6 Things I have learned so far as a Mompreneur
I have always been a curious child. I might have been precocious one too. I once took a bus home at the age of 7 assuming that the bus driver would know where I live.
For weeks I wondered why some of my schoolmates takes buses home, I didn’t know their parents had arranged for the bus drivers to fetch their children home. So one day, I just hopped into a bus and just sat in there waiting for my turn to be sent home. It drove my late father mad. He’s never made that much back and forth trips to school looking for me, thinking either I was kidnapped or dead by the roadside.
Funny thing is, I reached home in one piece because the bus driver kept driving within the area that I am familiar with until I pointed out my house to him. It must have been hours. My father was fuming mad when I got home, and I still couldn't understand why would he be upset?
Thankfully, at the time I was growing up, Pedophile is probably unheard of.
I recalled starting the car’s engine at the age of 6 because my late grandma wanted the car moved a little as it was too near the sink she used to wash her utensils. Back then the sink was just outside the house near the porch where my father used to park his car. Since my father was asleep, didn’t want to wake him up, I took the car key and started the engine. The sound of the engine woke him up instantly and he literally jumped out of the bed only to find me sitting in the driver’s seat with my feet hardly touching the pedals.
And those curiosities landed me being in several roles in several industries throughout my years in the corporate world. I have been in Banking, Investments, IT Outsource, Telco and Retail. When I was growing up I was told by my parents that the only way to succeed is to study hard, which I did and to earn a lot of money is to work for someone and have a great career.
Perhaps they wanted to keep me safe. Perhaps they think that the easy way is always a better way. Seeing how my late father worked so hard building up his business he probably didn’t want me to go that path. How I wished he could show me otherwise and in return I can learn a thing or two.
Thing is, I was always wondering about how things works, the why’s, the what’s and I must admit that it is hard being in the Corporate world, trying to fit in because everyone has to do what they are told to do. You can’t do certain things, because there are rules and processes to follow.
I always wonder why things have to be like they always used to be and not change for the better to suit time or situations. I recalled being told to just do it and don’t ask questions. Though I continued working, something just doesn’t add up.
In the end, it was not my curiosities that led me to leave my corporate job. It was Motherhood.
When I had my daughter, I often had to leave her at the sitter because of work. And for years it was a necessary thing to do (except there were times when I wished I can spend more time with her when she was sick). She was a good student in kindergarten and throughout primary 1. For a moment, I thought she is going to be okay. I was wrong.
When she went to primary 2, I have never seen her school marks plummeted slowly, and my in laws constant nagging and pushing didn’t do justice. They think the harsh way is always a good way, just like the old days.
One day, overwhelmed with frustrations and tiredness off work, I took my anger at her because she refused to tell me why she did poorly. With tears in her eyes, standing at a corner, I have never seen her begging for forgiveness and a chance. She kept asking to give her a chance. And then it hits me so hard like a thousand blades goes right through my heart. Suddenly I 'woke' up.
I realised that I was the one to be blamed. Not her. She needs me and where was I? She was defenseless, lost, confused and here I am trying to prove myself in the corporate world thinking I could be somebody someday.
I took her into my arms and gently whisper to her, I am sorry and let’s fix this together.
So I left my job after a few months of thinking hard. Night after night I was trawling the net looking for something to do, home based. Couldn’t find any, and I thought to myself, why isn’t there a portal for women, mothers like me where we can find jobs that we can do from home or on a flexi-basis.
That’s when an idea hits me. Why don’t I start something then? What’s the worst that can happen? If it didn’t work, I could always go back searching for another “job”.
For years I had forgotten how it feels to be a curious child again. How it feels great to explore and not let fear or doubts control me. I was drowned in the corporate world life that I thought was the only was to be successful. Don’t get me wrong. There are some others who can find success in the corporate world, but not everyone can find fulfillment there. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to learn and grow.
So armed with just RM1,500 budget, I went on searching for a developer that can help me design my dream portal. Every night I worked on my sketch, do research and even asked women/mothers how would they feel about having a portal that they can look for jobs without having to worry if they are suitable for them or if they are scams. A portal that can build them up and expose them to opportunities where they can choose to either work for someone or start a business.
It’s not easy to find a developer that understands the concept as it’s never been done in Malaysia before. But God is kind, I met up with one though he admitted that the budget I provided him is way too low. He still went on board to help me because he believed in my dream and he loved the objective of the portal. After months of work, Moms4Projects.com was born in August 2015 and that marks me leaving the corporate world although I have no idea where the project will lead me to. We grew from 0 to over 1,800 now – organically.
A few months later into the business, we realised that we have members who are not just mothers but also women who are yet to be mothers. So we changed the name to HerPortal.co to capture the wider target of women, regardless of their status.
I know my journey has just begun and I have a long way to go to grow HerPortal.co. I met a lot of interesting people along the way and learnt a lot from the process. I made good and bad decisions. I am still learning. I am curious how others have made it, and that is good, it means I am hungry to push myself. However, one person fuels me every day to do this and she’s my daughter.
As a Mompreneur, here’s what I have learned along the way.
IT’S NOT TO LATE TO START A BUSINESS
In the beginning, it feels awkward to start a business and doing it full time. Especially at this age. I was apprehensive because everyone I know that had started a business is either:
- Started their business when they were much younger and full of energy;
- OR they are currently much younger than me (who am I compete with these creative and enterprising people? )
To be honest, during the early days I thought I must attend EVERY single get together events organised by any organizers in the Startups eco-system just to get noticed and because it seems hip to most that attended. I realised that most of those attending such events are usually hopeful and the sad part is how they wander aimlessly from one group to another hoping to strike the lottery (in this case the VCs or Angels monies).
Back in those days, I often felt like a giraffe in a room full of young sharks. I recalled standing in a corner observing how the ladies looks great with perfect make up, flowy out of salon hair, dressing immaculately with lovely branded handbags and heels moving from one chap to another with wine glasses in their hands, while I have a glass of coke and wears flats with a big mommy bag full of the just in case stuffs like wet tissues, portable umbrella and a notepad with multi-colored pens.
At first, I thought that I must be crazy to start a business at this age. Who will ever take notice of me? Who will listen to this crazy idea of mine? Why would they even hear me out?
Eventually I realised, I was just in the wrong crowd. So I stopped going to these kind of events that made me feel out of place and instead focus on going to the relevant ones only. I would check the itineraries and see who’s who in the list and why the event is good for me. I became pretty selective.
YOU DON’T NEED A LOT OF MONEY TO START A BUSINESS
When I started my business, I only have RM1,500 budget to get it developed and roll out. Every money I make put in back to the business. I did set aside some for my commitments but most of it gets right into the business to keep it afloat. It’s not about having a LOT of money to start a business, it’s about generating the revenue to keep the business afloat month after month. Every successful entrepreneurs knows that growing a business takes time, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just keep moving and stay focus. But of course, having some extra funds along the way helps to scale the business fast. Only ask for extra money if you can already manage the business well.
EVERYONE’S JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT
Some journey is bumpy all the way before it goes on smoothly. Some had a breezy start and then gets bumpy along the way. Everyone’s journey is different. Stop comparing yourselves with those who have made it up there.
WORKING EXTRA HARD INSTEAD OF WORKING SMART
I admit that it is different working for yourself versus working for others. When you work for yourself, you are more focused because you want to make ends meet badly. You hustle hard, no time to lose because it’s the only choice you have to stay on the game. Your expectation is always higher.
It’s exhausting, brain draining and often you felt like an idiot because of what you put yourself into. Entrepreneurs knows that the day they quit trying is the day when they proved themselves as a failure.
So don’t beat yourself too hard if you can’t accelerate fast enough, sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow and let the universe guide you through experience and conscience.
BEING A PRO JUGGLER
I have no maid at home. I cook, mop, wash, do the laundry, clean up the pets’ area and still make time to check my daughter’s school work, assigning homework for her, and reminding my husband to take out the thrash or fix the bulbs.
Sometimes I have to forego hours of sleep because I have to do my work at night when everyone is asleep and still have to wake up at 5.30am to prepare my daughter for school. Not to mention when my daughter is unwell, waking up several times a night because she vomits when she cough or have fever.
Delegating household work is important. While I have a minor OCD because I believe I do things better, I have to learn to let my husband take on some responsibilities and do it. Yes, I still redo the work he’s done secretly, like when he fold the clothes, I will bring it back into the room and refold it because he didn’t fold it right. And I have a habit to make sure we never ran out of drinking water, that the drinking jugs must always be filled.
Sometimes I don’t know how I did it. Juggling times in between like a pro seems to be most Momprenuers hidden strengths.
DREAMS DON’T WORK UNLESS YOU DO
Every success and empire, starts with a dream and desire. I know a friend who keeps dreaming of having extraordinary wealth that she came up with a DREAM BOARD. On her dream board, she put up images of sports car, a couple of mansions, an island and loads of money in the bank.
Now, who wouldn’t want this wonderful dream?
But even if you do, set a realistic expectation for a start. While it’s awesome to dream of being filthy rich with an Island and Lamborghini, ask yourself if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing to earn all that?
I never dream of anything beyond that I cannot predict myself. I take one day at a time. Of course I wish for a better life and that I always have enough.
There are many more encounters that I have learnt and experienced throughout this journey and I believe many more to come. In the meantime, I will take everything that comes my way positively and no matter how disheartening some of these stuffs can be, behind it is a lesson to learn from.
As a mother and Momprenuer, my hope is to show my daughter someday that she too can be better and stronger than me.
I would like to encourage all women and moms out there who were skeptical of their strengths to face their fear and just do it. There is no such thing as the right or wrong way or even the right time to do it. Be brave to explore it and have back up plans ready just in case. If you failed no matter how many times you tried, at least you tried and know what you are capable of.
Talk to someone, join a good support group and get inspired from those who have been there and done that.
Get the right guidance from experts. If you have to take up a workshop, classes or boot camps to learn all over again and get better, do it. Unlearn and relearn. Start on a new slate. No one knows what you can do better than yourself.
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