Entrepreneur Mom

with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.

Welcome to my mommy escape

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I did it. I spent a bunch of money I didn’t have to spend and can already feel the financial pinch, but I circumvented a downward spiral into mommy madness this past weekend with my Mommy Escape. For those of you on Twitter, my hashtag was #mommyescapes. I learned a lot on my weekend and wanted to share some of those lessons as well as recap what I did - and didn’t do.

Here’s a glimpse of my weekend:

1. Booked Friday and Saturday night at the hotel. I chose a hotel called Il Lugano. I’ve stayed there before and knew I liked the hotel’s style, the ambiance, the food, the intracoastal.

2. Slept. No, I did not indulge in a pay-per-view-movie at all during my entire stay (see previous post).

3. Spent Saturday being creatively productive. I was actually planning on doing nothing but found I got much more joy out of being creative. Wrote a little then got caught up with some of my podcasts and felt really good about that.

4. Booked a spa treatment. Went to the Atlantic Hotel’s spa and picked two of the cheapest spa treatments. They did some heavy upsell on me and ended up doubling what I had budgeted. Live and learn, but thank you, Atlantic Hotel spa, for working with me on my sticker shock. Good customer service wins out.

5. Ate solo in the lobby bar. I wanted to dine with a friend but she was out of town. So tried a fancy burger with chianti onions and hand-pulled mozarella and parmesan fries. Sipped some 14 Hands merlot. Then wandered out to a wine bar nearby. Early night, more sleep.

6. Spent Sunday at the beach. I ended up at the beach at the Ocean Manor which turned out to be like a mini-Spring Break-type crowd but instead of stressing about it, I amused myself watching the people and sipping a Bloody Mary.

7. Ended with a fun fruity drink. When I asked the bartender back at Il Lugano to make me a special drink for the end of my Mommy Escapes Weekend, she obliged with a concoction of dark rum, coconut rum, pineapple and orange juices and grenadine. Perfect!

But of course, the weekend was not all relaxation and drinks. Here is an excerpt of what I tweeted during my Mommy Escape including a short list of lessons I came away with from my time alone:

All in all, this time away solidified my perception that the idea of balance between work and home life is a fallacy. It is all one big life with different modes, paces, interactions and obligations. It all requires an agile dance, a juggle, some ritual, a lot of self-care, and unapologetic moments of shifting from high stress and pressure mode to complete abandon and disconnection. I’m one of the lucky ones who can (almost) afford to pay for my “away time.” But we all need to find it, create it, honor it, revel in it.

If we don’t take care of ourselves, we could do the one bad thing we all seem to be racing around so hard to avoid: We could fail.

How do you take care of yourself - just you - to fortify yourself to meet the demands of work life and home life?

Planning a “mommy escape”

Categories: Work/Life

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I’ve been living the dichotomy that I described in my post The High-Powered Mommy Fence, and find that some days are better than others. Just as I’m at my wits end and want to run away from home, things settle a little, and my beautiful daughter does something so funny or so sweet that takes the rough edges off. Or I have another glass of wine. From comments on this blog and emails I’ve received, I know I’m not alone in this quandry of loving my child but not wanting to be a mom…at least not much of the time.

My latest idea is to give myself a break - literally some time away from my precious little girl and away from the usual stressors of life (work, overconnectivity, etc.) - and spend a little money (that I really don’t have to spend which does create a financial stressor, but that’s a different story) to take a weekend away by myself. While trying to figure out what to do and where to go, I kept hearing the words “retreat” and “zen,” but the harder I searched for something within a reasonable driving distance from my current location (South Florida), I just got more stressed just trying to find the right place at the right price.

Yesterday, I told a local friend my thoughts, and she suggested just going to a nearby hotel on the beach. Suddenly, my big escape plans sounded so simple and manageable.

Then I remembered a hotel I stayed at last time I was in South Florida - Il Lugano, a boutique hotel that was stylish, modern, well-appointed, right on the Intracoastal with a lovely outdoor pool and other luxury amenities. I blogged about the hotel previously to point out ways they could have been “heroes” in customer service but each time fell short. Yet despite those shortcomings, the place was beautiful, comfortable and felt like an escape even though it was right in the middle of Ft. Lauderdale beaches.

So here is my plan:

1. Book Friday and Saturday night at the hotel. Checking in Friday night.

2. Indulge in a good pay-per-view movie. The kind that I like and would watch but something my husband would only watch under duress and one that doesn’t involve Dora or princesses.

3. Spend Saturday being lazy. I mean really unambitious, non-productive, disconnected from the Internet for at least the day (eek).

4. Book a spa treatment. They don’t have a spa on site but partner with the Atlantic Hotel’s spa nearby. I’d have to choose my treatments carefully so as not to break the bank.

5. Invite a girlfriend over for dinner/drinks. Even my husband has learned that I thrive when I’m with good friends having great conversation (and good food and wine doesn’t hurt). I’m going to see if my friend can get away from her hubby and daughter for a little while. Can’t every mommy use a break?

Even planning this out carefully and not traveling a great distance doesn’t keep the weekend from costing a lot more than I would normally spend on myself. I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about the expense, however, in the entire scheme of life, I’m hoping this hit to the bank account today will be a blip someday.

Just thinking of this weekend is making my eyes well up with tears. I am so frazzled and exhausted and feeling guilty even when I say I’m not and just all around beating myself up for my mixed emotions about motherhood. If I can turn this around into a “Escape into Me” rather than an “Escape from Being a Mom,” maybe that will make it all worthwhile. At least I know I’ll come back to my mommy life a little more refreshed and hopefully patient and appreciative of the gifts I have in my life.

Taking a few days to be by myself, to take care of myself - well, I am hoping  the results will be priceless. And if not…maybe therapy is in order.

How do you “escape” from mommyhood…or do you even need to?

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Help! I have nothing to wear - and other working mom dilemmas

Categories: Work/Life


Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...Image via Wikipedia

The other day I went on a business trip, and suddenly realized I had nothing to wear. I wasn’t attending an Internet industry event where jeans and a t-shirt are the norm and where I spice up my look with a pink tiara and boa. No, this was a trip to meet with members of a nonprofit board that had extended an invitation for me to join. I was about to meet with…grownups.

The night before I had laid out a straight khaki skirt and red three-quarter sleeve turtleneck to wear on the plane along with sneakers and then packed a pair of black closed-toe mules. In the early morning, I squeezed my mommy hips and mommy jelly belly into the skirt - thank goodness for stretch material - pulled on the top, and set off for the airport.

I happened to look down at my skirt while heading to my car and noticed that the liner of the skirt was showing. Apparently my lack of laundry skills caused the skirt portion to shrink to a good inch and a half above the skirt liner. I figured I could jerry-rig something with masking tape or duct tape so made a mental note to stop by Wal-mart to get a quick fix-it tool. Then I glanced down at my skirt again as I was getting into my car. There was a stain smack dab in the middle of it.

Oh, yes, I remember that stain well. Some kind of baby gruel from a few years back that I scrubbed and scrubbed and treated with stain remover and that apparently left a bleached out area with a faded spot in the middle. Unacceptable, I thought as I raced into the house for my backup skirt - a dark teal, above-the-knee number that resembled cargo pants. I squeezed my mommy hips and mommy jelly belly into that skirt and figured it would have to do.

As I hurried to the car, the skirt began creeping up my thighs until it was bunched practically to my crotch. I envisioned sitting in a board room with sophisticated, intelligent people talking about sophisticated, complex issues giving everyone a Sharon Stone peekaboo show. Not good.

I checked the time and calculated that if I headed down a particular road to the airport, I’d pass Target along the way. I knew they had clothes I’d like, however, I had no idea if they were open at 7:00am. It was worth a shot. I got into the car with my skirt hiked up around my upper thighs and drove purposefully to Target. It was closed.

Not ready to give up, I recalculated time, current location and the location of the nearest Wal-mart with my handy iPhone Google Maps app and raced there. I wiggle-walked to the store, holding my skirt down on either side to make sure I didn’t flash anyone, and headed straight for the Ladies clothing section.

“Where are your professional clothes?” I asked the woman behind the fitting room counter. She looked at me as if I had two heads.

“Well, we have a few things,” she replied. “But very few. We’ve been trying to get more in here but they aren’t sending anything.”

duct tapeShe led me to a paltry display of a few George-branded tops, a pair of slacks and several skirts - a black one and one with dark wine and navy flowers. I knew trying slacks on at this point would be not only a time-suck but an exercise in body self-loathing, so I grabbed both skirts and ran to cash register. Once in the parking lot, I opened the driver door and slid the flowered skirt up under my cargo skirt. Then I unzipped and wriggled out of the cargo skirt. Next, because Wal-mart no longer carries slips to go under skirts because they don’t think slips are wanted anymore by women who shop there, I slid the black skirt under the flowered skirt to look like an intentional double hem.

As I admired my last-minute solution, I noted the man in the pickup truck in the parking space behind me who was now starting up his engine with a final glance in his side view mirror. I flashed back in my mind wondering how much of my underwear I may have flashed him as I made my quick change. I cringed, got into my car quickly, and locked the door. At least I looked a little more like a professional businesswoman. Plus the skirt length and cut was extremely forgiving to my mommy hips and mommy jelly belly so I felt less self-conscious.

The Hair Cut

But wait, it doesn’t end there. My struggle to be a professional businesswoman while in the throes of being a 45-year-old mother of a 4-year old who hasn’t exercised enough or kept up my wardrobe or taken care of my hair continues.

My hair. I have been through hell and back with this head of hair. I had massive hair loss after pregnancy that continued due to a hormonal imbalance caused by being pregnant later in life that then triggered peri-menopause symptoms not to mention the medication I was on for post partum depression that said in the finest of fine prints that it causes hair loss. I learned not to be so in love with my hair anymore because there was less and less of it.

In the past year, I’ve been getting bright, hot pink stripes in my hair. It was my way of trying to liven up a very unlively-feeling me. So when I went into the hair salon this week to get my hair done by a fabulous hair dresser recommended by all my 30-something friends who have fabulous hair, the first thing out of my mouth was:

“I’m a middle aged woman, and I want to feel hip, relevant and even sexy, if you can do that.”

The stylist laughed at me and assured me that the cause of all my woes wasn’t hair loss but hair damage from the pink striping. Then he proceeded to cut, color and condition my hair into glorious-ness, sans the hot pink. I had beautiful, silky, shiny brown hair with a cut that he blew dry into a Marilyn Monroe-esque style - not me, but he assured me that all I would need to do was to wash, condition, scrunch and let dry naturally, and I’d have that tousled look I always strive for that comes out as frizz.

I walked out of that hair salon feeling a bit overdone - hey, I don’t even own a hairdryer or curling iron - but also feeling like I actually had stylish hair. It moved, it bounced, it twinkled, it shimmered, and it framed my face like a haircut instead of a rat’s nest of straw. Afterward, my best friend and our 4-year-old daughters went out to eat at a local restaurant. I found myself strutting a little more confidently as I brought my daughter to the restroom to go potty. And I took a peek of myself in the mirror as she was washing her hands and thought “I look like a grownup…like a…woman.”

In just one hair-styling session I had a glimpse of a hip, relevant, even sexy woman who for a brief moment didn’t resemble the harried, frizz-haired, frumpy mommy that I had become. And I liked it.

What are some of your mom-meets-workingwoman dilemmas? Please share!

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7 pitfalls that work-at-home mom entrepreneurs should avoid

Categories: Work/Life


Do as I say, not as I do. In the constant struggle of running a company well from my home, I find myself committing typical work-from-home blunders so am listing them here to both confess to them and bring them to light so I can work on changing, fixing and improving things.

1. Lack of a defined workspace. I moved my home office from the basement - where I never ventured - to an upstairs former guest room that is next to our bedrooms. On the one hand, this is great in terms of proximity, sunlight, and it has a door to define a clear space, but on the other hand it is too close to the bedrooms. I tend to bring my laptop out of the defined office space “just for a little while” and then watch the lines of workspace begin to blur which causes strain on family space, cooking space, eating space, and leisure space.

2. Lack of a defined workday. Until recently, I had no clearly articulated work hours for my family, only for my team. Over time, however, I’m working hard to be clear that my workday starts as soon as my husband leaves the house with our daughter to bring her to day care and then ends as soon as he gets home from work. The latter has been hardest for me to adopt. When I was single, my workday was permeable and limitless until sleep. Now I have to shut down my computer, shut my office door and totally shift gears. A struggle but important.

3. Lack of a childcare backup system. I live in a rural area with very limited childcare options. When my daycare provider is away and the backup babysitter is also away, I’m out of luck. If you have a steady and affordable daycare situation, consider yourself very lucky. But what happens if that changes? What is your backup? Mine is to drive 7 hours to the city where there is a daycare provider that takes drop ins and where I can work from a friend’s house with wifi and have a support system in place to help me continue to run my business. And if your child is sick, does your home office shut down for the day or week? What is your contingency plan?

4. Lack of proper equipment set-up. Because I don’t have the luxury of a nearby Kinkos, having the right office equipment is critical. I have, however, an equipment quandary at the moment that I need to address. I have an all-in-one printer/scanner/copies with a cracked glass surface so I cannot scan or copy on it, just print. Then I have a newer printer/scanner/copier/fax with an ink cartridge problem that I can’t seem to troubleshoot so I can only use it to scan and fax. I need to take the time to optimize the newer system - figure out the ink cartridge issue and also connect it to wifi for wireless printing. Note to self: Do it.

5. Lack of sufficient (and organized) supplies. I’m constantly searching for staples for the stapler, scotch tape for the tape dispenser, paper clips, pens with ink in them, manila folders, hanging folders, you name it. I just need to make my office supply shopping list with the staples of a home office just as I’ve furnished my kitchen with staples of cooking. Then I need to buy a minimum amount of each item and designate a supply drawer to the purchases so I can get my hands on them when I need them.

6. Lack of a filing system. I once hired a professional organizer, and my filing system was outstanding for about a year. These days, my filing system consists of piles on surfaces and then hiding said piles in drawers. I should invest again in a professional organizer and get my new home office in shape with a sensible and accessible filing system and then get in the

7. Mixing Household with Work. I was between conference calls the other day and walked to the kitchen to get more coffee. On the way, I grabbed laundry out of my daughter’s room, ran it downstairs, tossed it into the wash, came back upstairs, started emptying the dishwasher, then stopped. What was I thinking? I am not Superwoman. Why was I trying to do everything at once? I also used this litmus test: Is my husband stopping by the house to do a load of laundry or get dinner ready during his work hours? If the answer is no, why am I taking it all on? Just because I’m there? I vowed to be more focused and less stressed about trying to do it all.

What work-from-home blunders are you committing, and how are you fixing them?

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AllThingsMedia 2010: second venture capital forum

Categories: Business Essentials

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Applications are now open for AllThingsMedia: 2010.

Springboard Enterprises is hosting the AllThingsMedia: 2010 venture capital forum to showcase “investment-ready, high-growth media companies led by women in emerging media and entertainment - including television, radio, print, digital media, mobile, video games, search, social networking, e-commerce, online advertising, outdoor, animation, software and other innovations across the entire media space.”

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Call for entries: 7th annual Stevie awards for women in business

Categories: Business Essentials

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The Stevie Awards for Women in Business today announced their Call for Entries for the seventh annual competition. You can find an application, instructions and details on past awards at www.stevieawards.com/women. All female entrepreneurs, executives, and the organizations they run, worldwide, are eligible to be nominated.

Check out the list of award categories.

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business feature over 50 categories including Executive of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Company of the Year, Employer of the Year, Mentor of the Year, Female Employee of the Year, Women’s Blog or Web Site of the Year, and Marketing Campaign for Women of the Year, among others.
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Really unplugging: can you do it?

Categories: Work/Life

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alaskaI went camping with my family this past holiday weekend, and I didn’t bring my laptop. This was a first for me, but when my husband said he wasn’t bringing a generator, I knew I wouldn’t be able to power up my laptop once the batteries died down. So I left it behind.

Usually, my fallback access device is my iPhone but within minutes of driving out of the rural Alaskan town where I live, I lost cell signal and knew there wouldn’t be any more signal most likely to the Canadian border. The campground where we were staying was definitely signal free.

I was disconnected.

Normally, I would panic about this situation. I’m the woman who is practically intravenous about my digital information consumption and am constantly communicating in some digital way during work hours. I’m also the woman who has a hard time stepping away from my laptop at the end of the day. I started unplugging my laptop and putting it into my computer bag to literally disconnect from the compulsion to check emails just one more time over and over again.  I’m also the woman who walks around the house holding my iPhone in my hand just to feel connected.
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The High-Powered Mommy Fence

Categories: Work/Life


I sit on the fence between high-powered Internet executive on one side and mom to a 4-year-old on the other.

The other day, I was traveling on business but brought my daughter because my husband had meetings and other plans. I offered to take the responsibility of childcare because…well, it just keeps happening that way because of age-old gender roles no matter how much I try to resist them.

I’ve found an excellent daycare in this particular city that takes “drop-ins” which is the most amazing service ever invented for working women who sometimes travel with their kids. So I dropped my daughter off at this new place, anxious to get started on my work, and as I got ready to leave, she wrapped her arms around my legs. I felt a wave of mommy-ness, and it was overwhelming.

My eyes welled up with tears.
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The 45-Minute meeting? hurrah!

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts, Uncategorized

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I received a pitch from a publicist who works with a company called TimeBridge which is a one-stop online meetings solution where that you can use to plan for, schedule, receive reminders for and follow up on meetings using their online tools. The pitch was about the 45 Minute Meeting Movement, a “new” idea being perpetuated by the TimeBridge folks to reduce the amount of time we waste in meetings.

“Why are we starting this movement?” asks John Stormer on the 45 Minute Meeting site. He goes on to explain:

“Well if you ask me what drives our work at TimeBridge, it’s a commitment to make meetings better for the both organizers and attendees.  That means everyone’s time is better spent, for sure, but it also means that teams are more effective.   More stuff gets done in the meeting.  And (this is not insignificant) that teams feel better about their work, more empowered, more effective.”
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Dear American Express, please take me back

Categories: Legal Stuff, Work/Life


American Express CompanyImage via Wikipedia

This is a tale of a female entrepreneur who used to have an American Express card but lost it in the chaos of the Internet bubble bursting and a breakup with a long term boyfriend.

Dear American Express,

I would like an American Express card, please.

Why, you ask?

Because I’m a successful entrepreneur with a fast-growing company in the emerging tech space.

Because I have regular travel expenses each month that I pay off the following month.

Because I love what I see American Express doing with the Open initiative for small businesses.

Because I love what I see American Express doing with cause-related initiatives.

Because I love the perks of having an AmEx card (Do you still do that extra protection for members when they rent cars? I used to love that.)

Because I love the prestige that having an AmEx card brings. Call me superficial, but it really is a status symbol to flash your AmEx (don’t leave home without it, and all that).

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