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I’ve only been a mom for 10 months, but I can already see how being a parent requires grit, perseverance, and a lot of love. Those qualities are surprisingly similar to the ones you need in order to be an entrepreneur. I had to learn how to cultivate enough for both, when I founded a company and had a baby all in the same year.

This wasn’t exactly the timeline I had planned. I found out I was pregnant three months after I launched the company I co-founded, Ollie—we make freshly cooked, human-grade food that’s tailored for dogs and deliver the meals to homes across the country. Ironically, the pregnancy disrupted my life in the same way I hoped Ollie would disrupt the pet food industry.

When I envisioned what life was going to be like the first year after my company’s launch, I imagined long days and nights—the highest of highs when things were going well and lowest of lows when they weren’t. In many ways it felt like my baby, and I was excited to spend the next year similarly to that first—all in, all the time!

And then I found out I was having a real baby. While I knew I always wanted to have kids, I had planned to get Ollie to a much more mature stage before having them and was concerned about not being able to invest as much time and energy into my company.

…being a parent requires grit, perseverance, and a lot of love. Those qualities are surprisingly similar to the ones you need in order to be an entrepreneur.

Thankfully, being pregnant wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated, though I worried my pregnancy would have repercussions for my company. When we were raising money for our Series A round, I purposely wore baggy clothes to meetings because I was worried investors would take issue with a pregnant co-founder. Luckily, that was not the case—but with only 17% of VC-funded startups led by women, how could I be sure?

Fast forward to when I had my daughter, Sasha—less than a year after we had launched. I now had to meet the emotional and physical demands of a baby, along with the financial pressure of owning a company. My first collision with the reality of being a mom came when Sasha decided to arrive three weeks early.

 

The idea that I could “do it all”—take care of both babies, my company and my child—all at once was revealed as a total fallacy.

Post-birth, I almost immediately got back online. Ironically, the day I gave birth was the same day our Series A funding closed. The funding was great, but it also meant we had to put the gas on growth and a lot of initiatives that were on hold got the green light. Given how young of a startup it was, I felt the need to continue working and keep tabs on everything throughout my maternity leave.  

The first three weeks I felt like I had it all: I had a rhythm with the baby and was in love with this tiny bundle that was in my life. I thought I was conquering multitasking by taking phone calls and doing voice-translated emails while breastfeeding. (My team only found out later why there were so many typos!)

But things quickly crashed. The adrenaline that kept me going for the first few weeks ran out, and the denial that this baby was not going to change my life wore off. My baby who had slept all day for the first few weeks suddenly woke up and was much more demanding. And my exhaustion and postpartum emotions came tumbling out. On top of that, my husband had to resume work travel just a few weeks in and the nanny I had hired was not working out and I needed to find someone new. The idea that I could “do it all”—take care of both babies, my company and my child—all at once was revealed as a total fallacy.

So, nearly one year later, here are five things I learned that helped me survive my first year as an entrepreneur and as a parent.

  1. Hiring the right child care provider is the most important decision you’ll make. But finding child care turned out to be harder than I thought. Everyone I interviewed either had a “their way or the highway” attitude or wanted to follow my lead, which was terrifying given that for the first time in my life, I had no idea what I was doing. I realized that finding the right child care was the most important hire I could make not only for myself, but also for my company. Without someone I could trust to take care of my daughter, I was never going to be able to fully focus on my job. I believe more than ever that child care is the work that makes all work possible.

 

  1. Take a time out. Once I found the right person, I forced myself to take a time out and get some much-needed rest. I put Ollie (slightly) aside for a few weeks and allowed my team to run more independently. I also spent time focusing on what kind of mother I wanted to be instead of running around attempting to get everything done. It was only then, after a couple of weeks with a clear head, that I was able to have the confidence to better manage life and business. Nothing fell apart during that time at work, and it was healthy for me to recognize that—and good for my team to have that experience of stepping up.

I… spent time focusing on what kind of mother I wanted to be instead of running around attempting to get everything done. 

  1. Be adaptable. Managing startup life and mom life means there’s a new challenge I have to tackle each week. Just when I think I’ve figured one thing out, I have to confront something completely new. Change is inevitable with a child, and the same holds true when you’re an early stage startup. As a working parent, I’ve learned that adaptabilityto employees, to the marketplace, and to customersis key to growing a business (and a family!)

 

  1. Network with your baby. Mixing business and babies has also helped my company grow. From local playgroups to music classes to the HEYMAMA community, I’ve made new connections with people I might not have otherwise met. By bonding over our common experiences, it has not only helped me lean on other moms for parenting advice (and stay sane,) it’s also helped me with business initiatives. Most recently, one of my mom friends ended up being a sponsor for our largest event and one of our newest employees is a parent I met at a playgroup.

As a working parent, I’ve learned that adaptabilityto employees, to the marketplace, and to customersis key to growing a business (and a family!)

  1. Accept the fact that there is no work life balance. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that there is no separation of family and work. Just like being a parent isn’t a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. job, neither is being an entrepreneur. But, as much as possible, I carve out chunks of time dedicated to one or the other. For example, the minute I’m home after work, I purposely leave my phone in my purse and focus the first hour entirely on Sasha. That doesn’t mean I’m not 100 percent focused on my daughter after that initial hour is up, but it does mean that my reality is jumping on last-minute work calls while I’m simultaneously changing her diaper (let’s just hope it’s not a messy one.)

Gabby Slome is the co-founder and chief experience officer of Ollie, a national company that delivers freshly cooked, human-grade food that’s tailored to each dog’s nutritional needs. A former equestrian, Slome has had a lifelong passion for animals, and founded Ollie to improve the lives of dogs and revolutionize the $30 billion pet food industry.

 

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