Growing up with a single mom, I saw firsthand the special type of person it takes to succeed in this role. I’ve also—in my years of dealing with company leaders—noticed a number of parallels between great founders and great mothers.
To this end, seeing more women in the workplace is important to me. Seeing more women founders, entrepreneurs, and executives? That’s even more important to me. And yet, there’s a deficit of women in these key roles.
Things are changing, however—and companies, investors, and mothers ought to take notice. These are some of the reasons why mothers make great founders.
Mothers Are Resourceful
The top founders I’ve worked with have been capital efficient and resourceful. Last year, I helped an entrepreneur raise eight figures in capital, and the cash is still sitting on his balance sheet. He managed to build his young company into such a well-oiled machine that he has yet to touch the money we helped him raise.
The entrepreneur based his company in an inexpensive geography, outsourced business functions as appropriate, and rolled up his sleeves on big-ticket business development. His investors wish he would use the capital to expand into new markets and build out other business functions, but the founder is laser-focused on making money and helping his company become a profitable growth machine.
It’s in his nature to be resourceful—not unlike my mother.
As a single, unemployed parent, my mom was incredibly resourceful. She had a limited monthly stipend for our family, and managed the funds with great expertise. If there was a big sale, you could bet that we’d be buying our groceries in bulk.
She also cooked our meals from scratch, which spurred my lifelong interest in health and wellness. As a middle child, I wore my big brother’s hand-me-downs, and my younger brother took over from there. The savings my mom accrued went to “capital expenditures” like organized sports and other activities that elevated our quality of life—more than our economic class would have otherwise allowed.
I won’t hesitate to say that as a single parent raising three boys, my mother gained the skills of a successful founder.
Mothers Are Tenacious
The best founders are extremely resourceful. When I was starting an eCommerce company back in 2006, I thought I had written the best business plan of all time. Then we had our first investor pitch, and it went terribly. The criticism was scathing.
It was a tough pill to swallow. That said, the experience forced me to grow thicker skin.
So many founders have experienced rejection. Glossier’s Emily Weiss was rejected by countless investors before eventually raising seed funding. Marc Benioff was turned down by every investor in Silicon Valley when he first tried to raise money for Salesforce. Drew Houston was initially rejected by Y Combinator, despite going on to start Dropbox. They all found their way nonetheless. These founders kept pushing forward, despite the dirt being kicked in their face.
Motherhood can be just as thankless. From being judged by passive-aggressive PTA moms, to having the local school refuse to include our house on the bus route, my mom—a minority and a single parent—certainly faced her fair share of scrutiny. She never gave up, though, and took each setback as motivation to make an even greater effort.
She enrolled in night classes, yet still made time for her kids. She hounded the school board to give us equal treatment, and continually found ways to advocate for us.
My mother was just as tenacious as any founder.
Mothers Are Selfless
Several founder clients of mine have been remarkably selfless. Let me give you an example.
One of the first sell-side mandates I ran was for a lifestyle eCommerce company in New York. During the sale process, the founder garnered such interest that some companies tried to poach him. They offered lucrative compensation packages and meaningful roles at the head of major divisions.
They wanted him, not his company.
And he could have dropped everything and signed on the dotted line. Why toil away at a company that isn’t selling when you can take the easy road out?
Well, this founder declined those opportunities. His departure would have been a devastating blow to his own young company. He genuinely cared about his employees and the business, and put them ahead of his immediate interests. Eventually, the company received a large funding round and went on to be acquired by the best possible suitor.
Now he has it all. He also continues to run the company he founded, in addition to several other businesses within a larger organization. And yet, he has remained selfless through all the ups and downs.
This founder has a lot in common with my mom. She could have stayed a successful engineer instead of putting her career on hold to be a stay-at-home mother. She had visions of eventually transitioning into academia. She had side businesses that would have thrived if her kids hadn’t gotten in the way.
She gave up all these things because she wanted to be there for her sons. I’m so grateful to have her in my life.
Mothers Are Inspirational
I’d like to let you in on another anecdote. At one point, I was helping a tech founder raise capital and eventually sell his company. The company really needed the capital at times, and faced relentless investor scrutiny. When the founder tried to pivot and build a more sustainable pipeline for his business, few investors offered him the patience and understanding he needed.
But his employees believed in him. The evolution of this company was painful, and many team members have what they call “war stories” to share, but they pulled through because they believed in their leader and his vision.
Moms are similarly inspirational. When I first tried to raise capital for my eCommerce company, it was pretty discouraging—but then I saw the adversity my mom had endured over the years. “Quit” was never in her vocabulary, and I wanted to show her it wasn’t a part of mine. Pulling triple all-nighters in my early years as an investment banker proved exhausting beyond belief, but I couldn’t complain.
My mom had juggled school, work, and motherhood. She knew what it meant to endure challenging circumstances and still come out on top. When I needed to stay home to pursue my undergraduate degree, I was thrust into being the sole breadwinner in my family. The experience was taxing and not without sacrifice, yet I was inspired by my mom’s drive to give our family a better life.
In short, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mother. I think many others would agree that their mothers have instilled in them the skills they need to succeed. If there’s anything my mom has taught me, it’s that the best leaders are the ones who inspire others and encourage them to believe in themselves—regardless of what their critics might say.