One Entrepreneur’s Vision to Welcome the Mom-Economy
“You’re a tree Mommy!” My daughter sang happily, hanging onto my leg, while we waited for my son. A couple of Mom-friends asked if my nanny, who typically handles pick up, was on vacation. I explained she was caring for her husband after his surgery. Both kindly offered to help … with playdates or pick-up. I suddenly realized, after two weeks of managing an army of back up sitters and pick-ups between meetings, how much easier it could have been. It never occurred to me to just ASK for help!
One of the (many) remarkable things about Mom-life, if you are in need for anything childcare or household, there’s an excellent chance another Mom will offer help. Joyfully. In our communities, examples of mothers helping other mothers, with everything from casseroles to carpools abound.
What if we can harness that natural inclination, helping other Moms, to collectively elevate our financial security? How different would work-life be without a motherhood penalty threatening our careers or bank accounts? Sharon Kan, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Pepperlane, is banking on this bright future with her latest venture. “It’s not just about inspiring Moms to start a business, (but to) take over the economy. Mothers make the purchasing decisions, yet we get paid less (than men) or as mothers, we don’t get paid at all.” She said and went on to explain, “…We have to help each other.” Yes!
Sharon’s vision, is to transcend the gig economy, and create the ‘mom economy’ where Moms buy services from each other. Her idea, mothers helping other mothers succeed in business, brilliant? Yes. Hard to execute? Maybe not. Sharon’s company, Pepperlane, is a platform with built-in infrastructure and community to accelerate Mom-run businesses. Women already control the overwhelming majority of consumer spending and have for a long time. A concerted effort, for Moms to help other Moms in business, could have a material impact on the economy.
Rethink That Career ‘Ladder’
Whether it’s the pay gap, #metoo or difficulty reaching the C-suite, many Moms wake up decades into their chosen career disappointed when it fails to meet the hype. We’re disillusioned when working hard isn’t enough to crack the leadership or wealth codes. Achieving traditional success has as much to do with ‘access’ as personal performance. At senior levels … perhaps more so. The career ladder we were taught to climb doesn’t actually exist anymore. What remains is much fuzzier and messier.
Sharon wisely observes, “Amidst the ‘mess’ the balance is changing. Companies are trying to be accommodating (but) many of us are also … taking control (and) more ownership of our finances.” A positive shift as the traditional work-world tries to catch up.
Corporate Life Versus Staying at Home? There’s Another Choice
“We don’t fit the current workplaces. We lack peer support and give up on our dreams and wishes.” Sharon shared what she learned after surveying Moms to launch Pepperlane. “(We) try to be ‘good girls’ and hide that we’re mothers (at work.)” Sigh, sadly, still true for many. Sharon has seen the transformative power of ownership, “I’m not saying it’ll be perfect or easy, (but) we don’t have to ‘work 9 to 5’ or stay at home. There’s another choice.” Hallelujah! Women now own over a third of privately held businesses.
I asked Sharon what surprised her the most after meeting so many Mom entrepreneurs, she said, “… The hunger for mothers to be recognized as smart, talented, (and able) to make money on their own terms. Is building Uber or Amazon the only definition of success? Let her decide to work how she wants, make an income and be welcomed for who she is. (It’s a) very different success definition.” Bravo!
Can We Help Each Other In Business Not Just Life?
Sharon spends a lot of time talking to Moms and said, “We’re good at getting recommendations for our kids but we’re not good asking for help.” So true! Get a group of Moms together and we inevitably talk about our families and rarely about our professional needs. “I’m trying to change the conversation. Let’s talk about business now.” Sharon said. Women are taught early it’s impolite to ‘brag.’ For many Moms, using important professional tools like personal branding and networking, feels deeply uncomfortable. Moving past this discomfort, however, is at the heart of changing long-held norms that don’t serve us.
Self-Care While Pursuing a Big Audacious Goal
Sharon’s not new to managing life while running a start-up. “This is my fourth or fifth company. It’s always been part of my life… but this one is extremely personal. I’m trying to build a culture, at Pepperlane, where we’re all driven to make it successful.” Having met the impressive Pepperlane team, and passionate community, she’s succeeded.
When asked about making space for self-care, Sharon said, “There are days I do better and days I do less-better.” I laughed. “I’ve been classified as a workaholic but I hope to get better at that. … It’s a start-up, but it’s a labor of love. I don’t suffer through. Sometimes, I need to listen to my kids more, they can tell when I’m not pleased.” I laughed. She explained, during those times, “…I pause and stay present. Something I need to practice every day. I observe my reactions in the moment, just breathe and then become an observer. (The) stress goes away.” A wise reminder about the power of mindfulness to reclaim calm.
The Art of Trying & Embracing Failure
“As mothers it’s important to remember our kids watch us. Look at failure as just the turning point. I encourage my daughters to fail, because I know what happens when you’re not trained to fail. Late in life, fear of failing, creates fear of trying new things.” An important reminder and clever way to teach the art of trying. Sharon has made this acceptance tangible for herself and family, “We celebrate if my daughter fails at something. I tell her, ‘I want to see how you pick up the pieces, that’s what matters. And I’m here watching.’”
Many thanks to the talented Sharon Kan, the inspiring CEO & Co-Founder of Pepperlane!
Sharon has served as co-founder, CEO, chief marketing officer, executive chairman, and general manager in her career in technology, working with companies both from inception and at the public company stage. She also co-founded WIN, the Women Innovating Now Lab at Babson College to help women start their businesses. You can follow Sharon’s adventures on Twitter, LinkedIn or, to learn more about joining the incredible Pepperlane platform and community for Mom-owned businesses, visit the site.