What are some strategies for founding a startup when you are a parent entrepreneur? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The first time I got pregnant, my husband Dave and I had just raised our first round of funding for our startup, ThirdLove. We didn’t plan it that way. It just happened. Our business and our family have grown together from that starting point, and it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve heard people say that you can’t build a business and raise a family at the same time. I’m living proof that isn’t true, but I’d be lying if I said it was simple to do both at the same time.
Your first child is overwhelming. You don’t really know what you’re doing, and you can’t understand what you’re getting into until you’re in the thick of it. In some ways, it’s very similar to a startup. There’s never a perfect time to have a kid, just like there’s never a perfect time to start a business. You can always find a way to talk yourself out of it. “It’s not the right time. We aren’t ready. Let’s wait until things settle down.”
It’s been chaotic (and wild, at times) raising a family while building our business. But I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I want to share three of them with you.
1. Stay flexible
I’m a planner—I always have been. I want to know what’s going on and what the game plan is at all times. But when you have a child, that level of planning suddenly isn’t an option anymore. It’s just not feasible to have every detail planned out when a baby comes along. Sometimes you have to stay flexible and roll with the punches.
Here’s one of many, many examples.
The day that I went into labor, was the same day we got a call from Good Morning America - that they wanted to do a feature on ThirdLove. They wanted me to do an interview, which of course was out of the question. So our Head of Design, Ra’el, ran back to Oakland, grabbed some clothes, and did a live interview with Good Morning America while I was in labor. Was it perfect timing? Of course not. But it worked out in the end, which brings me to the next lesson.
2. Learn to let go
My husband Dave and I were obviously a little preoccupied at the time, and we couldn’t make it on Good Morning America. But Ra’el filled in, did a great job, and ThirdLove was still featured on the show. Ra’el was our first employee, and we knew we could trust her. We knew that we didn’t have to be there for things to go well. And that’s another lesson that I’ve had to focus on personally over the years—you have to learn to let go and trust your team.
As a founder, you’re deeply invested in your business. It’s your dream, a vision that you’ve been working on day and night. That creates a feeling that you need to be in the center of things, answering questions, making sure it doesn’t all fall apart. And in the early stages, that’s true to an extent. But raising a family while running your own business will become impossible if you can’t learn to let go and trust your team.
3. Rely on your support system
My third point is simply about learning to say “yes” to the people in your life. If you’re starting your own business, there’s a good chance that you’re the independent type. You’ve always got things under control, and you like to do it all on your own. But raising a family is going to break that independent streak at some point. When the baby is screaming at 4:00 AM for the third night in a row, you’ll start to realize that you need some help. It can be from your friends, your parents, or your extended family, but learn to be the one who takes something from other people for once—and don’t feel bad about it. Whether it’s a friend stopping by with a meal, or your mom watching the baby so you can get out of the house for a few hours, your support system can keep you from losing your mind.
And really, that’s what all of these points are about—keeping some sanity in your life. Seriously, you have to learn to take time for yourself, because it won’t just happen on its own. When you’re raising a family and building a business at the same time, there is always going to be something that requires your attention. You’re essentially working two demanding jobs at once. So you have to carve out that free time for yourself. Otherwise you’ll never hang out with your friends, you’ll never work out, you’ll never get that manicure you’ve been thinking about. I create my own time by getting up earlier than the rest of my family. I use that time in the morning to workout at home so that I have time to myself before the day begins.
It’s so easy to let life become chaotic when you’re focusing on your family and your business. But if you can learn to let go of some control, stay flexible, and accept help when you need it, then you’ll find that there is a way to make it work.
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