One of our Vegas 2013 PITCH finalists shares how she learned to embrace being a new parent and startup founder.

By Tina Neville (Co-founder & CEO, Calolo)

When I presented for Calolo (formerly CollegeAppz) at the Women 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas in November 2014, I was pregnant. I did not let anyone know. I did not want to raise any issues with my being able to present.

When Calolo filmed a founder’s video for accelerator applications, we adjusted the camera angle to avoid my rapidly growing belly. I did not want anyone to know. I did not want to give anyone reason to call into question my commitment.

When Calolo was accepted into the Village Capital edtech accelerator, I did not stay in the cohort’s AirBnB group house because my 5-month old baby was not sleeping through the night. I did not let anyone know. I did not want to be the only single parent with “newborn issues” (my husband is on a one-year assignment overseas).

This time, however, I had no choice. I could not come up with a better excuse than the truth.

Making Parenthood Known

When I sheepishly told the Village Capital team why I could not stay at the AirBnB house, they told me that I did not need to apologize. Kate McCrery of the team said it is nothing to be ashamed about, but rather, it becomes an issue when society makes it taboo to discuss circumstances that real women face. Fortunately for me, once I started talking about it, the Village Capital team was more than accommodating!

At a workshop in Chicago to meet with investors, mentors and Chicago Public School representatives, Ulili Onovakpuri at Village Capital made sure that I could stay in the AirBnB group house. They even made sure I had a pack ‘n’ play for the little one! Because of their thoughtful response, they demonstrated that real women with real circumstances could participate in their programs.

The Realities of Dual-Career Households

Tin and Calo PictureIn the spirit of gratitude and paying it forward, I want to contribute to the dialogue of parental issues in the startup culture. Women are founding companies, and many have dual-career households. Some of us have infants that don’t sleep through the night and other consuming parental responsibilities. Nonetheless, we have equal convictions to build companies that improve lives.

Adding to Diversity

In fact, our unique circumstances might actually serve to further the vision. One of Calolo’s mentors, Isaac Saldana President of SendGrid, told us that discussing family issues actually adds to the “diversity” of a company culture. Donna Harris, Founder of 1776 in DC, an incubator program that Calolo is part of, says 1776 considers parental responsibilities when scheduling evening events. She has a young child at home herself!

Another mentor, Craig Dixon from Chronicle of Higher Education, said that having a child is yet another reason that fuels our passion to provide college access to millions of college-bound students through Calolo.

Encouraging Dialogue

Thank you to Women 2.0 for providing a forum for this dialogue. Thank you to the Village Capital team for being forward-thinking in allowing women to participate in your programs. Thank you to 1776 for considering parental issues in programming events. Thank you to
the mentors who encourage startups to talk about family issues.

Thank you to the many women out there — parents or not — who are real women with real circumstances trying to change the world through our entrepreneurial ventures.

Do you feel parenthood is a taboo subject for entrepreneurs?

Photo credit: Halfpoint via Shutterstock.