Fun fact (Anything that makes you different, weird, unique, YOU!): My new favorite hobby is Senior Hot Hula. It’s the best. Everybody shakes what they’ve got, and nobody cares how it looks.
Why did you start your business? Other women inspired me to start Fourth Wave. I watched a documentary on women’s history and realized that 1) I had never heard most of these AMAZING stories that made me feel really proud to be a woman, and 2) I wanted to wrap myself up in all of them.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good way to do that. I wanted something I could wear, some physical symbol of courageous women throughout history. And while at present, the market is full of apparel with inspiring messages for women and girls, when I started Fourth Wave, the best thing I could find was a Hanes Beefy Tee that said “Feminist as Fudge.” (It didn’t say “Fudge.”) It wasn’t really something I could wear around. So I decided to make my own shirts. I knew nothing about screen printing, but I decided I’d figure it out as I went.
“I leaned on close friends for encouragement and a reminder of why my ideas and dreams mattered.”
Was there ever a moment when you felt like giving up on your business? Why didn’t you? Yeah. Fourth Wave had gradually been growing and gaining momentum, and the moment I decided “It’s time for me to turn this hobby into a job” was the same moment my husband told me he wanted a divorce. Which meant, well, actually going through a divorce, moving, learning how to be a part-time single parent, and a lot of new financial pressure. All the excitement and energy I’d previously felt about getting my fledgling business off the ground just kind of evaporated. I leaned on close friends for encouragement and a reminder of why my ideas and dreams mattered. And I ultimately decided that I was going to dig in rather than give up, because I needed to know for myself that I could rise to the challenge.
What skills do moms possess that make them awesome business owners? Hustle. And love.
Being a parent is an exercise in learning how to hustle, whether that’s figuring out how to creatively push fruits and vegetables so your kid doesn’t get scurvy, or just making sure everybody finishes their homework, gets to Scouts on time, reads 15 minutes so they can color in their Reading Rangers chart, has a decent meal, has a lunch for tomorrow, isn’t throwing their dirty underwear behind the bed anymore, and gets to chill out and decompress, all in the short space between work and bedtime.
Being a parent also broke open the way I see other people. The love I have for my kids has turned me into a more loving person as a whole. So what somebody else might call good customer service, I call love. And we all need more love in our lives, even if it’s just from the person on the other end of an email. Business can sometimes feel really impersonal, and that ability to see people as, well, PEOPLE who could use a little extra goodness in their day is really important.
What’s your best advice for a mom about to launch her own business? Any encouraging words? Sit down for a chat with that voice in your head telling you that you’re an imposter, that you might not have what it takes. Tell her that you’ll learn what you need to learn as you go, because nobody ever launched a wildly successful business in a day. Tell her that you are literally one of a kind, which means you have something one-of-a-kind to share with the world. Tell her that bravery is a muscle you build by flexing it, and it will feel uncomfortable sometimes, but it will get stronger.
What’s your best time-saving resource in running your business day-to-day? It’s more of a strategy than a resource, but I always do the hardest thing first (and when I don’t, I regret it). If I tackle the hairiest, most intimidating task first thing, not only is it freaking done, but it gives me a boost of energy to get everything else done too, because I feel like a badass. When I tick off all the easy stuff first (this is always my first impulse), some part of my brain is tied up with anxiety, dreading the hairy intimidating thing, which means I sometimes dawdle on the easy stuff. Plus it sometimes ends the workday on a half-finished, hairy note.
“As time goes by, I’m less surprised when I succeed, and just happy.”
What’s something that surprised you (good or bad!) about being a small business owner? For a long time, I was surprised that people took me seriously. It was that imposter syndrome talking, all the time, saying, “Phew, you made it through another month without anybody figuring out that you’re not a REAL business owner/screen printer/artist.” It still happens every once in awhile, when I take the next small leap to grow or expand my business, or try something new. But as time goes by, I’m less surprised when I succeed, and just happy.
Why is the MILK community important? The fact that we even say the phrase “working mom” (nobody says “working dad”) is a hint at the unique challenges moms face in the workplace. There’s a lot of double standards and a lot of pressure. Sometimes, there’s not a good roadmap or a good mentor handy. There’s a real need for other women’s real stories, real insights, and real support.
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? I love this quote by Audre Lorde:
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed. But when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
Is there a song that totally pumps you up and makes you feel confident? Share, please! “Two of Us on the Run,” by Lucius. It’s not a dance party, bust-through-the ceiling song, but it always gives me chills.