Meet My Co-Founder – Mom
May 5, 2021 | Education
Deciding to start a business is an accomplishment in itself. Now comes the decision-making process. One of the first choices any entrepreneur goes through is deciding to bring on a co-founder to the operation. Check out our blog on “Do You Need a Co-Founder or an Early Employee?” for more guidance.
Bringing in a partner has its pros and cons. However, the dynamic changes if that person is a relative, especially when it’s a parent or child of the founder. While the relationship can be tricky, these mother-daughter entrepreneurs prove that it can be done successfully.
Taking the Family Business to the Next Level
As a registered nurse and lactation consultant, Linda Hanna has been helping new moms for decades. For years, Linda voiced concerns to her daughter, Melissa, about the lack of technology and communication tools that track maternal health and baby’s well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the infant mortality rate dropped nearly 40% between 1990 and 2017, while pregnancy-related deaths doubled. These numbers increase for Black women and infants due to socioeconomic and other factors.
Equipped with an MBA and a law degree, Melissa went into business with her mom to address the disparity between maternal and child healthcare. Along with Sunny Walia, the Hannas founded Mahmee, a free digital platform that allows expecting and new mothers to communicate directly with physicians utilizing the technology.
As of Feb. 2021, the platform has been adopted by more than 1,000 providers in approximately 46 states. Mahmee has also found fans in the sports industry, including early investors Mark Cuban and Serena Williams.
“In the maternity healthcare process, on the surface, there are generally three or four people involved: the mother, the baby, and each of their physicians. What we don’t see are the many other people helping them: nurses, lactation consultants, midwives, nutritionists, therapists, doulas, home health aides, social workers, and more,” Melissa said in a press release. “And this industry is lacking the IT infrastructure needed to connect these professionals from different organizations to each other and to follow and monitor patients across practices and health systems. This missing element creates gaps in care. Maumee is the glue that connects the care ecosystem and closes the gaps.”
Sweet Sixteen Results in Multi-Million Dollar Business
What was supposed to be a way for Bella Weems Lambert to afford a car for her 16th birthday turned into a $250 million business. Co-founded with her mom, Chrissy Weems, in 2010, Origami Owl is a custom jewelry company that now works with designers nationwide. The company started as a mall kiosk before expanding into a social selling platform.
In an interview with Business News Daily, Weems gave the following advice to other mother-daughter duos. “”Find something you are both passionate about and set goals,” Weems said. “Be willing to commit the time necessary to build the business and surround yourself with others that lift you up. When Bella and I started out, we sacrificed a lot, which impacted our entire family. Still, we were willing to do what needed to be done to be successful and provide a life-changing opportunity for others.”
Now Everyone Can Enjoy Mom’s Homemade Soups
For other entrepreneurs, their mom brings the expertise needed for a specific venture.
Sara Polon had dreams of becoming the next big comedian. While she was busy performing stand-up at comedy clubs across New York City, her mom Marilyn would make sure Sara’s fridge was filled with food when she got home. Once the economic crisis of 2008 hit, comedy gigs were more challenging to book, and Sara turned to another career – owning a business.
Marilyn’s specialty was soup, and Sara had been studying food sustainability. Using their knowledge and passion, Soupergirl was born. Based in Washington D.C., Soupergirl is a plant-based, kosher, natural soup available in retail stores and direct to consumers on its website.
With people confined to their homes due to COVID-19 and unable to celebrate religious holidays with their families, Sara and Marilyn saw renewed interest in their products. This was particularly true during Passover in 2020, when the team was still refining its operations in a pandemic landscape.
“We got slammed,” Sara said in an interview with DCInno. “It was absolute chaos. …We are on our own, so the amount of stress that’s on us essential businesses, it’s impossible to put into words, and the responsibility I feel when it comes to keeping my team and my customers safe? It is nothing I could’ve ever anticipated, nothing I ever could’ve planned for. It’s a lot more than I signed up for. I also feel keenly aware of how fortunate I am. We’re still standing.”
In fall 2020, Soupergirl received $2 million in investments from Honest Tea founder and Beyond Meat board member Seth Goldman and a D.C.-based grocery store chain owner.
“(This) investment will allow us to accelerate our growth at a critical time when the nation is looking for safe and healthy at-home food options,” Sara said in an interview with WTOPNews. “We will be able to expand our already robust COVID-19 testing protocols for our staff and increase our national reach while staying true to our values.”
One of the Most Important Relationships We Have Is with Our Mother
No matter what happens with the business, your co-founder is still going to be your mom. And not all of us have a Rory and Lorelai relationship, so here are some tips to keep both your partner and mother on speaking terms.
- Set Boundaries – Whether designating a strict schedule during the day of business conversation and mother/daughter talk at night or a silent day once a month, be upfront with your needs as a professional. Write it down and make sure everyone agrees.
- Develop Clear Roles – There’s a natural hierarchy in a parent and child relationship. The parent might act as the authority because that has been a dynamic in the past. To prevent this, each person must have a defined role in the business, i.e., creative, marketing, operations, finance.
- Distinguish Between Mom Convos and Co-Founder Ones – Sometimes, a girl just needs her mom, and that’s OK. However, if your mom is your business partner, it might be helpful to politely say, “Mom – I need you to be my mom right now.”
- Be Open to Each Other’s Ideas and Working Styles – Often, parents and children come from different generations. They learn how to work differently. Your mom might be “old” school and still fax information to vendors. You might be more “new” school and text message prospective clients. Difference of opinions and ideas is good and will only help your business.
- Have Fun – Building a business is stressful. Growing a business with your mom can be an emotional rollercoaster. When tensions are high, a timeout might be needed. Think of what you and your mom love doing together – a spa day, road trip, playing basketball. Whatever it is, take a break and enjoy each other’s company. Both relationships will be better for it!
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