Life & Business

10 Working Moms Share Their Biggest Business Lessons

by Grace Bonney

The older I get, the more I look at my friends who are parents and business owners with complete and total awe. Not only do I have the pleasure of working alongside some amazing working moms, but my personal and professional life is full of parents who are dreaming big and running their own creative businesses while raising their families. I look to these remarkable parents for inspiration and motivation (I hope to join their ranks one day), but I also look to them for helpful ideas and lessons because they are juggling so many different demands and priorities at the same time. If that old adage, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” is true (and I think it is), working parents are some of the most efficient and wise business owners I know.

So today I’m sharing the biggest business lessons and advice from 10 incredible working moms. These women have launched businesses and worked hard to find moments of work/life balance, and we can all learn something from them. Whether you’re balancing life, work and kids or life, work and pets — or just life and work — this advice is a must-read.

Jennifer Hill: "Life is (hopefully) long and there are many opportunities. You have time to make your ideas come to life, you don’t have to do it all at once. Take your time, don’t rush through things – enjoy them. Be really mindful about the decisions that you make. A big one in the last few years: being 'really busy' doesn’t make you successful. It can make you sloppy and kind of annoying. Also, be honest. In a Pinterest-perfect world, being honest is really refreshing."
Kera Thompson: "PLAN AHEAD. It’s so easy to get behind in purchasing, especially given that the goods I curate are often handmade from artisans in remote areas, often requiring longer lead times. Planning ahead is absolutely of utmost importance!"
Jaime Derringer of Design Milk: "Don’t undervalue or underestimate yourself. It’s important to know your value as a human, as a person, as a business owner. Never make excuses or assume other people either can’t afford your rates or won’t pay you what you’re worth."
Jonna Twigg of Twigg's Bindery: "I’m continually learning how to stay focused. Often the entrepreneurial spirit is accompanied by an abundance of ideas. Working methodically and knowing how to prioritize your ideas and goals is very important. There’s always the next season, the next collection — not everything has to be realized immediately."
Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop: "I have to be true to my own vision. I have to recognize that the business is separate from myself. It is hard, when you are spending every dollar and every minute on your business, not to take things personally. But you have to. Maybe it doesn’t work for your intended audience right now, and that is okay. Trends, markets and tastes fluctuate. Bending to meet market tastes isn’t worth it even if it gets you traction in the short run because creating a business identity means distinguishing it from the pack."
LaTonya Yvette: "Don’t spend money that isn’t yours, and don’t undercut yourself. Taxes man, they exist! And you have got to pay the IRS — they really don’t play with small business — I feel like we get it the worst. Also, your rate is your rate, your fee is your fee, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re worth less. It’s a small world, and through work, word travels fast and people get boxed in real fast and easy, too. Once you do something for X price, you equal X price. Be careful."
Melissa Sonico: "Running a business is equal parts timing, savvy, and pure risk-taking. I’ve learned if you really believe in the project, you go for it, and whatever the outcome is at least you gave it your all."
Michelle Smith of The Rock & Shop Market: "I believe that a successful career doesn’t have to be linear, that it can be full of bumps and detours which help shape you in ways that following a straight and narrow path might not."
Monique Malcolm: "I’ve learned to start with what I have. As creatives, we are our harshest critics and this can cause us to approach problems focusing solely on what we don’t have. What I’ve realized is that there isn’t a readily available solution when you are in that mindset. Your solution lies in your ability to look at what you have and figure out what type of leverage you have to get what you need. Always start with what you have."
Nasozi Kakembo: "Never undersell your work. It can be tempting, especially if the request is coming from a buyer or client you’ve been courting for a while, but if they appreciate your work and quality, they will pay. It’s a hard cycle to break once started, so it’s best to set your prices right at the very beginning, and stick to them."

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  • All great points. I would add one: divulge details only on a need-to-know basis, i.e., almost never. As Mary Poppins said, “I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything.” Nobody needs to know you can’t take an appointment at 3 p.m. because you’re picking up your kid. You just aren’t available at that time. Period.

  • Interesting piece, but there is nothing here that indicates these people are parents of pets or children; this is just a business advice column. Except for the comment from Taste of France.

    • Armadillo

      My title was referencing their human children, not pets. Not everyone discusses their kids when discussing business advice- but I think it’s important to know that their advice is coming from a place of having not one but two very important jobs on their plate.


  • The title of this piece disrespectful. If one is a mother, one works. Raising children IS work.

    • Fay

      I’m sorry if the title feels disrespectful to you, that was not my intention. I think motherhood is one of the hardest jobs that exists. My intention was to discuss mothers who work outside of the home as well as at home raising a family.


  • This is very inspiring to a mum of two babes under three. Good reminder to value myself and not to undercharge. Also I should remember the intensive toddler years don’t last forever{of course they are so cute at this age but massively tiring}..I still have time to make it as an illustrator! Thanks Grace for putting this together^_^ Lauren

  • Thank you – this is something I would love to read more about. As a mother and business owner it can be so difficult to find balance. I love hearing from other women coming from a similar place. It is both inspiring and empowering!

  • It’s great that these women are moms as well as business owners but this article doesn’t really explain how they balance that or mention that they are mothers really at all.

  • The advice to not undersell yourself is spot on. I have to say that having so many of the women here say it, adds to my resolve to stop underselling myself. It’s a bit scary, but I do think that the result will be a happier and self sufficient me.

  • I understand the choice to gather advice from working moms – having children does put a lot of things in perspective, personal and business! I’d also love to see a gathered article on how to balance those two roles. There’s been some great thoughts shared in interviews on this site, it would be lovely to see either a collected post or even a series of posts on how women are balancing these two roles, for those of us now embarking on both of these paths.

  • I like “being busy doesn’t make you successful.” So very true, especially in a work culture of people feeling like they need to stay late in the office for the sake of being seen “working late”. Doesn’t mean you are being efficient or doing high quality work.


  • “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re worth less” . This is a hard lesson to learn. And I think it also takes time for it to sink in. But getting there..