“When my son was two, his preschool closed because of Covid so, I had asked for some flexibility at work. I didn’t demand anything. But my employer literally said, ‘You’re choosing your family over my company!’ I remember thinking, ‘and you’re asking me to choose?’ As horrible as Covid was, in a lot of ways it really pushed many women to say, ‘what are we doing here?’ Especially if their employers weren’t giving them support,” said Nicole Gonzalez-Cumberbatch, Entrepreneur and Podcast Host.
Our careers impact more than our bank accounts. How and where we work has a profound impact on our mental health. Although the Motherhood penalty’s input to wage and leadership gaps for women is well documented. Working in environments that are punitive, or lack psychological safety, also drains confidence and emotional stability. The American Psychological Association’s study shows “More than 1 in 5 workers (22%) said they have experienced harm to their mental health at work.”
And when faced with a toxic workplace or difficult boss, Moms tend to have less options if they want to remain in their chosen field or keep their benefits. And after two decades of being a rising star at work, Nicole wanted control over her professional fate. Although she didn’t have a safety net, or detailed business plan, she leapt into entrepreneurship with the belief she would figure it out.
Rethink What You Need from Work
Like many of us, Nicole’s relationship to work changed after her son was born. She said, “It was like, how do I manage a team and keep this little human alive? Because I was breastfeeding and astounded to learn there really are no resources for working parents. I went from having a clear-cut path, working at a very stressful, fast pace where everything needed to be done yesterday. To thinking ‘Oh my God what do I do with the breast milk?’ I wondered, how did my Mom do it? lt was a lot on my mental health.” Despite her steady climb into senior leadership before Motherhood, she felt adrift.
And Trust Your Own Worth
Although it’s common to feel disconnected postpartum, no one expects to feel that way. Nicole admits, “I struggled to find a place after my son was born. Because when I left that employer, it was almost like after a bad breakup, I just couldn’t connect again.”
The pandemic and economic downturn only complicated her options. But she knew she’d rather find another way to make money, than sacrifice her mental health in bad work environments. “It took me a couple of years to really get my footing and decide, what I wanted my career to look like.” She realized the flexibility she desired wasn’t common for senior accounting roles. So, she knew she needed to do it differently.
Choose to Preserve Your Mental Health
Nicole explained, “I said to my husband, ‘I’ve been in accounting for a very long time. And I think I can support organizations doing this on my own, because this is not working.’ And I knew it would only get harder as our son grows. I wanted to be a present parent. So, I was pushed into becoming a business owner.”
Many women, especially women of color, become entrepreneurs by necessity. Although there’s strong motivation, the lack of start-up capital or funding, means there’s pressure to bring in immediate revenue. She added, “Then I realized just because you say you have a business, doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to come to it instinctively. Although I had reached the Vice President level working in corporate, I was willing to do bookkeeping or anything to get some revenue in.”
Monetize Your Current Skills
Even when you’re an expert in your field, the transition to navigate business development and sales, challenges many founders. But Nicole took a pragmatic approach to find her fastest path to income.
“If you’re thinking of making that leap, write down what your skill sets are. I knew I could do administrative work because I started out as an assistant and wore multiple hats working in startups.” She knew she had great hard and soft skills, in addition to her leadership and functional experience in finance and accounting.
Reconnect to Your Confidence
Nicole said, “Instead of putting the hardship on our family, I put my ego aside, and joined a VA agency to make money quickly as I built my business.” She needed the financial runway and when she worked as an assistant, she learned many of the systems she now uses for her accounting business. “I tell founders when you’re starting out, you have to make money. Look at your skills especially if you have corporate experience because that’s also valuable.”
Come up with Your Target List
When Nicole realized she wanted to continue using her accounting skills, she made a list of ideal clients. Then thought about where to find those companies. “I joined my local Chamber of Commerce and then I pitched myself as an independent contractor for businesses looking for a bookkeeper.”
Once she convinced companies to work with her as a consultant, she established long-term relationships. “To get started, it took a lot of grit and belief that I would figure it out.” Nicole isn’t anti-business plan, she agrees that having one is helpful. But you can start without one.
Focus on Revenue First, Build Infrastructure Later
Most founders pivot many times after that initial business idea. The problems you imagine you’ll solve, may be completely different from needs in the market.
Nicole explained, “If you really need income and have to work, there’s always a way. If you have to answer calls, because you need to bring in a few hundred dollars and it allows you time to work on your business and grow, that’s more important than thinking you need a website and social media handles.”
Stay Open to Other Possibilities
Nicole now runs two businesses. Her accounting firm and Motherhood Village, which initially began as a passion project, to build community with other Moms. “When I started the podcast, I just wanted to have an outlet for honest conversations. And inspire other Moms to hopefully not be as blindsided as I was during my postpartum period. And then, I very quickly learned that these conversations needed to go deeper than 60 minutes. And more than anything, what Mothers need is community.”
Consider Starting Local to Build Momentum
Many people give the advice about how to successfully build businesses, with lots of visibility and financial backing. But that rarely happens immediately. Nicole, who always considered herself a problem solver knew she needed to create awareness to build her community.
“I did all the free masterclasses and got sucked into thinking I needed 15,000 followers. But my husband said, ‘Whoa, take a step back. You have a community of Mothers right in our city of Coral Springs, start here.’ So, that switched my mindset to realize the community is here and then I can expand.”
Ground Your Business in Your Why
Nicole said, “My husband truthfully is a big part of building the Motherhood Village, because I’m doing that now with the live shows. It was a natural thing to connect with people and be empathetic.”
The infrastructure and clarity can come with momentum. So, she advises other aspiring founders just to start. “You need to know what your ‘why’ is and your mission behind it. Knowing your core values is much more important because that’s going to drive you and push you forward, past the uncertainty.”
Many thanks to the talented Nicole Gonzalez-Cumberbatch!
Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs is a proud sponsor of the Motherhood Village’s upcoming Boston event: Own Your Worth & Release Attachment to External Validation. Grab your ticket to join us in person on November 9th for a night of community and conversation,
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