Before the holidays, I started as a contributor to the fast-growing mommy blog, MommyHotSpot.com. I hope to bring my insight of entrepreneur meets motherhood, how to balance the two, and the challenges of raising a child when far from family. Here are my first few posts… Enjoy!
When I started Sinuate Media at the age of 24 years old, I had just moved to Baltimore a few months earlier. From the start, I always thought that it “felt right” to start a business there, that Baltimore was a good place to start a businesses — especially for a young entrepreneur. What I was setting out to do wasn’t rocket science — way back then, we called it “internet marketing” — but it was new and I knew no one. After a while, that didn’t matter because I quickly became part of the businesses community, and was off and running.
Today there was an article on Forbes.com about the top 10 cities for young entrepreneurs to start businesses. Baltimore is not on it. That is unfortunate, because I would recommend starting a business in Baltimore to any young founder.
Here’s are 10 reasons I thought starting a business in Baltimore was the right move:
- The cost of living in Baltimore was cheaper in NYC, where I had just moved from — that meant that my start-up capital would take me farther and last longer, which is critical for a start-up.
- Baltimore is close enough to other major cities (NYC, Philly, DC) that you can get there in a day trip by train or driving, if needed. I did that A LOT.
- Baltimore is both big enough and small enough of a city. Big enough to have the resources you need to start a business. Small enough that you get to know people and not feeling like you are drowned out, by the competition or otherwise.
- There are approximately 55 colleges and universities in Maryland (with plenty accessible from Baltimore). That means there are plenty of students looking for internships, graduates looking for jobs, speaking opportunities for classes, professors to meet & collaborate with, continuing education classes to take, and opportunities to become a mentor — all of which I benefited from being in Baltimore.
- Baltimore is a budding creative environment — I found this to be especially true in the years I lived there, with the start of the revitalization of Station North District.
- Baltimore is a budding technology environment. Just look around at the technology companies that have sprouted over the last 5-10 years. There are some powerhouse techpreneurs in the Baltimore region. Dave Troy, Tom Loveland, Mario Armstrong, Greg Cangialosi are just a few.
- There are several co-working spaces (like Beehive Baltimore) and incubator programs (like the ETC) available, which is good for both cutting start up costs and for connecting with other entrepreneurs
- There are a ton of networking opportunities — into technology? There’s the Greater Baltimore Technology Council. Looking to connect with C-Level people? There are SmartCEO events all the time & even specific groups for that. Want to network with other women business owners? Try NAWBO. Dozens of other niche groups exist, including KoffeeTalk, BNI, BON, the Chamber (both the city & state), and the stellar MDSG.
- The Baltimore Metro Region is a hotbed of intellectual capital — technology, science, government, other business founders are all at your fingertips, not to mention lawyers, bankers, and consultants of every sort.
- The business community wants to make Baltimore a better place to do business. They want businesses to start there. They want to bring in new technology. There is a “hometown” pride in celebrating a “Baltimore business” – from Under Armor down to a 1-man or woman startup. If your story becomes a success story, there will be an entire city behind you rooting and celebrating with you, because you are a Baltimore business. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten that feeling from anywhere else I’ve lived.
Even though we no longer live in Baltimore, unfortunately, I will always consider that Sinuate Media is Baltimore born and bred, and I’m grateful for the experience I had of starting a business there.
It seems like the topic of balancing family and work (especially from the prospective of successful females entrepreneurs) is coming up more and more. Today, Inc ran this article by HappyFamily CEO Shazi Visram on the work/life balancing act. I like her used of mathematical equations to showcase the challenge here. It really does come down to this: your family and children aren’t going away so how are you going to balance everything?
I like Shazi’s advice:
1. ask for help
2. schedule one hour a week for myself
Not living anywhere remotely near friends or family, “Asking For Help” was the one I had the most trouble with after first becoming a mother. I often have to rely on help from “strangers” or paid help. While there have been some great people that have come into our lives (and some questionable ones), it is also an adjustment in our family budget, having to account for a babysitter each and every time we need someone to watch our son.
For #2 – I actually have a folder on my iPhone I’ve named “Sanity.” It consists of two icons: Starbucks and a Fitness app. These are two things that keep me a calm, functioning human being. So, if I don’t get to get my latte (which, for me means a chance to escape from my home office for a little while and see other human beings face-to-face for a while), and I don’t get to go to Pilates and move around after sitting in an office chair for hours on end, then it is just not working for me. I make it a point to get to my Pilates class at least twice a week, and can occasionally squeeze in a third class.
Prioritize – this is essential. And becoming a parent, you find that some decisions are made for you, like having to reschedule a work call because your child gets sick. But, since time is a precious resource, it should be help onto closely – and this can be a good thing especially in the marketing services business, because maybe that means that maybe you only take on the projects that are the best fit for you, or that you have the most interest in. I like to prioritize by making a list for what needs to get done today and I use a whiteboard to schedule the bigger picture of what needs to happen over the course of a week or longer.
There are a number of things I could add but here’s a quick list – because time’s ticking and I do need to move on 🙂
- Learn to say no – this is one I have a hard time with, but it is a huge time-saver. Maybe now is not the right time to join so-and-so committee, or attend this-or-that event. Saying “No” frees up a lot of time and you’ll realize how much of a time-suck low-value things are.
- Get organized, and if its not in your nature, get the help of a professional organizer at least once – having systems in place of where you keep documents, files, recipients, contracts, forms, bank statements, important documents, etc. will save hours of searching for when you need to find that one thing. And it keeps the papers off your desk so you can have a clear place to focus on your work.
- Make time to laugh a few minutes a day – whether its a quick text message or email or Facebook post between siblings, friends, etc. – it helps break up the day and keep your non-work, non-kids relationships strong.
And now, back to work!
For the better half of the last 15 months, balancing babies and business has been at the forefront of my mind. When I started my digital marketing business, Sinuate Media, at 24 years old, I have to admit that babies were a little on my mind. At the time, I thought it would be easier to run my own business so that when the day came that I had children, I would be the master of my own schedule and be able to gracefully juggle the two.
So, fast forward 5 years (almost to the exact day incorporated my business), I had my first baby. And, I felt like my master plan was in serious jeopardy.
Taking care of a baby was hard, but nothing prepared me for how difficult it was to take care of a baby at the same time as a business. Added to the effort, it wasn’t just business as usual. I was on overdrive trying to heal the wounds the recession left on the business and sustain a cross-country move at the same time.
And while all signs were pointing to this being a fruitless effort, I had to carry on. I hate quitting. Sometimes to a fault.
I went to an all-girls high school where we were fiercely encouraged to succeed. We were even given many tools to do so–leadership, a spirit of giving back to the community, and enough leash to explore your interests. But never once did we ever have the conversation about how to continue to succeed in business after the babies arrive. It was a conversation that I sorely wished I had had with someone–anyone.
At many points, I questioned, how can a women who owns a small business, have a family and still grow that small business into a large, successful business. And then I read articles like this one on Forbes.com, and I can see a game plan unfold. It’s a fuzzy image, but those types of articles are encouraging.
Yesterday, while in Barnes & Noble, I was paging through a book about women achieving success in their careers, and just as I was about to put the book down, I came across a quote in the chapter about Motherhood that I found amusing:
“Show me a women who doesn’t feel guilt and I’ll show you a man.”
Upon which, I shared it with my husband who informed me that he does feel guilt about working too long and not being able to spend more time with our son. Point taken. So, the gist is that even if you find a good balance between work and time for your kids, there is still this underlying feeling that the amount of time spent with either is never enough.
Finding the right balance is going to be a messy experience that is going to take a lot of times to get right. Just like potty training.