5 Things Having a Newborn Can Teach You About Startups

by Julia K Szopa February 13, 2014 0 Comments

We launched Wellfitting just 3 months after my first baby was born. Surprisingly, my first-time-mom experience has taught me more about running a startup than anything else. 

Listen to your own guts.

Do you know how many people are experts in parenting and entrepreneurship? More than you think :) Most of them self-proclaimed, but that doesn’t stop them from having a pretty clear and confident opinion about how babies should be raised, and how startups should be run. Obviously, with your baby and your company, you want to make all the best possible decisions and learn from others... but beware! You might fall in a trap of doing what others think is right, instead of doing what will get you to the next level and make your experience fun and productive.

My learning here is that if you want to stay sane and productive, you should actually filter out 99% of all the expert advice you are bombarded with when you announce the world that you’re having a baby or launching a startup. Top three reasons are that:

  1. It’s often contradictory (read this to get the gist what it’s like on the topic of parenting!)
  2. Parents and founders are the only ones who have the full picture, 
  3. People who give advice usually are not the ones who get to execute on that.

Regarding advice and feedback, I adopted a strategy to take seriously only these pieces that I would actually pay for if I had to. If I wouldn’t, I’d rather just ignore.

Focus on what you have to do, not what others have achieved so far.

Your competitors are 100 000 fans on Facebook ahead, and your friend’s baby can already sit unsupported! Do something, hurry up, or your baby and business will soon die! You guys haven’t been featured on Techcrunch yet. OMG, how come!?!

It’s very easy to get distracted by the achievements of others, like when you are focused more on your friends’ babies developments, instead of enjoying your own one’s. But trying hard to repeat their steps to clone their success might not necessarily work for your own business. It’s like some babies are colicy, some aren’t; some women have tons of milk, some don’t. For different people different things work best. 

Just do it. Don’t research too much.

When I was still pregnant I was obsessed with researching birth options. What it feels like, what procedures they have at hospitals, what happens when… When the final day came, only 30% of what I’d learned turned out to be really useful. I did it naturally, with the support of my husband and midwife, and the only thing that was absolutely necessary was that my birth team shared my vision of how I wanted it to be. The rest of stuff (orgasmic birth? hypnobirthing? pros and cons of epidural?) - complete waste of mental resources!

I’d say same goes for launching a business: just do it. Don’t waste time on fixing margins, font sizes and flawless mobile experience. You’ll fix it later, when you are sure it’s worth fixing. In case of Wellfitting, although we worked on the MVP just 5 months, I’m pretty certain we could have done it faster and then fine tune once we launched.

The lesson I learned was that researching, planning and designing is just a really small part of the process. Obviously, it’s good to know how to optimize your site for social media. It’s good to prepare pictures of inventory in advance. But the launch, like the birth, is fast, surprising, and you better be prepared to adjust all your assumptions to what comes next when the baby (or business!) is live and kicking!

Not all the tasks are fun. Get some help to stay sane!

When I thought “baby” a year ago, there was no dirty diapers or sleep deprivation in that thought. And I was genuinely surprised that the no-fun part of motherhood was so big. Often when I talk to people who think about launching their own startup, it seems that many of them portrait this as a fabulous, fun-only journey with profit at the end. 

But the dirty-diaper part of a business is bigger than the fun peek-a-boo part, so better get some help to stay sane on the way to your big goal. I love coding front-end and thinking about the big vision; CSS, JavaScript, Photoshop and visioneering is what I could do all the time. But running a company is also a lot of other tasks: legal part, accounting, setting up infrastructure, dispatching shipments, issuing refunds. But it all gets easier and less overwhelming if you can share the boring part with someone else. Think about how you’re going to find that person and convince her to join you in your journey. Is she going to be comfortable handling the dirty diapers and staying up through the night to let you get some sleep?

I’m exceptionally fortunate to have a sister-cofounder, who was the one to help with the dirty part of both the baby and the company:) And I feel grateful for that every single day of my life.

Learn to be happy with the smallest things. Let the big vision motivate you every day.

I guess being a parent brings the most rewarding feelings when your children have their own children. At least this is what my parents and in-laws say. But it takes a long way (for my parents it was 28 years:) to get to this point. And the road might be really bumpy.

Maybe with a company you don’t have to invest your money and time for 28 years straight to get the final reward, but it is significantly delayed compared to eg. getting a monthly paycheck as an employee. And there will be moments you will think you can’t do it anymore. I know many entrepreneurs get these moments, and I’m certain many moms get them too (although many don’t feel like it’s OK to admit that).

To help get through these moments of doubt I learned to be authentically happy with the tiniest achievements of the baby and the tiniest achievements of our business. Why look for bad things and let the feeling of guilt take over when you can stay happy with the fact that you got one more follower on Twitter? Although it might sound silly, it really works for me. And it doesn’t mean that it’s good to ignore symptoms of something wrong going on. It’s just helps to get through the bumps when you stay grateful for every single good thing.

Julia K Szopa
Julia K Szopa