Seven years ago, with a fresh master's degree and a newborn, I formed an LLC. I now joke that it really felt like I had twins: a new baby and a new business.
After struggles with infertility, a traumatic birth of our first daughter, a life-threatening newborn diagnosis and a week in the neonatal intensive care unit, I couldn't bear to leave the daily care of this miracle to someone else. After looking for remote jobs, nearly nonexistent in our area at that time, I decided to create my own job that utilized my skills, drew upon my passions and provided schedule flexibility.
Worrying questions filled my head: “Could our family make it on one income for a while?” “Could I run a business while being the primary caretaker of this baby?” and “What will my business goals be?” But I concluded that if I wanted this badly enough, I would make it happen.
As Barbara Corcoran from the hit TV show “Shark Tank” states: “Don't you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct.”
Self-doubt has gotten the best of me a few times over the past seven years – when I've lost clients, gained clients, hired staff, had our second daughter, faced a global pandemic. But through it all, I knew if this idea was placed in my head, and my passion to help businesses and organizations share their voice in an effective way endured, this is what I should be doing.
Growing up, I thought it had to be this or that: Raise children and stay home in suburbia with spit-up on my T-shirt and mom jeans, or have a successful career in a big city and wear skirt suits. Until I married and my husband and I desired to have a family, the latter sounded more appealing. In fact, I spent much of my upbringing on stage – acting, singing, dancing – and dreamed of becoming a Broadway star. Marriage, kids and a house in the suburbs would really get in the way of that.
After working at a small business with marketing struggles, I realized there were many other organizations in the same boat. What if I started a business to help solve that? A sense of leadership and ownership is something I craved in my career. And now, I also wanted to raise my child at home and enjoy some of the #stayathomemomlife my mother did. I gradually came to understand it didn't have to be this or that.
Hillary Clinton said it well: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that many jobs can be done effectively from home, allowing a healthy balance with family life. We have seen many companies adapt and announce jobs will remain remote permanently. Others will likely follow suit, resulting in savings of commuting time, gas and office space rental.
There are many resources to help entrepreneurs, start-ups and, specifically, female entrepreneurs. Northeast Indiana has SEED, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, Start Fort Wayne, SCORE, Elevate Northeast Indiana, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Bridge Program and Women's Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center, to name a few.
According to Startup Nation, “In spite of the challenges, women with established businesses rate their well-being almost three times higher than women who aren't entrepreneurs, and 1.6 times higher than their male counterparts. And 78% of female entrepreneurs believe they've achieved work-life balance.”
Let's help our children understand they can have a rewarding blend of career and family life. They can be awesome, present parents as well as productive business owners, employees and community leaders. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, this or that.
If you see me out and about, you'll know which role I'm playing by my outfit – mom jeans or a skirt suit.
A couple of months ago, my 7-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to own my own business, just like you.”
That was all I needed to hear to keep me going.
Sarah Arnold is CEO of Socially Seasoned, a northeast Indiana digital marketing agency, and a communication faculty member at Indiana Wesleyan University.