Balancing business and motherhood: how female entrepreneurs are making it work

Entrepreneur Kiera Fogg and her three boys in their Winnipeg home.
Entrepreneur Kiera Fogg and her three boys in their Winnipeg home. Supplied

Mothers across the country aren’t just running households. They’re running successful companies.

Woman-owned businesses contribute billions of dollars each year to the Canadian economy, according to a report released this week by BMO and Carleton University.

Pulling it off often takes a lot of hard work, long hours and sacrifice.

“The hardest thing is finding the balance,” said Winnipeg entrepreneur Kiera Fogg. “It’s a juggling act.”

Before launching her own company in October, the 31-year-old was a stay-at-home mom to her three high-energy boys: six-year-old Kai, four-year-old Elliot and Henrik, who’s 2.

But for the past seven months, her most demanding baby —  the one that takes up to 60 hours of her time each week —  has been her new business: “Little Box of Rocks.”

She compares it to “a flower shop, but with meaningful crystals” for a variety of occasions. Each “bouquet” includes a set of stones and a secret message from the sender, written on a mini-scroll. 

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“I didn’t know if I was even going to sell one of these things,” Fogg admitted.

“It was nerve-racking. You’re selling rocks. So you don’t know if people will think you’re crazy.”

She was doing well her first couple months. Then, a plug from Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz — who featured her product in their holiday gift guides — sent sales through the roof.

Find inspiration

The Winnipeg mom said she might not have taken the leap of faith needed to make it happen had it not been for her own entrepreneurial mother.

“I watched her take an opportunity at a time when direct sales was still a bit of an uncertain concept, and build it into an enormously successful gift business out of our home. She was a trailblazer,” Fogg said of her mom, who was was the sixth person in Canada to start with a direct sales company called Partylite Gifts.

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“She went on to inspire thousands of other women across the country, mostly moms, to make their own dreams happen.

“Her fear of failure didn’t dictate her willingness to try things. And, of course, watching this made me brave too.”

Riding in the car with her as a child, Fogg watched her sell everything from pizza to pantyhose. It wasn’t always a lot of fun, but it taught her the power of hard work and perseverance.

Set a goal and work hard to reach it

Fogg expects to break even on her investment this month. By year three, she hopes to pull in a little under a million.

Only two per cent of women entrepreneurs make it to the million-dollar revenue mark, research shows.

Mother-0f-four Raegan Moya-Jones was determined to hit the benchmark when she launched her $65 million baby swaddle company aden + anais in 2003.

The U.S.-based enterprise — which now has satellite offices in Vancouver, London,  Tokyo and Sydney — brought in roughly $5 million in sales in Canada alone last year.

Her breathable muslin-cloth blankets have been used on the likes of Beyonce’s baby Blue Ivy Carter and Prince George. But the success didn’t happen overnight.

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Prince William and Kate debuted their firstborn son George to the world in an aden+anais blanket.
Prince William and Kate debuted their firstborn son George to the world in an aden+anais blanket. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Canadian female entrepreneurs often aren’t able to get funding from banks, the recent BMO report shows, “because they are mistakenly perceived as risk averse and unable to generate the same economic growth as men.”

Moya-Jones found herself in the same predicament.

“So I sort of had to beg and borrow and plead friends and family, and friends of friends,” the Australian-American said, “taking loans … to basically keep the lights on and be able to afford to buy the product to sell.”

Raising the capital for her venture and the long hours she put into it were her two biggest challenges.

She refused to quit her full-time sales job at The Economist for six years (until she hit a million in revenue) because she didn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on her family, or her new business. Her after-hours office was her kitchen table.

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“It was hell,” she says, looking back. “I probably lived on four hours of sleep.”

“My hair was falling out and I wouldn’t wash it for 14 days because I had no time.”

Have confidence in your product

As she toiled away, her unwavering belief and tenacity propelled her success.

“You have to really really believe in what you’re doing, whether it’s creating a product or offering a service,” she said.

“You have to believe 100 per cent in it, because if you don’t, you’re not going to make it through the tough times.”

“I’m a very average person,” she added. “Nothing exceptional, not a ton of connections…But I am a really hard worker.”

Ask for help

Both she and Fogg were fortunate enough to be able to hire nannies and have supportive partners who’ve lightened the load at home.

“Make sure you have the help and don’t be afraid to ask for it,” Moya-Jones stressed. “As women we sort of feel guilty when we ask for it.”

She said her husband has always been her biggest cheerleader.

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“There were pretty rocky moments along the way,” she admitted, adding that all the long hours took the greatest toll on her marriage.

“I refused to compromise my time with the girls…They didn’t sign up to have an entrepreneurial mom.”

Fogg has turned to family and friends when there just wasn’t enough time in the day. Her four-year-old’s birthday was recently made possible, in large part, by her cousin who baked the cake and planned games for the kids.

“As a mother you want to be able to do that,” Fogg said. “But it’s not always possible.”

Believe in yourself

She added that women tend to shoulder a lot of the responsibility at home, which has its advantages.

“I think being a mother has made me a better entrepreneur. I can multi-task like nobody’s business.”

“As mothers, we are so resilient.”

Her advice to other moms who want to start their own business: Don’t shy away from a challenge. If there’s something you want, go get it.

It’s what she told her older self in a note twenty years ago. She built her life around the principle, and hopes to inspire others to do the same.

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Awhile back I discovered this little note. It was a message from my younger self, hidden in a book more than 20 years ago. I couldn’t spell yet but I already knew one of the most important things in life. It says (spelling mistakes included), “evrybody has a destiny no mater who you are your spesial don’t let anybody stand in the way of your dreams cause your ment to be.” I decided when I found this I’d build my life around this principle, inspiring others to do the same. Gems, YOU ARE SPECIAL. We salute you. -Kiera, Little Box of Rocks #inspiration #wisdom #spiritualhealth #spiritualwellness #gems #gemstones #crystallove #spiritjunkie #geminspiration #wordstoliveby #wordsofwisdom #honoryourself #radicalselflove #youarespecial

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