A Leap of Faith
I have never been comfortable with routines. Since I was a little girl I used to rearrange my bedroom furniture every few months, paint my walls and even my closet doors and other objects in my room, and recycle various objects into craft projects (or as I saw them back then – incredible works of art.)
It was that same boredom with the everyday life around me that eventually led me to take the plunge and start my own business. Because why work a 9-5 job when you can go out there and create something for yourself? I experimented for years in ‘creating’ – I studied art, photography, copywriting, publishing, book binding (literally, with an old fashioned binding needle and special book binding thread). I finally settled on Professional Writing and Communications at York U where I graduated. After working in marketing for a few years in a job that stressed me out and tested my limits daily, I finally fell pregnant. That was it! I was outta there! I took my maternity leave a month early because my nerves just couldn’t handle being someone’s employee anymore, and I was on my way.
When my son was around 8 months old I was running a photobooth company with my brother that had already started to profit after less than a year. I decided to put my son in a home daycare part time and try my hand at freelance writing. At the time my husband was running his own business as well. 2 entrepreneurs in one family meant highs and lows that were not very predictable – not exactly an ideal situation with a mortgage to pay. A couple of months later my brother and I came up with our idea for a product that we thought solved a very big problem for families who are spread across the world. We used the profits from our first business to start things up and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the rest of our basic business needs. But we still weren’t drawing a salary and while my introvert personality made writing easy, it proved to be a hindrance to a freelance career that relied on networking heavily. So it was time for me to go back to the workforce, knowing it would be temporary.
I often think back to those first few months at my new job. I think about how out of touch I felt as a mom who spent many many hours a day communicating with mostly infants and other bleary-eyed moms. I was worse than a fish out of water, I felt incapable of simple tasks because my brain would just not cooperate (no matter how much I bribed it with coffee and sugar). That mommy brain people talk about? Very much a real thing. Long days at work, rush hour commute, dinner, bath and bedtime, cleanup – all just a precursor to the nights I spent working on my new business. Our Kickstarter campaign was incredibly successful and we raised $20,000 to start production on our personalized books for kids. We wrote a story, worked on illustrations and book layout, vetted printers and web developers, and finally had a product in hand and a semi-functioning site to launch in November of 2015 (after some life altering hurdles along the way). All the while I was working round the clock and often asking my husband to take my son out for the day on weekends so I can get some work done. Say it with me, “m-o-m-m-y g-u-i-l-t”. Not to mention the guilt I felt when my brother would pick up my slack. I had to make a change and it needed to be significant.
Firstly, I had to be more patient with myself. One day my brother told me, “you just have to stop feeling guilty – period. I am fine with doing more work because I have fewer responsibilities, and don’t worry about Lenny (my son) because he can spend a few hours without you and still grow up completely ok.” I tried taking his advice but knew it would never work. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty, but I could allow myself to feel guilt and accept that that is just part of being a mom, possibly forever, and that’s ok. I can still move past that feeling and work on myself and my business and feel fulfilled in a different way.
The second change I had to make was big. I had to quit my job. I knew MagneTree Books could not afford to pay me a salary and I knew my family could not make ends meet without my income. But I also knew that if I didn’t leap now, if I didn’t take this huge risk, I would never have the opportunity to because I was crippling the growth of my business. So I sat down and worked out a budget for our family, arranged a very small salary from my husband’s company in return for doing their books, and took the plunge. I still run around like a crazy person, trying to fit everything into my daily schedule. I still take forever to respond to friends’ emails and call people back. I still fill my day up with slightly more than I can manage. We still don’t have financial freedom and have had to adjust to a lot less luxuries in life. But I don’t mind all that as much as I did before, because I’m free. I am creating something that is mine, I made it. And I remind myself daily that I am so fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had, for the support I’ve received from friends, family, and some incredible mom entrepreneurs out there. But most importantly, I’m fortunate for my own ambition – because all us moms just make amazing things happen, and we can tell each other that all day long but sometimes we need to tell ourselves that too.
Josie Elfassy is the co-author and co-founder of MagneTree Books.