation for every shoot, and a chance to turn everything into a learning experience.
Michelle, mom to a son, age 6, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby
I saw starting my own business as an investment in myself. I knew investing in me and building something of my own would far out way any initial monetary compensation.
I want to teach my child that you can achieve your dreams through hard work, measured risk and by believing in yourself. And, that that is more important than tying your self-worth and future to a job and paycheck that aren't fulfilling.
Be fair to your self and hold yourself accountable. Would you miss a deadline for a boss at your regular day job? Just because you are your own boss does not mean you should put work off last if something comes up. There are always going to be dishes to put away, laundry to fold and play dates to organize but carving out the same time for your business as you do those tasks will pay out for you in the long term. As I remind myself, the days are long but the years are short.
Featured Image via Ortolan Projects