The Art of Being a Successful Mom Business Owner
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There are approximately 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., generating a remarkable $1.3 trillion in annual revenue. Many of these businesses are run by moms, who need to juggle the needs of their business with the needs of their family.
Here to walk you through the art of successfully juggling motherhood with business ownership are two experts in the area of mom-run businesses: Aliza Sherman and Danielle Smith.
Aliza is co-author of MOM, Incorporated. Named
by NEWSWEEK as one of the “Top 50 People Who Matter Most on the
Internet,” Aliza is a web and social mobile pioneer, an international
keynote speaker, author of nine books, and a digital strategist since
1992. She speaks around the world and writes about
Internet, social media, the intersections of social and mobile, and
women’s technology and business issues.
You can find her at MediaEgg.com.
Danielle, co-author of MOM, Incorporated, is a storyteller, video correspondent, spokesperson,
and speaker. Moving from her role as
an award winning television news anchor and reporter into the world of
social media, Danielle understands how ’social’ and ’media’ intersect.
both ExtraordinaryMommy.com and DanielleSmithMedia.com, Danielle has
been featured on The CBS Early Show, Fox News, CNN and NPR.
Aliza and Danielle are also on the judging panel of the 2013 StartupNation Leading Moms in Business Competition. We had the pleasure of interviewing these two experts, and the following are their insights to help mom business owners effectively juggle business ownership and family management in a way that these moms can achieve their own definition of success.
What was the impetus for the book “Mom, Incorporated”?
ALIZA: I was offered a book deal immediately after I had turned in the manuscript for my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing. The publisher – Sellers Publishing – was looking for a book geared toward women about business. Being a mom and a business owner myself, I was interesting in writing a book for moms looking to juggle home life and a home-based business. But I needed help. So I approached Danielle who I knew from tech conferences to see if she was interested in writing a book.
DANIELLE: Aliza sent me an email that sounded a little something like this: “Do you currently have a book deal, and if not, do you want one?”. It is hard not to file that moment under the ‘dream-come-true’ category. Knowing Aliza, and understanding that the publisher was already vetting me, I quickly responded, ‘No, I don’t and yes I do’. Then I proceeded to refresh my email obsessively until I heard back from her again. It was beautiful to be able to tackle a book, a topic I truly believe is so important to women with someone I so admire and appreciate.
What are some of the most important considerations for a mom thinking about starting a business?
ALIZA: First, she needs to have an idea for her business, something she knows a lot about, something she loves, something she can do well. In our book, we recommend that she also plans out the financial side of her potential business based on her current household income and lifestyle. Plus talking it over with her partner and family is key as is carving out space for her business in the home.
DANIELLE: As Aliza mentions, having some sort of a plan is crucial. In Mom, Incorporated, Aliza and I have the luxury of sharing both our missteps and successes. We save women time by guiding them past some of the things we learned as we were building. Additionally, asking for help, knowing your strengths and helping your family to truly understand your goals so they can be along for the ride instead of watching from the outside will make the journey much easier.
Everyone is so busy these days. Is it truly possible to achieve work-life balance as a mom business owner?
ALIZA: We don’t like the word “balance” – we call it a “juggle.” And juggling is something moms can be incredibly skilled at doing. A lot of it is prioritizing, not trying to do everything at once. Another major piece of advice we give in the book is to ask for help and hire help, even if that means a babysitter, a maid or someone to cook meals. We highly recommend hiring a virtual assistant!
DANIELLE: Balance is a bunk idea. It is impossible for me to be a stellar business owner at the exact same time as I am a stellar mom. When you are on the sidelines of your child’s soccer game cheering for them, you aren’t fully present if you are answering emails or taking client calls. If you are on with a client, writing a book, or finishing a project, answering ’what’s for dinner’, helping with homework or navigating a sibling fight means you aren’t giving that work your full attention. Recognize that you will occasionally drop balls ( you are juggling) and forgive yourself for that. It is ok to be ’unbalanced’. Pick up those balls and carry on.
What are effective ways for women to get funding for their business?
ALIZA: There are so many options for funding but we don’t recommend that women try to get in debt at the onset of her business. Save money before you starting a business to have a cushion. Because we focus on home-based businesses, we even recommend businesses that are low-cost to start up such as online and consulting businesses. We hope to be writing Mom, Incorporated 2.0 soon to talk about crowdfunding options as a newer way to finance a new business idea, particularly for products.
DANIELLE: Broadly speaking, most women don’t ‘go big or go home’ when starting their businesses. This is why you see so many women starting in their homes with little in start-up capital and initially juggling home and work. As Aliza mentioned, we discuss the myriad ways women tackle this in Mom Incorporated and hope to give additional options in a follow up.
It can be challenging to run a growing business, and it can be challenging to manage a family. Can you share some tips for achieving success concurrently in both spheres?
ALIZA: In our book, we give checklists for everything from how to talk over your new business with your partner, family and friends to how to carve out time for yourself in between everything else. Taking care of yourself first and foremost equips you for the juggling challenges and demands of others.
DANIELLE: Embrace the notion that we can’t ’do it all in one day’. We CAN have it all – just not at one time. This is where the juggle comes in. Forgive yourself for not knocking out the ’to-do’ list. Forgive yourself when you feel like a less than perfect mom. Both will happen. We promise. Make time for you. Make time for your family. Set expectations you can live up to and help your family to understand what your work boundaries will be.
Do you find any lessons from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” that would be just as helpful to a mom business owner as to a woman climbing the corporate ladder at a large company?
ALIZA: I think Sheryl Sandberg is very entrepreneurial in addition to being part of a major company and her advice is about empowering women to strengthen our voices and stand up and be counted. Even women business owners – in the home or out – can stand to be more confident, assertive, and to go for what they want and need. Any woman can benefit from that kind of strength.
DANIELLE: My interpretation of Sheryl Sandberg’s ’Lean In’ advice is to embrace our ambition and resist the challenges that crop up as a result of navigating the dreaded ’work-life’ balance. It certainly isn’t always easy. But I believe we have it in us – both women who work in the corporate space AND women who are deciding to tackle starting a business at home.
How can a mom business owner engage effectively in social media, while being careful not to make her kids feel ignored?
ALIZA: Everything always goes back to the juggling and prioritizing. Make firm commitments to your family that you do not break, not even to check email and tweets on your smartphone. Give all of your attention to what is on your plate at that moment. Divvy up your attention equitably. Everyone will not be happy all the time. Just do your best.
DANIELLE: The juggle is imperfect, but setting expectations your family can understand goes a long way to creating a peaceful environment in your home. My small people know I don’t check email while I’m cheering for them at a game. If they see me on my phone, I’m likely capturing a moment with a photo. At 3:30, when they get home from school, my calls and work day stop – at least until their needs – homework, catching up on their days, dinner and sporting events – have been met.
What are some of the top social marketing tools that mom business owners should be making use of?
ALIZA: We both use so many of them ourselves. I personally love Twitter, however, I think most new businesses can benefit more quickly from Facebook Pages. Since we all seem to have smartphones nowadays, I’d also recommend Instagram. And of course, we can’t forget Pinterest. Choosing is based mostly on your business goals, the audience you want to reach and what you want to get them to do. But you have to enjoy using the social networks you’ve chosen as well or you won’t use them.
DANIELLE: I will have to second what Aliza has said, but stress it is important that any new business owner seek out where her audience, her community, is spending their time. If they aren’t on Pinterest, then dedicating time there would be a waste of valuable energy. However – it is so worth it to invest initial energy to explore new platforms to determine their value.
Aliza Sherman and Danielle Smith are in the process of releasing another book at this time as part of the uber popular “Dummies” book series: Social Media Engagement for Dummies. Reserve your copy today.