Is there an ideal age to do a startup? Not really, unless you live a monastic existence—something not very conducive to the networking needs of an entrepreneur. Are 20 something’s more suited to startups? Yes and no. Without question it is easier to pull off the time demands of a startup when completely unencumbered. I long for the days when I didn’t have to think about sleep (would it happen!), hair (is the grey peeking through my thinning crop?) or other people’s needs. Now homework, upcoming history tests, and spelling bees fill my calendar alongside investor, staff and other work-related meetings. Yes, my husband is very helpful, but women are usually the general contractors when it comes to the home and family, and I am no exception.
The ADD-like demands of being an older entrepreneur are balanced, however, by capability. Simply put—I know a lot, having run many businesses for global corporations. Strategy, branding, marketing, and selling are part of my adult DNA. Interviewing, coaching and communicating come easily from my experience leading many teams over the years. Perspective kicks on like a thermostat, enabling me to manage expectations when I cold call a media luminary and he agrees to a meeting. The highs and lows that come with anything embryonic—business or personal—are smoothed out by my career ballast.
My entrepreneurial calling came early in life. It began with a paper route, developed into roller skating shows in my basement where my best friend, Nancy, and I resold penny candy to young, adoring neighborhood children. In high school, I opened my own tutoring business. Many years later, before marriage and children, I became employee #6 at a startup biotech company, figuring it was my last chance to be utterly selfish with my time. Do men think this way? I doubt it.
Several years and numerous business ideas later, I finally had one that held up under the scrutiny of being poked, kicked, and turned inside out. With little experience in running a media company and no knowledge of operating a content business, I plunged in.
Emboldened, fearless and with a desire to create my own professional NeverLand, I wrote a business plan, asked for feedback and set the course.
Still funded by family and personal savings, we took a brief dive into the VC pool. The most memorable meeting was with a female VC who asked me to drop my current business and run with her idea: automate the many things we do as moms, particularly when our children are preschool age, by outsourcing to India. Even if I wanted to pass up the rare occasion to be with my daughter in her classroom, I struggle to picture a face on Skype leading 23 kids in the creation of toilet paper mummies on Halloween.
Why do I love this journey? I am propelled by the same sense of excitement I found in product management at P&G and J&J—the uncertainty, unpredictability and the shifting challenges of any given day. I may not have Hillary Clinton’s brain, but I can make fabulous chocolate chip cookies and I expect each cookie to be the same. My work, on the other hand, is improved with diversity. A startup is like a fine restaurant that symphonizes the best of available ingredients. July’s tomato bows to the January turnip. This love of change is essential for entrepreneurial Michelin stars.
I write this during spring break. My friends are skiing, at the beach, taking the kids to DC —things my family and I did routinely, pre-CareerFuel. Now they are mostly on hold as I build this business. My butt grows ever flatter given the endless time spent on the computer, but I feel bigger, smarter, and more alive than ever as I face each day’s challenges.
VCs preach to entrepreneurs, “Solve a big problem in a way no one has.” There is no bigger problem here in America than jobs and no company is delivering the goods in a way like CareerFuel. Our goals are big, our long-term vision is sound and our ambition is matched by our work ethic.
Is my gender a handicap or handrail? Neither. Like so many women before me, I am far too busy to be questioning or complaining— I have something significant to do.
Watch Startup Revealed… an original web series giving an inside look at one NYC entrepreneur’s adventures as she tries to get her fantastic dating website biz off the ground!