Elizabeth Gore interviews Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor
EMG: Carolyn, you just launched Market Mentor and had baby Henry. How was maternity leave?
CR: While I'm pretty sure I'll never experience this maternity leave that people speak of, I imagine it's quite beautiful. Instead of napping with my baby, I am neck-deep in launching a startup while cradling an infant in my arms. On the plus side, I have gained a decent 4 a.m. Twitter following and have learned that I actually can type with my toes.
EMG: Any labor stories?
CR: The truth is, I've been laboring over my latest venture, Market Mentor, a startup agency and community for socially minded entrepreneurs, for far longer than I'd even started thinking about baby Henry. When I found out I was pregnant, I was faced with a choice: I could put my business plan on hold for 40-plus weeks, or I could forge ahead with business as usual. I chose the latter, and here I am, at the start of two incredible journeys that are extraordinarily demanding of my time, my love, and my energy. And I wouldn't change it for the world (perhaps with the exception of those middle-of-the-night feedings and an overabundance of laundry... seriously, how does such a tiny creature require so many clothes?!?).
EMG: I know, when my daughter was born our dryer broke and we hung clothes through two floors of our house. You are a serial entrepreneur, this is your third startup. Any temptation to go to Silicon Valley?
CR: I've certainly considered packing my bags and heading west to throw my hat into the Silicon Valley ring... and then reality hits: I am a mother of two little boys (a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old). My workday starts and ends with the nanny's schedule, with frequent breaks in between mandated by my tiny bosses. My startup experience is a series of sprints and stalls, of questions over whether I'm doing the right thing for my family and detours because someone just threw up all over my business plan (literally). It often seems as if the only thing I have in common with that eager Silicon Valley entrepreneur is that we both suffer from a chronic lack of sleep.
EMG: Do your children pull your attention from the business?
CR: My boys are the certainly the biggest distractions to my business, but they are also my biggest motivators for choosing to work. I want them grow up knowing that while I will always be "Mom," I am also human. I have dreams and goals and pressures that have absolutely nothing to do with them. They are my first priority, always, but they are not my only priority. I live for them, but I don't live only for them. And having them by my side makes me a better business owner, forcing me to delegate and proving to me that I can't do it alone.
EMG: Are moms naturally entrepreneurs?
CR: Motherhood has trained me for entrepreneurship in ways I never would have imagined, like how to effectively multitask. I have simultaneously breastfed an infant, sat on a conference call and acted as passenger on my toddler's make-believe train, all unbeknownst to said client, investor or advisor on the other end of the line. Motherhood has taught me that perfection is both overrated and impossible to achieve, and that ultimately customer (whether client or child) happiness is far more important. I've learned that my expectations will never match reality, and that sometimes that's a good thing.
EMG: But are you exhausting yourself with this timing?
CR: I know that right now, I'm making my life more difficult by choosing to launch a business. I've decided to work from home so I can be there with my new baby to experience all of his "firsts", and instead of forgoing running around at the park with my two-year-old I've chosen to give up that afternoon nap I probably need, and the extra hour of focus on that blog post that might have made it just that much better. In many ways, I make it harder on my children, who sometimes have to wait an extra ten minutes while I wrap up a meeting, respond to a client, or draft a presentation. And my husband has to pitch in extra on the home front to keep things running smoothly. My hope is that this give and take helps us all find more balance in our lives, and reach a greater understanding of the sacrifices we each make to create and build our future as a family.
EMG: Can I ask why now?
CR: I've been asked that a lot, from stay-at-home moms and executives alike. I want to do it now because the stars are aligned for my business to work. Women-owned businesses are gaining momentum, we are morphing into a freelance society, and the startup landscape is changing. I want to be a part of that, and I don't know how long that window will stay open.
EMG: So can we all pull this off?
CR: Starting a business with a baby in your arms isn't for everyone - I get that. My own mother was a fantastic stay-at-home mom who was involved in the PTA and captain of my tennis team and walked me door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies. She made sure my school projects were perfect, that I was going to ace tomorrow's test, and that I had access to every opportunity available. I often feel like as a mother, I'll never live up to what she was. But I also hope that what I'm trading as an entrepreneur provides a strong example to my sons, and for other girls and boys out there who need to see what a working woman looks like, and what it means to follow your own dreams. I hope it makes my boys better and more sympathetic husbands, and more respectful and understanding work colleagues.
EMG: This is the Carolyn Rodz reality?
CR: The reality is a lot like a roller coaster. There are nights where I am utterly exhausted and wonder what the heck I'm doing, when all I want to do is crawl into my bed, snuggle up with my boys and forget about work for the next decade. But then I have these moments when I force myself to leave the family behind and attend a startup conference, or network with fellow entrepreneurs over coffee, and I'm rejuvenated. Being surrounded by that passion and excitement gives me the energy to believe that I can do it all, as long as that "all" is on my terms. And if it means that I'm not going to skyrocket to fame on the same path as Mark Zuckerberg, or throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party for my kids, I'm okay with that, because I've found my balance. And, for now at least, it seems to be working for my family, which is ultimately what matters most to me.
Carolyn Rodz is an entrepreneurial enthusiast dedicated to helping small businesses think bigger and effect positive social change. She is Founder and President of Market Mentor, a startup community and virtual accelerator that reinvests proceeds back into small businesses who are changing the world for the better. For more information on Market Mentor, visit www.market-mentor.com, or follow Market Mentor: