What My Mom Taught Me About Being a Female Entrepreneur
It’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur, as we are surrounded by so much support. In the industries in which we find ourselves most networked, there are a bevy of groups for women (Women in America, The World Economic Forum’s YGL Women’s Network and The Li.st, among others.).
In comparison, when my mother was a young PhD candidate getting her start in the field of public health at New York City-based Columbia University (and academia in general), there were fewer formal networking groups for her to join to help her on her path.
I feel very fortunate to have been raised by a proud feminist in an era where women are encouraged to pursue their professional dreams. My mother was always the first to encourage me to be ambitious, studious, thoughtful and curious.
There have, of course, been challenges. As millennial female entrepreneurs, we’ve certainly encountered bias, so we work doubly hard to demonstrate how deeply we understand the landscape we work in.
During challenging times, my mother’s best advice always kicks in. I remember these tips in particular:
"You cannot worry about what you cannot control or change, and you will feel better in the morning." Predictable, classic mom advice, but somehow it holds true to just about any upsetting situation. As a co-CEO, if I allowed myself to become anxious about everything in our business that I can’t control, I would go insane. And if I don’t get at least seven hours of sleep each night, I will inevitably be less productive and happy. So I release control. And make sure to get plenty of sleep.
“Take care in your female friendships and help others when asked.” This may not sound like a professional tip but indulging in my long-lasting female friendships helps me in work in many ways. If I travel to the Women in Retail conference in Miami, my best friends stay at my apartment to watch over my puppy. If I need legal feedback on the wording of a contract, I can call our lawyers or my closest friend who happens to be a litigator. If I’d like to pen an article for a publication, my college best friend, a professional author, proofs what I write before I submit it.
Women are fabulous at creating clans, and it was my mother, with her terribly close friendships and willingness to lend help whenever asked, who taught me this first and foremost.
"Stay informed.” Growing up in Minnesota, I watched my mother wake up at 5:30 a.m. daily to read The New York Times, the local Star Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. Then she would head to work.
As a retail-technology focused entrepreneur (or any entrepreneur for that matter), it’s easy to become all consumed with work and to only want to read articles or start discussions based on what we do weekly for more than a 100 hours a week. But you can’t. You must have a deeper sense of what’s happening outside of your bubble. Not only to stay savvy and ahead of world’s shifting trends but so that when you go to that rare dinner party on a Friday night, you have something to speak about other than yourself. This is a life-hack to stay educated and well-liked -- in the most traditional sense.
“Remain dedicated to a cause.” My mother has dedicated her entire career to academia -- immigration policy namely. She did this because she has deep empathy for the challenges immigrants face in the U.S. Now, semi-retired, she still works for the Immigration Coalition in New York City and takes me to benefits for organizations such as Immigration Equality. Her dedication to her field inspired my own dedication to our Zady mission: “No more fashion in landfills, no more production with questionable roots.”
At Zady, we truly believe in living better with less, which is the final bit of advice I gained from my mother. Growing up, she taught me how to turn leftovers into gourmet meals, how to take my older sister’s sweater and tailor it to my liking and how to make my own holiday gifts vs. purchasing mass-produced new ones.
So if it weren’t for my mother, I would not be focused on Zady -- and for that, I thank her tremendously for giving my life a clear purpose.
Related: For Zady, It's Quality Over Quantity