Being a Start-up Mom: An Introspection


As I write this, it is early on a Saturday morning. Trying to find some quiet time before the family rises, I retreat to the dining table, riddled with the incessant flow of paper work – yes, work that I must put on my to-do list– but after I get this post written. As I furiously try to get my mind focused on the task at hand, I am reminded that this is the life that I have chosen.

There was a time when I worked to live

I never really had ambitions to do anything great. I came out of business school just wanting a job, to make some decent money, to see the world, and live comfortably. This was no different than anyone out there. I came out of school with mediocre grades, but enough to get a respectable degree that would land me places. It introduced me to a discipline called database marketing, and I was hooked.

In the years that followed, my love for data and its possibilities created opportunities for me in consumer loyalty, banking and B2B. It was here that I was also introduced to the advertising world (ie the client-driven world) of 80 hour weeks. I hated the hours. The weekdays would blend into my weekends. I was losing control of the balanced life that I had desperately sought to achieve. Then along came the internet…. and I changed.

Wanting to change the world makes you a different person

It was a new frontier. Everybody was figuring things out. We were on the cusp of developing this new channel into whatever we wanted. Everyone had ideas about how to do it. They all tried. The start-up world became this haven that empowered people to take their ideas to fruition, no matter how crazy. No one waited for judgement. They just did it. Money or no money.

I was introduced to this environment, albeit Yahoo! was not new to the game. In Canada, however, we were a start-up in many respects. After the bubble burst in the late 90′s, most of the satellite offices were shut down. When I came on board 5 years later, the Canadian office was resurged. It was here that I began to apply what I knew to this online channel.

I was excited, and absorbed every last ounce of knowledge that anyone was willing to feed me. I became consumed with ideas and possibilities. This was an environment that allowed us to try new things, fail, then try again. Engineering and Product were my best friends. They allowed me to “play” and try anything and everything. I became embedded in this world of endless possibilities and I didn’t pay attention to the amount of time it was consuming. I was drinking this Purple Kool-Aid and it started to affect me in ways that continue to challenge me to this day.

Along the way, family suffers

During this period, my children were still young. Maddie was 4 and Nathan was 1. The responsibilities at work made it increasingly difficult to manage both work and home.

I am reminded of this post, The Guilt Grind — And Why I Love Every Minute of It!, that I wrote a few years back when I worked at a new and promising social tech start-up. It’s here that I wrote,

And while I try to make every soccer practice, hockey game, school play or choir, there have been many times I’ve had to make the disheartening decision to choose this “path” over family. And that has burned me each time. I will never forget when my daughter was four and I missed her first year-end gala, to make a dinner with an important executive coming into town the same night. I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

I still remember the performance reports I had to present every Monday morning. For months, I compiled the reports Friday night when they were available for all the 20 Yahoo! properties and proceeded to do the analysis into the wee hours of the morning. I convinced myself that if I could get the work done before the weekend then I could use what was left of the weekend to spend with my family. It wasn’t long before I became friends with the same cabbie, who drove me home every Saturday morning at 2:00 AM, to a family who had long gone to sleep.

The person I became did not separate work from family. They became intermingled, sometimes to the point of annoyance. My husband was losing his patience and our marriage was teetering on the brink of turmoil.

I emerged as someone who couldn’t stop thinking about the problem or the task at hand. Sometimes it got in the way of life like a bad drug that you just can’t seem to get out of your system. Many late nights, I remember hearing the song, “Cats in the Cradle” like an incessant ring unwilling to relent. It was telling me something and I was unwilling to listen.

Starting over

Over the years, I’ve worked at ad agencies and social tech start-ups. Through this experience it became clear that no one was doing enough to move the needle forward when it came to social data and the organization. I felt compelled to take what I’ve known and build a company, ArCompany. I became convinced that starting this business would allow me to see my kids more. I promised myself that I would make each and every one of their hockey games, skating practices, soccer tournaments and school concerts. Perhaps I could make up for lost time.

Starting a business is hard. It didn’t take me long to realize this. The opportunity to do something different and to challenge the status quo, while compelling, takes an immense amount of effort and will. Amy Tobin, my colleague, can tell you about the number of anguishing conversations we’ve had over the last year. There were many bleak moments in just starting this business. It takes a great deal of discipline and motivation to get out of bed every morning even when things look like they’re going to fall apart. My friend Nicole McKinney continues to remind me to #KeepMoving and never to look back.

Today, my workplace is the dining room table. I’ve decided that I don’t want to carve any office space in the house for myself. I want to greet my kids before they leave and when they return from school. My children are now older. Maddie is 14 and Nate is 11. They don’t need me as much as they used to but I want to be present in their lives. It’s not too late.

I continue to struggle

I love the foundation that I’ve created for myself. We’ve built a business that seems to resonate with what the market needs. The work is challenging but extremely fun. We’ve created some amazing relationships and continue to build strong business cases that prove out our business model. The bleakness of the previous year is starting to bear its fruits and the opportunities are starting to present themselves.

But all this comes at a cost. It has forced me to focus more of my time on developing these opportunities. My days are spent churning out proposals and reports, client meetings, pitching more business, taking care of bills, meeting with partners. When dinner’s done, I find myself habitually making my way to my trusted laptop. Sometimes it doesn’t leave me until the early hours of the morning. Where I’ve promised myself to keep my weekends sacred, that is now not the case. My advisor warned me that we are a start-up and what we’re going through is normal. I just have to suck it up. In the same vane, he also advises me that I have to be human.

Through this period, I’m proud to say that I’ve been just as relentless, a hockey mom and parent. It’s still tough, however, to focus when I’m attending a game. While I’m physically present, my mind is not. But I’m trying.

What is my legacy?

Sometimes I convince myself that all will be better when we make $X revenue, or when we have budget to hire more people. It’s at that time that I can rest and give more time to my family. But I know that when that time comes, I’ll find other reasons to do more and eventually drown myself in more work.

I’m not going to fight it. For all my faults, I have to acquiesce to the path I built for myself.

My daughter asked me the other day me what would be a good job to have when she grew up. This is the advice I offered, “Do what you love to do not because of money, but because it it makes you smile. Do not stay in a job because it’s safe. Move towards jobs that challenge you. And never ever stop learning.”

I am in no way perfect. And I don’t think I want to put in the effort to be. I can be conscious of my own limitations and do what I can do to ensure I keep on course. My family is my priority. Enough said.

As a mom, I’ll continue to fight to make sure I become a significant force in my kids’ lives. But I also want to make sure that my existence was worth something while I was here. I love this quote that was sent to me by my friend Bilal Jaffery:

Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow truly know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary. -Steve Jobs

This was originally posted on

photo credit: ~PhotograTree~ via photopin cc

The BEST Morning Shake via @RyanPannell

2014-05-18 09.55.01

Every since my dear friend, Ryan sent me this recipe, I was hooked. It may sound cliche but healthy can taste really good. Another friend of mine calls this my morning green goo! Little does he know how very very good it is for you.

So, I used to drink this every morning 7 days a week. Ryan’s told me that it’s best to use the kale in moderation: 3-4 days is optimal.

1 apple
1 pear
½ cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 2″ chunk of ginger
1 carrot
½ pineapple
Big handful of kale
Big handful of spinach
1 peeled lime
1 avocado

Juice everything except the avocado (and spinach, if you have a Vitamix) and put in a blender. Add avocado and spinach (if you didn’t juice the spinach) and 5 ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Serves 2 adults and 2 kids. Tastes like pineapple lime juice in case the ingredient list looks scary! It’s delicious, even if you hate veggies.

We add ½ cup hemp seeds, 8 tsp of Nu-Greens spirulina (but don’t try that right away – it takes a while to get used to that taste).

Cheers! and thanks Ryan!

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: ArCompany and InNetwork Announce Strategic Partnership

I am so excited today. As we start moving in this social intelligence space, we’ve built some pretty amazing relationships along the way, including this one with Innetwork Inc. You can also see this at the ArCompany Blog.

ArCompany and InNetwork Inc. Announce Strategic Partnership, Combine Social Media Intelligence with Influence Marketing

July 15, 2013 – Influence marketing will be an integral part of the marketing suite for most organizations over the next 18 months, according to a recent study of more than 1,300 brand managers, agencies and PR professionals. However, many businesses lack the resources and expertise to extract real business data from influence marketing campaigns. Announced today, a new strategic partnership between ArCompany and InNetwork Inc. will close that gap.

ArCompany is a thought leader in social media who provides strategic services to leading enterprises with an emphasis on social media intelligence, analytics and ROI.  InNetwork Inc. is a cloud-based solution that enables brands and agencies to identify and connect with individually vetted influencers for marketing campaigns, share of voice promotions and product launches.

“Today’s announcement is a natural expansion of the services we provide,” says ArCompany CEO Hessie Jones. “We identify and recommend best-of-breed solutions to best meet our client’s needs based on deliverables and success metrics. InNetwork’s methodology of providing authority-driven influence fits well with that approach.”

In addition to using InNetwork’s solution for client campaigns, ArCompany will help shape the solution for today’s organizational needs.  “One obvious synergy would be delivering deeper business data highlighting real business return and which influencers provided true value for the brand, as well as strategic pre-campaign goal-setting,” adds Craig Rennick, COO of InNetwork Inc. “ArCompany’s experience in this field will enhance the InNetwork solution and deliver a comprehensive offering for our clients.”

ArCompany’s leadership team includes Danny Brown, a highly respected social media and marketing thought leader, and co-author of the best-selling book Influence Marketing.  “The conversation around influence marketing has matured, and moved from impressions and reach to lead generation, customer acquisition and consumer loyalty,” states Brown. “The partnership between ArCompany and InNetwork will enable brands to successfully utilize this growing business segment to drive actionable insights that deliver real ROI and long-term success.”

About ArCompany:
With offices across Canada and the U.S., ArCompany provides data-driven strategies to help organizations turn social media intelligence into business results. Using analysis and insights from best of breed technologies, they enable their clients to leverage the changing business landscape and be drivers of change within their industries.

About InNetwork Inc.:
Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, InNetwork Inc. is a cloud-based influence-marketing tool that enables brands and agencies to run highly targeted outreach campaigns. Their human algorithm that vets influencers for authority combined with influencer and audience verified data allows marketers to select and connect directly with the best influencers for their campaign.  This, combined with their on-platform workflow and post-campaign reporting, gives marketers a comprehensive solution to run successful influencer outreach campaigns.


Hessie Jones, CEO, ArCompany

Craig Rennick, COO, InNetwork Inc.

When Life Makes You Think

I was going about my day when I saw my friend Lindsay Bell post a note on Facebook about an explosion at the Boston Marathon.

From the time it took to read that post to the time my kids came home from school 20 minutes later, thousands of posts both on Twitter and Facebook were shared: drawing attention to the details of the events. It was a whirlwind and yet it seemed to pass by like a dream in slow motion.

When my kids arrived home, I turned their attention to the television set and told them what had happened. The events had taken an even sadder note when we found out this race was in special commemoration for the Sandy Hook victims and their families. It seemed too surreal to imagine that something like this could happen again.

After 9/11, I, like many other families dove head-first and embraced family. It was a time to focus on the hear-and-now and ONLY make time for those things that were important. Hence, my son, Nathan was born in June of 2002. He would always be a reminder of how life should be lived.

I feel guilty most days…

I know I sometimes (ok, most times) treat my family unfairly. I know I have a temper that must be tempered. I know I should be more patient. I know I should call my parents more often. I know that I should spend more time with my Lola, whose time on this earth is limited. I know I should stop putting unrealistic expectations upon others. I know I should stop judging. I know I am NOT always right.

But I do know I have to be better…

I hug my kids everyday and telling them that I love them. I appreciate Shawn, my love, who has shown me more generosity and compassion and love than anyone deserves. I appreciate my parents who, still new to Canada, struggled to raise 4 kids and gave up so much so we could have what they couldn’t. I never told them Thank You. I still have lots to do to repair a lot of my past mistakes. But I’m relentless and I’m going try.

I collected some of these life lessons along the way and regretfully I have not properly recorded their origins:

…Have no regrets…Laugh like you’ve never laughed before…Dance like no-ones watching…

Tonight, I went to Tumblr to look for inspiration. I found some pretty profound stuff–many from the young’uns who have experienced more hurt, and have openly shared their souls online. Thank you for making me cry tonight. And thank you for making me appreciate what I have:)

Here are some of those amazing posts:

uarenotpowerless love90yochildrenvisitjustbeingtheregentle

There are no words for what happened today. There’s no point in speculation. It’s just another life lesson we need to learn. #PrayersforBoston

%d bloggers like this: