Riya Grover, CEO and co-founder of Feedr (www.teamfeedr.com)
Last year, as I was closing the seed investment round for our startup Feedr, I found out I was pregnant.
The daunting question ensued of whether it is possible to juggle diaper bags and a laptop bag?
I looked to role models in the press for inspiration and encouragement and was disappointed by how few women publicly talk about how they manage motherhood and entrepreneurship. Even less so was the sentiment of how positive and reinforcing these two roles can be when experienced simultaneously. However, away from the media and through word-of-mouth, I learnt that there are many highly successful women who have built great businesses and not sacrificed spending lots of quality time with their young children.
So let’s talk about it…I’m not saying we can have it all or that I have it sorted out completely. In fact, at times, it has been really challenging. But I want other female founders to know that it is possible to juggle both aspects of life without the guilt of denying one or the other.
‘Being a mother made me a better business leader’
The last year has taught me that being a mother actually makes me a better CEO.
Being keen to spend as much time with my baby in the early days and years, I’ve found that during ‘working hours my focus and productivity has been honed immensely. To maximise time to spend with your child, you have to be more ‘efficient’ with what you do at work – whether it is finding the best way to get more done in less time, prioritising tasks or delegating better.
Motherhood has also made me a stronger, more versatile leader – more driven, compassionate and mature than I was before. Most importantly it made me place a strong emphasis on building a high performing team quickly – something that I may not have felt the urgency to do had I not become a mother when I did.
A few tips I’ve learnt on my journey
Here are some of the tips I’ve learnt in these early days of motherhood and startup:
- Create more hours – There are actually loads of hours in the day. By cutting out less valuable activities and structuring a day right, it opened up so much more time than I had before.
- Perfection isn’t always necessary – I’ve often felt I am spreading myself too thin, which is tough when you’re in pursuit of perfection. Accept that ‘great but not perfect’ is sometimes enough to get the job done.
- Build a great team – Real company success comes from the alignment and coordination of the collective. Optimize for how the company engine is working, not just what you’re doing.
- Be your own mould – Great founders come in all shapes and sizes and have experienced dramatically different journeys. Own and shout about the fact that you value and prioritize your family rather than hush it aside. It doesn’t mean you can’t build a great business too.
- Community – Get to know other mums in the same boat as you – everyone faces the same work/life balance dilemma and it’s nice sharing the experience with others.
- Inject some flexibility in your schedule – Change the way you work a little bit whether that’s a day from home or blocking out set hours. Thinking about the construct of a day in a different way really helped me optimize work and baby time.
- Shed the guilt – every new mother I know feels some level of guilt. Life is so much better without it.
One last thought…
Running a high growth technology startup and raising my daughter are two of the most fulfilling and exciting things I’ve ever done. Every day is invigorating and rewarding and the hard things about each respective role are put into perspective.
Since having my daughter 11 months ago, our company has grown over 300 per cent, our team has doubled in size, we’ve raised our second round of capital from a top tier VC and we were named as one of the top 100 Startups in the UK.
Rather than operating in a world where babies and startups are tradeoffs, I’d love for more people to see these two things are complimentary. If we talk more and support each other then maybe more women will be encouraged to embrace entrepreneurship as a career without the mum guilt.