In many of our posts in 2013 we heard from SpitfireMoms that it really, truly, totally takes a village. Allyson Downey took that and brought the village into the new millennium. She’s the founder and CEO of weeSpring, a social network that helps parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their family. Their mission is to make product recommendations from friends as accessible as reviews on sites like Amazon, but even more useful because the reviews are coming from a parent’s vetted village.
Allyson’s two year old, Logan, spends his days with their caregiver, Liliana, who isn’t just a sitter–she’s part of the family (Allyson wrote about that special relationship in this incredible piece in the Wall Street Journal). Her husband and she started weeSpring together, so they also live a very frantic and frenetic entrepreneurial life together, with a lot of switching off between running the company and taking care of Logan. And, like many mom entrepreneurs, she started weeSpring after becoming a mom, but also while working at another job, which she discussed with CBS News.
Here’s what Allyson had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
Our whole company’s purpose is to make parents lives simpler, so looking at problems through a mom’s lens is crucial. In terms of leadership and management though, since having Logan, I’m a lot better as not sweating the small stuff. I can pick my battles and let go of things that, in the grand scheme of life, are inconsequential. But like most working parents, I battle constant guilt: when I’m with Logan, I feel guilty that my mind is on work and that I desperately want to check my email instead of building another block tower. When I’m at the office, I worry that–and the hyperbole here does enter my head–I’m missing out on his childhood.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
It’s core to our business, so everyone just assumes I’m a mom. And, ultimately, my clients are expectant parents. But a very, very successful entrepreneur told me recently that when talking to investors, I can’t talk about being a parent. They of course know I am, but if I lapse into talking about being inspired to solve my own problem, male investors think it’s “cute”–not a killer business. So instead, I talk in very broad strokes about the universal problems parents have (i.e. grappling with all of the high-stakes decisions they’re making for their families), and how we’re solving them while building a rocket ship of a company that will make investors a lot of money.
We know a SpitfireMom like Allyson has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
I maximize my commute. Despite the fact that I live in Manhattan, and I work in Manhattan, it still takes me 40 minutes door to door. That’s almost seven hours a week (a non-entrepreneur’s full work day!) spent on the subway. I try to clear my email inbox from the previous day while riding the train in, or write a blog post (and sometimes respond to interviews like this one!). On my way home, I respond to the emails I didn’t have time to address during the day.
And, this is not really a trick but a mindset. One of our core principles at weeSpring is that quality is always better than quantity. It emerged first as a personal value–that in finding balance, a totally unplugged hour with our son was worth more than four hours of playtime with smartphone-in-hand. But we found it applied pretty universally. At weeSpring, we prioritize having engaged users over having tons of (the wrong) users. We’d rather have one inspiring blog post than five mediocre ones. And we believe that working eight focused and productive hours is more effective than fourteen distracted ones.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
You want me to pick just one? I could give you a hundred. Professionally, it’s how to balance the inordinate number of day-to-day tasks that are a given when working in a start-up with the big vision and leadership you need to exert to really grow and develop your team. I spend too much time managing tasks, and not enough time managing people–meaning, I’m not focused enough on cultivating and fostering the talent we have at weeSpring.
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Allyson says:
Well, first, join weeSpring! It’ll make your life a lot easier.
And once you’ve done that, map out your redundancy plan. Who is going to keep the trains running while you’re taking care of yourself and the baby? Which responsibilities can you start training your colleagues to handle now? What has to be done, and what can you slough off (even if just for the time being)? Also, if you think you’re Marissa Mayer and only need two weeks of maternity leave, you’re bananas or you have a full household staff or you really are super woman, maybe all three. Give yourself a month offline at minimum to physically recover and start to manage the extreme sleep deprivation. And don’t be hard on yourself if that isn’t enough. Start to re-engage gradually when you feel ready.
Allyson, I am so digging your tips for expecting mom entrepreneurs (and YES they should sign up for weeSpring…oh how I wish it had been there for me with Lo when she was born!). Thank you for being part of the SpitfireMom village and making the lives of parents everywhere easier.
Julie & Heidi
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