Here are five “mompreneurs” who are charting their own ways in business while still raising a family.
By Sramana Mitra (Founder, One Million By One Million)
I frequently facilitate discussions of female entrepreneurs, and the company vs. children question, and I would like to do so again. We’ve seen through conversations with entrepreneurial women like Sarah Sutton Fell that not only is it possible to have both, you can also be incredibly successful.
To reinforce that point, I would like to introduce another set of “mompreneurs” who are charting their own ways in business while still raising a family.
Julia Hartz, Eventbrite
Following her work with MTV and FX, Julia Hartz relocated to Silicon Valley with her fiancée in 2005. Kevin, now Julia’s husband and business partner, was the catalyst for Julia’s foray into the entrepreneurial world when he asked her to be a part of the new project. As the platform’s main architects were working on another venture, Julia alone ran an early stage of what is now a highly successful Eventbrite.
Joined by Renaud Visayge of Zing in 2006, Julia and Kevin invested $250,000 in seed funding and went to work. In early 2008, Julia’s daughter was born. Just days later, Eventbrite received its first round of angel funding and hired its first employee. Julia took no time off, working from home for five months before returning. But between a surgery for her child and being diagnosed with Graves disease herself, Julia accepted an offer from her mother to provide extra help. Her added support left time to raise a second round of funding in 2009.
In addition to the pressures of running a company with her spouse, Julia makes a concerted effort to put her family first. She and Kevin use a combination of family help and nanny’s throughout the week until Julia works from home each Friday. “I always wanted to be involved… I just want to help Eventbrite succeed,” she says. Julia also reveals that she would not trade becoming President of Eventbrite for the chance to have another child. (As it turns out, she didn’t have to: she retains her title as President and is now mother to two daughters.)
Julia is also working toward making women with children feel welcome in the startup world. “I feel very strongly that I can create an environment where women who have a skill and are talented and driven are welcomed at our company… I am personally making the commitment not to be a hypocrite.”
Amy Pressman, Medallia
Though Amy Pressman attended Stanford business school in 1993 during the Internet boom, she found herself at a Norwegian-based consulting firm after graduation. There, she met her husband, who would become her business partner.
She returned to the Bay Area in 1999 to found Medallia. The company uses web-based surveys to track customer experience. Formed just after the burst of the tech bubble, Amy, her husband, and their CTO were forced to put off raising any funds. After a long period of bootstrapping, Medallia was profitable by the end of 2002. Since then, Amy and her husband have built a sizable company with over $30 million in annual revenue.
Amy not only continues to head Medallia with her husband, but is also a mother of three. She is a strong advocate of women in the entrepreneurial sphere as a member of the group, Women CEOs. Amy splits the position of CEO with her husband and uses her remaining energy to spend time with her children.
“Can you have it all,” Amy asks herself, and answers, “I think you can over a lifetime, but not all at once. The hard part is that something must be given up.” Amy admits to early-morning laundry and late-night shopping, with the majority of her errands put off until weekends.
Therese Tucker, BlackLine Systems
Growing up on a farm, Therese Tucker was the first in her family to go to a four-year college when she attended Illinois Wesleyan. There, she found her passion in an Apple programming class. She then transferred to the University of Illinois to study computer science, graduating in 1983. Her subsequent work in Southern California convinced Therese to strike out on her own, and in 1985 she began her own freelance programming company. While working independently, Therese met her husband and continued to learn about business.
But when Therese again considered full-time work she was five months pregnant. After going into labor at work, Therese gave birth to her son and headed back to work a week later. She managed to balance early childcare between a nanny and taking her son to work with her. During her employment from 1989-1997, she also had a second child. (Therese gave birth to her daughter on a Wednesday, and was back at work on Friday.)
But though Therese and her husband continued to put the children first, they eventually divorced in 2000.
BlackLine Systems, an account reconciliation and financial software provider, is what Therese terms the result of this ‘midlife crisis.’ Founded in 2001, BlackLine began as a wealth management company. In its current form, BlackLine merges Therese’s expertise in technology and finance to offer a range of financial software. The company is close to $10 million in revenue.
Therese remained loyal to her role as a single mother and decided against separating her children from her career. She discussed work openly on the way to school; her son now works at BlackLine on his summer vacations. And with new perspectives following their divorce, Therese and her husband reconnected, and were remarried in 2005.
When asked if she thinks she’s done it all, Therese is adamant that this is the wrong question. “If you think you can do it all, then you will not set your priorities and you will not do the things that matter,” she claims. Entrepreneurs must above all be “comfortable with continuous change.” For Therese, family comes first.
Wendy Tan White, Moonfruit
Wendy Tan White studied computer science at Imperial College in London before she was recruited to help build the UK Internet bank Egg.com. And when Wendy decided to begin her own venture, her boss at Egg.com agreed to help seed it. The bank also introduced Wendy to her husband, who joined her and her close college friend to found Moonfruit, an on-demand website development platform.
Even at the height of the dot-com boom, Wendy and her team worked for equity until they received their first investment. Moonfruit continued to fundraise until the crash, at which time they re-purchased their shares and Wendy’s husband left the company to work for McKinsey. Through the help of freelancers, the company became profitable in 2003. Moonfruit then went on to raise another round of funding in 2005.
In 2004, it was Wendy’s turn to take a break from Moonfruit. Her husband Joe returned to the business to take her place until 2008. But taking maternity leave didn’t mean Wendy was taking a real break: she attended design school and began development of their successful 2009 Twitter campaign.
“I felt I had something to prove when I came back,” Wendy explains. Upon returning to work, roles were shuffled, resulting in Wendy taking the CEO title while Joe acting as CFO. They handle running the business as a couple by working out of office one day each per week, arranging a date night, and leaving phones out of reach. Wendy draws additional childcare support from both her and Joe’s nearby parents.
Women entrepreneurs continue to dive into startups in greater numbers.
Take Racheli Levkovich, who co-founded Zuznow with her husband in 2011. She is the mother of two daughters. Racheli says that while she envies both full-time young entrepreneurs and mothers who spend all day with their children, she thinks that her situation is the ideal mix: “I've learned that when I am happy and when I fulfill myself, I am simply capable of being the mother I want be. And of course, when I feel good about my motherhood and my relations with my girls, I can devote my time and passion with no (or maybe less) guilt to our startup and lead it to success.”
These women say that you can do it all: have children, and be entrepreneurs. May be you need help from nannies and cooks. May be you need help from in-laws living close by. But if you have the talent and ambition to be an entrepreneur, don’t let biology stop you!
Women 2.0 readers: Which "mompreneur" is your role mode? Let us know in the comments!
About the guest blogger: Sramana Mitra is Founder of One Million By One Million, an educational business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @sramana.