Want to turn your life totally upside down and almost lose your mind in one short year? Do what I did:
• Give birth to your first child. (Granted, that alone would do it.)
• Say to yourself, I think I’ll walk away from my 11-year career in finance and start a kids’ pajama line.
• Get pregnant with your second child. Surprise!
That was me five months ago. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. After spending years on a busy trading floor in a structured corporate environment, I found myself toiling alone in the bedroom of my family’s Brooklyn apartment, building a startup brand from scratch while battling first-trimester nausea and wrangling a very strong-willed toddler. Some combination of passion, naïveté and sheer exhaustion told me to push forward—or else end up back in my old career rut.
I’m happy to say that along the way (and thanks in no small part to support from my husband, my mom and a really great sitter) I’ve figured some stuff out. With my brand, Deklan Collection, officially slated to launch this year, here’s how I’m hitting my goals without completely losing my s—t.
In researching the concept for my brand and sourcing materials for my first collection, I quickly saw that my experience in finance was only going to get me so far. I was comfortable with aspects like forecasting and budgeting, but when it came to other areas—like creating a manufacturing supply chain—I needed actual advice from someone who knew the ropes. Most of my friends worked in finance. Where could I turn for help? Ultimately, I hooked up with Factory 45, an online accelerator program aimed at bringing sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch. Yup, that’s a fancy way of saying I paid for mentorship. And there’s no shame in that! If you’re a startup founder with a great idea but find yourself asking How do I even do this?, try poking around for similar groups in your industry. Close guidance from a seasoned pro is a worthy investment in your own success.
Traditional office jobs are limiting in many respects, but I quickly realized I had taken some benefits for granted, including invitations to professional events and the chance to connect with peers whose daily challenges mirror mine. Working alone is lonely. So I linked up with professional communities—including heymama’s—whose missions align with my interests and goals. And I pushed myself to be an active participant, mingling at member events and following up with fellow community members to build connections. With no boss looking over my shoulder, I had to take the initiative or run the risk of becoming a startup hermit.
Six months ago, a mutual friend introduced me to a fellow entrepreneur who was a new mom undertaking a big career transition, just like I was. She and I are doing totally different things—she’s building a yoga practice; I’m in kids’ fashion—but many of our challenges are similar: learning brand-new business skills, carving out time for our families, and on and on. As it happens, we’re both pregnant now, too. She and I meet up every two weeks for working lunches to commiserate, hold each other accountable, spitball ideas and swap advice. Since we’re in different businesses, there’s no undercurrent of competition; it’s just about getting insights from a savvy pal on a parallel track. Her perspective is incredibly powerful.
If you’re at all like me, you get tons of exciting ideas only to psych yourself out moments later. In my earliest days of entrepreneurship, I was dogged by self-sabotaging thoughts: I have zero experience in fashion. The market is already saturated. Starting a company is way too complicated.
At a certain point I realized I would never move forward with that kind of thinking. So I made a conscious decision to fill my brain with positive vibes—inspiring stories from founders who’ve built companies I admire. These days, for instance, rather than letting the TV drone in the background during playtime with my son, I stream my favorite podcasts, including How I Built This with Guy Raz and Startup Camp with Dale Partridge. Both spotlight successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders from powerhouse brands such as Instagram, Warby Parker, Aden & Anais and Eileen Fisher. For reading, I’m a fan of Ugmonk’s blog; the founder built a million-dollar brand just by making T-shirts! I love following his journey. I also greatly enjoyed the book Make Your Idea Matter: Stand out with a Better Story, by brand strategist Bernadette Jiwa. Reading and listening to those who’ve found success helps me believe in my own possibilities.
I once assumed corporate careers were the worst at offering work-life balance. At the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I was so excited for all the freedom and flexibility I’d gain from being my own boss. Ha! In reality, helming a startup comes with zero built-in structure, and the lines between the personal and professional realms get blurry really quickly—especially if you call HQ home.
So I created some boundaries. For example, instead of having all my business emails pinging my phone 24/7, I set up an email account through Gmail and relegated incoming messages to a separate app I look at only when I want to. Another practice I found helpful was sticking to a “normal” work schedule that mimics that of a desk job. I take my morning shower, spend time with my son, hustle all day, then have dinner with my family. It sounds simple; for me it made all the difference. Having a baseline schedule helps me be fully present in all areas, ready to greet the wonderful chaos each day brings.
Ready to supercharge your startup? Check out heymama’s 8 insider tips for landing your first investor.