Many of you already know my story. For years, I worked as a newspaper fashion editor before giving it all in to launch The Lifestyle Edit. That urge to create something of my own is one of those feelings that hard to describe unless you’ve felt it yourself. I remember having pangs of jealously each time I’d hear a story about another woman taking the plunge and going out on their own. I knew I needed to take that step and do something that challenged me; that would make me want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work.
From the beginning, launching a site for women, written by women, celebrating, you guessed it, women, was my mission. Talking about all of the issues that affect our lives from career planning and sex and dating to all the lighter stuff like fashion, beauty and wellness is the driving force behind absolutely everything we do here. It’s why I was determined to spend time with Amri Kibbler and Katya Libin during our time in New York.
For the uninitiated, the duo is the force behind Hey Mama, a website they launched in 2014 with a mission to create a platform where creative mothers can collaborate, inspire and support each other with their work. Don’t be fooled though. It’s not all yummy mummy talk. The whole premise of the site is to quash the idea that we all lose our identities the moment we become mothers. Instead, the site features a great mix of business and career advice from women sharing candid stories about how they’re juggling work and creative projects, along with real advice on things like health and exercise, post-pregnancy style and issues like how to cope after a miscarriage and ways to work smarter, not harder. Their interview subjects run the gamut from Dannijo designer Jodie Snyder to Ivanka Trump.
Spend an hour with them and you’d struggle not to walk away feeling inspired. Catching up at Amri’s beautiful home in Brooklyn, we spoke for hours about the importance of defining our own concept of success; why, even as business owners, we need to invest in things we’re passionate about outside of work and also how we all got to a place where no amount of money in the world could substitute for not being in happy with what we’re doing, mother or not.
Interestingly, our backgrounds are pretty similar. Amri is an ex-Hearst fashion editor and Katya spent years working at the marketing departments of some of New York’s biggest agencies. The pair met on a play-date in Brooklyn with their then three month old daughters, quickly became best friends and quit their jobs to launch Hey Mama soon afterwards. Here they talk taking the plunge, the need to love what you do enough to leave your little ones at home and why we all need to rally together.
K: When we became mothers we found it challenging to connect with mamas like us; women who love their families but really want to pursue building their businesses, while maintaining their identities beyond just being a mom. At the same time, women were leaving corporate jobs and creating their own work paths, hours, rules and there was not a community that spoke to them.
ON HOW BEING A MOM CHANGED THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON WORK:
K: Finding what I love doing, and my ‘calling’ made working feel like it had a purpose. Prior to that I was working at a company helping build someone else’s dream and it just never seemed quite worth it to leave my little baby girl for that. Now I realize that it’s a privilege to do what you love everyday, and I’m so grateful to have that opportunity.
A: As a mom I want everything I do that takes me away from my kids to have meaning. It wasn’t enough for me to keep working for someone else. I wanted to be working for myself and creating something of importance. Working on my own terms when and where I want is really important to me now. I work even harder and probably even more hours, but I know if there is something important I want to take time for with my kids I’m there.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY AS A NEW MOM:
K: Your life just changes so much and who you were is not who you are now. You’re always the same in your essence, in your soul but your day-to-day, priorities and lifestyle really shakes up. Community is comforting, a feeling of not being isolated with your experiences and being vulnerable and strong enough to rely on other people when you need support.
A: There are just struggles that only another mom will understand. You often feel alone at 3:00am in the morning. Knowing that there are other women out there facing the same challenges can make all the difference. We are especially vulnerable as first time mothers, wondering if we’re doing things right, it means the world to have a tribe to lean on.
ON THEIR NETWORK OF HEY MAMAS:
K: We are so honoured to have these women call themselves Heymamas, and be proud of what that means. Our network is about building each other up, sending that email introduction to help a friend, spreading the love and making great friends. Whether it’s business, personal or a bit of both, so many women in our network go on to do great things together. And that’s really our mission. Heymama is a community and content platform for creative and entrepreneurial mamas.
ON THE STRANGE NOTION THAT YOU GIVE UP YOUR IDENTITY WHEN YOU BECOME A MOM:
K: I really don’t know where that comes from. We hope that’s changing and it seems to be. Now mother’s can do and be so much more, and they are. They always were, it’s just society’s time to catch up and see that too.
A: It can be overwhelming becoming a mother. It’s disorienting at first, and it takes a while to get your footing and to see where you want to be in your new role and how you want to bridge from your old life to the new.
HOW THEY MET:
K: Funny classic NYC story, we met through our little girls when they were three months old. Our nannies had a playdate (unbeknownst to us) at my house. Amri’s nanny left her blanket there. Unfortunately my nanny was no longer with us a week later and when Amri’s nanny reached out for the blanket, she was unable to get a hold of the former nanny. So she posted on a message board (no joke) called HRP Mamas, something for TriBeca/downtown mamas. I rarely looked at it, and Amri rarely posts but this blanket was so special to her daughter. I saw the post, and invited her over for a playdate. Not going to say it was love at first sight, but basically I knew I wanted this girl as my best friend. She’s been the most incredible friend to me, and our little girls are best friends too. We started heymama a few years later, and here we are!
AMBITIONS TO BE BUSINESS OWNERS:
K: I knew from a young age I wanted to be my own boss but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. For years in my 20’s I would look at entrepreneurs and have serious envy, that they found their thing. It seemed so scary, to take the leap. After having my daughter, and a couple of years back into corporate, I knew it wasn’t sustainable for the type of life I wanted to lead, the flexibility I wanted to have with her and feeling like there was a deeper purpose behind my work aside from just the income.
A: I started wanting to be my own boss when I have my older daughter. I really started wanted to have that flexibility and to be able to take everything I’d learned in a career in publishing and turn that into something else.
ON THE FINAL TIPPING POINT:
K: The company I was working for had just hired me about 4 months before I started heymama with Amri and then they made a massive round of layoffs. They cut 10% of the company and all new hires. So the day I got called in and said they had to let me go, I skipped out of the office! I knew it was a sign I had to go for it, so it kind of just happening.
A: I’d been working at Cosmo for a really long time and was ready for a change. I felt like I needed to leave and go out on my own to continue to learn and grow.
ON FUNDING & THE INITIAL STAGES:
K: We started off just on Instagram and focused on our social voice for a long time. We wanted to get a feel for this community of moms. The site went up shortly after. It was such an exciting process, to see it all come together. We self-funded the business, and continue to do so. This worked for us, because we did not need a significant amount of capital to get going. I would recommend getting as far as you can investing as little money as possible to be sure you can prove your concept.
K: Have the confidence in your decisions and know although that advice is plentiful, no one knows your business like you do. And really focus on time management and where you allocate your resources. Find where to prioritize your time, and making the most of what you have. Done is better than perfect is my advice always.
A: Any time I’ve doubted myself and not followed my instinct I have always regretted it. You know your business better than anyone so you would be the best person to market your brand. Making things work on a small budget. We did everything our selves from our website to business cards.
ON INVESTING TIME OUTSIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS:
K: The workday does not end as an entrepreneur! But on the days I don’t work, I love a beautiful dinner with friends, concert/date night or movie. Make a little time everyday for the things you love. Balance is possible. Don’t beat yourself up; you’re doing the best you can!
A: I try to make special time to connect with my husband. Make sure to carve out time for your partner. They are so important in this journey.
ADVICE TO WOMEN THINKING DEBATING WHEN TO HAVE CHILDREN:
K: You’ll never regret having them. But you might regret not. I try not to give advice to women about childbearing though, as it’s such a personal decision and every women needs to decide for her if and when it’s the right time. When and if you do decide to have them, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Closed mouths don’t get fed.
A: Take a deep breath. It all goes so fast, so as clique as it sounds try to just enjoy these days with the babies. Hire help even if it’s just for few hours so you can rest and appreciate the time you have with the baby when you’re rested. Give yourself a break; you’re doing a great job. Don’t clean the house our do laundry, when you feel overwhelmed.
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