Updated for 2017
So you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. Congratulations! Did you know I too am an entrepreneur? Some people actually think I’m kind of good at it. So I’m going to offer a tiny bit of unsolicited advice and hope that you’ll avoid making the mistakes I did. Good luck!
In the Beginning
Growing up I had various career ambitions. I wanted to be a secretary like Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5, an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, a reporter like Lois Lane, and a teacher like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. In my 42 years on this earth so far I’ve done all four of those jobs along with numerous others. It’s a well-seasoned resume.
Despite all the random jobs and paths my life has taken, not once did I aspire to be an entrepreneur or business owner. Yet here I sit, six years into this Rocket City Mom adventure, a bona fide Mompreneur with the opportunity to help other women who find themselves pursuing a similar path.
The work-life balance and family-friendly policies we were looking for just weren’t there. I became a stay-at-home mom with a graduate degree and more than a decade of professional experience.
I spent the first several months of Leah’s life just trying to get into a routine. It took a while but eventually we fell into a life that allowed for the occasional non-accompanied bathroom break. When that finally happened I found myself yearning to interact with grown-ups and have conversations that didn’t revolve around diapers and breastfeeding. I missed my job.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to go back. I loved spending all day with my daughter, I loved “living” in yoga pants, never worrying about sick days or getting time off for doctor’s appointments, etc. But I missed my old life too. Then we moved to Huntsville.
Rocket City Meet Jen
As we began to prepare for our move to Huntsville I was online daily searching for information on school districts and homes, area attractions and restaurants. I was trying to get a feel for what our new hometown would be like. After our arrival I spent my free time searching for all the information a mom with small children would need (where to get organic baby food, playground locations, playgroup details, recommended pediatricians) and an idea began to form.
I’ve already referenced my varied work experience but the vast majority of it, at least in the years leading up to leaving the workforce, had been centered around marketing, public relations, website, and graphic design. I knew that other cities I’d lived in had websites just for parents and it seemed obvious Huntsville didn’t have one but was large enough (and growing!) to support one. I had found my new project.
Notice I didn’t mention anything about a business plan? That’s because I never had one. Honestly, I never considered or worried about making money. I was building the website to “keep my skill set up” and so, in my head, that meant it wasn’t a real business and I didn’t need to worry about businessy stuff. The site didn’t cost a lot of money to build, so I didn’t worry about making money. What I didn’t take into account (because I didn’t have a business plan) were the countless hours I’d spend working on the project. Time is money and I spent it with no regard for ever getting it back. DON’T BE LIKE ME. HAVE A PLAN.
I come from a family of teachers, farmers, engineers, the random lawyer or doctor, but no business owners. When I started RCM I was flying blind with no idea what questions to even ask myself. A mentor, someone who had already accomplished what I was attempting and could give advice about what to expect, how to navigate, and offer encouragement would have been wonderful. For reasons I still can’t explain, not once did I even think about reaching out and finding one. DON’T BE LIKE ME. FIND A MENTOR.
Starting a small business, especially the kind where you work from home, can be very lonely. Almost two years after I first conceived of RCM, I asked Stephenie Walker to become my business partner and it changed my experience completely. Up to that point, the only person I had to talk about my daily experiences was my husband. While he was a good sport about it, ultimately he wasn’t able to relate in the way another business person could have. A network of peers, others going through the same process at the same time, would have been revolutionary to me. DON’T BE LIKE ME. FIND A GROUP OF PEERS.
The Mompreneur Event
So with all this in mind, when Erin at the The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship approached me last year about putting together an event that would help other aspiring entrepreneurs like myself, I knew exactly what it should look like. It would offer all the advice and opportunities I wish I’d had when I started Rocket City Mom. It would inspire moms who were looking for that elusive work-life balance and it would give them the tools and resources to make it happen for themselves.
Look how lucky you are! You don’t have to blunder through the journey to mompreneurhood like I did. Go ahead, dream big. We’ve got your back.
Jennifer is the creator and co-editor of Rocket City Mom. She is also a compulsive writer, avid reader, occasional singer and former communications wizard turned toddler wrangler. You can often spot her and her little ones cruising the kiddie hot-spots in their "Rocket Van".