We’ve teamed up with bloom to bring you Moonshots: 10 women shooting for the moon, 10 questions on how they’re doing it. Next, Amri Kibbler, co-founder of heymama. Check out all featured women here and come back next week for Moonshot #9.
How did you know this was the right path for you?
I don’t think there was one defining moment while launching heymama when I knew, ‘this is it’, but there have been a lot of little moments that have confirmed to me that what we are doing is important. I’m blown away every time a mom tells me one of our stories has inspired her, or that we have helped her business grow, that she has found her ‘people’, or my personal favorite, we see our mamas collaborating on projects. Heymama evolved out of what Katya and I were looking for personally in our own lives. When we first met, we were pretty much each other’s only real ‘mom friend’ in the city. We were both really hungry to find a group of like-minded women who loved fashion, food, art, fitness, their careers, yet who were also actively doing fun stuff with their kids. I found motherhood changed what I wanted out of my career, and I longed to make my own hours and rules. I took a leap of faith and left my job without a plan which was scary, but I was lucky enough to know some really innovative women who I could talk to about starting a business. Katya and I focused on creating a community for women, like us, who not only wanted to be surrounded by other driven and smart women, but who wanted to tell their stories and share that advice so everyone could have access to their insight. I knew we were on the right path when we were excited to work all day (every day!) for free to make a dream happen.
Do you believe we’re ever really ‘ready’ to do something? How do we start when we’re stuck?
I love this questions as it relates to some of the best advice I’ve ever received. Katya and I were in our early planning days and had a meeting with the smart ladies who started Ivy. We were going on about research and surveys and they said to us ‘Guys, just get started now. What action can you take to get heymama started tomorrow? Put up a splash page.’ You are never fully ready or prepared. You have to get started, even if it’s a small thing. We put up a splash page, created an Instagram account and used that for six months as our singular platform. It was the best thing we could have done. We had the luxury to connect with the community and hear what they were interested in without a website. When I’m stuck, instead of plugging away on the same thing, I write down the problem and let it sit while I focus on something else. Sometimes just a small switch of focus can really help clear the cobwebs, so to speak. I also like to talk through problems. Lately, I’ve become much better at admitting I need help, and the beauty of this community is that there are people out there to help and bounce ideas off of. When all else fails, I find giving myself a break and working out really helpful to get the mind going again.
Doing courageous things requires losing our excuses. What excuses did you have to get rid of to get to where you are now?
I still hear negative voices in my head, I think we all do. It’s what you do with those excuses, right? In the beginning, it was a lot of: ‘Am I strong enough?’, ‘Am I smart enough to make this really big thing happen?’ When I had my second baby a year ago, it was really, really hard for me. My support system fell apart and I was feeling alone and overwhelmed. I questioned how I was going to be able to manage to build our company, care for these two little people and have time for my husband. I heard many excuses as to why I could not make it in my head: ‘There’s not enough time in the day,’ ‘It’s too hard,’ ‘I’m too tired.’ But you just keep focusing on one day at a time, and somehow it all comes together.
What have been your biggest challenges so far, and how have you overcome them?
This question really relates to the one above for me. The first six months after my second baby was born was the hardest point in my life, both personally and professionally. During those early days, I lived by a ‘put one foot in front of the other’ mentality. I was overcome with daily insecurities but I kept going by telling myself that I would not give up. I found the biggest challenge was how to manage my time with so many things that were important to me, and also depended on me, while I was totally drained from lack of sleep. I felt like I was letting either my business or my family down around every turn. I finally came to a point where I was able to identify what my new non-negotiables were to create a more balanced and enjoyable life. Now, I’m finally in a place where my life has a real flow to it. Admittedly, this flow is very different than what it was when I only had one child. I was trying to stick to my old flow, and once I realized I had to give that up and create a new strategy for balance, things fell into place.
From the outside it looks like you’ve made it—but what are some of the things that you still feel insecure about? That you haven’t quite nailed yet?
The past few years have been the biggest learning experience of my life. What I know for sure it that there is always room to grow, learn and also always more to do. I’ve learned a lot on the actual business side, but as we are growing, we are also constantly facing new challenges. I see these challenges as part of the adventure of being an entrepreneur. If there is one area that I have room to grow in it’s finance—but I’ve come a long way!
What are the things you’re super proud of?
I am so proud of the way Katya and I built heymama out of nothing. We invested such a small amount of money in the early days and were really careful to create our community with as little cash as possible. I think we were resourceful and smart about using established platforms like Instagram, to truly connect with our audiences. All of this has led to our launch of our new custom platform and paid membership program in February, which of course, makes me very proud. I’m also proud of the way we’ve been able to support working women and to spread the word about great charity organizations that are giving back to women and kids worldwide. Growing up, my dad spent one week every six weeks traveling to and working in Haiti (at age 74, he still does!). Finding a way to give back and set this example for my kids has been important to me. I feel like by having this voice, I need to use it to help spread the word about women who are doing so much good and share how we can all get involved. And, of course, I’m most proud of my kids. (I can talk you ear of about that. Haha!) Mari, my oldest, is the most kind-hearted, empathetic girl. I’m very proud of the way she cares for people and is committed at an early age to helping others. River is my one-year-old wild thing. I worked so hard for years to get pregnant with her through IVF and I’m proud that we hung in there; this strong willed child will have a chance to change the world.
How do you motivate yourself on the tough days? What keeps you moving forward?
When I have something that I’m feeling nervous about coming up that day, I listen to positive affirmations while starting my day, or I pump up the music when I’m in the shower. Luckily, our team is really supportive of each other as well. Katya and I are conscious to build each other up and tell each other positive things. I know that I can always call her and be 100% honest and vulnerable. There is a security in that kind of support with your Co-Founder that makes you feel you can move mountains; she’s been my rock. We have literally taken turns at picking each other up off the ground for the past few years, which means so much. Creating a positive atmosphere is something that’s really important to us as we create our company culture.
Regardless of how busy you get, what are your non-negotiables?
I used to work late every night, rarely spoke to my husband in the evening, and had a hard time shutting off to go to bed. Now, I try my best not to work at night. Instead, I start work around 5:30am and that’s when I get back to anyone that emailed me the night before. Most nights, I try to be home by 6:30pm and I reserve the hours between 6:30pm and 8:30pm for my kids, which also means no phone or email during that time. After the kids have gone to bed is the time I reserve for my husband. If I do need to work late, I don’t come home before heading back out again as I’ve realized that’s just torture for my kids. They don’t understand me being there and not giving them my full attention.
What advice would you have given yourself at the beginning of your journey?
This is a marathon, not a sprint. All you need to do is keep moving forward, thoughtfully. I had a great deal of anxiety in our early days about getting things done quickly. Some days you’ll go a mile, and some days just a step.
What advice do you have for other women who are shooting for the moon?
Know your end goal of where you want to go: write it down, internalize it, but don’t obsess over it. It can be scary and seem like you’ll never get there. Looking up at a giant mountain can keep you from putting on your hiking shoes at all. Set real attainable goals for yourself every day and every week—then celebrate when you meet those goals. You deserve it.