Mom’s Career-Advice Clichés Are True: 5 Tips That Inspired Entrepreneurs

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This article, written by Amy Paturel, was originally published on Citi’s Women & Co.

Running a household, especially one with multiple kids, requires some of the same skills as operating a business. You have to motivate, innovate, delegate, and negotiate—all without going into the red. It’s no wonder many of us honed our entrepreneurial skills under mom’s tutelage.

“My mom owned an antique store in Miami Beach, so I grew up knowing what it’s like to own your own business and be accountable to yourself. She modeled that for me,” says Tory Johnson, founder and CEO of two multi-million-dollar career-focused businesses—Women for Hire and Spark & Hustle—and author of the bestseller The Shift. “My mom is a dreamer. She instilled this idea that you can make great things happen, both personally and professionally. You don’t have to follow the traditional path.”

Johnson, in turn, has inspired her own daughter to start a business, though she insists it’s 16-year-old

Emma who’s inspired her: “Emma has always been interested in what I do professionally, and she’s the best source of ideas for my work on Good Morning America. When she discovered that jewelry is a big seller for GMA viewers, she said, ‘I wish I had a jewelry business,’ and I said, ‘You can have a jewelry business.’ So she started making bracelets, taking pictures of them, and posting them on Instagram. Eventually, she launched Em John Jewelry.”

“I always knew taking a job was easier than being a business owner,” recalls Johnson, returning to the subject of her own mother, “but my mom helped me learn that taking the hard way can lead you to a better place. You can make your own rules and break your own rules.”

In much the same spirit, we asked members of Connect, Citi’s network of professional women on LinkedIn, to reflect on how their mothers inspired them to start businesses—and which of mom’s trusty clichés helped them accomplish their goals.

1. Believe in yourself.

Johanna Ocampo, Founder, Fasttrack-Languages, Jersey City, NJ

Ocampo’s mom believed in her dreams and found a way to make them real. She was passionate about cooking so she started selling food to local businesses. Ocampo followed suit with her love of language. Five years ago, she launched her own tutoring business.

“I was teaching students from Columbia University when I realized my methodology could help people easily learn a foreign language,” says Ocampo. Soon people were recommending her services to friends. “My mom always told me: ‘Believe in yourself with your mind and heart. Once you do, the world will, too.’”

2. Just do it.

Dianne M. Juhl, CEO and Founder, The Feminine Face of Money, Seattle, WA

At age 7, Juhl began working alongside her entrepreneurial parents in the family farming business. Inspired by her mother’s ability to build something out of nothing—the one task shared by all entrepreneurs—Juhl started her own business, The Feminine Face of Money, in 2006.

“My mother taught us by doing: finding resources, patching together strategies, creatively problem-solving to achieve any goal you could imagine,” says Juhl. “I watched her make decisions every day, every hour on imperfect information. These decisions were calculated risks and she took personal responsibility for them. Today, as an entrepreneur, I live my life that way.”

3. Be a team player.

Bernadette Boas, CEO, Ball of Fire Consulting, Atlanta, GA

When Boas started her business at age 45, she did two things before seeking out clients: 1) Map out and put into place the functional processes, procedures, and methodologies necessary to operate efficiently, and 2) Build a collaborative team of service and product providers, strategic partners, and affiliates who would support her—and support one another.

Her approach was no accident. Boas learned those skills from her mother. “With 12 children at home, my mom ran our house with efficient, process-driven precision. She knew when to hire, fire (take away, with us kids), delegate, and outsource housework, and she established a line of communication among all of us,” says Boas. “Most of us are 11 months apart, so our house (or team) of kids had to work together.”

4. Follow your passion.

Deb Sanderson, Vice President, Treadstone Rubber Mulch & Nerium Brand Partner, South Bend, IN

When it was time for Sanderson to go to college and declare a major, she was stumped. “Mom reminded me how much I loved playing ‘store owner’ as a kid. I became a business and marketing major,” says Sanderson, who’s used the skills she acquired in school throughout her career.

Now she owns a successful business manufacturing recycled rubber mulch, and she’s currently launching another business.

5. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Angela Nuttle, Co-Owner/Artist, Nut Houch Art, Greenwood, IN

Nuttle didn’t realize until a few years ago that she got her entrepreneurial spirit from her mother. “Even though my mom and I were always at odds, I was learning from her all along. As a fine artist, she painted on commission, made her own money, and turned everything she touched into gold,” says Nuttle. “Five years ago, my dad died in a fluke car accident and mom was diagnosed with chronic leukemia the same day. Mom and I turned to our artwork to cope. Two years ago, we started a formal art business together, and she came back to life!”

Today, Nuttle and her mother are moving into art licensing and doing shows. “A solid team at last.”

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