By Jenn Chu

Why I Choose to be an Entrepreneur

Kim wrote her manifesto first, and then (repeatedly) urged me to write mine. I don’t consider myself a natural writer, and it’s out of my comfort zone to put paper to pen with my very personal feelings.  So this exercise is not an easy one for me, hence the procrastination.

But, to the topic at hand, why am I choosing this path to launch a business instead of working for another company? I’ve tried this before and failed, and that hurt — my ego, my finances, my confidence. I choose to do it again more than a decade later, because I am reminded that I was most passionate during that period of my life. Every spare moment I had, I was thinking about or working on my startup because I loved doing it.

My intention had been to start another company one day, but you life happens as we all know. I think most people tend to make more conservative choices as we get older, perhaps because of kids (I have one girl) or because our invincibility has been seriously stress-tested. Or, we just can’t go back to bootstrapping our lives.  And then the startup becomes a distant part of our identity. We begin to accept the unlikelihood that we’ll have that courage or opportunity to embark on the another venture again.

My Decision Criteria on Starting Another business

When Kim broached the idea with me early this year, there were two dominating factors that activated me:

1) More time for my family

Somehow, the 168 hours in a week depletes exponentially faster when you have kids.  No knock on those who don’t have kids — I recognize that everyone has their own priorities and obligations.  For me, working full-time at a high-growth startup took a noticeable toll on my relationship with my husband, my patience with my daughter, and the quality time and mental presence I was able to offer them, even when technically not working.

Since becoming a part-timer, I can make decisions for my daughter’s education and activities without having to compromise on what I think is best for her. When she got sick with Kawasaki disease and had to be hospitalized in October, followed by many more tests and doctor appointments, I was there for her 100%. Had I still been working full-time, I’m pretty sure I would have had my laptop in the hospital room sneaking in work overnight and trying to keep up with the demands of work.

I started interviewing for full-time jobs at the end of last year, because that was the timeline I had given myself so that I could make more money again. I did not really want to sacrifice the flexibility and extra time for my family that I had had all summer, but it seemed like that was a non-negotiable tradeoff.

2) Partners

After my last experience being a founder, I know that I would never go at it alone again.  The difference now is that I have partners! (Big exclamation point.) Not just any partners, but partners I trust and respect who support me.

I have Kim who I met at our last startup. It may seem like a trivial thing, but we have daughters who are similar in age, and therefore we share an instant (unspoken) understanding of priorities; all the states of exhaustion, frustration, guilt, anxiety; and total flexibility around “working” hours. She’s also like super smart and fast — and we all know that speed is the currency of startups.

And I have my husband. While he’s not a partner in this business, he is my partner in life. He wholeheartedly supports me and this venture. I didn’t have to sell him on our idea (though I do practice my pitches to him as part of refining our concept). Further, he has a steady income which puts me in the fortunate position of being able to take on this risk.

3) Expertise

Last time I started a company, I created a consumer packaged goods product. I had no previous experience in manufacturing, packaging design, distribution, or retail. Every decision required lots of research, and every mistake was a costly learning lesson which, in hindsight, I really could not afford to make.

This time around, I feel that we are experts in our domains. We have a competitive advantage in creating the content, tools and resources that startups need, because we've done it before, again and again.  
As someone who went to an Ivy League college and has an MBA, I do feel pressure to put my career at the center so that I can attain the career titles that signify success. I have plenty of friends on LinkedIn who are CEOs and CMOs or who have started companies and raised VC funding.  I think that is a common and natural tension / social pressure that many women will experience.  If I’m honest with myself though, which I think is what this writing exercise is for, my strengths and priorities are aligned with a different track.  And so I embrace this journey as a dedicated mom, wife and entrepreneur. And I root for all other moms who have taken this path or are thinking about taking this path.

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