After reading Mom, Incorporated, Dena Mendelsohn took the plunge and made the decision to launch her small business, Right-Hand Woman, earlier this year. As a professional Jill-of-all-trades, she provides emergency support to start-up and growing businesses with a gap in their skill set or their staffing. She shares with us what she like most about running her own business and some of the lessons she is learning along the way.
MOMINCORPORATED: What inspired you to start your own company?
DENA: I really enjoy working in a variety of workplaces and with new challenges. Starting my own company gave me the opportunity to meet new people, constantly address new problems, and of course steer my own ship. It’s a great feeling knowing that I can help businesses with a variety of needs while being my own boss.
MOMINCORPORATED: How did your background and advanced degrees prepare you for this work?
DENA: Earning a JD is difficult and requires intense focus and determination. My MPH (Master of Public Health) concentrates in health policy—particularly health insurance—and gives me a mastery of subject matter that extends from human resources to understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, I’m both confident and competent when it comes to tackling the wide range of issues start-ups and growing businesses experience.
MOMINCORPORATED: What do you like most about running your own business?
DENA: I love steering my own ship—from strategy down to business card design—and surprise myself by how much I enjoy meeting with potential clients and figuring out how I can be of service.
MOMINCORPORATED: How did you secure your first client?
DENA: Someone in my rather-large mom’s organization posted that she needed help for her business and I made my first pitch.
MOMINCORPORATED: You have called yourself the CEO of your family (which we love), how do you juggle the responsibilities of motherhood with entrepreneurship?
DENA: Excellent service to my client is absolutely necessary for the success and growth of my business. I prioritize everything I do—both at work and at home—and emphasize organization and communication. Of course, the foundation of me being able to do what I do is a great support system for me and my family.
MOMINCORPORATED: At 1 and 3 years old, your children are still very young. What kind of support do you have?
DENA: Oh, but at 1 and 3 they seem so much older than when they were “babies”! My support system includes a husband who believes in me and my business, a preschool that is not only excellent for my son but offers the hours required by dual working parents, and a loving family daycare that cares for my younger child as if she were their own.
MOMINCORPORATED: What were some of the initial challenges you faced in starting your business and how have you overcome them?
DENA: It was hard paying for more childcare than I needed—and really wanted—but it is difficult (if not impossible) to develop and grow a business if you’re also trying to care for and raise a delightful baby who has no concept of time or the meaning of work obligations. Once I accepted that and found a great daycare, the stress level went down and the business opportunities went up.
MOMINCORPORATED: What advice would you give other women about starting a business while raising a family?
DENA: Make sure you know all your financial obligations and are true to yourself about why you want to start a business. If it’s to spend more time with your family, explore the realities of how much time starting your own business will take. Look at the actual financial costs: what equipment does your business need, what professional organizations should you join, what are the licensing fees, etc. Don’t forget the cost of childcare if you’ll be doing any business when you don’t have free childcare lined-up. Then look at your opportunity costs and how much time you actually want to spend on your business. The worst thing is to launch a business and then realize that you either can’t afford the adventure or that you’re not getting the time or flexibility to be with your family that you were seeking.