I’m a mama and an entrepreneur—here’s what I’ve learned along the way

When the company you're growing feels like raising another baby, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two titles—mama and entrepreneur—but you can succeed in both.

I’m a mama and an entrepreneur—here’s what I’ve learned along the way

Being a working mom is hard, but being an entrepreneur who is building a startup can present even more challenges. You're probably not confined to a traditional work schedule so there isn't much "time off." There are going to be many, many learning curves along the way. All while trying to prioritize your own family.

When the company you're growing feels like raising another baby, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two titles—mama and entrepreneur—but you can succeed in both.

Here's what I've learned along the way:

1. Know your superpowers.

As women, we try to be all the things to all the people but that just doesn't work in business. It's time to play to your strengths, which means taking the time to look in the mirror and do some self-reflection.

What are your superpowers—the things that only you can do? The things that give you confidence and, when harnessed, can create a lot of value?

The flip side is knowing your weaknesses and getting comfortable seeing them as such. Now is not the time to teach yourself to be an Excel wizard—sure it's important to always be learning new skills, but it's equally, if not more important, to be comfortable acknowledging where others can do something better, faster and cheaper.

2. Find your village.

A one-woman show has never had an IPO. And it may sound like a cliche but teamwork really does make the dream work. How successful you are at building a village, a support structure including partners, advisors and your first teammates, might just be what makes or breaks your business.

Most start-ups fail because of interpersonal dynamics so choose carefully and know that establishing and enforcing a company culture are essential responsibilities of CEOs. Lead by example and prioritize your village every step of the way.

3. Understand your customer.

Authenticity is key and earned through the hard work of understanding the pain points of your customer. Don't be afraid to go deep—do the work and ask the questions. Take the time to know them better than they know themselves. And never stop iterating your product with your customers—their feedback will surprise you every time because they will see things you simply can't because you're too close to it all. Take their feedback seriously and see it as a gift.

4. Obsess on brand.

The core of most modern businesses is a brand made up of your mission, values and the visual system you present. You know your brand is resonating when you see it reflected back to you by your customer.

Obsess on it. Every. Single. Day.

Establish your brand guardrails and enforce them meticulously. Know what you stand for and what you don't. Know what is fixed and what is flexible. Use it to differentiate yourself in your market.

Every successful business has a brand that means something and is essential to its sustainable competitive advantage. Build a brand and use it as a moat to ensure the longevity of your business.

5. Prioritize self-care.

Start-up life can be a recipe for burnout so know your limits and enforce them. Self-care is not selfish. Repeat. Self-care is not selfish. Launching a business is a marathon, not a sprint so you must be fueled for the long haul.

Schedule time on your calendar for family and friends. Take the conference call while walking around the block. Splurge on the meal delivery service to ensure you are making wise food choices. Prioritize sleep—it's the foundation of good health and your business depends on it.

6. Fail fast.

A wise advisor once told me that if you wait to launch until you aren't embarrassed by your product, you waited too long. Launch before you are comfortable and get in market as soon as possible to get feedback. Then iterate, iterate, iterate.

Never let a feature of the product be too precious to kill—experimentation is essential to entrepreneurship. You must fail a thousand times in a thousand little ways along the journey to get to greatness. Start today.

7. Embrace the struggle.

The struggle is real—starting a business is hard. Get comfortable with the struggle. Every day will be met with new challenges that will feel daunting. But that's okay, I promise.

The secret is, while it doesn't get easier, you get stronger. Overcoming adversity will teach you new superpowers and your confidence will increase along the way. You'll learn to trust your instinct and your team as you grow and evolve. Like I tell my daughters: You are strong. You are brave. You can do anything. You've got this!

You might also like:

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less