Mother's Day special: Tips from top mom founders/CEOs

Faith Merino · May 10, 2013 · Short URL:

Seven moms do the impossible: run companies while raising kids

Starting and running your own business is no joke. Neither is having kids. And then you see people who are somehow managing to do both, and it BLOWS MY MIND. So in honor of Mother’s Day (it’s this Sunday, don’t blow it), I give you seven moms who are doing the impossible: founding and/or running their own companies while also raising kids.

Sheila Marcelo, founder and CEO,

Founded in 2006, boasts some seven million members in more than 15 countries and has raised $109 million to date. Marcelo is also mother to sons Ryan (21) and Adam (13). Her top tip for running a company and raising kids: a meditation mantra of “I am not in control” and letting go of perfection.


Julia Hartz, co-founder and president, Eventbrite

Hartz co-founded Eventbrite in 2006 with husband Kevin Hartz. The company has gone on to raise $140 million and recently topped $1.5 billion in total ticket sales, one-third of which is just from the last year. The mother of two daughters ages one and five, Hartz has three solid tips for surviving and thriving as both a mother and an entrepreneur:

  1. Be ruthless with prioritization. Just say no. I spent my 20s saying yes to everything, and am spending my 30s learning to say no.
  2. We live our lives in shared Google Calendar. We wake, eat and breathe to our calendar's beat. There is a funny story where Kevin forgot to leave the office because his calendar didn't tell him to. 
  3. Having the courage to ask for and receive help.  This is the case for any mom, working or not.


Jessica Kim, founder and CEO, Babbaco

Kim got the idea for Babbaco—a monthly box of activities, books, and educational toys for kids—in 2007, when she was pregnant with her first child. Since then, Babbaco has raised $1.55 million. Kim raised $1.2 million while pregnant with her third child and closed the round from her hospital bed. Mother to one daughter and two sons—ages six, three, and 10 months—Jessica Kim has perfected the art of prioritization and time management:

Being a mom and being an entrepreneur are two 24/7 full-time jobs, so it can be overwhelming if you're constantly trying to balance the two.  Focus on what's in front of you. Set the priorities for that day (or even hour) and then be laser focused on that. When you're at work, don't stress about the kids. Be efficient and let your entrepreneurial drive and passion take over. When you're at home, leave the work worries and task lists at the door. Kids deserve 100% of your attention and heart.  Don't try to juggle them both in the same hour because it'll only lead to frustration.


Jennifer Wong, co-founder and CEO, Alt12

Wong got the idea for Alt12—a suite of pregnancy, fertility, and parenting social apps—when she was pregnant with her first child. She co-founded the company in 2009 with husband Carey Sackett and went on to raise $1.26 million in seed funding. Today, the company’s apps boast some of the most robust mobile communities of parents and parents-to-be, with nine million cumulative downloads and 1.2 million active users. Wong is also the mother of two boys, ages three and 15 months. Her tips for success:

1) Work in sprints so you know there's an end in sight. I accept I don't have day-to-day work life balance, but I prioritize the time I need with my kids  (mornings getting them ready and the evening for family time). Everything else goes to work, into the wee hours of the night working towards a product goal. At the end of the sprint I cut myself a break and use the flexibility of my schedule to do something for myself like taking a Monday off to celebrate my birthday with my husband!

2) Don't forget to celebrate the small victories in both parenting and startup life. It's really easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted and lose sight of the progress and accomplishments you make along the way.

Kara Nortman, co-founder and CEO, Moonfrye

Having just closed a $2.5 million round of funding from such big name firms as GRP Partners, Greycroft, and Google Ventures, Moonfrye is the crafty parent’s dream. Named after its co-founder, Soleil Moon Frye (aka Punky Brewster), the site is full of nifty ideas and visual how-to guides, but there are some products in the pipeline that will take the company beyond the blogosphere and into the commerce realm. Co-founder and CEO Kara Nortman is also mom to a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and she’s due to give birth to number three like, any second. How is she running a company while raising two kids and cooking a third? She follows three basic guidelines:

1) Short commute! Planning logistics well so that your home, kid's school and office are a short distance apart helps considerably. Because I can run out to be at my daughter's play or Thanksgiving feast and back at the office with minimal commute overhead, I am able to make events and schedule into my day with greater ease.

2) Pick the most important times/moments with your kids and make them meaningful/hold them sacred and don't apologize for doing them. For example, I take my kids to school in the mornings and have 2 hours with them every night in which I turn off everything. I do not go near my phone, no distractions.  

3) Integrate your kids into your work. I am the CEO of a new company, Moonfrye, that is all about inspiring creativity in families. My consumer passion and sense of mission has never been stronger or more connected to what I do professionally. Because of this, I am able to bring my work home and bring my kids into my work- discussing it with them, testing products, etc. Even if what you are building/doing isn't related to your children, kids love getting involved and understanding what mommy does.


Kristen Koh Goldstein, founder and CEO, BackOps

With $1.5 million in seed funding, BackOps employs remote workers (such as work-at-home moms) to
provide SMBs and entrepreneurs with the time consuming back office stuff they need—like accounting, finance, and HR—so they can focus on more critical components of their business, like product and customer acquisition. BackOps’ “riveters” include CPAs, bookkeepers, controllers, and more, and the company’s client list includes Spreecast, Ecofabulous, Fundly, and AngelList, among others. Mom to eight-year-old Jack, six-year-old Athena, and one-year-old Rex, Kristen founded BackOps to show that motherhood and career are not incompatible. Her tip for juggling the two:

Work at BackOps! We are a network of moms who work from home while our kids are at school.



Meliza Surdi, founder and CEO, JustBumped

An online retailer for sporty maternity clothes, JustBumped is just getting off the ground with its initial line of maternity tank tops, but the company has plans to branch out into other items beyond clothing. What does JustBumped actually mean? Essentially, if you’re holding a positive pregnancy test, you’ve been “JustBumped.” Surdi finds that sticking to a schedule helps her balance work with life at home with an 18-month-old.

I'll usually schedule calls or pump out emails during Tru's morning show while he eats breakfast, then later during his 2 hour  afternoon nap, and then I'll get more work done during one of his educational shows in the afternoon. In between it's all about taking him to the park, reading or coloring with him, or playing piano.


Bambi Francisco, founder and CEO, Vator

When not running a vibrant network of entrepreneurs and the Vator newsroom, Bambi Francisco is raising four sons, ages 12, 10, 6, and one. Bambi’s tips for balancing a company with raising kids:

One of the best ways to balance work and kids is to take care of your health. While I'm not as active as I was when I didn't have kids, I make it a point to push myself to work out - running, biking, skiing/snowboarding. I also try to be active with my family, like running with my husband pushing the baby jogger while our other sons bike. Managing work and kids require stamina. And you can't have that if you're not well.

But there’s a caveat. Francisco says a mom entrepreneur needs to be realistic about her goals and priorities.

Now for women who are at the helm of a company that's on a growth trajectory, then you can't have it all, especially if you have several children. You can't spend quality time with all of them (going to every baseball game, recital, watching their "first" achievements, sitting down and reading and doing homework), and expect to put in the needed hours that is demanded of a CEO. So the tip is: Get help - grandparents/spouse/babysitters. But even with help, you still need to manage your time well. She lives off her calendar and list of to do's. She and her husband have a shared calendar, with all family and work events. Another tip: Separate work and kid time. "When you're with your children, make it matter and give them your undivided attention."  

And even though I'm not an entrepreneur, I'm going to include a picture of my son zoning out to some morning cartoons: 

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