3 Biggest Myths Of Starting & Running a Business with Kids in Tow
When I first met Jackie, her reputation of smarts and savvy preceded her (I definitely watched her appearance on Shark Tank en route to the Soho House). But she skipped into our breakfast, fully clad in something fun and sparkly and settled in proving herself equally open and thoughtful as we dove deep into topic over topic.
7 years into running her business, Nearly Newlywed, 2.5 years of which alongside her son Ryan, Jackie is my personal resource on entrepreneurship alongside motherhood so she’ll be kindly adding her voice in a monthly column here so I can share her with all of you.
To start things off, she’s breaking down the misconceptions of “mompreneur life” as social media has dubbed it. Enjoy this one with a cup of coffee or a cocktail because Jackie has a way about her in real life and here of immediately feeling like as your new friend and mentor in all things motherhood + business life.
BY JACQUELINE COURTNEY, LIFE + BUSINESS CONTRIBUTOR
Since having my son and growing my business, I have realized there are like a million myths about building a business while parenting. Social media and the internet are awesome for their ability to bring together communities like this one. But media & sharing also perpetuate myths about perfection, ease, and natural success. Even in the most sincere attempts at honesty and authenticity, the platforms can limit our ability to show the full-full picture, I think anyway.
And so, these are my top three myths about starting/running a business while having a kid and why you can totally do it. The real, non-Instagram-filtered look applicable to anyone whether doubling down on one you have, restructuring how and what you want to do with one in the murky middle stages or starting one from scratch.
Before I get into it, please note that I have one kid. If you are reading this and you have more than one child you are a superhuman goddess and please know that and if I join the second kid club ever I will be calling you for advice.
Myth No 1: Startups Are For The Young & Unencumbered. Motherhood Doesn’t Fit Because It Divides Your Focus & Time.
The cultural narrative about startups and entrepreneurs is stereotypical & fetishized: It’s exciting. It is for the young and energetic that can afford to pour 36 hour days in, never sleep and have an insatiable, singular desire to succeed at it and that is all.
Wrong-o. There are sexy days but it’s a lot of hard, crappy, boring, stressful work. Most of the time, being an entrepreneur is like any job; it's work.
In fact, it’s a lot like motherhood, to me.
When I had Ryan, he threw himself into my orbit and suddenly my solar system felt crowded, chaotic & out of control. And I learned that while there is no limit for love, it multiplies and expands, time and attention don’t. The allocation of both have very real limits and it is overwhelming & exhausting to navigate that all at once, especially in the beginning.
But from that chaos & feeling of being submerged in a bottomless pool of must-dos and must-learns and must-go's, I found out that a lot of them were not musts. My definition of 'must’ had to break down into could, should, maybe, sometime, later, or not worth the time given other priorities.
What motherhood cultivates and demands prepares you to be the best entrepreneur possible. As a parent, you can’t pause or quit and it’s relentless sometimes. You often have no idea what is coming at you or why but you just keep going, you adapt. You become ruthless in your prioritization and time management because you have no choice.
I am 10x more effective at building my business now that I am a mother than I was before. And that is partly out of necessity because time and attention and energy are vastly divided and compromised compared to my pre-child self. BUT, I am plenty more effective & focused to make up for that.
Myth No 2: Success Has One Speed, Trajectory & Story
Success isn’t magic. It isn’t one speed, one linear track, one size fits all. It does not follow a singular trajectory and there isn’t one way to succeed or one way that success should look. Also, big success doesn’t happen overnight.
Grit of building and maintaining a business takes time and work. It’s cultivated and practiced and probably the single most important thing for an entrepreneur to develop. It’s hard to start. It’s even harder to stay at it.
Since starting Nearly Newlywed I am proud of achievements that feel big to me. Being on Shark Tank, twice featured in the New York Times, joining female collectives in NYC like The Wing & Female Founder Collective, hitting our first million dollars in revenue and a few others. But those are sprinkled throughout almost seven years of running my business. Seven years, day in and day out, deciding to keep going on. Seven years
where not every year was up on the metrics that mattered and I was very uncertain of things, myself, the market, the business model.
Many of those shiny things happened pretty recently. After a few uncertain and challenging years and after I had my son, I was afraid that my business was starting to waver and my resolve was too.
I have found something true with all mothers that I have met; working mothers, ‘non-working’ mothers (which I say in quotes because all mothers are working), and mothers navigating all of the shades in between. It’s this: They make it work. They get up day after day and ride the waves and the troughs. And that is what makes for a long-term, successful business and entrepreneur, no matter the size & story.
Myth No 3: Anything Not Infinitely Scalable Is Not Worth The Time. Especially As a Mom.
There is this market idea that a small business equals a bad business, or a boring business, or a non-lucrative business. That isn’t true.
A sustainable, healthy and good business can come in any size or shape, and so getting bogged down in what you think success is supposed to look like can completely block you from achieving it yourself. If it is worth it to you, it is worth it. A small, medium or super large business can all be financially & emotionally rewarding.
In business and in so many areas of life, the grass will always seem greener when you get yourself in the comparison game. It could not be more so the case in startups. Because here’s the thing: Ask someone that’s raised 5 million dollars if their life is perfect? Nope. Burned through it too fast. Raised it too early. More worried about the feasibility of a lucrative exit. Ask someone that’s bootstrapped the same thing. That paycheck and ability to invest in scaling faster looks pretty shiny. Laying off staff, choosing which thing to spend the last few dollars on, a nightmare.
I don’t want to trivialize that growing a business and capital are varied and sometimes one idea and business warrants something else. Timing also often plays a large role. But outside of those insane, unrealistic, lottery-ticket-style, zero to a gazillion dollars in five months stories, the grass is almost always greener and none of those paths are better than the other.
So when you are weighing your choices, your path and deciding on the precious allocation of your time and attention, remember that success is not commensurate with scale. It depends on the business, the market and on what you want out of it.
If you want 10,000 employees and offices around the world, go for it! By all means. But if you want to have a small regional business, or a store, or anything else between ginormous and teeny tiny, you can do that.
The trick is articulating what that is for you, what success looks and feels like, for you, and then building from there. Measure yourself against yourself and do what is right for you.
That is all to say, I think its hard. I don’t think any of us signed up for motherhood thinking it would be a breeze and so is true with a business. And you probably know all of this already, have heard it before or said it to yourself.
So push back the fear or idea you can’t or shouldn’t do it if you want to. Do what you want to do. Create your own idea of balance, success & motherhood. And remember it takes time, it is hard work, and that’s all totally normal. And it’s what makes doing it and succeeding, when you do, even sweeter.
Jacqueline Courtney lives in Brooklyn, NY and is the mother of a 2.5-year-old boy named Ryan, Founder & CEO of Nearly Newlywed, a startup advisor and writer.