Being a mom can certainly have its challenges (as well as its many benefits, of course!). Being a working mom can be difficult and demanding in a different way. And then there’s being a working mom with your own business which takes things to a whole other level. Suddenly you’ve just added another “member” to the family. One that requires just as much attention and love as the rest!
Starting a business is like having a baby. Maybe you’ve dreamed about it your whole life, or maybe you’ve never considered it until this very moment. Either way, you’re in for a lot of work and an experience unlike any other. First, there’s the prep. You have to grow your vision with the right thoughts and actions, making sure every decision is healthy for both you and this new “baby” of yours. This often starts as a very internal process and slowly grows larger and larger, needing other vital components and knowledgable, strategic people you trust to help it expand until you are ready to birth it into the world. Once you’re wheeled out of the proverbial hospital with that new baby in your arms, it’s all on you to give it your full and undivided attention so that it continues to grow and thrive. Now strap it tightly into the carseat, because you’re in for a wild ride.
What do I do now, you ask? We all know that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual (unfortunately). Well, neither does starting your own business. But don’t fret, I’m here to offer some advice from my experience starting a business as a mama!
So, how in the world does a mama do it all? There are a few answers to that question.
First, you must have passion. Passion will drive the dedication and persistence that is needed to get through all the ups and downs you will experience. And, trust me, there will be many. When I started Once Upon a Farm, it began with my own personal dilemma that I was experiencing: I couldn’t find any fresh baby food at the market! Not even at Whole Foods. I was a working mom trying to make all my own baby food, as I cared deeply about nutrition, but I just didn’t have the time to do it all. From planning and shopping to washing, peeling, chopping, steaming and blending, to cleaning up the whole mess, there just wasn’t enough time in my day. I wanted to go to the store and buy baby food just as I would have made it at home but became discouraged when I couldn’t find it. I found that I could buy fresh adult food and even fresh pet food, but no fresh baby food? Weren’t we living in 2013 at the time? Apparently, that part of the market still hadn’t caught up yet. I saw a need and I went for it. I was all in.
This brings me to my second point, which is setting up your life in a way that allows you to really “go for it” and be “all in.” In other words, how do you create more time in your life as a mama? And then how do you use that precious time to start a business? Having kids already leaves you with less time for the things that you may have enjoyed pre mamahood (spending time with friends, exercising, cleaning, traveling, making meals, working and going to school sound familiar?). If you work a second job (yes, being a mom is a job in itself), you have to cut down on these “extra cirriculars” even more. Have your own business? The likely truth for most people is that you will have to sacrifice a number of things, which may mean completely cutting out some of the free time activities mentioned above, at least for a while.
This will of course look different for every person but when I was just starting Once Upon a Farm, I had to make some major life decisions, including quitting my current income producing job and deciding to turn down a graduate program (not an easy decision!), to name a couple. I also had to find a way for my family to live off of one income (my husband’s in my case) while I got the business up and running. This was not an easy feat, especially with increasing childcare expenses that we incurred as I got further along in the business and as my children got older. (The good news is that this is usually temporary, so hold on tight!) I also had to give up some social time, yoga and other hobbies at night. Instead, I would focus on the business with this new found free time. Don’t get me wrong, these types of nourishing activities such as spending time with friends and exercising are vital to keep in the mix when you are running a business so that you can stay centered and sane, but the harsh reality is that some things have to go as an entrepreneurial mom and the kids definitely aren’t one of them 🙂
To successfully launch and grow a business while growing our family at the same time, I needed to make sure I had a strong support system. I am lucky to have a husband that is an amazing support and I’m also thankful to have family, childcare and friends that have helped along the way. We all need a network of support, especially when raising kids (especially multiple kids!) and even more so when raising kids and having your own business, so creating a support network is key if you don’t already have something like this in place. If you do already have one, make sure you reach out when you need help as this will be essential to preventing burnout and logistically making it all work!
At some point in the journey of starting your business, you’ll want to reach out to strategic people for help. I did everything myself in the beginning. I came up with the idea, the recipes, the business plan, the financials, the fundraising, the hiring, the demos, the sales, the marketing – everything. However, there came a point where I knew I couldn’t do it all myself and it was time to start reaching out to the right people to build the larger vision I had. For me, this meant finding a business partner and continuing to find the right suppliers, vendors, and team members that could help support that vision and had the skills that I lacked to make it all come together.
When you’re with your kids, be with your kids. With having your own business, you must learn to set your own boundaries. Unlike a typical 9-5 job working for another company, other people aren’t going to set them for you. For me this meant putting my phone down when I was with my kids and being present with them instead of constantly checking for emails or texts. I can’t stress this enough. It’s so easy to get carried away with checking email 24/7 when you have your own business, as there are ALWAYS things that come up. Resist the urge. Even checking your phone a few times when you are with the kiddos can quickly turn into more emails, texts and phone calls and suddenly the time with your kids is diluted which isn’t good for individual development or the family system. In fact, research has shown that being on the phone consistently around your kids can have detrimental long term effects1 So remember phone-free time with your little ones is best and emails can wait.
There are going to be lots of ups and downs when starting your own business, especially while being a mama. From the office to home, whether separate or one in the same, there are constant highs and lows. You must stand steady through all of it and keep your eye on the vision, while also maintaining flexibility and letting go of control at times. If you let yourself get carried away by all the mistakes, pitfalls and upsets, it will be easy to give up, so keep on chugging! I’ve heard some people say to not ride the “highs” too much either, but I tend to disagree with that. Might as well ride the highs if they are there and enjoy them!
Overall, running your own business while having kids takes a lot of work but it is 100% possible.
You somehow make it all work because you have to and you want to. Through all the ups and downs, make sure to keep yourself afloat and have people you can talk to, surround yourself with positive and fun people, make sure you love what you are working towards, eat healthy, exercise, and fill yourself up in whatever small ways you can so you can keep up and thrive (instead of survive) as both as an entrepreneur and a mama.