Dreaming of Baby Entrepreneurs Segment
A heart-to-heart with Amy Zhang: mom and entrepreneur.
Four years after starting her own business, Amy Zhang and her husband welcomed their first son. Countless hospital appointments and the challenges of parenthood in the early months saw Amy struggling but fiercely adamant on keeping the business she had worked so hard for, afloat. Amy Zhang, founder of Affinity Services LLC, opens up with Dreaming of Baby on the pain and beauty of being a mother and an entrepreneur.
CJ DeGuara: Hello and welcome to Dreaming of Baby where our team is dedicated to being with you on your journey to parenthood. Today we have with us Amy Zhang, a parentpreneur for our Rise & Grind segment, helping parents considering parentpreneurship learn from the experiences of other parentpreneurs! Amy Zhang, would you be so kind as to tell our readers a little about what you do and the start of your journey into parentpreneurship?
Amy Zhang: Hi, thanks for having me! It’s great to share my journey with fellow parents. I consider myself as having two babies: one is my hedge fund administration firm that I started seven years ago, and the other one is Benjamin, who’s almost 3 now. I started my business with the mindset of having a family down the road. At the time, I was an audit manager at a national accounting firm, putting in 60 to 70 hours a week during the busy tax season. I didn’t like the idea of having such hours when I have my family, so I thought why not become my own boss and have control of my life and hours? That’s how the business started.
CJ DeGuara: Excellent, so your journey into parentpreneurship started with the business first and then the addition of baby later. As this is quite common, I’d love to learn more about how you prepared your business for the addition of your baby as well as the new responsibilities as a parent. What advice would you give to mompreneurs (or dadpreneurs) that know they will soon have more responsibilities? How did you plan for this?
A plan is only a plan
Amy Zhang: First, I want to point out that a plan is just that: a plan. There are surprises from the very beginning of parenthood, and I will get into that later. That said, there are some general tips to approach surviving and hopefully enjoying both parenthood and entrepreneurship.
Amy Zhang: “I want to point out that a plan is just that: a plan. There are surprises from the very beginning of parenthood.”
Amy Zhang: The most important part is to get your spouse on board. You may be running the business by yourself, but you are certainly raising the kid together. To help your spouse prepare for parenthood will allow you to have the much needed time for your business.
CJ DeGuara: In your case, was your spouse working a traditional job?
Sort out logistics
Amy Zhang: Yes he was. We actually moved to a place that’s 5 minutes away from his work during my 2nd trimester, in preparation for the baby.
CJ DeGuara: That must have been really helpful, cutting travel time is definitely one way to optimize! I will note that down.
Amy Zhang: Yeah, I think it’s even more important for the moms. Rest is important. My husband was taking the night shift, so I could sleep through the night for most parts other than up and pumping. The new place was also 5 minutes away from hospital which was a nice plus during pregnancy and delivery but a lifesaver during our son’s first year.
CJ DeGuara: Wow ok, so you definitely planned your move well! Tell me a little more about your work schedule, how did you organize that around the little one whilst still serving your clients and getting work done?
Hire a nanny
Amy Zhang: The answers vary depending on the months into parenthood. For the first four months, we hired a nanny. I am an accountant, and our son was born in early February, right in the middle of tax season. So the nanny was the main caregiver to the baby, while I focused on breastfeeding, work, and recovery. It may sound easy but in reality, it’s not so much. For one, breastfeeding takes time. I had to sit for an hour for each feeding session.
CJ DeGuara: A nanny and help with the business are often overlooked by many parents-to-be and in many ways, parentpreneurs often make the wrong cost-benefit analysis in this regard. What advice would you give a parent-to-be weighing the option of getting some extra help?
Amy Zhang: I definitely think it’s a luxury to have a nanny or a place close to work, but this is how I see it. One, this is temporary. As mentioned, we only had the nanny for the first four months, so we could afford it. Two, there’s a cost to your time and even bigger costs to losing your clients/reputation of being able to deliver quality work on time. Every entrepreneur will know how hard it is to gain business during the early days and it’s very easy to lose the business if you are not careful. I really want to be able to maintain my business and hopefully grow it further. The business provides me with the income that I can, in turn, invest in my child and family. This means that hiring the extra help for the family is actually helping the business, which helps the family back.
CJ DeGuara: That is a great way to think about it, definitely something for parents-to-be to consider! I want to learn a little more about your mindset, what gets you going in the morning, what is your why?
Amy Zhang: In my case, parenthood grows with me slowly. In the first half year, I was really depressed. I got up and sometimes just couldn’t stop crying. My biggest why back then was why I did this (having a baby) to myself. At that time, what got me going was my sense of responsibility. I brought this child to life, I need to put myself together and take good care of him.
Amy Zhang: “What got me going was my sense of responsibility. I brought this child to life, I need to put myself together and take good care of him.”
CJ DeGuara: That is so honest, and I know many parents can relate. It is often not spoken of, but it is definitely a lot of work and responsibility; having a child changes our life completely. I think bravely asking the question whilst remembering the responsibility we have accepted as parents is very important. Having been there yourself, I have to ask, did it get better?
It will get better
Amy Zhang: Yes, it did. So fellow parents, there’s hope, and this is coming from an honest mom. First, your body will heal. The baby will outgrow some of the symptoms like acid reflux and allergy, and will start sleeping through the night (for most parts). The first 6 months were, personally, the worst.
CJ DeGuara: What would you say is the most stressful period that parents-to-be really need to plan for? You also mentioned above, a plan is just a plan; could you tell us a little more about this?
Amy Zhang: Both my husband and I live a healthy life, and we were careful before and during pregnancy. But our son was having various medical conditions in the first year, and for the first 6 months, we were in hospital every other day for doctor’s visits or lab tests. That was NOT the plan. I felt really helpless. None of my education or job training prepared me for this.
CJ DeGuara: How did you handle that? Do you have any advice for when things don’t go to plan? On the business side of things; were there things you may have done differently now that you get to look back?
Support is key
Amy Zhang: My husband was of great support. He was probably scared and worried just as I was, if not more. He was still able to control his feelings and comfort me and take care of the baby. One example was the blood test. I was asked by the nurse to hold my baby down so he wouldn’t move when she took a blood sample. He was crying and screaming and I was too. My husband took over, not just once but many times after. He was there for every doctor visit during my pregnancy and almost all visits to the pediatric offices. I couldn’t imagine doing all that without him.
CJ DeGuara: Support is so important and these things can be so scary at times it is hard to keep it all together.
Amy Zhang: In terms of doing things differently, maybe start looking for daycare and get wait-listed earlier? I didn’t know how long the waitlist was in my area until my baby was approaching one. We ended up going to a family daycare half day for a year. This is not to say it’s bad, but it would be nice to have other options available.
CJ DeGuara: So in a way, apart from taking the big steps and handling everything, it is very important to make sure you have the emotional support as well as support with other elements, including making sure you find a reliable child care center. Preparation I think in many ways is key but you can’t prepare for everything. What got you through all this, what kept you going? To be more specific, how did you keep the business going? I know many would probably have thrown in the towel at that point so to speak.
Amy Zhang: For a long while, every night, my husband and I said to each other: we survived another day. Really, one day at a time. I am not sure it’s realistic to think that business will be just as usual after you have a child. Maybe later down the road, but certainly not in the first year or two or three.
Amy Zhang: “I am not sure it’s realistic to think that business will be just as usual after you have a child. Maybe later down the road, but certainly not in the first year or two or three.”
CJ DeGuara: Realizing I have kept you quite a while, I was going to ask you for your best advice, but I think ‘one day at a time’ is probably very high up there!
Amy Zhang: Do not throw in the towel! I breastfed my baby on the nursing pillow while typing away on my spreadsheet. I used to place the nursing pillow on the pull-out drawer which used to hold the keyboard. It can be done, you just need to find ways.
CJ DeGuara: I think coming to terms with what can and cannot be done and being ready to persevere when things get tough is so important. As someone who has done so, what would you tell other mompreneurs; how can they balance that need to succeed, the need to live up to it all?
Amy Zhang: In the long run, having your own business allows you to have the time and flexibility to raise your children. It also allows you to afford (some of) the things you want for your child. I think you will need to adjust expectations and change priorities along the way. I put my business in mere survival mode for the first two years when my child was born but since early this year, I was able to get back to the game, and really pushing for things to happen. I’m out networking, doing sales pitches, etc, while at the same time, making homemade healthy food every day, managing pick up/drop off, going to the library and the playground, as well as traveling locally and internationally with him.
CJ DeGuara: Amy Zhang, you have been such a wonderful guest today, honest and open. Before we close off, I’d just love if you could tell us a tiny bit about your business today: a few years in, through pregnancy, and now with a little one that is three years old! Was it all worth it? And finally, for any of our readers that may be interested in your services, where can they get more information?
Amy Zhang: Having my own business is the best career choice I made in my life! I started this hedge fund administration firm in downtown San Francisco seven years ago, and we provide accounting and financial services for hedge fund managers across the nation. From monthly reports and investor statements to annual financial statements, we do it all! We even have three videos on our website on how to start a hedge fund for people who are considering starting. The videos cover the start-up process, capital raising, cost of starting and running a fund.