Mama Maker: Manisha of Playfully

When Manisha Shah started taking her premature baby–born at 28 weeks–to see an occupational therapist, her eyes were opened to the importance of play.

“A few minutes with her was so transformational.”

As the therapist played games with Manisha’s daughter, she would explain how one action leads to another. Early smiles pave the way for emotional expression. Hand gestures during songs matter.

“In three sentences, she had completely changed how I interpreted what my daughter was doing,” she says.

Manisha says it was then that she realized there are people out there that have this knowledge, that work with kids day in and day out, and yet “the only reason we got access to it is because we were in this special situation.”

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She began thinking about how to make it accessible to other parents. Her “aha moment” eventually led to the creation of Playfully, an app that helps parents connect the dots between playtime, milestones and development.

Inspired by apps like Headspace, Manisha tapped her software development background and assembled a team of advisors to create “little lessons in the moment that you need it.”

“We give you five activity ideas that you can play and some of them are going to be things that you’ve probably done before, or heard of before. And some of them will feel new and different,” she says.

The app is accompanied by personalized emails for each child. For example, this week’s message explained the significance of my nearly 3-year-old son reciting books from memory, like when he recently wowed me with all the words to Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.

Women Helping Women Succeed

“I’m the kind of person that likes guidance before jumping in,” says Manisha. “I enjoy people explaining things to me and showing me the way.”

And she pays it forward. In fact, Manisha reached out to me to offer support after I posted in a moms group we’re both part of about having a late pre-term infant. (When I downloaded the app for the first time, it even adjusted my son’s current and upcoming milestones based on his due date, to better match his early arrival.)

It’s no surprise that Manisha pioneered a maternity leave policy at the company she worked for before starting Playfully. But what impressed me most of all, is that she continued working remotely while her daughter was in the NICU–spending mornings at the hospital two time zones ahead of her colleagues, then returning home to work at lunchtime.

“It gave me a little bit of community during that time,” she says. “Like a little bit of normalcy in what was such a crazy time. So it actually ended up being helpful.”

A similar spirit is demonstrated by the team of experts she’s assembled. As moms themselves in most cases, they even offered to help while she went back out on maternity leave again earlier this year.

“They not only bring their professional expertise to this, they’re also thinking about it from a parent lens, which makes a big difference.”

How this Mompreneur Makes it Work

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Manisha says she never imagined she would become an entrepreneur. Now that she’s a mother of two, she’s finding that the more fluid schedule suits her.

“I feel like I’ve been lucky that I’ve done this in this phase of my life, even though it is hard to be doing something on your own,” she says. “The flip side is you have so much flexibility. So I could really craft something that felt right for for me and my family.”

This includes driving her almost 4-year-old daughter to school, and then returning home to her dining room to begin working while her nanny watches her son.

A typical workday involves “juggling between coding and email and customer support, and just doing a little bit of content planning,” social media–and of course, taking breaks to play with her son.

Later in the day, Manisha carves out time for her daughter, “usually from the time that she’s leaving her school until her bedtime. It’s all about getting the family through the routine.”

Manisha wants other busy parents to know that the time they spend interacting with their kids each day has meaning, no matter how short on time they are.

“You still are putting into practice, probably, a lot of the stuff we have in Playfully.”

So next time you sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or play Peekaboo after a long workday, rest assured you’re helping your child reach their next milestone.

Mama Maker: Esther from Virtual Assistant Internship

When Esther uprooted her life to move her son to Bali, “a very healing place,” she found solace within a community of entrepreneurs and expats.

“To have to leave my husband was really, really horrible. To have to leave America was really, really scary,” she says, describing the moment she distanced herself and her son from her husband’s dangerous mental breakdown, which was triggered by multiple head traumas in the military.

“Even when my personal life was totally falling apart, even when emotionally I was a complete wreck, you just keep going anyway,” she says. “You just get up the next day and do it again.”

The village of support that surrounds her in Bali has simultaneously allowed Esther’s virtual assistant business to flourish, while changing her perspective towards moments of fear and self-doubt.

Esther recognizes that “when you do the stuff that’s hard and scary, that’s what takes you to the next level.”

“If I’m feeling like ‘I can’t do this, I don’t know what I’m doing’…I now know I’m going through something,” she says.

“I’m up-leveling.”

In four years, she’s helped 100 women do the same through Virtual Assistant Internship, which gives them the tools to start their own lucrative businesses from anywhere in the world.

“It’s a very tangible way of changing someone’s life,” she says.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Esther’s journey began as a working mom and military wife whose husband worked night shifts and could be deployed within a moment’s notice, leaving her feeling “depressed and sad and stressed” she says.

“It was so hard because I loved my job,” she says, describing her corporate role in software product management that required her to travel frequently.

“But I also love my family and my son, and I was watching him having to be taken care of by all these relatives all the time, and neither of us were ever around,” she says.

“I was crying in my hotel room one night and I was like ‘that’s it’,” says Esther. “I felt like God was saying ‘trust me, I have something better for you — this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.’ ”

“Women aren’t supposed to be stressed out all the time and not see their kids,” she added.

The next day she quit her job and began scouting out a virtual assistant gig that would give her the flexibility to work from home and set her own hours.

After six months on the job, Esther kept getting asked about how it works, so she began mentoring others around top tasks for online business owners, like content repurposing, light email, and calendar management.

“I don’t understand why no military wives, none of my friends, nobody knows about this. This is insane,” she recalls feeling at the time.

Fast forward six years and her community of graduates ranges from women in the military to local moms in Bali who’ve started their own virtual assistant businesses and agencies.

“It’s really like this tribe we’ve created of women that are all hiring, helping, and mentoring with each other,” she says.

“I literally save messages from them telling me ‘Thank you so much, you changed my life.'”

When self-doubt creeps back in, she reads the notes, stored in her phone, to remind her why she should keep going.

“I really feel like it’s my purpose.”

It Takes a Village

Bali makes it easy for Esther to create the kind of village that every working mom needs in order to thrive.

“It’s much more community oriented than in the States and I think that surprises people,” says Esther.

She lives in a shared villa and has staff that helps with her son, delivers freshly prepared meals, and drives him to school.

Between her neighbors and other Balinese women she’s be-friended, Esther says she has plenty of people she can call in a moment’s notice to help with her son.

“He goes to this amazing ex-pat school, Montessori style, so they do an international curriculum in English until about noon, and then in the afternoon they go on field trips,” she says. “They go to the beach, They go on hikes through the rice fields.”

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While her son’s at school, Esther works side-by-side with fellow female business owners who run agencies or are influencers in their own right.

They all “meet up and co-work together” in one of their villas, a cafe or a co-working space.

Even in such a gorgeous setting, Esther says it’s very tempting to work around the clock, so they’ll bring in a massage therapist or taking a painting class to get the creative juices flowing.

They often finish the day together at the beach or watching the sunset.

And while she and her husband are working on their marriage and figuring out living arrangements, the supportive community in Bali is hard to beat.

“It just feels like home now.”

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Whether Esther is teaching the next batch of virtual assistants how to grow their business or helping entrepreneurs create online course content that sells itself, she believes in the legacy that comes with building community.

“Nobody knows what they’re doing,” she says. “You think all your other mom friends have it together or that person on YouTube. Nope. We’re all just making it up as we go.”

“It’s not about you. It’s about the tribe you’re creating.”

Mama Maker: Karli from Unlisted Market

Karli’s longtime dream of owning a boutique was suddenly in reach when she found out Rachel, owner of Unlisted in South Denver, was also expecting. The two mamas-to-be eventually had their boys just 2 weeks apart.

“Once you find someone in your tribe…that bond, as most moms know, is incredibly strong because you can share all of life’s trials and tribulations,” she says.

The two had first met when Karli started selling vintage goods at Unlisted, during the final 4 years of her 15-year tenure in PR & marketing.

“I just knew in my heart that it was the right time for me to make the move to step away,” says Karli, describing how she spent her pregnancy “building my brand outside of my corporate life.”

Fast forward to 2017: Karli was running a freelance PR business, selling her wares at Unlisted and raising her 10-month-old, when Rachel approached her about becoming a partner.

“As a single business owner, she was doing it all by herself. She was literally maxed out on her time,” says Karli.

“I feel like it was such a blessing,” she says. “I always dreamed of having a brick and mortar. I didn’t know I was going to be lucky enough to find something that already existed that I could just walk in as a co-owner.”

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Karli and Rachel offer fellow dreamers “the chance to step out, try retail on their own while having their overhead taken care of, and a very competent, trustworthy staff there everyday.”

“We’re constantly asking ourselves ‘what will bring in more traffic?’ and ‘how can we help our more than 100 vendors be successful?’ however they define it,” says Karli.

Recently, this meant setting up a cafe featuring locally roasted coffee and tea in a highly trafficked booth after one of their former vendors ventured out on their own.

“This to me is the dream. This is why we do what we do,” says Karli, beaming with pride that one of their vendors had become successful enough at Unlisted to open their own store.

Women Helping Women Succeed

While the 9000+ square foot space features male and female makers alike, it works particularly well for anyone who requires a flexible schedule.

“I do think our model–in the way that doesn’t require them to work in the store–is conducive to people who are trying to balance family life and their own creative passions,” says Karli.

Among the women-led businesses featured at Unlisted are Prairie Rose and The Shabby Chandelier.

How this Mompreneur Makes it Work

Karli takes her now almost 2-year-old son to daycare while she juggles various roles at the store, including running the cash register, stocking and doing social media.

“I learned very quickly that he will thrive and I will thrive and our family will be happier,” she says, while noting that some days are easier than others.

“I think mom guilt is so real,” she says. “You try to justify all of your decisions. And you know what? We’re all doing the very best we can with what we have at that moment. I’m not going to judge anybody who does anything different.”

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Just like she found Rachel, Karli believes that finding a tribe of “like-minded moms” who support your decisions is key.

“When you find someone who’s in that same path, it feels really, really good,” says Karli.

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.

(Here are the Potty Training Essentials that helped us through it.)

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.