Mama Shaker: Jennifer Sydeski Hurd

While conferences and after-hours networking play such a big role in start-up life, toddler mom Jennifer didn’t want to make the trade-off. So she set out to weave motherhood and entrepreneurship together, by asking a long overdue question.

Why not offer childcare at events?

“I sat in the very back and waited until all the biology-related questions had come up,” she says, describing how she got up the courage to pose the question, with her kid in tow, in front of an audience of conference attendees.

“The person I asked it directly to was like ‘uh, I’m not really sure,’ but the person next to her was like ‘yes please!'”

“It was really helpful to have a person in leadership drop in and say this is important to someone else too.”

As an adjunct professor of technology, juggling her son between daycare, grandparents and babysitters, Jennifer’s start-up “Connect Wolf” is driven by her desire to “know where he is and if his heart is beating.”

“Not only are moms interested in this for personal use, they’d like to see it in various businesses where they take their children,” she says, while at the same time “they’d really like it not to feel like they’re lo-jacking their baby.”

Together with her co-founder, she’s found “really great workshops and seminars by experienced entrepreneurs in the same area that can really help you take your idea and refine it.”

For Jennifer, being in a highly specialized wearables space, “it’s really important to do all those things to be competitive when you’re looking for money for development.”

It Takes a Village

Jennifer’s husband travels during the week, so she’s responsible for piecing together childcare for her son, in between her commitments at the University and with her start-up.

“Even in my more flexible situation, it means picking him up by 5:30 and then getting him to a sitter’s, and then running out the door to get somewhere by 6:00.”

The same rush happens before and after events, despite the fact that “those minutes are important for making connections and understanding what’s going on,” according to Jennifer, who knows she’s not alone in the struggle.

“As I’m running out the door at the end of something, and everyone else is getting their cheap wine and snacks, I see three other people running down the steps.”

Jennifer and her 3-year-old understandably “don’t want to be separated when we’ve been separated all day,” so having time in the car together traveling to and from the event is priceless.

Then there’s the toll it takes on her wallet.

“I’m looking at hundreds of extra dollars a month and thousands of dollars a year beyond his standard $14,000 a year in childcare.”

In her pursuit to remove these barriers, Jennifer has started connecting local event organizers with Flexable, a Pittsburgh-based provider of certified “pop-up childcare” founded by mompreneurs Jessica Strong and Priya Amin (author of Make the Leap: A Guide to Reaching Your Goals).

“People are receptive to it when it’s brought to their attention,” she says. “I think it’s just a matter of getting it to be a thought during budgeting and planning.”

Helping Women Succeed

“A lot of this comes down to awareness that this is a hurdle for women entering entrepreneurship,” says Jennifer.

“I’ve actually had really good luck talking to 24-year-old guys that just got out of school. People who are entering the workforce right now have been taught about inclusiveness and how important it is to find the problems.”

She believes solving the childcare conundrum for start-ups can also benefit corporate culture, and “that leap where we see so many people falling off between middle management and executive leadership, where there’s such under-representation of women.”

In academia, the topic has been explored in a recent paper by the Working Group of Mothers in Science and in Mary Ann Mason’s book Do Babies Matter?: Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower.

“I’m really excited to see more of this done and surprised that I’m the person who’s like ‘excuse me’ tapping on their shoulders.”

Why Breaking All the Rules is Best for the Moment

While I’ve become accustomed to my weekend ritual of writing about a Mama Maker or Mama Shaker during nap time, this was one of those weekends where life had other plans — in the best way possible.

Life with our 2.5 year old is giving us the full colors of the rainbow. One minute he’s falling into a puddle of tears and resistance, the next he’s all hugs and I love you’s. It is both the hardest time and the most wonderful time, all in one.

I started the weekend with full determination to psych myself up for potty training. But after reading one book that felt like too much pressure, and another that felt just right, we carved out our own little rhythm.

After a little bit of potty talk over coffee and lego videos, we continued on with our Saturday morning music class, complete with full drum set encore, and walk to the grocery store afterwards. Inside, the ordinary became the extraordinary in the eyes of my fire truck-loving toddler.

We spotted three “real life firefighters” who my son admired from a couple of feet away. They pointed out that his yellow rain boots were the same color as their truck outside, and he lit up with anticipation. Afterwards, one of the firefighters chased after us to hand my son a sticker. Day officially made.

The rest of the day consisted of mutual naps, lots of potty “reminders,” bribery, and hovering near tile and hardwood. My germaphobe self had to confront the realities of a very natural thing in the eyes of a curious toddler. We put in a few good hours of practice, and then ultimately gave ourselves “the night off,” breaking all the rules of potty training books.

Dinner out as the three of us felt extra special, even though it ran a lot later than we intended. Seeing your toddler through the eyes of admiring strangers saying how well behaved he is definitely made us feel like there’s light at the end of this very tiring tunnel.

Mac & cheese, french fries and cheeseburgers never tasted so good after 8 p.m. We were treated to our own live performance on the ride home, as my son sang B-I-N-G-O and Itsy Bitsy Spider at an hour that would normally be reserved for bedtime.

My third trimester’s sleep was not surprisingly interrupted and I lay awake thinking about the logistics of the road ahead with our new baby. It feels like his older brother is well aware of his impending independence by putting on his own pants for the first time or climbing up on a step stool to help himself to a banana.

Our little firecracker continued on with his showering of affection and big boy behavior at my parents’ house, and told us all how he loved us over his second or third peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the day.

I felt pampered myself by resting my growing belly while listening to inspiring sound bites from a future Mama Shaker, getting a surprise Facetime call from my college besties and their babies, followed by a sunny patio visit with two of my longest-running local girlfriends.

The weekend wrapped with a quick walk with my overly fluffy labradoodle in pre-sunset light, more hugs from my energetic toddler for myself and the baby, and a cobbling together of dinner amidst the chaos of a very messy house. Knowing full well that tomorrow morning I will get back on the train, and have a moment of working mama independence, I wanted to soak up all that life.

Mama Maker: Veronica of Maia Moda

Trying to nurse her 5-month-old in a dress, while attending a wedding, inspired management consultant Veronica to do something she had always wanted to do, and start her own business.

“Once you have a child, it really zeros in on what’s important in life. What do I want my legacy to be and what do I want to spend my time on?” she says, describing what ultimately led her to bring the idea to fruition when her son was one year old.

“You go through so many changes as a new mom,” said Veronica. “One of the things you want to keep is some of yourself. Part of that is your ‘pre-mommyhood’ style. You don’t want to have it give it up, and why should you?”

“In today’s world, we have innovation all over the place. There’s no reason your nursing clothes shouldn’t have the look you want,” she says.

Veronica is tapping into virtual mom’s groups, along with NYC’s Garment District and burgeoning community of women entrepreneurs, to help propel her line of American-made breastfeeding-friendly apparel, Maia Moda.

She’s even been accepted into the 2018 class of Project Entrepreneur, started by Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, in partnership with UBS.

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

For Veronica, it’s the blend of motherhood and running her own business that makes it all possible. She says her holistic approach now leads to more open and passionate conversations.

“I never used to talk to people that much about my work because it was very separate,” she says. “Now I feel like the two worlds collide a lot more. Because of my business, I’m super excited about it so I’m happy to talk about it.”

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As a mom of two now, Veronica has figured out a schedule that allows her to spend part of her week on the business, supported by a nanny for her baby and daycare for her oldest. She appreciates having dedicated days of the week for focusing on Maia Moda.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Veronica is encouraged by the changes she’s seeing around the culture of breastfeeding with “celebrities showing off their bumps and looking fabulous” and people posting “brealfies” (aka breastfeeding selfies).

“Women are feeling much more comfortable breastfeeding in public. We’re here to support that and to make that lifestyle work a little better through the clothes you wear.”

This also means Maia Moda clothes are washable, stain-resistant, wrinkle-free and “classic, but in line with the trends of today,” says Veronica.

“We want you to be really happy because there are enough things on your mind,” she says, noting she can be reached anytime, and welcomes feedback and requests.

While you can shop directly on the Maia Moda Web site, I decided to do so on Amazon so I could test-drive the Maia Top on my 7-months-pregnant belly.

As you can see, the flowing style can work all the way from baby bump to breastfeeding:

To read about more mompreneurs who are passionate about changing the culture of breastfeeding, check out Mama Maker: Sascha from Mamava and Mama Shaker: Jennifer Jordan from Aeroflow Healthcare.

Mama Maker: Sascha from Mamava

Finding a place to pump while out in public, or at work, is something Sascha Mayer, co-founder and CEO of Mamava, doesn’t want moms to have to worry about.

Since 2013, Sascha and her co-founder Christine Dodson have equipped stadiums, airports, schools, government buildings and other workplaces all over the United States with private pods for breastfeeding mothers.

You can see for yourself by downloading the Mamava mobile app to find nearby locations, as well as other public mothers’ rooms vetted by user ratings and reviews. (From a quick search in my neighborhood, I found more than a handful of options within a 5-mile radius. I see more outings in my breastfeeding future!)

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While building their own families, the two mompreneurs incubated Mamava at a design agency in Burlington, Vt. At the time, they traveled for work frequently, which meant “pumping in restrooms, closets and even the backseats of clients’ cars.”

From the beginning, Mamava has focused on sustainability as a certified B-corporation. It’s demonstrated both in the way they design and manufacture their American-made products, as well as their outlook on the role breastfeeding plays in a cleaner planet.

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“Sustainability to us means empowering every woman with the opportunity to breastfeed if she desires to do so,” says Sascha.

“In addition to its health benefits, breastfeeding eliminates any need for packaging and shipping that formula requires. It’s a zero-waste solution, and one that can help reduce the prevalence of many illnesses and health conditions, which results in lower health care costs.”

Women Helping Women Succeed

Inspired by this New York Times article, Sascha and Christine are working hard to remove any barriers to breastfeeding in the workplace by taking to the halls of the Nation’s Capitol, the tech-spotting Consumer Electronics Show, and everywhere in between.

“We are really focused on our mission which is about changing the culture of breastfeeding by helping make it an accessible choice for all mothers,” says Sascha.

The pop culture shift is is starting to show, with recent photos of breastfeeding celebrities and political candidates going viral.

“A major milestone for us would be to have breastfeeding rates increase from 81% of new mothers to 90% by the end of this decade,” she says.

“In the months and years ahead we are bringing other tools and products to market that will make it easier for moms to reach their breastfeeding goals, and for facilities and employees to support them,” she says.

Just last week, they officially launched the Mamava Mini, designed for workplaces that need a compact solution that retains the privacy of their original suite and adds additional productivity features, like a laptop desk.

“We also hope to be able to bring the brand and our solutions to international markets in the near future.”

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

“My mantra is that perfection is the enemy of progress – whether at work or at home,” says Sascha. “Sometimes good enough, is good enough.”

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“I have a wonderful supportive husband who takes on more than half of the childrearing, and believes in my company’s mission as much as I do,” she says.

Now that Sascha’s kids are getting older, she values their growing independence and recommends other moms “encourage their children to take on responsibility.”

“It can be painful when they make mistakes, but eventually they learn and are empowered by their accomplishments,” she says.

It’s something to look forward to for those of us still in the infant to toddler stages!

Speaking of which, if you’re a mom-to-be trying to solve the problem of where to pump in the office when you return from maternity leave, Mamava’s team offers the following tips:

  • Create a transition plan with your employer before you head out for maternity leave
  • In the transition plan, include your plans to pump at work and that you will need access to pumping accommodations upon your return
  • Check the laws and make sure your employer knows how to comply with them
  • Rally with other women in your workplace to request a Mamava lounge, as many other moms have done!

For help choosing a pump and other accessories, check out another “Mama Maker” with similar goals for making breastfeeding more accessible: Jennifer Jordan from Aeroflow Healthcare.

Mama Shaker: Jyotika, from Facebook

Just 7 weeks into motherhood, Jyotika is an encouraging example of how a supportive manager and corporate culture can set up working moms (and dads) for success upon their return.

When we spoke, she frequently cited her manager as instrumental to her pregnancy, “from little bits of advice of how to handle morning sickness at work, to bigger career decisions.”

As a product manager at Facebook, Jyotika was offered challenging assignments all the way into her third trimester, which ultimately led to receiving a promotion during maternity leave.

“I felt supported and recognized, and like everyone around here believes in me and I can do this,” she says, describing how she rounded out her pregnancy with a “fulfilling 6 months” on a high visibility project.

The boost of confidence Jyotika received from her team has allowed her to embrace the early days of parenting with a similar tenacity. She’s even found her data-driven approach to come in handy with a newborn.

“I keep looking for pattern recognition,” she says about tracking her baby’s eating, sleeping and diaper changes. “My husband always laughs about how I’m product managing my baby.”

Joking aside, Jyokita has quickly discovered how complementary parenting and professional life can be to one another, when given the circumstances to thrive. She wants anyone who’s considering the idea of starting a family, but worried about what it will mean for their career, to take heart.

“This is going to make you a better and stronger professional. It’s going to give you more perspective. It’s going to help you prioritize better,” she says.

“Staying calm through a 2-week-old screaming in your ear, your heart racing, will make you better at crisis management.”

Even when the nights are long and Jyotika has moments of doubt, she gains solace in the fact that so many parents around her are making it work.

Helping Women Succeed in the Workplace

As a manager herself, Jyotika understands the natural inclination to help employees during pregnancy by reducing their workload.

“When someone on your team gets pregnant, a lot of well-meaning, well-intentioned managers try to support the the woman by taking responsibilities off,” she says.

“On one hand, it helps because pregnancy is physically and emotionally challenging. But at the same time, seeing your scope reduced or your responsibilities taken away can create a lot of anxiety and introduce self doubt.”

“The best way to support someone who’s pregnant is to give her the choice,” she says. “Let her decide how much or how little she wants to take on.”

Jyotika also recommends that managers talk about it openly, ask what your employees need, and (if applicable) share your own experiences of parenting.

“Both very senior men and very senior women on my team are vocal parents,” she says. “When you hear a director of engineering talk about how his baby doesn’t sleep through the night or is having a hard time eating, it normalizes it,” she says.

Mark Zuckerberg’s own experience as a new dad has certainly helped pave the way for this open dialogue and inspired equal parental leave at Facebook and beyond.

“The thing that has kept me sane and the biggest source of support has been having my husband home,” she says. “There’s nothing that compares with having the father home from day one.”

Paternity leave “helps the father and baby bond in a way that nothing else other than time can accomplish,” says Jyotika.

“If you can make it easier for fathers to stay home it’s one of the best ways to help women at work,” Jyotika says.

Mama Shaker: Janice of Healthy Pregnancy Made Simple

With the swarm of warnings about what not to eat while you’re pregnant, Janice wants to help conscientious mamas-to-be figure out what to say yes to.

“We have this mama bear instinct to want to protect our babies, even though they’re not ‘here’ yet — because we know that they’re at their most vulnerable stage, growing every organ and every system in their body,” she says.

Janice understands firsthand that despite the desire to make thoughtful choices during pregnancy, it can feel overwhelming.

“You’re in the right to be concerned and to be on top of what you’re eating,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be really complicated, even though the internet makes it seem that way.”

Her Facebook group, Healthy Pregnancy Made Simple, is just the beginning of a new chapter for the wellness coaching business she started 4 years ago. She’s taking a holistic approach to helping women through those crucial 40 weeks.

“It’s not necessarily about what you eat. It could be what you drink, it could be what you’re breathing in,” she says. “So I go beyond the nutrition side of things so that women are feeling great during their pregnancy, hopefully reducing their symptoms, and feeling like they’re doing all they can to set the stage for a smart, healthy baby.”

How Motherhood Inspired a Business

After starting her career in the consumer packed goods industry, Janice decided to get smart about what she was putting in her body before starting a family.

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After spending years trying to increase the consumption of most of the major brands you see in the grocery store, she came to the realization that “the messages that I’m putting out there aren’t really helping anyone.”

She planned it out financially with her husband, left her marketing job, and entered the world of wellness and nutrition coaching.

Her newfound freedom has also allowed Janice and her family to spend a few months abroad in Columbia, where her husband has roots.

“We decided to try and get away from the Canadian winters,” she says. “We have the flexibility, so we figured let’s give this a try.”

Women Helping Women Succeed

“Now that we can do everything online, it’s just amazing,” Janice says, as she describes how she’s tapped into groups of wellness experts, fellow moms, and masterminds to build her business.

“Being a mompreneur can feel very isolating, when it’s just you and the kids and the house,” she says. “So having these connections have been really helpful, because I was used to going to the office everyday and working with 40-50 people and having that social network.”

Similarly, Janice wants the moms she coaches to reap the benefits of a supportive community.

“Sometimes if you’re trying to do things differently, and you’re getting those head turns and eye rolls, having someone in your corner to say ‘yeah, it’s okay that you’re worried about that kind of stuff and trying to take action’ can really help.”

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

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“If you’re starting a business, and you’re trying to manage being a great parent, you can’t do everything all the time,” Janice says.

She encourages entrepreneurial parents to build a support system and create daily rituals that bring them energy, while letting go of the things that don’t.

“If you can afford to have somebody to clean the house, or do the grass, or shovel the snow, you can then use that time to spend better quality time with your kids or work on your business.”

She gets up before 5 a.m. and writes for an hour and a half before her kids wake up. They have a little bit of “cuddle time” before she heads off the gym, while her husband makes breakfast for the kids.

For any parent who finds it challenging to build in time for self-care, Janice recommends keeping it simple.

“Focus on doing the things that give you joy, whether that’s talking to a friend on the phone who lifts you up, reading a great book, watching a romantic comedy, or taking a nice bath,” she says.

The highs and lows of building her business have felt similar to parenting, “80 percent of the time it’s difficult, and 20 percent of the time it’s the most amazing thing ever.”

“It’s hard work, but at the end of the day I love what I do,” Janice says. “It’s not all rose-colored glasses, but I’d much rather being doing this than commuting 2 hours a day to work, missing my kids.”

Mama Maker: Elizabeth from Vacay Style

When I first came across Elizabeth, she was honeymooning on a 38-foot catamaran in the pre-Instagram, pre-GoPro era. My husband stumbled across the Hynes Honeymoon sailing blog, and we read all the way through their 18-month cross-Pacific sailing chronicles in a couple of nights.

Fast forward 10 years later, and back on Northern California soil, Elizabeth has raised three young boys and built an American-made apparel business inspired by her travels.

In 2015 she jumped ship from her corporate job and launched Vacay Style, a nautically inspired capsule wardrobe collection for fashionable (yet practical) seafarers. She’s been enjoying a more fluid schedule ever since.

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“Since I work for myself and do not have a commute, I can easily walk my young children to school in the morning and volunteer every so often in the classroom,” she says.

“It is a luxury that I really appreciate after working for a big corporation in the City for many years. I actually think the ‘all in’ or ‘you’re out’ mentality of today’s workplace is unfortunate and unfair.”

How Motherhood Inspired a Business

“I have always wanted to have my own business and quite frankly (for a lot of the reasons I already talked about) I got over working for a big corporation,” Elizabeth says.

“In addition, I love actually doing the design, sourcing, marketing, etc — not managing other people to do it,” she says.

Like so many of the mompreneurs I’ve met, Elizabeth rekindled her creativity by building her wardrobe collection from the ground up and staying hands on.

“As you move up the ladder, it all becomes having a team of people. I just want to be the one creating, not managing.”

Because each Vacay Style piece will be worn frequently in rotation, Elizabeth keeps the manufacturing local so she can personally ensure the quality of every garment that’s made.

“I hand select every fabric and road test every style before putting it on the site. Everything is manufactured at an ethical factory in San Francisco and made in travel-friendly fabrications.”

Elizabeth knows firsthand what women need while traveling — whether that’s from her sailing adventures, or her experience in merchandising.

“Packing is horrible and planning outfits is really difficult for some people. I love pulling together these capsule wardrobes that create 15 outfits from 5 items.”

“When I get a thank you email or a 5-star review, I know I have really helped that woman have an amazing vacation.”

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

“I have an amazing husband and a multitasking full-time nanny. We all work together and share the load,” says Elizabeth.

“Often my nanny will do other types of household things for me so I can do the good stuff — hang out with my kids!”

She acknowledges how fortunate she is to have this support, and wants to pay it forward to her future “Dream Team” as she calls it.

“I hope one day to bring more parents on my team who have a lot to contribute but want more of a work-life balance than typical corporate America is willing to offer,” says Elizabeth.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Her advice to aspiring mompreneurs who also have big dreams, but don’t know how to start?

“Go for it! But, don’t expect to make money right away. It takes time to build a business.”

Elizabeth takes the waves of entrepreneurship in stride — a lesson that comes pretty quickly with the constant swells of sailing and motherhood.

“I have high expectations for Vacay but it has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. However, if you do it for the right reasons there is no failure,” she says.

“Not trying is the failure in my mind.”

Elizabeth and her family share a spirit of adventure, and there’s plenty more to come –on both land and sea — in their future.

Mama Shaker: Lori from Mindful Return

Every mom knows what its like to find herself at the brink. For Lori Mihalich-Levin, those feelings of overwhelm multiplied after her second child was born, “at that moment of desperation where one child plus one child felt like 85 children.”

“I was sitting on the kitchen floor crying many nights because I just didn’t know how I was going to hold everything together.”

“I was a wreck. It was really at that point when I realized I needed to build in some moments of intentionality,” she says.

After discovering Abundant Mama, which helps mothers focus on abundance instead of overwhelm, Lori “came out on the other side feeling so much better.”

“I had tools for focusing on gratitude and abundance, I had a community from moms all over who understood I couldn’t get the Cheerios off the kitchen floor and that was okay,” she says.

She noticed that there were programs for everything from birth plans to baby massage, but not how to plan for your maternity leave and return in a way that felt empowered, “like you weren’t going to go off the rails.”

Lori was inspired to fill this gap for new moms “who are just trying to get out the door to work.”

Women Helping Women Succeed

As a lawyer by day, Lori burned the midnight oil creating Mindful Return, a 4-week cohort-based program to help new moms plan for working motherhood, that’s flexible enough for any schedule.

“A lot of moms are in the course while they’re feeding their baby at 3 ‘o clock in the morning.”

  • Week 1 is about a mindful mindset for returning.
  • Week 2 is all about the logistics (“pumping, not pumping, putting food on your own table, negotiating flexibility, dealing with sick days, snow days and the unexpected”).
  • Week 3 is about how to view your maternity leave as a leadership opportunity (this particular topic has me intrigued!)
  • Week 4 is all about staying in a community and not isolating yourself.

“It’s so important to stay connected to other new moms and share in all the struggles.”

Lori partnered with a Mindful Return alum to create an artistic reminder of all the skills that working moms gain — something that we can never hear enough.

I spoke with another one of Lori’s students, who says she feels “more prepared, confident, and excited for this new chapter of my family’s journey.”

“As a first-time mother, the prospect of returning to work after maternity leave was both daunting and exhilarating,” says Jen. “The content of the course and the opportunity to connect with like-minded mamas going through similar experiences really helped ground me and helped me feel more prepared to re-enter the workforce.”

“I start work tomorrow and I am grateful for the community Lori created, and for the lessons learned,” she says.

Note: I’m not the only second-timer to find all this proactivity to be intriguing, after fumbling a bit the first time through.

“Some women didn’t have the best return the first time, and they want it to go better the second time.”

Mindful Return is not limited to first-time moms, or even just moms at all.

In fact, Lori recently launched a paternity leave course to help address the stigma that many dads face about asking to take time off.

“I really, truly believe that we all succeed when both men and women are engaged in the very early days of childcare and child-rearing.”

“Comparison is the thief of joy. If I’m looking around at my colleagues at 4:30 when I’m heading out of the office and thinking, ‘oh my gosh, what are they thinking of me?…”

“No, I need to worry about my plan, my life and what’s right for my family.”

Asking For It

Through the growth of Mindful Return and Lori’s family’s need for a more flexible schedule, she’s become a living example of how to create a “career portfolio” that works for you.

“I think we often have a lot more power than we think we do.”

While interviewing for a new role, Lori first presented herself as a candidate for counsel, instead of a partner (one level above), because she desired a 60 percent schedule.

“Then at some point, I said ‘no, I think I should be a partner at this law firm on a 60 percent schedule,’ and most of the firms that I was interviewing with said, ‘okay, sure, fine.'”

Her natural reaction was, “if it was going to be fine, why didn’t anyone say ‘you can be a partner’?”

“Because nobody is going to say it. If you don’t ask for something, people aren’t just going to offer it up to you,” she says.

Lori recalls another example where a mom who took her course was terrified to meet with her boss during maternity leave, to ask if she could switch to an 8-4 schedule (instead of 9-5) so she could have more time with her baby after work.

Her boss was so relieved that she wasn’t there to announce her resignation, she quickly realized she had “lost all this sleep over asking for this silly thing.”

“You never know until you ask,” says Lori.

So where to begin?

“Dare to dream about what might be possible in your world. Sit down and journal about it, exploring all your different options and trying to figure out what would be best for you,” she says.

“Then break the dream up into bite-size pieces and go after one of those pieces.”

Lori recommends starting by proposing a trial period for a flexible arrangement. In her experience, it often works out just fine.

“I attend to my legal clients’ needs whenever they happen, but I don’t have to be in one specific place at any particular, given time. So it allows for some flexibility in weaving together those two worlds,” she says.

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

Lori builds moments into her daily routine very intentionally, along with mantras like “I am enough.”

“I think ‘enoughness’ is a huge problem in new parenthood. Because there’s never enough of anything,” she says.

Every morning, evening and sometimes on the way to work, she “carves out times of pause.”

Before the kids wake up, this includes:

  • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • 10-15 minute yoga practice

Between 7:00 – 9:30 a.m it’s a typical morning:

  • Her husband makes breakfast
  • Everyone gets dressed and off to school
  • She hops on the metro to get into the office

After work:

  • At 4:30 she hops on the metro
  • She picks up her kids with her husband
  • They alternate who makes dinner
  • She has “Thomas & Friends” playtime with her kids
  • Then it’s bath and bedtime

Her evenings after the kids go to bed, include:

  • Working on Mindful Return for a couple of hours
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Meditation

“You have to be patient with yourself. Know that each incremental step matters.”

“You can really make an impact, and be a leader, and start something amazing with a lot of baby steps,” says Lori.

Mama Shaker: Jennifer Jordan, Aeroflow Healthcare

When Jennifer Jordan returned from maternity leave back to her business development role at Aeroflow Healthcare, she set a goal to continue breastfeeding for the remaining eight months of her son’s first year.

Realizing that “being a mother made me the subject matter expert,” Jennifer identified an opportunity to create a new division at Aeroflow to make it easier for women to meet their own breastfeeding goals.

“Luck, opportunity and hard work came together,” she says. And in 2013, Jennifer became director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare.

While pumping is a non-negotiable for any mom returning to the workplace, the Aeroflow Breastpumps team is on a mission to make it accessible — and reimbursable — for more women in all walks of life.

Only the Best for Baby

Jennifer’s team searches for quality breast pump manufacturers to partner with, like Medela whose products are manufactured in the United States, Canada and Switzerland, and packaged in the U.S.

During my first pregnancy, I chose Medela’s Pump in Style since it got the highest reviews and the bottles were BPA-free. I rigged it with a portable battery to make pumping on-the-go somewhat easier, sported a poncho or nursing cover, and carried my precious cargo around in an insulated lunch bag and cooler.

This time around, I may opt for the Sonata, Medela’s first smart pump, since it’s designed to be quieter, and comes with a portable battery and mobile app. I’m also excited to add the much more discreet Freemie hands-free pumping to the mix, and perhaps a sleeker-looking Petunia Pickle Bottom Tote too.

How This Mama Makes it Work

Jennifer believes as mothers that we’re our greatest critic, and proudly describes herself as “perfectly imperfect.”

By finding a way to channel her passion at Aeroflow, she’s also discovered the formula to being the best mom and wife she can.

“I’m a better mother because I work,” she says, encouraging moms to embrace whatever balance is right for them.

For Jennifer, that means a daily ritual with her son on the drive to school every morning. They have what she calls “our special time together” to talk and prepare for the day.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Jennifer’s advice for other entrepreneurial moms is to trust your instincts, live your truth and your passion, and surround yourself with powerful women you can learn from.

“Put 100 percent into each and every moment,” she says.

Mama Shaker: Rachele from VFit

As Rachele nears the 3rd birthday of both her virtual fitness company and her youngest child, she’s embracing the growth that comes with getting out of her comfort zone.

This includes spontaneously running a live virtual fitness class for a casting agent in a Las Vegas hotel ballroom, in front of 100 fellow entrepreneurs auditioning for the popular TV show.

“The only way to experience VFit is to do VFit,” she says, as she describes the moment where she and her fellow trainer streamed 50 class members from around the country over Zoom, much to the bewilderment of the casting agent.

“It was amazing to see all these familiar faces from outside. We had nurses logging in–in their scrubs–from their hospitals,” she recalls. “That’s the culture we have. It’s lifting each other up, being there for each other.”

“My eyes started watering, thinking, ‘This is incredible. If it doesn’t go anywhere further than this, I’ve done something special.'”

“When I left it wasn’t about what was going to be the next step. I felt so in the present and so much energy. For once, accepting that I give so much, receiving all that support and love, and feeling like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”

Overcoming the Fear of Failure

It was her husband’s words that gave Rachele the push she needed to finally audition 10 days earlier.

“The reason I decided to go is because he gave me this one line, ‘If you see somebody else on that show with your same idea, and you never tried, you’re going to have that regret.’ ”

“And that got me right there. Regret. You can’t run a business with regret,” she says.

“What is failing, really? If you put something out there and it doesn’t work, you learned and you can usually get yourself out of it. It’s the fear of failing that’s so debilitating.”

“Vulnerability is my word of the year,” she says.

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How Motherhood Inspired a Business

After working in an “everyday 8-5 job at a computer, without any windows” for about 8 years, and moonlighting at a gym, Rachele had her first child.

“I went back to work part-time and it just didn’t feel right,” she says. “I felt like I was going to miss her big moments, and it was more of a hassle to get her to daycare every day.”

Rachele says she devised a plan that started with getting her personal training certificate online and building enough clientele over Skype to allow her to leave her office job.

She’s also a big believer of “being around the right people and putting yourself in situations.”

After conducting a combo workout and cooking class with her friend over Zoom (the same video conferencing app that has vastly improved working from home for me), she got inspired to scale her business, as her husband had been encouraging her to do.

“The wheels just got spinning,” she says. With the addition of MINDBODY for booking, Rachele had everything she needed to host group classes.

As an added incentive to finally give it her all, the logistics of teaching at the gym had lost its luster for the now working mom of two.

“It became stressful and I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore,” she says. “It was a three hour production to teach a one hour class. Waking up two kids from naps, finding someone to watch them, or lugging them to the gym…”

Rachele officially launched VFit by putting out a free week with 10 classes on the schedule. Immediately there were 25 sign-ups and 12 people became members.

Fast forward to today, VFit has grown to 225 members, 99 percent of which come from referrals.

“Friends bringing friends makes it more fun” and adds accountability, she says.

Women Helping Women Succeed

VFit has helped Rachele realize that she enjoys working and feels a sense of pride and self-worth by contributing to her family’s income, despite the challenges she initially faced as a new mom trying to juggle it all.

“I think it would be boring to not work hard,” she says, which she credits as a lesson she learned from her own hard-working parents, as well as the legacy she hopes to leave her own children.

“There’s no perfect balance. Even when I think I have perfect balance, day care closes, or my kids are sick, or something else comes up. You don’t have this perfect plan. You just try,” Rachele says.

“I don’t sit there worrying about the unknown. I just do what I can.”

Flexibility is an important part of the culture of her team of trainers as well.

“If you had to get a sub at a gym last minute, good luck. Everyone at VFit has stepped in –from a hair salon to a park — to cover classes for each other.”

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Rachele also values the lessons she learned with her partner in an earlier coaching business that ultimately helped prepare her for VFit.

“I don’t think I could have started this business on my own without working through it with someone else, the first time,” she says.

It Takes a Village

VFit has taken off in what Rachele describes as “these little microclimates that don’t have gyms with daycare, that have severe weather, and that are in rural areas,” very similar to where she lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

Despite her loyal following in places like Kentucky, New Hampshire and Oregon, Rachele has aspirations to grow her virtual fitness studio in a way that’s manageable and keeps the “human factor” that sets VFit apart from pre-recorded alternatives.

“There are millions of people whose lives can be changed from this platform that have no idea we’re around,” she says.

Rachele isn’t discouraged going up against companies with “millions of dollars to spend” because of the connections she’s built with her team and her close-knit community of members.

“They’re the best marketers I have because they’ve stuck with it,” she says, noting the “sweaty selfies” members share with each other after class in a Facebook group.

Rachele has also found VFit’s unique voice, with the help of a copywriting coach she calls her #1 investment, helping her “dig into the truth of who you are.” She says it’s about so much more than weight loss or developing biceps:

“It’s a way of life. It makes you a better person. It’s a fun group to be around every day because they truly lift each other up.”