Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: For Better or For Work

When I saw the title of this book I had to chuckle: For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families.  When you decide to jump into self-employment, it certainly becomes a family affair - doesn't it?  

Meg Hirshberg, author of For Better or For Work provides tools to building a successful business without sacrificing your personal relationships.  Entrepreneurship is a financial and emotional roller coaster and we strap our families in for the ride (whether they like it or not).  Meg is an authority figure on the subject; she is a wife, mother of 3, freelance writer and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt.  

If you think your personal relationships may be suffering due to your self-employed aspirations ask yourself: 
  • How many times have you asked your child to "Shhhh..." while you were finishing an email?

  • When was the last time you asked your spouse to pick up the childcare slack while you planned a multi-day meeting across the country? 

  • Are you having an affair with a sexy little accomplice that knows more about your life than your spouse? (a.k.a Your Smartphone)
If you're uncomfortable with any of the scenarios above you may benefit from reading Meg's book.  Her advice also touches on the profound gesture of faith and often uncomfortable complications that can arise with business loans amongst family, how to balance care of your babies- that is your literal children and your figurative business-baby, and what to do when you're looking to transition your business to dissolution or when you're ready to pass the reigns.

The book is peppered with stories of other entrepreneurs with devastating challenges and inspiring wisdom.  An easy, fun read and very relatable for anyone who is self-employed or is married to a risk-taking entrepreneur.  I especially favor the ends of each chapter which give you suggested lists of "Things to Talk About" and "Things to Do" in order to keep your relationships on track.  It's like marriage-counseling for entrepreneurs without the copay.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spotlight Entrepreneur: Jody Mahoney

This month I'd like to introduce you to Jody Mahoney of Jody Mahoney Photography.  Jody is a wonderful example of someone who understands the hustle of entrepreneurship. Jody juggles parenthood with three different lines of work.  All combined, fulfill her personally and professionally.  Are you ready to be inspired?

1.  What prompted you to start your own photography business?
I’ve always been the one behind the camera at family & friend events, then I transitioned into creating more formal photographs of family, then friends. A good friend offered to compensate me for my time and talent, and that’s when I realized if I organized my workflow and marketed myself a little, I could start a small business out of it. Three years and 80+ shoots later, it is not full-time for me but certainly something I take seriously and am fully invested in – for my clients and myself. And I will say that marketing myself has been fun – creating a website and a Facebook business page is pure creative inspiration for me.

2.  You specialize in photographing children. What is it about children that inspire you?
There’s no limit to the creativity, and every shoot is so different! The sweet, short-lived moments and unique expressions of children are amazing to capture…but documenting current trends & styles while at the same time creating timeless photos is an inspiring challenge I just love. I pride myself on my creative energy, my ability to be fully “in the moment” during a shoot, and to see beauty in unlikely spaces. I strive to create images that maintain a modern feel, and especially love bold, vibrant colors for kids. I shoot with natural light in natural settings, allowing kids to just be kids, laid back…wherever we happen to be. This allows for authenticity rarely found in studio photography. I think of our photo session as a play date… life isn’t perfectly posed, so why try to make it look that way? In the end… it all tells your story J

As much as I love photographing children, I also love high school seniors. In a whole other way, the creativity is limitless. I’ve shot my subjects in front of a spray-painted graffiti wall, downtown on a busy street, in a basketball uniform in the school gym… every session is different and invigorating. It’s all worth it get their photos and says “OMG – you made me look hot!” They don’t realize that’s how I’ve seen them through the lens all along J 

3.  When we first met we were both working in Corporate America. Do you miss any aspects of it vs. running your own business?
Sure, the health insurance, benefits, and paycheck were nice J  Just kidding.
I took a chance starting my own business, and was fortunate to assume my husband’s health plan benefits. I won’t lie, I also work part-time as a pharmaceutical project manager from my home office… so in a way, I still have one foot in Corporate America… just slightly. But the overall creativity I now feel is motivating, and what makes me tick. I enjoy being my own boss, and conducting my days outside of “the typical 9-5”. I have the freedom to make my own rules and push my own limits – creatively and professionally. There is very little that I miss about being immersed in Corporate America. I am a much, much happier girl living my life outside of it.

4.  As a working mother, how do you balance work and family?
I won’t say that’s easy, but I have a system. Between the photography, project management, and also teaching BodyPump fitness classes – I’m constantly balancing. My husband and I check in on our schedules every day, in case we need to cover one another when it comes to our one year-old, Lily. I prioritize these areas of my life, trying not to commit to things that will compete with each other or disrupt work/life balance for my husband, who works hard each day as well. For example, just because I’ve worked all week (project management and photography) doesn’t mean I can run out and teach BodyPump tonight, assuming my husband has Lily. So I try to teach 6am classes, when everyone is sleeping and it’s “my” time. Everyone doesn’t get to do what they want to do all the time, but it’s fair. Again, the immense freedom that I feel in my schedule doesn’t make any of it feel like “work,” but it’s still a fine-tuned balancing act requiring communication!

5. What is your advice for women thinking about starting their own business?
Starting your own business can be scary, but also provides a sense of empowerment, confidence, and independence. If you’re going to start your own business, clearly recognize the rewards and the challenges – be ready for the ride. It isn’t easy, as you have to make some tough choices, get out of your comfort zone on occasion, and forgo certain things. You may have to pass on certain opportunities because family is priority. Take business courses, closely align yourself to a mentor in your area of business, and don’t be afraid to ask questions…lots of questions. It can and likely will be a huge learning experience, and incredibly rewarding. 

One of the moments of our interview that hit home the most with me was how Jody explains how she is constantly balancing.  Serial-entrepreneurs like Jody need to be uber-organized! Good communication is also key so that child care is in place and that client commitments are met.  What Jody demonstrates is that it is possible- you just have to work hard at it.  To be further inspired by her amazing photography, please visit Jody's website.