How One ‘Mompreneur’ Went From 500 Square Feet to $8 Million

By: Jeanne Foley

A little more than three years ago, I was living in a New York City apartment, about to give birth to my first child and simultaneously launch a startup called The Groomsman Suit. The thought of becoming a ‘mompreneur’ was exciting and completely terrifying at the same time.

The responsibilities that come with children and family can often be a barrier for women who are interested in starting a business. The moment you learn that you’re going to be a parent your priorities immediately shift. You think about what changes have to be made before the baby arrives, and what will it take to get there. Once the baby arrives, increasing expenses make it more difficult to leave a steady income to start a business of your own.

At the same time, I believe if you have a great idea, unwavering passion and the ability to overcome adversity, then go for it. Women shouldn’t be afraid to chase their dreams or feel limited in what dreams are achievable by also wanting a family.

Whether you agree with Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” or Michelle Obama, who famously said, “Women can’t have it all,” both women have done great things.

As a mompreneur, my co-founder and I generated $2.5 million in sales in 2018, and are projecting $8 million in sales this year. It hasn’t always been easy or perfect, but I’m one of countless examples of women who manage both a business and a family.

Based on my firsthand experience over the last three years, here are five tips for aspiring mompreneurs:

  1. Have a solid plan with initial low risk.

If you’re debating the pros and cons of trying to start a business while managing a family, having a solid plan is important before taking the leap. I learned about Kickstarter, a platform where anyone could offer a product for pre-order. Since the launch of Kickstarter, thousands of successful businesses have received the funding they needed to get off the ground and even grow into multimillion-dollar companies. This was the route we chose for The Groomsman Suit. It mitigated the risk of making a major financial investment and allowed us to measure marketplace interest. If you have an idea and don’t know where to start, try to find a way to test it out with as little financial risk possible to validate the concept or product.

  1. Find a co-founder who supports you in and out of the office.

Finding a business partner can seem impossible, but the right person might be right in front of your nose: a good friend, family member, colleague that you have work experience with, etc. While passion can override experience in many cases, it’s important to have a good understanding of the business you’re getting into, what your strengths are, and where you’ll need the most help. Most importantly, as a new mom learning how to navigate this lifestyle with added responsibilities, you’ll need someone who will cheer you on, push you through the tough moments and keep you on track. With the right partner, things will get done exponentially faster and get you to a point of financial freedom much sooner. When searching for a partner, consider who you trust and who in your network has the skills that you don’t but are essential to your business. In my case, my childhood best friend Diana was it. She had a business background and interests that complemented my fashion background.

  1. Start with triple the money you think you need.

Whatever you think it will cost you to get up and running, double it (triple if you can). However, don’t let it get in your way. If you don’t have a lot of money saved, I’d suggest trying to save up at least enough to allow you to cover your essential expenses for up to six months, preferably 12 months. You don’t want money to be the reason you have to stop working on your business full time since momentum means everything to a startup. Just like a baby, your business will require a LOT of attention and nurturing. Fundraising is another avenue. It’s a lot less complicated than it sounds, but more complicated than asking your family or friends to borrow some money. To do it the right way, you need a lawyer. If you have proof of concept and simply need funds to boost sales or get to the next level, this can be a great option.

  1. Find a work-life balance that works for you.

Owning your own business doesn’t mean that you’ll have more time to spend with your kids. If that’s your primary goal, it may not be the best option. However, you will have flexibility to spend your time doing things for the business, for your family, and even blend them a little (or a lot), like I do. There will be times when one or the other will suffer, but you’ll find ways to make it work.

  1. Define what success means for you.

Some mompreneurs may want to be the next Arianna Huffington (mother of two) or billionaire Spanx founder Sara Blakely (mother of four), while others may want to run a business that’s rewarding but not entirely consuming. Ultimately, it’s good to set goals before you begin and determine what success looks like for you, no matter how big or small.

Starting a business has many highs and lows, but the simple act is a huge accomplishment. My advice to anyone considering becoming a mompreneur would be to follow your gut, trust yourself, get a comfortable baby carrier, and find a friend to lean on.

Go for it, momma!

Jeanne Foley is co-founder of The Groomsman Suit, the first e-commerce company offering stylish, high-quality suits and tuxedos men can own for less than the cost of a rental. The core line is available in five styles and seven colors for just $194. TGS was co-founded by Jeanne and her lifelong friend Diana Ganz after Jeanne’s personal experience planning her own wedding. With no other options to affordably outfit their groomsmen, she and her husband were forced to go the rental route only to be disappointed by the logistics, poor fit, and price. Jeanne’s fashion industry experience combined with Diana’s award-winning business background has proved to be a perfect fit.

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