With The 4-Hour Work Week and #GIRLBOSS, promises of remote offices, flexible schedules, and the chance to get creative have attracted more and more women to entrepreneurship.
For mothers, these benefits are all the more alluring: working with your kids nearby; accommodating doctor’s appointments and field trips in your calendar.
At the same time, starting a business while raising a newborn requires grit. More demands on your time might carry guilt about where you’re spending it. Juggling responsibility for your team’s success and your child’s future can feel overwhelming. And action-packed days could lead to burn-out.
So, how can entrepreneurs ensure their own emotional well-being and a chance at business success? I asked Luisana Mendoza and Sylvana Durrett, the two entrepreneurial powerhouses behind Maisonette and mothers to six between them, to weigh in.
Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza de Roccia, Maisonette’s CofoundersSYLVANA WARD DURRETT AND LUISANA MENDOZA DE ROCCIA
Luisana and Sylvana met at Vogue, where they launched their careers and spent a combined 19 years working as part of Anna Wintour’s fashion editorial team. Referring to it as their business school, it taught them fierce resourcefulness–whether from developing new revenue streams for Conde Nast during the ‘death of print’ or while leading the Met Gala. As they became mothers and saw the disappointing options available for children’s fashion, they jumped at the chance to work together and founded Maisonette, an innovative retail marketplace of children’s clothing and decor, in 2017. Today, Maisonette is a one-stop shop for everything a discerning parent wants and needs for their kids, newborns to size 12. Most Popular In: Entrepreneurs
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Here are their tips:
Feel the fear. Do it anyways.
Sylvana was pregnant when she and Luisana launched Maisonette. Were they scared? Of course. But they did it anyways and that’s because of a fundamental strength in both of these women: their confidence. It doesn’t hurt that, according to Sylvana, “moms have superpowers” too.
Plenty of research supports the role confidence plays in success. You can build your confidence by being reflective on your skills and strengths, and reminding yourself of your accomplishments. You can also try shifting your self-talk from questioning (e.g. ‘can I handle this?’) to affirming (e.g. ‘I will learn so much from this’). Prior to launch, Luisana and Sylvana spent years finding the best in womenswear for Vogue, so filling Maisonette with the best in childrenswear, was a decision they could feel confident about. Sylvana says, “There are always hard days. It’s about what you do with it and how you pivot and go from there. Always iterating on the next thing.”
Embrace the competition by understanding your customer.
Every year, 627,000 businesses are launched. That’s a lot of competition, but Sylvana and Luisana say: embrace it. What really matters is your customer.
According to Maisonette, the majority of babies today are born to Millenials, a group of consumers who are used to weeding through a vast number of options. They don’t just want a cute baby outfit or toy. They are looking for thoughtfully-designed, high-quality and eco-friendly pieces. By maintaining their customer focus, Maisonette can meet this need and ultimately drive sales. “Think about growing and scaling in terms of the customer,” Sylvana says.
At the same time, they know the importance of working closely with their partners to feature products that satisfy their customers. “What were really proud of is that we’ve created a brand that both the customer and the industry can trust,” Sylvana says. In fact, out of the original roster of brands that signed up pre-launch, every single one of them is still on board.
Be organized. And, let go of guilt
According to the Maisonette founders, the best way to achieve balance is by giving yourself the time and space to be successful. Recognize that increased commitments mean that you need to prioritize and organize. “You will be pulled in many directions, so you become good at making hard calls. It’s helpful to know your priorities–that helps you make decisions,” says Luisana.
Sylvana and Luisana with their kidsSYLVANA WARD DURRETT AND LUISANA MENDOZA DE ROCCIA
Try to schedule your time at home and at the office. Sylvana says, “I live and die by my google calendar app and my notebook (a physical one that I write in!) where I am constantly iterating and task-mastering a to-do list.” Whether you are at home or at work, focus on that moment. According to Sylana, compartmentalizing helps: “Put things in buckets. If you carry the anxiety and stress with you, then it becomes intrusive. Let it go.” (Check out these two best-selling books for research-backed help getting organized: Getting Things Done and Organized Mind). When it comes to the tricks that help them stay on top of their everyday responsibilities, they both look for timesaving tools. Luisana says, “Instacart is life saver. Any service that can be delivered to your home: like Glamsquad (for the mani/pedi without having to leave your house or while you are on a conference call) and Amazon Prime, etc.”
Equally important, be conscious of your priorities and don’t let yourself feel guilty about what you are not doing. If you are on an early call with your team, let go of thoughts about missing the school drop-off. As Sylvana points out “spare yourself the self-flagellation and allow yourself to be imperfect.”
Lean on others. Let others lean on you, too.
Before you even start building your business, think of your family as your own foundation. Luisana says starting up “ has to be a family decision as the whole family will be involved. Getting the support of your family and community is really important, just like when you have a child.” Both Luisana and Sylvana keep their families at the heart of their business–whether it’s bringing the kids into the office on a regular basis, testing out products together, or photographing them.
They have also learned to call on support when they need it, particularly from female mentors. Research consistently finds that mentors are key levers to success and well–being. Find people who do what you want to do. Call them and share your experience, and learn from them.
Don’t forget to do your part by supporting other women. Luisana was surprised to learn just how supportive the community of mothers and female founders is: she found “a real sense of shared experience and paying it forward.” Sylvana adds that “shared experience particularly among women is so important.” Remember, there is room for everyone.
In just two short years, Maisonette has helped to lead a boom in children’s wear that speaks to the shifts in shopping and taste taking place. This past year, they took their online brand on the road, bringing Maisonette’s experience offline in several cities around the U.S.; and launched Maisonette Essentials, a basics line designed by their in-house team, including Karolina Petersson, formerly of Celine, all priced under $50. Today, the Maisonette team is launching their first-ever registry, to make the shopping experience even more streamlined for expecting parents. So much of this fast-tracked growth comes down to the two powerful women at its helm.
In July, the Maisonette team is launching their first-ever registry, to make the shopping experience… [+]MAISONETTE
But, like every entrepreneur, Sylvana and Luisana have dealt with the inevitable peaks and valleys of starting a business from scratch. Whether it’s the pressure of meeting their own high quality standards or the struggle to raise funding for a young company, there have been plenty of days when these founders have felt discouraged and overwhelmed. By leaning on a supportive community, investing in their families and building their dream business, they have been able to preserve and grow an immense mental strength–something entrepreneurs everywhere can learn from.