Rosie Leach, née Moth was raised by bootstrap entrepreneurs in the town that Disney built. Customer service and community development are at the core of everything she does. She is the co-founder and marketing director of a Business VoIP Carrier & Service Provider based in Manchester. She feeds her nomad spirit with frequent travel, yoga and an eternal search for self discovery. She doesn’t sleep much.
intro: Rosie Leach, née Moth, was raised by bootstrap entrepreneurs in the town that Disney built. Customer service and community development are at the core of everything she does. She is the co-founder and marketing director of a Business VoIP Carrier & Service Provider based in Manchester. She feeds her nomad spirit with frequent travel, yoga and an eternal search for self discovery. She doesn’t sleep much. In our modern workforce, how are babies in the least bit relevant to startups? Last year we did some extensive research on women in startups. (Ironically, I discovered I was pregnant about an hour before giving a talk on the subject.) At the time, there was some fantastic research being done by Mortimer Spinks on Women in Tech (you can find the full survey and it’s findings here) which established there was and is a major technical skills shortage in the UK and women could be the missing piece. That is, if they were willing to transition to more technical roles and companies. The findings of the survey point to perception of tech and entering a male dominated industry as being the major stumbling blocks. I found another element I believe has even greater impact.
I believe lack of stability is one of the strongest factors scaring women away from working in tech and startups. This wipes out potential employees of childbearing aged females [~20-35] who would like to have children. Which is, of course, a hell of a large proportion of the workforce. Not all women want to have a family or are concerned about the potential impact career has on their personal lives - but I believe a major proportion are.
We had Zara almost six months ago, whilst re-launching a Specific Gravity Instrumentation Manufacturer in the US and creating our VoIP Reseller Platform at the same time as rebranding our existing Business VoIP Service. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
Major life milestones are great at discovering people’s true colours. Having a baby makes you vulnerable - which brings out the best and worst. People will try to steal your job, your customers, and your company. They’ll also work incredibly hard to help you, refer new customers, indulge in your many baby stories and, best of all, bring you food.
A baby also brings an incredible amount of perspective. The late nights, the hard work, the [sometimes shitty] people, the miles and miles of literal shit - they are all worth it to make a better world and life for this little person. And THIS is why I think having a startup and a baby at the same time is amazing. I want to take responsibility for my own success so that I have time to enjoy life with my family.
Baaaasically you are not going to sleep for at least a year and pretty much everyone will see your nipples [sorry Amazon man]. But if you can get past that, you are golden.
Forget about the things that aren’t going to help you and let them go. I am not going to lose the baby weight immediately [or probably in the first year, let’s be real.] We don’t need to have the biggest/shiniest office in town. If something doesn’t contribute to your two main focuses - let that shit go and do not look back.
Streamline everything. I have a uniform. Our groceries and meals are scheduled. We’re working to get our business is 90% automated. Our meetings are scheduled with pre-defined agendas. Do not create work for yourself or waste your time on things that don’t contribute to your end game.
Get help and actually use it. I had six weeks of help in the beginning with Zara. She has an amazing nanny three days a week now. We hired three new employees to take on tasks that can’t be automated. Murray Leach is an incredible business and life partner. Some men talk about gender equality like “yeah all of those men should treat women equally!” but haven’t quite mastered embracing it themselves. Women can’t be empowered to do amazing things at work if we don’t empower men to do amazing things at home. Here is a fantastic post about gender equality in the home. I couldn’t dream of doing what I do without the amount of help I have. That being said, it took a while for me to actually accept help and not clean the house and change Zara while the nanny sat watching me, confused as hell.
Manage your and everyone else’s expectations. If you are making the choice not to be a stay at home mom, don’t expect yourself to be a stay at home mom who happens to go to work. You will make yourself and everyone around you miserable. Similarly, it’s important your employer, colleagues, staff, customers,partners and suppliers’ expectations of what you will be delivering and when you’ll be available match your own.
It’s important your coworkers know there will be a baby around.
Not everyone likes babies [gasp, I KNOW!] but it’s true. They may not be totally on board with their new office mate, so it’s important to open up lines of communication in case something makes them unhappy and/or uncomfortable.
If you plan to breastfeed and/or pump at work, let your coworkers know and open some lines of communication in case they are uncomfortable. (Notice I didn’t say “ask for permission.”) I do this for our employees and anyone who’s hot desking, visiting, etc. I’ve yet to find anyone with an issue, only intrigue. If there was an issue, my plan would be to establish a heads up or signal so they would know when it was going to happen and could look away, remove themselves, etc.
In regards to things that have helped:
- sleeeeeeeep. sleep. sleep fixes everything.
- breastfeed if you can. hurts like a bitch in the beginning, but you don't have to pump / freeze / clean pump parts / clean bottles
- find toys / tricks that entertain without making noise. nothing screams "I'm not listening to you" during a phone call louder than the ting ting of baby toys in the background. teething neclaces are good as are sponges, taggies, [baby] mirrors, most teethers
- babywear! I normally have her in the carrier while I'm standing at my laptop or bouncing at my desk.
- forget 9-5. We have to be flexible as baby's demands trump everything else and most days there's more work than time. I normally work on my phone while I'm nursing and I work after she's asleep as well.
- figure out your/her routine. It makes it so much easier to know what they want/need and MUCH easier to orchestrate with other people.
We can do this. Women raised children and ran the country while the men were at war. Before that we had our babies in the field while we collected harvests or with us as we foraged for food. Remember that our babies really just want to be with us, regardless of what we’re doing. What we show them is their normal, they have no idea what Susie does with her kids down the block.