Standing at a conference all day, during first trimester, isn’t fun. My business partner didn’t know because it’s still the first trimester, and my boyfriend and I decided not to tell anyone, yet. I wasn’t showing, but beyond exhausted and nauseous. I power-napped in the hotel hallway. I started with caffeinated tea, and then moved onto the hard stuff — coffee. I knew it wasn’t great networking-wise to miss out on happy hours to sleep. Walking through smokey gambling halls was a definite low point, but walking along the Strip was really entertaining. In general, of course, Vegas is not great pregnant.
Our first client, Women 2.0 hosted the event at The Bellagio, and the catering was top notch, which is great when your palate is changing and you have no idea what is going to sound appealing. To save on costs we drove down and back, and the long freeway drive was wonderful to start fantasizing about child-to-be. And, a great time to sort through our new contacts and work on marketing strategies.
These things lined up for me in a way I can only express as “timing”: months of introspection resulting in a business idea— PickAxe Mobile, fast, inexpensive mobile prototypes for entrepreneurs. And, then, realizing I’m pregnant in an unplanned way: getting laid off work, having fun hiking local parks in the Bay Area, and a few vacations to New Orleans and Southern California resulted in a delightful surprise. The anxiety of genetic screening coincided with long conversations regarding our Articles of Operation.
Some small issues have arisen — it’s really hard to find maternity clothes that say: “CTO.” Luckily a trip down to Cupertino’s Target had great working mom outfits, in suitable blacks and grays. Zulilly, while it took a long time to ship, helped out with some nice professional styles from London (at a great price). Working in our co-working space, I just remember to bring mozzarella sticks, crackers and a big water bottle. Lots of meetings occur over drinks, but a lime and soda works great, and looks grown-up.
Starting a company at this time comes with some perks; friends and acquaintances are understandably more interested in a new person in the world than a new company. In a time of hyper-networking over free infant strollers and onesies, we also get the word out about our very new value proposition. Community takes a front seat during a pregnancy. For a services-based startup, community is all you need, want, or should have. It’s turning out to be a very natural combination.
I recently fantasized about working at a 9-5 with real maternity leave. I could zone out all day on BabyCenter and Pinterest. Just a few hours later I was eating lunch at Facebook with a friend, and looked around. The sheer amount of “at your desk” time, even at a great solid company like Facebook, would drive me mad. It was vital to take a few hours off, every other day, to nap my first trimester. And it’s really awesome being able to leave at 4pm to walk for an hour, and pick up at 6pm until 9pm coding. Getting in an afternoon swim- a regular occurrence. I love the freedom of my own schedule, especially at this time in my life. Sure, CEOs like Marissa Mayer have a daycare in their office, but for working grunts? It’s not ideal.
Professionally, I’ve noticed also that I’m a lot more focused on what’s important. Priorities are easier to line up, and everything seems clearer to me. I think having a big life occurrence happen does that to you- also being an older mom. Things seem less scary and more predictable, and thus do-able. Recently a friend suggested we make a “techie working mom’s, who drink, have coffee, and live in SF” mailing list. I’m secretly creating a list of friends in their 40s/having a second kid in SF list, especially if they’re techie. One of my developer friends does all the iOS apps at BabyCenter, now that is hooked up ;) He hears me regularly kvetch about features. One of my app biz partners is also a mom of a 2 year old, neighbor, and thus one of my best hand-me-down sources. As I said, it’s all about community.
I think starting a business at this time isn’t necessarily wise… in fact, if I hadn’t run a successful consulting business, and later a profitable blog, I’d be at a real disadvantage. But that stands for anyone starting a business. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. I was getting some free CEO coaching from my brother, who also had a child during one of his successful endeavors. He told me in all sincerity: “Good timing.” My mother (mom to 5 kids) had her own business most of my childhood, and I grew up in it. I honestly think that for me, while hard, starting a business has an energy and creativity that’s totally natural. By the way, usually conversations with my mother start off with pregnancy and end with financial business advice.