Women in Business Q&A: Amy Norman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Little Passports

Women in Business Q&A: Amy Norman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Little Passports
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Amy Norman is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Little Passports, a company dedicated to creating inspiring and fun ways for kids to learn about the world and become the next generation of global citizens. Prior to co-founding Little Passports, Norman worked in finance and strategy at McKinsey. She then joined the team at eBay, where she gained her operating experience and met Co-Founder Stella Ma. Passionate about social good from an early age, Norman graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A in English and holds a Joint MBA/MA for Strategy and International Studies from Wharton and the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a resident of San Francisco and has two children, Cole (8 years-old) and Will (5 years-old).

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Leading a start-up requires strong belief in yourself and grit. It's an exciting job full of tremendous highs, and some real lows. When we first launched the business I went through the toughest period of my life - my marriage was ending, I was giving birth and my father died of cancer. A number of different stressors came at me at the same time and I had to really dig in and draw from whatever inner strength I had to get through that period in my life. But I did. And now when a new challenge comes up I know that I have what it takes to lead us through.

How has your previous employment experience aided your positions at Little Passports?
Each of my main careers has played an instrumental role in leading Little Passports. My first "career" was in finance and accounting. Start-ups have to be laser-focused on cash and my finance background has helped us grow quickly on very limited funding. At McKinsey I learned strategy and to be hypothesis-based. Again, this has helped us slice through the noise and focus on what will really drive the business forward. At eBay I gained operating experience, but most importantly, an incredible network of peers and investors to launch the business.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenures at Little Passports?
There have been so many highlights! Impacting so many young children, creating 20 jobs that are stimulating and enhance our employees' lives, building a deep friendship with my Co-CEO Stella, and building a significant business that is changing the way children learn at home.

The job of a start-up CEO is to ride out the ups and downs, to handle the unexpected challenges that pop on a daily basis and there are so many! We have been growing 2-3X annually and that pace of growth requires capital and rapid hiring. Fun challenges to have!

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
If you can start a business with someone else, I highly recommend it! It's a lonely journey and so much nicer to share it with someone.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I strive to have work/life blend rather than work/life balance. With work/life blend I have more flexibility in my "location" while still meeting the demands of my company. Sometimes that looks like me responding to emails while my children are playing with their legos and sometimes it's me dealing with crises while I am on vacation. It's a better solution for me in that it allows me to be more responsive to work and physically present with my children.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that women are still opting out of the workforce because they can't find roles that provide a meaningful career AND the flexibility to be the moms they want to be. We need to do so much more to keep women in the workforce - from maternity leave to more flexibible corporate cultures. Trust is a huge component of the culture at Little Passports and it translates into the flexibility for our employees to be productive and high-performing while meeting the needs of their families.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Sheryl Sandburg for using her position of influence to highlight the challenges that women face. It's a great, and much-needed, use of her visibility.

What do you want Little Passports to accomplish in the next year?
2015 is going to be a really exciting year for us, and we're experiencing incredible growth. We're expanding our team and developing new products. I believe that we're on our way to achieving what we've always talked about - creating the next major children's brand.

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