I Gave Birth to My Baby—& My Startup—at the Same Time

Two years ago, we learned we were expecting our first child and were overjoyed to be growing our family. At the time, I was working at RadPad, a rental marketplace startup in Los Angeles. A few months into my pregnancy, colleagues and friends who were already parents began asking about our plans for childcare.

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This seemed a bit premature—after all, I hadn’t even given birth to the baby yet. However, I quickly learned that preschools and daycares in the L.A. area had extensive waitlists, scheduling children two years out. Even worse? Tuition fees were outrageous, costing roughly the same amount as rent for a one-or two-bedroom apartment each month. This was an enormous cost to cover, and I suddenly realized the price of childcare was actually prohibitively high for most families, especially in low-income households.

By the time my son was born, I was incredibly frustrated with my first foray into early childcare and couldn’t get past the enormous care gap I’d discovered. After a bit of research, I learned that in some regions, the cost of childcare was equivalent to 40 percent of the average parent’s income. For every three children with parents seeking early childcare nationwide, only one spot was available within the care landscape.

Although I was at home with a newborn, I threw myself into creating something that could provide parents with a better solution.

I left my startup job and took a deep dive into the early childcare space starting with preschools, examining how they were operated and the pain points other parents were feeling. I invested in one, and then another, trying my best to help alleviate costs, streamline day-to-day operations and eliminate inefficiencies.

Now being a preschool owner, I became privy to the other unfortunate part of the equation. Teachers were getting paid so little they were unable to support their family with the wages they earned. In many areas, teachers were being priced out of their neighborhoods, soon having to relocate and commute farther to work.

It also became apparent that most preschools and daycares were operated by caregivers and teachers. While they were excellent with the children, many had little to no experience (and often no interest in) running a business. Teachers were overworked and turnover was prevalent in preschools; ultimately contributing to the expansive and wider issue in the early childcare space. Soon, I found a like-minded team, sharing my vision for a future with better childcare that was convenient, accessible and affordable for all families. We started building a solution that addressed the problem for parents and caregivers alike.

As any new working mom can attest to, it was a struggle to find the right balance between my baby at home and the professional “baby” I was creating. Building a startup means long hours and sleepless nights, which actually mirrors life with a newborn pretty well. Both are difficult, but incredibly rewarding; both will make you cry at times and each will make you smile uncontrollably in the least expected moments. Both wanted, and needed, more and more of my time and it took some time to get a schedule down to ensure I was spending enough valuable time with my son and at work.

Eventually, you learn to make it work and find a new routine that makes sense. I never stayed too late at the office, but instead would get home early to cook dinner and put my baby to bed, then I’d continue my work afterwards.

Sure, the timing I chose to launch a startup was not ideal and many friends questioned my sanity. At the same time, the more I met and spoke with others in my situation, I realized that there are surprisingly a number of new moms that also start new companies. In fact, I believe new moms are more motivated than most; you are more passionate than usual because you’re not just doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your family.

It includes taking precious time away from your baby, which means you learn how to manage your time better because every minute counts. Plus, mothers tend to be able to successfully multitask better than anyone else, which is a very helpful skill for founders. I quickly learned how to calm a crying baby while not missing a beat on an investor call.

When it came time to identify the right partners and investors, having a personal connection to our concept was critical and immensely helpful. Investors and partners often seek teams with a personal passion for their work—it makes founders motivated to solve and improve a problem not only for others, but for themselves as well. It allows you to relate better to your end customer and understand what they need. The story is stronger and stakeholders are confident that when you run into a roadblock, you will push harder to solve it.

The only minor challenge we encountered with investors during our fundraising occurred when they didn’t quite understand the industry. Unfortunately, most people don’t encounter the problems plaguing the childcare space until they have kids of their own—I’m a prime example.

While it was a tumultuous journey, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my family and I’m proud of the work we’re doing at my company. Don’t ever feel that you can’t start a business just because you have a family, are hoping to start a family or expecting. Parents are extremely capable, great at juggling competing priorities, calm when craziness ensues and wonderful at managing hectic schedules, all of which actually makes them a perfect entrepreneur.

Jessica Chang is a mother, preschool owner and the CEO and co-founder of WeeCare. She currently owns three preschools in the Los Angeles area. Previously, she was the VP of Marketplaces at RadPad. She also spent a number of years in finance, helping companies IPO, get acquired and become integrated.


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