Monthly Archives

April 2016

Breaking the news about the entrepreneur inside you

I know that feeling when you get an idea. It is all-consuming… it is your last thought of the day and the first thing that pops into your head when you wake up. You imagine how it is gong to play out, all your success, all the variables – it is kind of a runaway train. Sometimes you get ahead of yourself and imagine how your business will scale up or make you millions or how you will style your hair for your interview with Oprah. Dream big, baby! And I would like to tell you that there are a few key items that have to happen before you start that will help your success. First big one? Talking to your partner about your business! This will be really helpful if you are planning to start a new aspect to your existing venture, OR if you did not do this when you started your business, go back to basics, have ‘the conversation’ and get you both up to speed with the plan for your family and careers.

Getting your partner on board

This is one of the most important things that you can do when planning your entrepreneurial venture. If you do not have a significant other, this conversation would be with the person that you lean on most in your life, like a parent or sibling or best friend. Breathing life into your dreams is amazing and you will need as many people you can find on your team to pull this off.

You may be going into this with kids or an out-of-the-house job or both, so you will need support to ensure that your butt is in Ms. Winfrey’s interviewing chair, if that is your big-ass goal you are going for. Make your big-ass goal whatever speaks to your core. You currently have a load of responsibilities and you will need to delegate them to your community, especially if you have babies and young children at home. This will require some real talk to get this started.
Talking to your partner about your businessWhy do I think this is so important? I have seen so many women start their entrepreneurial ventures and it puts pressure on their home life, too much pressure, leading to them dropping their dream and getting a ‘real job’ (their words, not mine!). Being self-employed is glorious and it is a different type of work setup. It is all-the-time-work versus 9-5 work. It does come with the benefit of your kids being at home with you versus daycare, you can take days off whenever you want since you are the boss, and you get to call the shots on how much or how little you work. It also means that your work day slides in whenever possible since you are juggling your home and children and care of you and anything else that you choose to have on your plate. So that may mean that you are emailing from your mobile phone while the pasta is boiling or that Sunday morning in bed is spent getting your orders for clients done. It is a more unique set up than a traditional work scene – and that is what appeals to us mompreneurs, isn’t it?!

What do you cover in ‘the talk’?

Before you begin your talk, get some details on paper. Do your homework to see what will be involved in starting your business:

  • how much time it will take per week (hours)?
  • what materials/equipment/supplies do you need?
  • how much money will you need?
  • when do you think you will start to make money?
  • outline a BASIC marketing plan
  • will you need to give up anything to make this happen?
  • what will you need from your spouse and community?

Now, I appreciate that some of this will be guess-work, however, you should be able to fill in a lot of these blanks before you have your talk. As a safe rule of thumb, whatever amount of time you think it will take you, double that. Whatever profits you think you will make initially, cut that in half. I am not saying this to be a wet blanket on your dream. The reality is you will need longer than you think to get the business machine chugging along, so be conservative in your plan. Bonus: if you do make more money than predicted and it takes you less time to do so then everyone can celebrate that with you!

When you take on a new business, especially when it is added to your already busy life, you will have to put some things down (temporarily?). This winter I was doing a massive push in my business so I did not have those 12 hours per week that I used to have to train with my roller derby team. Yes, I got a bit soft around the middle and I did miss my workouts and teammates, however, I set a huge goal with my business partner and we had to do a major push to make that happen. I also needed to lean on my spouse more, so I needed to discuss with her that she took on more of the jobs that I do around the house and with our daughter. It was a conscious discussion.

What if I don’t want to have the talk? Let’s paint that picture.

What happens otherwise? Well, you jump in with your plans, and quickly you seem like you are ‘never available’ or ‘always working’ to your family and resentment starts to build. Once that creeps in, it spreads and it will choke out creativity, it puts a wedge between you and your partner, and it makes your business a problem for you rather than something exciting and joyful. When you and your partner get on the same page and you commit to a plan, everyone knows what the expectations are. Both of you know and can commit! What do I mean by this? Well, if you agree that there will be no phones at the table or Thursday nights are family games night or Saturday morning is partner/family snuggle time and it is electronic-free then you need to stick to that! We will talk about boundaries in a blog coming soon.

Maybe you and your partner agree that evenings look like dinner time, then they do the clean up and bath/bed time routine with the little one(s) while you get hands-free work time for your business. Then maybe weekends you get an established work slot that is yours plus whatever works for your schedules through the week. As always, the sky is the limit and when you make the plan together you maximize your resources to ensure that you will soar.

Straight ahead money talk.

Your planning talk is not just about the time you will need to operate and grow your business. You will also need to have a serious financial talk. This talk should cover:

  • if you are keeping your current job – if you have one.
  • how much your start-up will cost?
  • how you will deal with a household pay cut if you are leaving your current paid work
  • will you need extra support with child care and how much will this cost?
  • What will you have to cut from the budget? i.e. your unused gym membership, annual family vacation that year

Don’t just set it and forget it!

Setting up a regular review schedule is really important, ideally at least bi- monthly or quarterly. You can discuss topics such as:

  • How is everyone coping with the new household routine?
  • How does everyone feel about the budget?
  • How is the business doing?

This gives you both a chance to say what you are grateful for, what changes might be necessary, and where you are kicking ass as a family. This is a great chance to thank the people that are helping you get to your goals, like the neighbour that walks your child home with their children from the school, or your niece that is helping you with your graphic design. Check in with them too and see if the arrangements still work on their end.

I have created a free download to help you through starting your business (or getting your established business talk back on track) and keeping your relationship healthy.

Did you find this helpful? Any sticking points or successes with your partner and your business? Comment below!

PS – I have a share-all post around my own struggles with this back in the day here.


How Hard Can It Be?! with Andrew Younghusband

Andrew Younghusband, the host of Discovery Channel‘s Canada’s Worst Driver, started a new series called How Hard Can It Be?! in 2015.  The premier episode featured the GTA RollerGirls with Bianca Sprague, aka Pepper Pot hosting. The episode that aired on December 25, 2015 was great and she whooped Younghusband for a solid 10 hours – of course they cut that down to fit in the half hour show (oh, TV editing!). Check back here for the link to the episode. It’s coming real soon!

Today’s Parent Series

Bianca did a web series for Today’s Parent that featured parenting advice and tips to ease the transition during those early months. She also looked like a Stepford Wife. Her hair is like concrete. The tips are good though, so if they may help you, check out 1 of the 8 videos from the series above. Want to watch them all? Check them out on the bebo mia site.

Derby News

The U-haul Brawl is an all-gay roller derby bout that used to be called Clam Slam – the name was changed to be more trans-inclusive. Bianca was doing queer commentary for the news during the rookie game, before the all-star game that she played in under the derby name Pepper Pot.

The O.G. Mompreneur

I can lose hours of my day to blogs, Pinterest pages and Instagram channels filled with exciting products, fabulous concepts and passion pouring out of thousands of moms doing what they love. When I follow them I feel so charged and it makes me want to pull out my glue gun or my dusty never-used Kitchen Aid mixer that I got because I loved the colour. When people are writing or selling or making beautiful things it motivates me. I know that it has this effect on so many people… we can see the hashtag #PinterestFail as evidence of this. Those that create such beauty in their brand and business need to be honoured. They are taking a risk by putting themselves out there – heck it is scary as stink to do so! AND when they are doing it with children it makes it extra hard! Promise. So, I want to talk about mompreneurs that I think are cool as shit!

Bianca Sprague MompreneurOk, ok, I get it, my first post is about my mom. *Throw the popcorn and jeer now* however, hear me out! My mom is the O.G. mompreneur. She was the O.G. fill in the blank here for most things that are now main stream. Examples? Home schooling, home birth (which was illegal at the time), anti-vaxxer (this is not me opening up the vaccine debate!), sugar-free, vegan to vegetarian, flouride-free… you know the drill. She has chilled out on most of these things as we got older, but the 80’s were intense. Especially so since there was not a Whole Foods to be found. I can only imagine that it made our ‘life style’ challenging for her. 

Anyway, my mom, Dwaina Sprague, always had little projects on the go. She is one of those women that would have maintained a flawless Pinterest Page, if there had been Pinterest then, consisting of hand made fancy pillows, cross stitch patterns and Puff Paint sleep shirts (it was the 80’s). I did not get her crafting gene. I have more #Pinterestfails than successes. Our birthday parties were themed and lovely and fun in that wholesome way. She puts me to shame and she had 4 of us home. All. The. Time.

Many of her felt crafts or sewing projects would be displayed at the local craft fairs for sale. We would participate however we wanted as she worked away in her craft/sewing room. I would sort the pins into colour codes (yes, I have always been this way!), my brother would play cars at her feet, my older sister would be doing teenage things somewhere in the house and my baby sister would probably be strapped to my mom in the neon blue wrap she had made – I got to pick the colour, and she actually went with my selection.

She continued with her entrepreneurial ventures all through our lives. Her gumption grew as she found herself with more time the older we got. She went back to technical school and graduated from the Design program at BCIT. She started a little firm that she operated out of our home while we were at school – yes, my parents stuck us in private school for high school so that we could get our Dogwood certificate (BC’s high school diploma) and get into university.

When I went away for university, before my sheets were even cold, my bedroom was stripped of all my teenage qualities and her drafting board went up – and her business continued to grow. She eventually outgrew my bedroom/her home office and she moved her business, Good Space Design, to Gastown in Vancouver’s colourful lower East Side.

Bianca Dwaina SpragueMy mom no longer has little ones running around her feet. She no longer has to juggle client care with Costco grocery shopping, hockey practices and ballet recitals. She does continue to fill her days with her entrepreneurial ventures and philanthropic work. She does amazing work with Covenant House Vancouver! Her latest? She is sleeping on the street to raise money so that we can create more shelter beds for homeless youth. Yes, she is a saint practically… my siblings and I all think she is a little bit scary too, how else do you keep four high-spirited children in line?

My mom’s love of beautiful, cozy spaces, her attention to detail, her love of nurturing and caring for others, her super strong nature (she is fierce!), and her raw talent with most things has made her the O.G. Mompreneur to kick off the site. She has also made me the ballsy mompreneur that I am today. So, thanks mom!

The Sprague clan in 2011 with my parents and my sibs and two of the three grand-babies (we got to introduce one more grand-baby to the clan just last year!).

The Harvard Study That Started It All

A Harvard study shows that women are earning less & having less success because they defer to their husband’s career goals.

I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting thousands of moms who have started their entrepreneurial ventures. Many of them start their business after they have their babies, in order to stay home and not return to their corporate or out-of-the-home workplace. They may have seen a hole in their care (that was my reason) or wished they had a certain product or service and decided to fill it. Many of my clients have a skill, like they work for a magazine as an editor, and now they have gone freelance with their skills in order to work from home. The hows and whys are all different but the experiences are the same. It is hard work being self-employed and a mom.

I have seen some common threads and pitfalls with mompreneurs, and for most of them unfortunately, it leads to closing the business and returning to their pre-baby out-of-the-home job. Many thought that it was the children that were spoiling their dreams of entrepreneurship. A recent study by Harvard Business School (HBS) graduates, Robin Ely and Colleen Ammerman, and Hunter College sociologist, Pamela Stone, shows that high achieving women (and let’s face it, being a working mom takes a lot of skill and juggling) are giving up their careers because they are allowing their partners’ careers to take precedence over their own.

The vast majority of women graduating from HBS are not opting out of the workforce even if they have children (89% to be exact), yet over 50% of their male contemporaries would still prioritize their career over their partners’.

This is a very interesting fact since most people believe that the gender gap’s discrepancy with positions, income and accomplishments is due to women ‘opting out’ to have children. I have found this within the entrepreneurial space as well.

Sadly, even the language used around women and their entrepreneurial ventures is patronizing and limiting. I often hear women say that they have X number of months to make this work or their husbands say that they have to get a ‘real job’. It breaks my heart. There are so many things wrong with that statement… I will not get into all my socio-political rants just yet.

I would talk with my mom regularly about my experiences with clients, friends and with networking groups. I expressed how bizarre it was that women allow their start-ups to be called ‘not a real job’ or that they had to get permission to be home with their chid(ren) and run a business for just a trial run. These women would express to me that if they failed they would have to give it up to go get a ‘real job’. This language was, and still is, baffling to me. It is as if they also believed that being self-employed WHILE doing mothering work is not ‘real work’. My mom said that I was exaggerating and felt that I was just sensitive to this issue since I study it and read about it so regularly. I was visiting her in Vancouver while we were having this conversation and walking down the rainy streets of Gastown. Interestingly, as we were in the middle of this conversation, my mom bumped into her favourite pilates teacher who she had not seen in almost a year. Her teacher, an extremely fit woman in her early 40s, had her baby strapped to her front with a carrier. They were having a catch up and my mom explained that she had stopped going to that studio because she missed her teacher and would return if her teacher was coming back. Her teacher, a fully grown, independent, seemingly self-aware woman in her 40s replied, ‘I only teach occasionally when my husband lets me and will babysit the baby.’ I felt so sad that that was the language used for this woman and (full disclosure) I felt beyond smug that my mom got to hear first-hand the shenanigans that happen for women that are in pursuit of designing their very own work place.

My mom was so supported by my dad with whatever she wanted to do. She is a bad-ass woman and you can read more about her here. This was all so foreign to her and within her friend group. I wish that was my experience too. The National Post covered the HBS study and offered some suggestions to women who are high-achievers:

Marry someone with less social capital, ambition or money than you so that you can trust the attention will be on your career rather than theirs.

Marry someone 20+ years your senior so they are winding down their career while yours in ramping up.

These solutions all felt a bit, well, extreme to me. I feel that there are lots of preliminary points to discuss with your partner before starting a business venture to get you both on the same page. Yup, I feel a blog comin’ on. More to come on this and many other helpful tips for women in business!