Introducing the Celebrating Moms and Their Choices Series
We are proud to kick off this weekly series of articles, Celebrating Moms and Their Choices. Each Thursday, we’ll feature a different Mom telling her story. We celebrate every Mom’s choices, whether to be full time mom, work in a traditional office, seek a flexible arrangement, start an entrepreneurial venture or run an existing small business.
Just as you might ask why so few women are in technology, you might ask why more mothers aren’t developing products for your children. Who better understands a child’s needs than a parent? We decided to be those people. My model is the founder of the Boppy. She built an empire based on a pillow that she designed at home, with her knowledge of what moms need. So not a technology maven, but a maven nonetheless.
Will it hurt my credibility to admit that I didn’t plan on becoming a tech entrepreneur? I’d been working in biotech licensing, and was interviewing for a new job when I was pregnant with my first. After eight years at Genentech, I had taken a break to write a novel, then began contracting for life sciences startups. At this point I was ready to move back to full time employment. Consulting was less rewarding intellectually, and I wanted to be part of a team again.
There’s a road block for moms who want to Lean In. Every job I interviewed for required 30-50% travel. One opportunity arose with a company where I knew the leadership. I emailed the general counsel, explained my situation, and offered to take a non-leadership role in exchange for minimal travel. A headhunter called back and told me the job had been redesigned to require 85% travel. Yet, business travel means literally not seeing your child for days on end. I might as well be working twenty-four hours a day if I can’t take care of my family. Add in costs for an overnight nanny, and I would lose money taking a job. And, in reality, I don’t want to leave my kids.
One day, my sister and I were talking, and she said, “Someone should make an app out of social skills.” I replied, “You’re right, WE should.” It all started with two sisters brainstorming about a need for families. We put together a business plan, and the process was absolutely valuable. Thinking through our costs and revenues, strategy and tactics, was an important step regardless of funding. Based on my relationships with VC’s, I was able to chat with a few funders in person, on email and over the phone. For full on venture funding, they were looking for forecasts of one billion dollars a year, while angels were looking for revenue of $100-300 million. After thoughtful analysis, we decided to self fund and bootstrap our company to see what we could do on our own. There’s a certain beauty to controlling your destiny, which is more the theme I was looking for after years in a large organization.
Every job has its ups and downs. We all know about the downsides of working for “the man.” Working for ourselves has been incredibly liberating in terms of schedule. When my kids have an event, I can attend. When they are sick, I can stay home with them. However, the workload is the same, if not higher as a position in an established company. I can’t count the number of times I’ve worked past midnight. I often miss the regular paycheck, as well. Working for a bootstrapped startup requires patience. On average, it takes two years from launch for profitability. While there are exceptions, the majority take time. For us, this means we take contracting assignments while we grow the company and invest in our product line.
Our startup often feels like my third child, which is intense, but something I love doing. With nurturing, I hope that it will grow along with my children, developing into an established business that is considerate of the needs of its employees.