Four mompreneurs with different paths to success explain how motherhood and business is all a balancing act.
Patience. If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that patience is indeed a virtue. So much of the year was spent distancing and isolating that trying to balance inner peace with the need to interact with other people has been a struggle. However, these four mothers used the pandemic as an opportunity to create or amplify their businesses. And bring some much-needed perspective.
Each woman has a unique impetus for opening her business. Beth Heyer started Babysitting Connection in January of last year. Just as whispers of a new SARS or upgraded influenza virus started making traction in the public consciousness. Heyer’s goal has always been to help mothers. Being a mother herself, it wasn’t too much of a stretch for her to fill a void. Especially when the outbreak hit pandemic levels. Wave after wave of new cases and astronomical spikes of infection crashed into Austin like a tsunami.
In the Beginning…: Babysitting Connection & SHPR
“There are so many working families here that I just saw the need for a simple, easy way to have quality care in your home,” Heyer says. “On May 1, when the governor first changed the orders to reopen restaurants, it was instant. We just took off. We went from having a package that was three sits a month and five sits a month to a 10 sits a month package and an unlimited sits a month package. Those were instantly our most popular. We started doing what I call consistent care. Matching families with sitters who wanted someone in their home 12-40 hours a week consistently, the same sitter. The pandemic made me think about my business in different ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Meanwhile, Sara Hussey, who started her PR firm, SHPR, in 2013 and had her first child in 2018, fell into the PR business fresh out of college. She got her first taste of the industry writing for a Western lifestyle marketing agency in Fort Worth.
“Then the 2008 recession happened,” she says. “I was laid off after about a year on the job. I took some time off from PR and moved to California with my husband. When I moved back to Austin, I was what I like to call a permalancer. I was doing a whole lot of freelance jobs that are kind of typical of your mid-20s.
“One of them was wardrobe styling with my sister. We were working with all the magazines in Austin. Creating really good relationships with the editors as well as the stores we were pulling from. Every time I would pull from a store, they had all these questions about how to get into a magazine. So I thought I could use my experience at the Western marketing agency and my connections that I’ve made while working as a wardrobe stylist to sort of start my own PR agency.”
In the Beginning… Conscious Goods & Cristina Facundo
KC McDaniel reveals she and her mother, Jill, founded Conscious Goods in 2016 to fulfill “a particular need of a family member or friend.”
“I didn’t love the career I had,” McDaniel says. “But making natural products that brought relief, comfort or joy to others, that is my passion. My love of the planet, caring for people and the desire to make sustainable more attainable is the root of everything at Conscious Goods.”
As with the other mompreneurs here, Cristina Facundo saw a void she could fill in her community. She translated that into multiple businesses. “Love Child was started when I was navigating motherhood for the first time,” she says. “Mini Market was started out of frustration that I could no longer support small businesses in the same way; shopping at more than one store was difficult with small kids in tow. I co-founded Current Conference after my sister and I felt like there was a void in big events where being a mother and entrepreneur stood.”
It’s All a Game of Balance
They all had to navigate business and motherhood. It’s all a game of balance. Finding the perfect combination of mother and businesswoman to ensure their families’ needs are met and that their clients get the attention they need.
“As a single mom of three boys, family has to come first,” McDaniel says. “There is no one else to pick up the slack. So I find I have to be very organized in my approach. And sometimes the middle of the night is when I finally get enough uninterrupted quiet time to finish business projects.”
Hussey adds, “Definitely with my first [child]there was a huge balance trying to figure out how to be a mom and how to have my own business. I had so much mom guilt that I wasn’t able to be with her. And I missed her, but then when I was working I loved my job, I loved my clients. By the time number two came, I had struck a good balance. Realized I can be away from my child and it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad mom.”
This need for both balance and patience in the time of COVID-19 certainly introduced unique challenges these mothers had never encountered. Hussey struggled to maintain connections with her beloved clients after coming back from maternity leave. As with so many small-business owners, the social effects of COVID-19 only exacerbated that fight.
“In the media world there is so much turnover and things change so quickly,” she says. “When I got out of maternity leave, it felt like all the editors were different. How do I make sure I’m legitimate and that my clients are worthy of their time if there aren’t events and there aren’t happy hours and there aren’t all these opportunities to create relationships?”
Heyer had the exact opposite problem, namely of how to fill catapulting demand.
“There’s just so many people now who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school, who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to daycare, who are working from home [with kids]who need care,” she says. “I got COVID in June,” she continues. “My husband’s a physician. So we weighed the risk factors. And we knew to stay sane as a family and for us to continue to generate income we had to make a decision to send the kids to school. You continue to question that. It’s a truly insane time for parents. Managing the best decisions and being kind of forced to make some decisions we hoped we wouldn’t have had to make.”
Mompreneurs Walking the Tightrope
It’s a tightrope act—the constant struggle between the weight of protecting one’s family and ensuring your business stays afloat. The rigors of being your own boss and providing an example for your children. “Flexibility,” Facundo says of how she approaches running a business. “Mothers are busy and often overwhelmed with [the]day-to-day. [I provide] convenience, community and…time for mothers to be women, to be individuals, to lean into themselves.”
“I would never bring someone on our team that I would not let into my own home to watch my children,” Heyer insists. Her fierce protectiveness is an effect of her role as a mother. “I have about 55 sitters now, and I’d hire every single one of them. But there are going to be certain sitters that are better for me and better for my family and better for my kids. It’s very important to me that I do put these families first and those sitters first too. Being able to provide a diverse background of sitters and different options for families is very important to me. This business is me, and it’s my reputation. I’m not going to risk bringing on someone who I don’t think is up to par.”
Says McDaniel, “More than anything I think motherhood intensified how I look at our actions in business. With Conscious Goods I’m concerned with how our ingredients are harvested, by whom, if there is child labor or slave trade involved and how those ingredients affect the planet. It’s not enough that things are natural and organic. We don’t want the products we make to come from harming other people or the planet. I’m concerned about what kind of planet I’m leaving for the next generations.”
Mompreneurs Shattering Misconceptions
Much of what makes these women’s journeys so incredible is that society still clings to certain expectations for women in general, mothers in particular. Of course, these unrealistic demands on womanhood (and by extension motherhood) result in a variety of misconceptions about how mothers function as successful businesswomen. Many of these misconceptions are questions of focus and time.
“I think a lot of people think a mom gets distracted when she’s at work,” says Hussey. “Maybe they have so many other things going on that they can’t fully commit or fully focus on the projects. I feel like it’s the complete opposite. Especially post-COVID, I feel like working is not so much a privilege, but more like something that I get to do. So many people are out of work right now who physically aren’t able to because their work is in a position that might make them susceptible to COVID. I’m in a position where I can still work, and I really enjoy working. So when I get the opportunity to do it, I am 100% so focused. So excited to learn and create and be a huge support to my clients.”
“That you get to clock out,” says Heyer. “I got a text from a member one night at 8:30 [p.m.]. I’d already put myself to bed; I’d put my kids to bed. This member texted me and told me, ‘I think I’m going to have to go back to the ER. Can you get a sitter tonight?’ I got a sitter for her within an hour. It’s a lot of work, let me tell you. I drop my kids off at school at 7:30 in the morning; I’m working at 8; I pick them up at 5. Then when my kids go to bed at 8, I keep working. So even if I’m not on the clock with Babysitting Connection, I’m on the clock as a parent.”
Mompreneurs & Sacrifice
But there are also notions of what a business-owning mother can and cannot have.
Heyer continues, “I don’t think you can have it all. I think you have to figure out the balance for you. What’s going to make you happy, what’s going to make your family happy and what’s going to make your children grow up to be good humans.”
“That you have to choose one or the other,” says Facundo. “I love being an entrepreneur and love being a mother, and I have never felt like I had to pick. Being a mother makes me a better business owner, and vice versa.”
At the end of the day, however, each of these mompreneurs has one goal. To give their children the best future they can. This includes teaching them what true happiness really means.
The Meaning of Success
“My daughter is four, and I call her my assistant manager,” says Heyer. “She’ll sit down with me and read [the sitters’]bios and she’ll pick the one she wants to sit for her. I really enjoy being able to show them a working mom and that they know that it’s my business. But I’m also really continuing to work on finding that balance. Showing them that you don’t need to work all the time and you do need to take time off for your family and just a mental health break.”
“Success comes from doing what you love and being kind,” McDaniel adds. “The main messages I am trying to pass down to my children are to explore, have fun and be kind.”
Says Hussey. “You can’t compare yourself to other people in your field. You just have to keep doing the work that you love, doing work that brings you joy, and it will bring you success.”
What advice would you give yourself back when you began this journey of motherhood/business owner?
“To not worry about the future of your business. You’ll find your stride in work
and motherhood and your business will change to fit your life for the better.”
“Give yourself grace. Before I had [my daughter], my business was peaking, I had so many clients that I loved and two part-time assistants. When I was on maternity leave, all my clients left. So when I came back to work I was basically starting from scratch. I was so nervous that I would not be able to rebuild my business that I was kind of forcing it. Was taking on so much work and saying yes to every single opportunity while also trying to be with my daughter as much as possible. I think now…if it’s not a ‘Hell yes!’ it’s a ‘No.’ Focus on the few things and do them really well, and hopefully those few things bring you lots of joy.”
“Things always take longer than you expect, so plan for that and try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to others.”
“I heard this phrase lately that basically said, ‘Don’t expect fireworks when you’re just starting the fire.’ I spent a lot of time beating myself up for not having the fireworks. As a small-business owner, every review, every piece of feedback, every single text from a member and text from a sitter is just so encouraging that we are doing the right thing. [I’d tell myself to] lower my expectations a bit and just realize that I’m in this for the long haul. Hav[e]some patience and [don’t] get so worked up over tiny failures.”