Last year, I birthed two pandemic babies – one in June and another in November. Astute readers are surely furrowing their brows – it defies the laws of nature! Well, let me assure you that both are indeed my progeny, have caused sleepless nights, and have done quite a bit of growing up in the last year.
One is a little girl with endearing dimples named Maisel, and the other is a fast-growing company with engaging phone-case designs (also named Maisel).
Moms are notoriously gluttons for punishment, wearing their lack of sleep and milk-stained clothing like badges of honor. Not so different from entrepreneurs, who proudly boasting their lack of sleep and coffee-stained clothing. So it’s fitting that during my maternity leave with baby Maisel, I decided to double down.
My husband and I received countless high-contrast books and flash cards as gifts for baby Maisel, with the expectation that we would be sharing them with our newborn to increase her cognitive development. Sounds easy, right? Sure is. It’s so easy that it’s downright boring. (ICYMI, pediatric neurologists found that newborns, who can’t see color, are not only attracted to black-and-white images but that the images also stimulate growth in their brain cells.)
While showing baby Maisel patterned flashcards was not high on my list of pastimes, I did notice that as a modern mom, I was constantly using my phone around her to take photos, videos, and FaceTimes from family and friends. She was spending significant time staring at the back of my phone. The eureka moment was realizing that baby Maisel was constantly staring at a meaningless iPhone logo when she could be staring at something more meaningful, like high-contrast artwork to strengthen her brain power.
With what felt like superhuman strength that only a mother could muster, I went from eureka moment to launching a company in under eight weeks. In our first month, just based on word-of-mouth, I sold over $3,000 worth of the high-contrast artwork phone cases and have been growing steadily ever since. Modern moms (and dads) could relate to always being on their phones, and also wanted to multi-task their phone cases as a tool for their child’s development.
I studied in college, and worked as a lawyer for half a decade. And yet, raising baby Maisel turned out to provide some of the most helpful lessons for raising my company, Maisel. Here are my top three lessons:
1) Let go of the small things
As a first-time mother, I tried to read all the books on child-rearing that I could get my hands on. I wanted to know everything. But that isn’t reasonable, or possible. I quickly learned that you’re setting yourself up for failure as a mother if you try to do everything perfectly. Likewise–as the founder of a start-up–the goal should not be perfection. At least not initially. Conventional wisdom is to build a minimum viable product and get it out to customers, and then iterate on it based on their feedback.
2) Try everything
Opinions about the best way to raise a child are like belly buttons. Everyone has one. There are a million theories and experts. But, the best approach as a new mother is to try different approaches and see which one works for you. The same applies to start-ups. Always be ready to pivot. You never know what’s going to work, or the best way to connect with customers. Pay attention to patterns and be thoughtful about how to respond to the ever-evolving experience – whether that’s sleep training or customer acquisition. And don’t be afraid to change directions quickly and often.
3) Celebrate the wins
Last but not least, celebrate milestones and wins. Even small ones. When a baby stretches the amount it sleeps, celebrate. When a company has its tenth sale, celebrate. There are lots of frustrating and challenging moments when raising an infant baby or a baby business that it’s important to cherish the successes. It will help you stay motivated and drive you to your next milestone or win.
Babies and companies are exhausting, but they’re also exhilarating. It’s been a thrilling year of babies in our household, and I can’t wait to continue watching our Maisels blossom – even if it means permanently sporting milk-stained, coffee-stained clothing.
Advice from a Researcher on How to Make Research Your Business’s Superpower
By: Kirsten Lee Hill, PHD.
When I talk to people about research, the first thing I notice is that almost everyone is doing research–they just don’t call it that.
Put simply, research is creating an intentional plan to answer a question you have, and then putting it into action. As a business owner, I’m willing to bet that you have questions you would like answered. Questions like:
How are people experiencing my products/services?
Does my product/service work?
How can I improve my product/service?
On a daily basis as you continue to run your business and make decisions about growing or pivoting, you are using information to answer these types of questions. Every time you ask a customer for feedback, send out a poll, or look at records to make decisions about products or services–that’s research!
The quality of the information you get is only as good as the quality of the questions you ask. The key to good research is asking good questions, and crafting good questions is both an art and a science.
To create a good question, you have to get specific about what it is you want to know.
Have you ever asked a client or customer if they are “satisfied?” Or, has anyone ever asked you if you are “satisfied” with their product or service?
Personally, it is my least favorite question, and one that I never ask.
Here’s the thing–I never ask if someone is satisfied because I don’t care. Not asking is strategic. To me, that question is a waste of space (and my clients’ goodwill), and I want to use space and goodwill on important questions that matter to me. Big, vague words like “satisfaction” are not helpful in evaluating my work or making decisions.
What does it even mean to be satisfied?
In some sense it means that I generally did a good job or a bad job. But, I don’t make decisions based on ambiguous terms. I want specific insights to drive my business.
Specific insights come from specific questions.
So, instead of asking if someone is “satisfied” for if they “liked” your product/service, choose an area(s) of feedback that would provide meaningful information. Perhaps you want to know if your product was useful, made something easier, or fun. If you’re selling a new shirt and people say they hate it, that’s not helpful. Instead, ask specific questions about the color, fit, and fabric so that you can take action on the feedback.
Questions are powerful tools that can provide you with information to make important decisions. Don’t waste them.
To learn more about Kirsten Lee Hill, visit her website.