When I first saw the word 'mompreneur,' I thought, is it really necessary to identify as a mompreneur? Isn't 'entrepreneur' simply enough? I'm creating a boys' clothing line inspired by my son so I am very much a mom and entrepreneur. But it wasn't until my pregnancy, which was about halfway through my launch, that I really embraced the term 'mompreneur.'
It's been a little over a year since I started Y.F.T. As typical of most entrepreneurs, I had to keep my day job, too. Full time work and parenthood is already a challenging road, and I now I had a pregnancy and a company launch in addition.
But I was facing these choices: I could do nothing at all and stick to my reliable regular job; or wait until the kids are much older to do this; or I can figure this out now, while I had motivation and resources to do it.
However much I was good at and enjoyed my regular job, it couldn't keep me engaged enough. I had a stronger desire to create beautiful things and apply my work ethic to build something of my own. And I knew that if I didn't get through the launch before baby #2, it would be so much harder to begin.
So, I decided to jump in and work on the first Y.F.T. collection. It has been as challenging as I expected, and then some. But I've learned a bit more about what it takes to manage motherhood, a job and a business.
Here are a six things I've learned in the past year that have helped me get through the hardest parts:
1. Connect, Not Only Network
It's easier to network: learn what someone does, tell them a little about yourself, and collect a business card. It's much harder to connect so that person is invested in your business and you. The best connections I've made are with people who understand the process and can give me recommendations on specific things.
Online groups and local entrepreneurship meetups have been so helpful to me for this reason. It's already difficult to meet up with friends, much less attend networking events. It's so important when you have only one or two free hours a day to work on business tasks to have a few people/resources you can reach out to quickly.
And, because my day job is unrelated to fashion and "mom brain" gets to me more than I like, being a member of a community also helps me focus on my business goals.
2. Entrepreneurship is a Lonely Path, and Motherhood Can Be Too
Overwhelming and lonely are not great words to describe entrepreneurship and motherhood, but it certainly can be.
Launching a business may seem glamorous, but like motherhood, there is an endless list of things to do with many surprises along the way. One of the exciting things about the entrepreneurship path is you get to make the decisions. The downside is you have to make all the decisions. From the font on your website to the size of your clothing labels. Sometimes things come out the way you expect them to and sometimes they don't.
Motherhood is that and more. It's all-consuming and you're responsible for keeping the kids fed, helping with homework, taking them to the park, making sure they brush their teeth and generally keeping them in a healthy and productive routine everyday. And that's not done easily, there are many tantrums and compromises.
But parents naturally love their children so much, that you grow to handle your new life. And the drive for entrepreneurs to create and add to the world also stems from a love for it, so you accept the challenge because, not doing at all is worse than not trying at all.
It's so important and so hard to do, because in those overwhelming moments, the negative thoughts are so strong! I've had many moments of complete mental meltdown where the list of things to do overwhelmed me. The dishes piled up, I had not finalized my sketch sheets, my son was sick. The only way to get through those overwhelming times was to get excited about my business again. That's when I would flip through a magazine or scroll through instagram. Or, I would reach out to friends for feedback on the concept and designs. Doing this kept motivated and reminded me why I was launching Y.F.T.
4. Your Business is Not Your Baby
Caveat: I feel two ways about this. I am not only investing money, but precious time and energy into launching Y.F.T.; of course it becomes my 'baby.' When I found out I was pregnant about halfway through the process, it was a tough decision, but I decided to go ahead and launch for the summer as planned, even though my baby was due in the summer, too. A real tough moment was during a routine sonogram, we were told there was a health concern for the baby, due to a recent viral infection I had. Thankfully follow-up testing revealed everything was okay after all. But after that I knew I had to slow down, I had already been sick a couple times, I had a long and exhausting commute that gave me 7am to 7pm days, and then a six year old to look after once I got home. I had no choice but to put business tasks on pause.
Which brings me to my next point...
5. Slow and Steady
I frequently remind myself that I can't compare where I am to those who are not in a similar position. I'm married and my husband has a law enforcement job with odd hours and mandatory overtime. The last several years of my life I've had a full time job and a son. It's the three of us, plus a baby now, getting through our the daily routine.
When my son wants to go to the park for a couple hours, or the baby is fussy, that's time I don't have at home for designing or working on my website. The only way to continue going is to expect Y.F.T. to grow at the pace I'm able to work on it: a little bit (almost) everyday.
6. The Hardest Lesson
The hardest thing I've learned is how much support I need! It seems obvious, but it wasn't until I started Y.F.T. did I realize how much and what specifically I needed support with. And, the difference between help and support. Help is a favor and usually happens occasionally.
Support is more. Support is daily. Support is consistent. Support is coming up with a plan: this needs to get done, and this is how we will do it. Which means, true support comes from a handful of people in your life, especially the people you live with who are in the daily routine with you.
It may have taken a few years, but we know my husband is better at making dinner (unless we're ordering in, then I'm very good at that); and I'm more useful at homework help and vacuuming (for example). Especially with baby #2 on the way, we had to figure out a system all over again.
Support is also in the form of people who can give consistent feedback on my designs, someone I can rely on for graphic design, photography, or copy reading. Whether you have an official or unofficial team, you definitely need a team because a one person show will not take you very far, especially as a mompreneur. I found it difficult to accomplish tasks when I didn't have support in my routine.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What is your experience as a mompreneur? Or your experience as a working mom? What tough lessons did you learn along the way?
Thanks for reading!
Ammara, Designer | Y.F.T. | @ammaraza
Photo by: Raqeebah Zaman