As a woman entrepreneur, would you disown your husband who had supported you through all the ups and downs of launching a startup business, to be competitive?
Sadly, for me—and I take no pride in admitting this—the answer is yes.
Six months ago, I had the pleasure of finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do: run my own cloud technology consulting firm to serve the needs of SMBs. After years of barely getting enough sleep between a full-time job, writing books, online classes, nonprofit work, occasionally squeezing in time to watch my son’s basketball game, and other family responsibilities, I traded my corporate job to become a fully-fledged entrepreneur—with even less sleep.
“But even on those bad crazy days, there’s always something to make me laugh like when a former colleague asked me if I get to sleep in a lot now that I run my own business.”
I’m one of those special breeds of people who would give up a steady income and predictable schedule for a work environment where the only predictability you can expect is that each day is going to be a crazy day. It has been at 50/50 for me: sometimes it’s a good crazy day, and sometimes it’s a bad crazy day. But even on those bad crazy days, there’s always something to make me laugh like when a former colleague asked me if I get to sleep in a lot now that I run my own business.
As the CEO, COO, CTO, CMO, and basically all the Cs you can think of, I’ve had to give up some of the pleasures in life such as doing the laundry, cooking, doing the dishes, vacuuming, and even gardening because, you know, I must run a business. And since those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, my poor husband has had to step up to the plate to support my career choice. That’s on top of serving as my trusted advisor, copy editor, and ego-balancer.
It should come as no surprise then that I should acknowledge my husband’s contribution—no matter how small—to my business, right? While he may never be able to articulate the complexity of how a printer powers up (you have to plug it in), or the intricacies of retrieving a lost email he spent 30 minutes composing (look in the Drafts folder), or the magic required to restore a TV to a football game from a PowerPoint presentation (press Input button 3x on the remote), it’s safe to say that without him, I would not have been able to achieve what I’ve managed to achieve in launching my startup in a short span of time.
So what does a techie do to recognize and show appreciation for someone’s contribution sincerely? I did what only a techie wife would do: create a nice page for my husband on my website and list him as a VP of Marketing. After all, he does have a background in marketing and even coined “bumbershoot” as in “Bumbershoot Festival,” an iconic Seattle arts event. So, Rick was my VP of Marketing—until the state came between us.
You see, I had applied for state certification as a woman-owned, minority-owned small business. This certification has been a process fraught with disappointment and frustration, paperwork that had to be submitted more than once, and requirements meant to satisfy the checkboxes someone put together to protect an organization from bad press vs. supporting a sleep-deprived startup woman entrepreneur. At one point, I had to raise my hand in defeat and told the state to cancel my application because it meant giving up time to close a deal so I can look for, copy, mail more duplicate paperwork, and follow up with the state.
“Turns out, it pays to ask the very same people putting up roadblocks to help you take them down and even partner together to bring about change.”
But then again, I’m a woman entrepreneur and if you noticed, woman comes first before entrepreneur. A couple of weeks later, I changed my mind. I hopped in the car, drove to the state capitol, and gave the deputy director of the organization enough notice (at least a few hours) that I was on my way to her office. Long story short, a very productive woman-to-woman conversation happened, and at the end of the day, I was assured I would get my certification. Turns out, it pays to ask the very same people putting up roadblocks to help you take them down and even partner together to bring about change. But not without a huge compromise: I would have to take my husband off the website. That night, I deleted him.
A few days later, I was at a TEDWomen conference in San Francisco when I got an email that I am now a certified woman-owned, minority-owned small business for the state of Washington. The notification came while I was listening to a very funny and enlightening talk by Sandi Toksvig, a TV personality from the UK who has been trailblazing difficult disruptions for women equality, at the very moment she was talking about the gender pay gap.
I am now left with mixed feelings about the tradeoffs I’ve made to become certified as a woman-owned, minority-owned small business. I am proud of the work that I’ve done so far, and there’s a lot more I can do. But I also acknowledge the people around me who have propped me up, given me encouragement, supported me, and rooted for me in my journey. A lot of them are men.
“Am I supposed to disregard the contributions of a man—my husband—just to prove to the state that I am smart enough to lead and run my own company? Are my credentials and the fact that I’ve written several books about technology, not enough?”
The question I have been asking myself since I got the email notification is this: Am I supposed to disregard the contributions of a man—my husband—just to prove to the state that I am smart enough to lead and run my own company? Are my credentials and the fact that I’ve written several books about technology, not enough? Is this the tradeoff I must live with to get business—if I ever will—with the state?
I do not know what the right answer is. But this I know: for every problem, there is a solution. So if I can’t acknowledge my husband on my website, who’s going to stop me from acknowledging him in this article?
Thanks, Rick! Your eyes may glaze over when I try to talk technology with you, but getting a startup business off the ground would be even more difficult without a supportive, loving friend willing to take over household chores and knowing exactly when a strong woman could use a word of encouragement.
About the Author
Jenn Reed is President and Founder of Cloud611, a woman-owned, minority-owned small business in Washington State. She is the author of Office 365 for Dummies, Migrating to Office 365 for Dummies, and Office 365 for Higher Education.
Jenn holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and has for many years provided consulting services to small, mid-size, and enterprise clients as well as non-profit organizations on cloud technology solutions, creative communications, web design and development, and business management. She is equally comfortable in the technical and non-technical worlds with a knack for articulating highly technical concepts into layman’s language and vice versa. She is a PMI-certified project management professional (PMP), a Certified Scrum Master, and a Microsoft-certified professional (MCP) in Office 365 Administration.