Long hours. Tedious work. Constantly worrying if you’re doing it right.
Am I talking about being an entrepreneur or being a mom? Funny how the core tenets of both jobs are the same.
Since we serve entrepreneurs, some of whom are moms, we wanted to better understand the many women who take on the enormity of these two roles. To do this, we surveyed over 500 moms asking them to share their successes, their fears, their lives and their advice. The results were fascinating. The quick stats are that 80% started their business after having kids. 71% are the primary caretaker and 39% often put in a “second shift” to get their work done. You can dig into the results here, but suffice to say, mompreneurs are a hard-working bunch.
As part of our research, we also collected words of wisdom from mom entrepreneurs. I think you’ll find their sage advice is relevant to all entrepreneurs—mothers or not. I know I speak for all of us at 99designs in saying how honored we are to serve entrepreneur moms who give their all and then some every day to to build great businesses and great families.
Make the right professional connections
Networking is critical for any business owner, though we all know it’s not easy. Add in the complication of balancing your business and personal life with the need to connect professionally and you’ve got a real challenge. Luckily, there are tried and true strategies that can help.
“You need someone who cheers you on, but who will be brutally honest too. Friends and family are an incredible support as an entrepreneur, but they are biased. Find yourself a professional mentor; I highly recommend the free and confidential services of SCORE.org. I’ve been working with my own mentor Nancy, a highly knowledgeable and experienced business leader, for over 5 years now and she’s been critical to my business success.”
“Build a tribe of teammates, advisors, investors, who will inspire you, push you and support you daily. Learn to ask for help. Everyone thinks it’s brave to go out alone. I think it’s even braver to ask for help when you need it. Mentorship matters. I believe the female leaders in tech today are helping shape the greatest generation of women entrepreneurs through empowerment and modeling—but we could always use more. Strong modeling has the ability to shape the next generation, and I believe we’ve come a long way.”
Your family team
When you’re both a mom and an entrepreneur, striking the right balance is both science and art. Working together with family and friends, rather than keeping business and family life separate, has proven to be a recipe for success for many mompreneurs.
“Partner with your family. Too often we think of career and family life as two entirely different spheres. I’ve found it key to my own work to bring my husband and children into the process, rather than seeing my work as an obstacle to my family life or vice versa.”
“Honestly, the greatest tip I could give as an entrepreneur and the mother of three babies is to find a nanny that loves your kids like they are their family. We found someone like that through Care.com when we moved to Hawaii and I was so busy with work. She has been such a lifesaver, because I know she will take such good care of my little ones while I am building the business. It lowers my stress, allows me to focus, and I couldn’t do it without her!”
“The five things that receive my hyper-focus with respect to being a mom entrepreneur are: making time for family dinner; setting a maximum number of travel/business nights per month; appreciating my partner daily; opting for quality time over quantity time; and staying focused on what I want people to remember about me.”
“Your kids can gain an appreciation for entrepreneurship, and you get to spend quality time with them. It’s a win-win. In our case at Kiwi Crate, my kids help test our products throughout our design process, which is super fun for them and extremely helpful for the business!”
“The secret is to lay out everything for breakfast for the whole family the night before, right down to the teabags or coffee in the mug. I lay it all out on small trays for each of us, and in the morning, once it’s time for breakfast, it’s so easy to assemble. Such a small and simple step, but it makes all the difference in the morning as we like to stay asleep until our son wakes up.”
Make self-care a priority
When you’re juggling multiple responsibilities,it’s easy to let your self-care slip away. Don’t do it! Self-care needs to remain one of your priorities. It’s critical to tend to your own needs first, or you won’t be able to assist anyone else. From taking the time to pursue their favorite activities to slowing down and enjoying experiences in the moment, here are ways some mom entrepreneurs remember to prioritize self-care.
“You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once. Embrace the different seasons in your career and life, and don’t feel guilty about how you are spending your time. Taking a long term view, cutting yourself slack in your day-to-day life, and celebrating the small wins can help you achieve big success across all aspects of your life over time.”
“Use a mobile massage service like Zeel Massage; they can come to your house when your kids are asleep and you can squeeze in a stress-busting massage without leaving your home office or your children. I love using new apps like Aaptiv and Gixo to stay fit, because they allow you to get a quick workout in for 30 minutes with a trainer.”
“Make the time for simple pleasures, and take the time to live in that moment. It occurred to me that I was trying to spend more time with my kids, but then I wasn’t really present while I was there. I’d be thinking about my meeting tomorrow, or going over that endless to-do list in my head, or I’d be on the phone texting and checking emails. To conquer this problem, I started by putting my phone down and giving myself permission to disconnect for a while. I also took a timeout to clear my head. I noticed that being a good listener and focusing on what was going on around me helped alleviate all that busy chatter in my brain. It also made mundane, simple things like cleaning the kitchen more fun for all of us.”
“Glow, the Urban Remedy juice made with healthy greens and E3 live, keeps me energized and focused. Access to healthy, ready-to-eat meals and snacks keeps me going. Without it, I would be eating whatever I make for my five-year-old son, and right now he won’t eat anything but oatmeal, gluten free pancakes, and pasta!”
“My lifesaver in starting my own business has been horseback riding! It is the original inspiration for my business and continues to be the medicine I need to keep plugging away. The experience in the country with fresh air in my face and the thrill of riding fast reminds me of youth, happiness, and freedom. It quenches my stress-induced thoughts, refreshes my desire for creating special things, and renews my energy to make a difference.”
Invest in your own professional development
It’s easy to tell our children how important it is to invest the time and effort in learning, but as busy parents and entrepreneurs, our own professional development can fall by the wayside. We can become stronger entrepreneurs—and better parents, leading by example—when we invest in our own professional development. Here’s our favorite entrepreneur advice from the frontline.
“Practice continuous learning. Parents often don’t have the luxury of putting aside work in order to learn; weave them together instead. One way to learn is to relentlessly ask for feedback from people who care about you and your mission.”
“Among my secret weapons for work are Udemy and Lynda, excellent online learning platforms that keep me at peak performance. Whether it’s learning to code in Python or creating more efficient workflows for my team, I make it my goal to learn something new pertaining to my role once a month. This past month I learned how to improve my Instagram hashtag strategy and increase collaboration with other likeminded brands. It’s all part of the Perennial mindset: as Perennials we never stop learning or pushing up against our growing edge, because we know that we continue to bloom at every age.”
The mompreneur lifestyle
Being an entrepreneur is more than a job, or even a career; it is a mindset and a lifestyle. It yields more, but it also demands more organization and high-level management skills. Check out the strategies these mom entrepreneurs follow to maintain their entrepreneurial lifestyles.
“Entrepreneurs are constantly planning and second guessing ourselves—am I doing the right thing? is this the right time? do I have enough money?, etc. Our fear of doing something wrong or failing sometimes prevents us from doing anything. People view failure as a bad thing, but instead, entrepreneurs need to think of failure as a learning experience. So, jump in and do it, do whatever you are afraid of, because if you do nothing, nothing will happen.”
“Always set realistic expectations, whether you’re at the office, creating your list of daily to-dos, or just at home. Always ask for (and more importantly, accept!) help. Everyone else is trying to figure it out too.”
“Delegate the tasks that don’t fall within your area of expertise. I know I can’t do everything, so I try to focus my attention on the things I do best, and delegate everything else to the experts.”
“The most important lesson I’ve learned after 10 years of being a mompreneur is that time management is very important. In order to grow your business and still have enough time to spend with your family, you need to make sure your time is spent as productively as possible. I prioritize my tasks, estimating how much time they’ll take. I’ll usually start with the tasks I’m most tempted to put off. Try to eliminate distractions, minimize the time you spend on social media and set times for when you check your email.”
Mom entrepreneurs all started with an idea they believed in, and the courage to take risks to bring the idea to fruition. This basic truth speaks to the notion of core values, the kernels that keep us going as business owners and people. Remember that keeping these core values in mind can refresh your motivation and lend a sense of guidance during tough times. Here are some of the core values mom entrepreneurs find most salient.
“Work past your fears of failure, see your worth in all of your ideas, and to allow your confidence to grow. Your may find that your biggest barriers were things that you put in place; once you’ve broken them down, your vision, goals, and dreams can come to fruition. Reach out and engage with other like-minded mom entrepreneurs,who can help you see your worth in all of your ideas; join local meet ups or coffee groups and expand your network to make the connections and friendships. Get comfortable being uncomfortable chatting to other women. Women don’t like to ask for help, but we sometimes need to. You got this.”
“Take imperfect action. While you’re trying to get it perfect, someone else is getting it started. Action makes the magic happen. Build your team and build your empire. You can’t do everything so surround yourself with a team (including a ‘virtual’ team) to support you.”
“Stop thinking about ‘work-life balance’ and reframe it as ‘work-life integration.’ Next, figure out what works for you. It may mean ‘family time’ from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and work from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, or something totally different; do what works.”
“There are tons of resources for mompreneurs out there, but none will ever be as reliable as YOU. You started this journey, and you should always be working to navigate it according to your own rules. Be strong, be brave, be flexible, be present, and always remember why you started. The more emotionally connected you are to your founding purpose, the harder you’ll work towards achieving your goals.”
“You can do a job only after you’ve done it. Trust your potential, not only your past performance. Go!”
We hope you’ve been inspired by the advice from these amazing mom entrepreneurs. Take some time to share your own mom entrepreneur advice when you can, and help grow the next generation of enterprising women. In honor of Mother’s Day, celebrate a mom-run business and entrepreneurial family today!