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Updated: March 27th, 2020
One of the best ways to grow as a business owner is to look at other successful business owners for inspiration. Entrepreneurs who’ve revolutionized their industries or created change on a global scale are motivating enough, but when those same entrepreneurs do double duty as parents, it’s particularly impressive.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of five remarkable business owners who’ve achieved groundbreaking success while also raising kids.
Mother-of-four and entrepreneur Sara Blakely is the founder of SPANX, the brand that transformed the undergarment industry.
In 1998, Blakely saw (and acted on) the opportunity to create a new product: control-top pantyhose without feet. She quickly turned SPANX into a household name, and in 2012 Forbes named Blakely the youngest self-made female billionaire in the U.S. Her primary goal, in addition to making women feel more confident in their bodies, is to support other female entrepreneurs. To do this, she created the LEG UP initiative, which highlights emerging female business owners. She also collaborates with organizations to offer financial stipends and mentorship to women entrepreneurs who are driving positive change in their communities.
But giving back and running a company while parenting isn’t easy, Blakely says. She calls herself a work-in-progress, like all working mothers. Her advice: “Focus on being present and grateful in each moment, including during all the delicious chaos that ensues when you are the mother of small children.”
Wendy Kopp is the founder of Teach For America, and the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, a global network of nonprofit organizations working to expand educational opportunities in underdeveloped areas.
Kopp’s idea for Teach For America, the United States’ first national education corps, came during her senior year at Princeton University. She wanted a way to utilize the skills and energy of college graduates to improve education in the United States’ most impoverished areas. Since 1990, Teach For America has provided thousands of jobs for college graduates, and has proven to be a major force in reducing educational inequality across the country. Though she travels often for work, Kopp is grateful that her kids understand the value of what she does. “They encourage me on,” she says.
Sheila Lirio Marcelo is the founder of Care.com, the largest online destination for securing and managing family care services.
In 2006, Marcelo was a young working mother struggling to find child care when she decided there had to be a better solution than flipping through the phone book. She decided to leverage her start-up experience to raise funding and launch a new model for seeking child care. Her business savvy and meticulous approach to planning helped her secure $100 million in funding by the time Care.com went public in 2016, leading to a whopping $162 million in revenue that same year.
Surprisingly, Marcelo says her goal isn’t to balance work with motherhood. Rather, she aims for an “integrated life” where her passions and ambitions align to serve one greater purpose — and encourages her kids to do the same. “When you’re worried about work-life balance, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment because you’re looking for two separate spheres when there is only one: life,” she says.
Angie Hicks was just 22 years old when she co-founded Angie’s List, an online directory that helps people connect with local professionals for home services.
Founded in 1995, Angie’s List was one of the first directories to leverage reviews from paid subscribers, which helped legitimize the community and create a more reliable network of individuals. Angie’s initial goal was to help reduce everyday stress and hassle for users, and she has since extended that philosophy to her employees as well. As a manager, Hicks holds regular office hours and encourages employees to take vacation time — a compassionate approach that has only bolstered the company’s success. And as a mother, Hicks knows how important it is to make time for family, which is why she commits to coming home every night for dinner at six. “I don’t believe in work-life balance. I believe in work-life choice,” she says.
Arianna Huffington, media mogul and mother of two, is the ultimate entrepreneur. She co-founded The Huffington Post in 2005, built it into a digital media empire and internationally recognized brand, then sold the company in 2011 for $300 million dollars.
Not only did she help create a new kind of digital media industry, but she’s also at the helm of the current cultural shift toward better work-life balance. After experiencing personal burnout from 18-hour work days, Huffington started a new media company called Thrive Global, which aims to give readers science-based solutions and practical tips to reduce stress and promote emotional and physical well-being in the workplace.
Huffington’s role as a mother has definitely informed this new approach to work. Throughout her career, her two daughters have acted as a grounding force, helping to remind her of what matters most as she navigates the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. “My children were [the] foundation of my existence, so whatever else happened could never shake me,” she says.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.