“Entrepreneur” has taken on a mark of glamour lately. As a result, 1 out of 18 people are starting their own business world-wide and Americans (especially women) are taking the leap more than ever. The US holds the top spot for number of female entrepreneurs–which is a great thing for business, because studies say female-lead companies make more money, have happier employees, and are more likely to succeed. Even still, under 1 out of 5 businesses have a female founder. The primary deterrent? Kids. And the conversation usually stops there.
But today I’d like to explore it further.
My name is Daina Trout, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Health-Ade, the fastest growing kombucha brand in the industry. Though Health-Ade is a HUGE part of my identity, it’s not the whole thing. I am also a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a spinner, a yogini, an artist, a wine-lover, and a cook. And, as long as I’m patting myself on the back, I can be pretty good at all those things too.
But I didn’t always think I could be. For that reason, I didn’t want to be a mother. In fact, I was pretty sure that running a crazy demanding company AND being a good mom were mutually exclusive—impossible even. I’m telling you my story because I have since learned that being a mother has made me better at running a business—and running a company, a better mom.
Let’s start 5 years ago in 2012. I was newly married and working 2 jobs: one in corporate America that paid the bills, and one as CEO of Health-Ade. It was a brutal time–I was working close to 75 hours a week and putting every ounce of energy I had into my baby business that didn’t yet pay. We were brewing out of our tiny LA apartment, pouring in every extra dollar we could muster, and selling at area farmers’ markets. All the stories you hear about the beginning are true—it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. That’s why it’s called building “sweat” equity. The only thing similar is going through pregnancy/birth and the first 3 months of being a new mom.
But, same as being a new mom, 2 other things are also true about starting a business from scratch:
- It’s not that hard forever.
- It’s entirely worth it. So much so, we’d voluntarily do it again.
You can marinate on that while I keep telling my story…
Health-Ade continued being EXTREMELY demanding as the years passed. We got investment, which allowed me to quit my corporate job, but the number of hours and effort spent working on Health-Ade were just as extreme. When people asked me about kids—I usually responded with a confused stare and “are you kidding me, (idiot)?”
Then one afternoon in 2014, Justin and I packed up a refrigerated 28-ft rental truck with as much kombucha as could fit. We were off to San Francisco to execute our biggest marketing sponsorship yet. It was going to be 6 days of endless work, but we were excited: Northern Cali was about to get their first taste of the best kombucha you could buy.
Then came a horrible accident. We flipped the truck on the 5 freeway while going 70 miles per hour, lost everything inside, and somehow made it out alive. We were able to salvage enough cases for the event, but Justin and I were in no condition to lead it as planned. The team was going to have to figure this one out without us. I was sure it would be a disaster.
In my month-long recovery, all I kept thinking about was—Life is short. I can’t control everything. There will never be a perfect time for having kids. I want Health-Ade to be successful, but just as much–I want a family too. We decided it was time to try to do both.
Everything was fine when I came back to work. The event was a success. The team stepped up. Health-Ade was humming. It was like I never left. I wondered—how long was I doing this with such a tight grip on my own when I could (should) have been relying on my team a HECK of a lot more? I suddenly had a new job when I came back—an elevated one, one that worked ON the business and less IN the business. That move took us many steps forward.
And born was one of my most important lessons: Great leaders lead. If they can delegate, they should. Once I had a kid in 2015, this lesson only became more clear.
It was important for me to be a good mother, not just a good CEO. To be a good mother, I had a bit of a wish list. I wanted to have dinner nightly with my child, and put him to bed. I also wanted a couple full days a month with just him, JUST the 2 of us. I wanted him to eat food made from scratch and organic. I wanted him to have a great life. Considering the amount I was working at Health-Ade, at first I didn’t SEE how all of this could be possible!
Thanks to a coach, my biggest fan/husband Justin, and a few fellow mama-CEO friends, I bit the bullet and tried. It took a little time, but I arranged the company such that it could run without me 2 days a month (for mama-baby time), I could leave work at 5pm NO QUESTIONS to get home and spend the last few waking hours with my son, and I made sure I was paid enough to afford a nanny that could help me with food, cooking, laundry, and child care.
Soon, I realized the company was better off. The more it can run “without me” the more I can work on growing it—on leading it. The more I work on growing the company, the more it grows (duh). And here we are today—5 years in, and already surpassing legacy companies that have been around 4X as long, with a company culture that’s hard to beat. I owe that all to being a mother. It forced me to step out, and up.
I will just say, it IS really hard. This is not some sort of a paradise life, where I get to sip cocktails in Hawaii and check in daily on my phone remotely. Quite conversely, it requires a HUGE amount of discipline and effort. When I’m at work—I work with such incredible intensity and attention, I don’t know whether it’s 5pm or 9am, whether it’s Monday or Friday. Honestly, I just checked in right now and wasn’t TOTALLY sure what year it was. (It’s 2017 in case anyone is with me.) I have really hard days; often, I feel like I could break the world record for mental toughness. This makes me a better mother, though. I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. I have learned to enjoy my time with my son. I have learned to be totally present with him.
It also means you need a super-strong support system, though, especially a partner. If I didn’t have my husband Justin splitting everything down the middle with me and picking up all the slack when I just couldn’t, there is no way in H-E-L-L this could work. I rely on him, and my family, to help me out and help me through it emotionally. Justin being there is actually one of the main reasons this works.
In the end, all of it IS totally doable. In fact, my baby and my business are better off for it.
Health-Ade gets my best self from 8:30-5, and SHE is strong, bossy, disciplined, and yes, sometimes a bitch. Hendriks and my family get me for all the rest of time, and a version that’s a little softer—sweet, caring, loving, present, compassionate. Thinking it couldn’t be done was the only thing in my way. Once you realize YOU design your life (especially as an entrepreneur), you realize you can do just about anything. Just maybe not everything ☺ So, I still need to figure out where I fit in the workouts and massages. Check in with me next year for that.
Alas, the clock has just struck 5. It’s like I’m Cinderella. Poof—I’m a mom now and I can’t wait to get back and squish my son until he wants nothing to do with me. TTYL!