Rebecca Batisto is the founder of Abask Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in everything from social networking and website production to public relations and everything in between. She created the business from home while working a full-time job but as her “side” business grew she was able to leave that job to focus on running her own business full-time. And, just two weeks later she found out she was pregnant! She is now the proud mom to two children under three and is successfully running her business out of her home office in sunny South Florida.
She knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and a mother but becoming both at the same time was more of a challenge than she had anticipated. Rebecca shares some of the lessons she learned through this experience and offers some guidance to help you along your journey.
By Rebecca Batisto
After two years of running my own business while having and then raising two children only 17 months apart, I can now look back and see the things that I learned the hard way. I have suffered many failures and enjoyed as many successes. I have learned more about myself, about business, and about people, in the last two years than throughout my childhood, throughout the many years of college, and throughout a long and somewhat illustrious career in corporate America. It hasn’t been easy and I can’t say that everyone faces the same issues as I have, but perhaps in laying out the places I went wrong, I can make your road just a little easier.
1. Decide whether you want to run a business or be a freelancer.
There is no wrong answer here, but there is a big difference and if you don’t know which you are, or want to be, you are setting yourself up for failure. You will face enough failure along the way that you don’t need this to become one more.
Ask yourself: what are you doing this for? Is it because you love the work? If you are starting a children’s clothing business because you love to design and sew, but you have no interest in making cold calls, setting meetings with investors, clothing stores, or finding factories in China, you are probably better off as a freelancer. Build up a stock of clothing, a great Etsy profile, and don’t look back. If you are dedicated, you can make some decent money, and you’ll never need to answer to anybody.
If you are looking to make a lot of money and retire by the time you’re fifty, you need to build a business. Take a good look at your own strengths and weaknesses. Then start networking because you need partners and employees to be strong where you are weak. Your aim is always to build the company so that you can step away and still feel the company will be a success. Running a business is like a growing a family from people you don’t love! It takes a lot of character, a fierce determination, and openness to criticism and change.
As a parent many people want to run their own business for the flexibility, so they can pick up their kids from school at 3 and be available for the PTA, the school book fair, and cheerleading tryouts. Unfortunately, when you’re running your own business, most of your time is sucked away, but you have to remember the reason you’re doing it – you should reap these benefits and more later. Being a freelancer should make enough money to cover daycare and allow you the freedom to join the PTA, but you’re not going to get rich doing it. Which do you want?
2. Take a good look at your finances… and then kiss them goodbye!
The first few years are lean… super lean. If you’re reading this it’s because you are a mother. There is nothing any mother fears more than a risk to their children. The hardest part of being an entrepreneur for me is the risk to our stability. As a couple, my husband and I have invested everything in our separate businesses. The last couple years have been extremely stressful on our wallet, which then leads to stress within our marriage and every aspect of our lives. We believe we will be stronger in the long run for all of the instability we live with today, but I’m not going to sugar coat it – it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever faced. And that leads me to my next point which goes against most advice from entrepreneurs…
3. Have a back-up plan
Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you to dive right in. Don’t look down they’ll say, just forge ahead. Unfortunately, I’m not as risk averse as an entrepreneur should be. Maybe it’s the mother in me that needs to be sure there is money in my wallet for milk and diapers. So, I have a back up. I teach as an adjunct at a few different universities. I teach one class per month, preferably online. It helps me network, brings in fresh ideas especially about doing business online, and stretches my mind in a different way than work.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to jump along with the other entrepreneurs, but you’ll make sure you are wearing a parachute before you do so. Whether it’s a holiday job at Williams Sonoma or packing shelves at the local grocery store, have something you can rely on should you need it.
4. Find your partner
I didn’t have a partner when I started my business; my husband did when he started his. I see the benefits and would definitely change my situation should the opportunity arise. My husband and his partner work together well: they have completely different skill sets, similar characters, respect each other, but never cross the boundaries into becoming close friends. They can bounce ideas off each other, lean on each other when they need moral support, and keep each other on track.
Working by yourself is lonely, but I’d be very wary of working with close friends. I tried this right after having my second child, when I was desperate for help. I found myself let down because my friend didn’t take my business as seriously as I did. In a way the opportunity I gave was taken for granted because I was a friend and therefore more forgiving than a boss. Not a situation I’d like to repeat. I would recommend working with an acquaintance, perhaps a former coworker, or someone you meet at a networking event.
5. Time is all you have
What amazed me after I left corporate America was the amount of people that asked me to work for free. I reestablished ties with old coworkers who were so happy that I was out on my own and would love to recommend me. In fact, perhaps I should call so and so who runs such and such a group… and before you know it I was being asked to contribute to blogs, give speeches about giving speeches, run a Webinar about business networking. All for free, with the hope that it could lead to further networking, which I soon found simply led to further requests. I’m easy to make feel guilty so for a while I gave away my services, but soon I learned that I was worth more!
Now, I have certain organizations to which I donate my time. They are worthwhile in that I’m helping others, but they also help me. Because ultimately my time is all I have and I have learned to treat it as a precious commodity.
6. Build your mountain and start planning your expedition.
Hearing Neil Gaiman’s speech, “Make Good Art,” changed the way I do business. He has spent his life making decisions based on his one goal – to be a writer. He considers this goal to be his mountain. He looks at every decision with the question: does this take me closer to climbing my mountain? If not, don’t do it. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?
Now, because I am pretty risk averse, every decision I make must satisfactorily answer one of the following questions:
- Does this bring me closer to my mountain?
- If not, will this make me money fast? If the money doesn’t come quickly and it isn’t bringing me towards my goal, it’s wasting my time. So the answer is no.