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When you’re a mom running a growing tech startup it’s all about multitasking

For tech entrepreneur Chantalle ten Napel Wilson being a mom and a business owner comes down to one thing — a lot of multitasking.

Wilson, the founder of online vehicle retailing platform Virtual Drive and a mother of two, recalls how she has often had to conclude business meetings inside her car with a client seated next to her, while rushing to pick up her children from school.

But she says most of her clients who find themselves in her car finishing a meeting react only positively. “Most people have said that it’s incredible that you do this,” she says.

Says Wilson: “As an investor once told me: ‘The best salesperson you will ever find is a single mother, they are always hungry for success and don’t ever give up.” So just imagine what we are able to achieve in our own businesses.”

Wilson – who also runs Novatec, a specialised insurance brokerage, says she decided to start her own business after working 12 years as the group finance insurance manager at Porsche, because she wanted a better quality of life.

In 2014, a year after she started Novatec, she founded Virtual Drive, with a three-year-old daughter and six-year-old son in tow.

Her one rule is that she turns off her phone when she gets home. Between 6pm and 8pm she dedicates time to her children, before resuming with business – usually holding Skype calls with advisory board members or with her mentors.

Virtual Drive last year took part in the inaugural Startupbootcamp Cape Town cohort.

“Accelerator spaces are not intended to be child-friendly, and this dynamic needs to be understood and respected. The pressure is immense on everyone and distractions are hard to manage at this pace.

“However, during our time as Top 10 in Startupbootcamp (SBC) Africa 2017, I received a call from my frantic nanny one afternoon. My son John-David had been stung by a blue bottle, something she didn’t know how to handle.

“I rushed home and brought him with me to the SBC startup space to monitor him for an allergic reaction. Everyone was incredibly supportive and understanding,” she says.

Networking challenge

But it’s not just about being able to multitask well.

For mother of one Shana Derman, the founder of Joburg based tech company Intellicred, there is one serious disadvantage about being a mother — not being able to attend business networking events, many of which run after hours.

This is because she usually dedicates her hours after work to spending time with her five-year old son and husband.

Like this, she says it’s difficult as a mother to form the kind of connections that men — be they fathers or single, can form.

IntelliCred is an online protection system which monitors, detects and prevents spam, online impersonations, brand-jacking, phishing and much more.

Derman says was lucky in some ways with the timing of when she had her child, a boy, in 2013. She was in the process of pivoting her company and was also applying for funding at the time she had her child and could therefore afford to take a few months break from her business.

Plans to set up accelerator

Mother of three, Shaney Vijendranath, founded the blog You, Baby and I in 2014, motivated by her experiences as a first-time mother at 21 years old.

Vijendranath is also the co-founder of analytics startup Momsays which she runs with her husband Vije. Earlier this year she took part in the 2018 cohort of the London based Collective Global Accelerator (CGA).

She says she plans to set up an accelerator for mompreneurs — because she says many companies and investors don’t take mothers seriously as they believe having children will side track them from running their business. “I feel that there is a bit of discrimination,” she adds.

Mothers who are businesses, she says are looking for other mothers with whom they can network.

‘An act of rebellion’

Perhaps mothers should look no further than Naomi Butow’s Mommy Mall, a platform that allows mothers who run businesses to advertise their products and services to mothers via various Facebook groups.

Butow, a marketer and mother of two, says she set up the platform four years ago when her two girls were still two years old and four years old respectively — out of an “act of rebellion”.

Out of concern at seeing mothers telling other mothers off when they placed ads for their business on Facebook groups, she started a Facebook group dedicated to mothers looking to sell to one another.

Her website initially began as a directory to list businesses owned by mothers, however six months ago Butow began monetising the site — by making members who want to advertise on her Mommy Mall Facebook pages, pay to do so. Subscription is R399 per year.

Butow, who also runs her own media buying and marketing agency, estimates that about 2000 mothers now use her paid-for subscription service to run ads on her various Mommy Mall Facebook group pages that collectively have 63 000 users nationwide.

However, she says monetising the offering it not going so well, because of the free nature of Facebook. She plans to address this with her business consultant.

And what then is the secret then to managing your time better as a mother with a tech startup? A good personal assistant, someone who is able to be both an office assistant and aupair, says Ten Napel Wilson.

For Intellicred’s Derman having less time to spend on her business has helped her to focus better on her company. Says Derman: “What it has done is that it has really made me maximise my time”. But even so, she still has to get up at 4am every morning.

Featured image: Virtual Drive founder Chantalle ten Napel Wilson with her son John-David and daughter Talia (Supplied)