Finding My Tribe: Mompreneurs
I spent last weekend in a conference room full of some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. It’s taken a few days to come down from this high that was the Mompreneur Conference. It’s been just one year since my first interaction with this group of ladies and I can honestly say that it’s changed my life. Whether you own a business or not, there’s a larger lesson here that women need women, moms need moms, people need people, and in whatever you do, I encourage you to find your tribe.
I first met the Mompreneurs in 2018. I felt stuck in a job I wasn’t enjoying and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my career. I had this idea to open a play café. I didn’t know how to start a business, or even if I should. Then I saw a Facebook post about the Mompreneur Conference. There was a live online chat a week before the conference with a chance to win a ticket. It was like the ad jumped out of the screen and had flashing lights all around it saying to me “here it is, here’s your chance”. I set my mind to win a ticket and go to this conference. I put the date in my calendar, sat at my kitchen table with my coffee and my laptop. When the moment came to put your name in for a ticket, I jumped at it and I won!
I felt like I was holding the golden ticket to my future. I was going to be sitting in a room full of female entrepreneurs who were running businesses and raising babies. I called my mom to made sure she could babysit and spent the next six days leading up the conference feeling absolutely exhilarated for what was ahead.
Driving to Toronto though, a monster of self-doubt appeared. Who do you think you are going to a conference of women entrepreneurs? You don’t have a business. You’re not one of them. What are you going to say if someone asks what your business is? You don’t belong in that room.
I didn’t have a business. I merely had an idea. But I wouldn’t let those negative thoughts get in the way of the future I knew I could have. I kept driving. I told myself that I was going just as an observer. I wasn’t going to talk to anyone. I would sit in the back of the room and listen.
I arrived early and was sitting in the hallway waiting for the doors to open when a woman sat down beside me. She was bubbly and polite and asked for my name. Then she asked the question I was dreading: “what’s your business?”
“Um … ” I was wondering if I should just lie and make one up, but then she’d probably ask for a business card or an instagram handle, neither of which I would have. “I don’t have one,” I said quietly. “But I have this idea …” I began. She listened so intently then gave me the names of three women that I needed to speak with; a café owner in Milton, a tea supplier and a sleep consultant who works with moms of young children.
I didn’t know why any of those women would want to talk to me. I barely had an idea. I definately didn’t have a business. I had nothing to offer to them. Why would they want to help me? But she insisted on taking me over to this group of women and introduced me.
That plan I made in my car to sit at the back of the room and just observe? Oh, that definately wasn’t going to happen now. These women I had just met brought me to a table in the middle of the room and wanted to hear about everything I dreamed of doing. “That’s an incredible idea”, “I’ve got 3 kids, I’m going to come”, “tell me when you’re open”, “I want to hold my son’s birthday party there”. Then they started to introduce me to their friends and talked about me as though I already had the business. I became more confident throughout the two days to talk to people about my business idea and even though I hadn’t opened my business yet, I felt like I belonged in that room.
I had been to other professional conferences before. I’d done the networking thing where you shake hands and hand out business cards. But I soon realized that the Mompreneurs was so much more than a conference of women entrepreneurs. I mean, a conference that kicks off with a dance party and a 30-second marathon of hugging is a sure sign of something different.
Motivational speakers took to the stage to share not just business lessons; but life lessons. There was no separation of business and family life here. Women talked about their kids, their husbands, their businesses all in a single conversation. That’s the essence of mompreneurship.
There were tears. So many tears. Ones that began with Founder Maria Locker’s opening remarks. Throughout the two days Mompreneur members took to the stage to tell their stories. They spoke of success and of hardship. They spoke of their children packing their boxes of product, and breastfeeding while on a call with a supplier. More tears. More cheers. More standing ovations than the Oscars. More hugs.
Awards presentations conclude the event. But these aren’t the typical awards where the audience are passive observers who politely clap when the winner’s name is announced. These women are jumping out of their seats, tears of joy, pride, hope flowing down their cheeks as they watch their friends get recognized for their amazing work. By the time the awards portion is over, there isn’t a dry eye in the crowd.
And so, one year after that first conference when I was just a mom with an idea, my play café is just weeks away from opening. I walked into this year’s conference knowing I wasn’t going to sit in the back row. I hugged all the women I met that during my first year as a mompreneur; women who have supported me, who inspire me, and who encouraged me to go after the life that I wanted and bring my idea to fruition.
In the two years of conferences I’ve attended, I’ve learned invaluable business lessons from speakers including Manjit Minhas from CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Joanna Griffiths owner of Knixwear, Julie Cole founder of Mables Lables, Erica Ehm founder of Ehm & Co, and Kelly Childs and Erinn Weatherbee co-owners of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe. my two years of Mompreneur conferences. But the most powerful lesson I have learned is that women need women.
I’ve known since having my son that moms need other moms. It truly does take a village to raise a child. And, you know what? I think it takes a village to raise a business, too.
If you’re a woman in business and you haven’t connected with the Mompreneurs, do yourself and your business a favour and check them out now.