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For startup founders who are also moms, it’s a balancing act!

Source:  The Wall Street Journal by Yoree Koh

Diane Loviglio, co-founder and chief executive of Boon and Gable, a personal stylist startup in San Francisco, makes the same six-egg breakfast omelet for her family every day—a routine that eliminates one decision from her packed schedule and saves her a few precious minutes.
Such small tricks help Ms. Loviglio manage the dueling rigors of being a mother to a four-year-old and building a new company. Launching a new business can be all-consuming for any entrepreneur, but the challenges are often magnified for women starting a company and a family around the same time.


Many women founders say the reality is that tending to two babies—those they are raising at home and the new businesses they are nurturing—requires sacrifices, creative strategies and almost always, a strong support system.
“I think it’s the hardest thing to do,” Xuezhao Lan said of being a mom and founder at once. “You have to be on all the time and your business could literally die next week,” she said.
Ms. Lan, a former executive with Dropbox Inc., had her second son in January, about six months after launching Basis Set Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital fund that invests in artificial intelligence. She outfitted her 5,000-square-foot office with a children’s play area, filled with Legos and robots, so her children and those of employees could be entertained during the workday if they had to be in the office.
“It typically takes 8 to 10 years to build a company from inception to successful exit, either through an acquisition or an IPO,” said Theresia Gouw, co-founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture-capital firm Aspect Ventures. “Many founders, if they didn’t already have children when they started the company over that time period end up doing so.”

Fundraising can sometimes also be harder for women founders, who already get a smaller share of the total venture-capital pie. Just 17.3% of $82.2 billion (U.S.) in venture funds went to startups with at least one female founder in 2017, according to PitchBook Data Inc., which tracks venture-capital dollars. Some female founders say they face skepticism from potential investors about their ability to commit full time to a company while also raising children.
Taking little to no maternity leave is the norm for most female founders, especially those whose companies are just getting off the ground. Tight deadlines, daily crises and the potential for missed opportunities demand it, said Ms. Loviglio. She said she pitched a potential investor in Boon and Gable from her hospital bed the day after giving birth to her daughter Joscelin, who is now 4 years old.
Esther Crawford, a single mom who’s also a co-founder and the CEO of Molly, a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence startup, leans on what she calls her “friend family”—a close-knit group of five friends she met at Burning Man one year. When Ms. Crawford gets stuck in a meeting or has a work emergency to contend with, she jumps on Facebook Messenger and group mails all five to see who’s available to pick up or tend to her 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.
“I definitely feel like raising my kids in a tribe has been the way I make it work,” said Ms. Crawford.
Some founders said it is critical to set limits for where work must end and family time begins.
Brit Morin, who has had two children since starting her San Francisco media company Brit & Co. six years ago, has a rule not to miss putting her two toddlers to bed more than two nights a week, even though her job requires frequent travel.
Ms. Morin, who worked at Alphabet Inc.’s Google before founding her company, also relies on a full-time nanny. She says many female entrepreneurs don’t feel comfortable admitting as much because it can make them sound privileged. “In fact, it’s just the only way to make it work,” she said.
Bianca Gates, co-founder and CEO of slipper startup Birdies Inc. in San Francisco, is unapologetic about outsourcing household tasks like grocery shopping, laundry and dishwashing to her nanny.
“Not only can I not do it all, but I don’t want to be stressed in trying to do a lot,” said Ms. Gates who worked at Facebook for five years before she switched to Birdies full time.
Ms. Gates and her husband have come up with an arrangement that strikes a work-family balance for both working parents. The couple take turns working late on weeknights and are both home by 6:30 p.m. on Fridays.
Asmau Ahmed struggled to balance her startup with family life after launching Plum Perfect in New York in 2013. Her older son’s autism made it difficult to find regular child care. Overwhelmed by the guilt of not spending enough time with her children, Ms. Ahmed said that earlier this year she found work with a more amenable schedule.
“There was a point where I just couldn’t do it all,” she said.

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