Raising Richmond: So you want to start a business/human

When two people work together/love each other very much, they start a business/get married and a business/baby is born.

My partner and I had a baby in May of 2010, and then my other partner and I had one in December of 2011.

OK, this joke could go on forever, but I’ll cut to the chase. I co-founded a copywriting business and then, less than a year later, got knocked up.

It’s daunting–becoming a fledgling entrepreneur and a first-time parent all at once–but it worked out pretty well. So well, in fact, that I get all sad when people worry about starting a family when work takes up all their time. Or worry that they’ll never be able to do anything fun again. Or worry that they don’t know what the crap they’re doing.

Friends and citizens, I have looked the beast in its red and screaming face and changed its diapers. At the same time, my business has not only survived, it’s more than doubled in size. No two situations are the same, but I thought I’d share the things I’ve learned that have helped make my foolhardy mission a successful one.

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1. Assess yourself

Chances are, if you’re seriously considering starting your own business, you’ve probably got a fair amount of natural gumption. If the idea of approaching a stranger and talking to them in a pleasant way terrifies you, this might not be the right career path for you. You’ll also need a strong work ethic, obviously, and a lot of resilience. There’s no time to wallow in little setbacks either on the baby or business front. There’s only time to move forward.

But most of all, you will have a leg up if you naturally love being busy. Not just tolerate it, love it. I feel a pang of panic if I have a week ahead with no plans. If you need a lot of downtime to process and recharge, now might not be the right time for your business/baby venture. One or the other, perhaps, but not both.

2. Choose your partners wisely

You’re going to need major support in both areas of your life (be prepared to return the favor as well). Here’s something to think about: if you’re partnering up with another entrepreneurial soul, you will almost certainly spend more waking time with him or her than with your spouse/life partner and certainly your baby.

My husband works long, unpredictable hours. He loves his job, but he’s also seriously committed to being a good dad. We’re alike that way, and we’ve decided that we can have our careers and eat them too (or whatever) as long as we don’t go overboard in either direction. It’s important to me that I’m not Baby Project Manager just because I am Breastmilk Lady. Making things equal didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Maybe an even exchange isn’t your dynamic, but whatever it is, you should make sure you’re on the same page.

My business partner, aside from being extremely skilled at her job, has an unbeatable work ethic and an abundantly generous spirit. We’re very candid about most things, but we made a point to come up with a long-term strategy that we would put in place to account for each other’s maternity leaves. So at the moment when I turned very pale and announced that there were chromosomes aligning within me, we had a plan ready to go.

Between those two bozos (and, of course, lots of other friends and family along the way), I had the right combination of folks in every corner. You can’t choose your baby, but you can choose the other people in your life. Drama-lovers, quitters, flakes, and Debbie Downers are not your best bets.

3. Hire help for the stuff you won’t/can’t/just don’t feel like doing

Since I’m independently wealthy and my husband makes seven figures a year, we have no problem hiring people to cook, clean, care for our children, wash our cars, do our books, fly our jets, and feed the animals in our exotic menagerie. Just kidding! We’re plain old folks with a little house, Japanese cars, and a mutt we adore. We’ve got credit card debt, car debt, housing debt–all that stuff. And yes, child care is expensive. Not as expensive as it should be, considering how much work it is, but it’s still expensive. But you can afford it! You can and you will!

Here’s how we afford child care:

  • We met with a financial planner
  • He told us what we were spending too much on in a way that did not make us want to stab each other/ourselves
  • He showed us how we could free up more money per month
  • We share a nanny with another couple
  • We’ve explored every possible way to monetize our other talents, and we freelance as much as we can

So you’ve got that covered, one way or another. I mean, you have to, right? But here are the real tricks. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to need expertise in a lot of fields. Our company wouldn’t have gotten where it is without fantastic advice.

  • Ask other entrepreneurs you know (or admire) for recommendations for an accountant, a lawyer, a bookkeeper, and whoever else they’ve come to trust.
  • Spend a decent amount of money. Bargain-basement branding or legal advice can be just as harmful to your company as bargain-basement child care can be to your family.
  • Hire cleaning people for your house. Just flipping do it.

4. Be anti-social with your complaints.

You can be frustrated, of course you can. But don’t take those frustrations to social media.

First, everyone’s tired, and everyone works hard. Even though you’re deep in the trenches (two different kinds at once, really), it was your call to become a parentrepreneur.

Second, it’s bad for business. No one wants to work for or with a whiner, and it makes you look petty, childish, and untrustworthy.

Third, visit a fertility clinic, then jump on Facebook and tell the world how annoying your baby is. It’s like griping to the Little Match Girl that you’re having a hard time sleeping at night because all the gold coins stacked under your mattress are just so lumpy.

5. Accept how you feel, and beware of guilt.

You’ve got to tend to your business, and you’ve got to raise your child. There are times when both are going to need you at once, and you’re going to have to choose.

The Internet seems to be dedicated to making both men and women feel terrible about any parenting decision they make. Nobody gets to tell you how much you love your baby. If you can’t wait to get home to kiss little cheeks, that’s fine. And if you can’t wait for Monday morning because you’re dying for a little freedom, that’s fine, too. Don’t doubt the system you and your partner have come up with. If it works, it works.

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The best compliment I’ve ever gotten was from my mother as she was watching my son be delighted by something or other. She said, “Look how happy this baby is. Whatever you guys are doing, you’re doing it right.”

I love you, Archie. I will destroy anyone who messes with you. See you after work.


Stock photo by: Vassil Tzvetanov

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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