Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michelle Yu, Founder of Josie, located in Washington, DC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Josie’s mission is to enable working parents to have rewarding careers and family lives. We achieve this in 2 ways:
- Through a highly personalized 1:1 coaching program for those making the transition from parental leave back to their careers.
- Through advisory services, employers create amazing and inclusive workplaces for their new parent workforce.
Our primary customers are progressive companies who want to make real investments in company culture and recognize the outsized benefit of recruiting, retaining, and engaging employees with families.
Tell us about yourself
Before my son arrived in 2018, my identity was very much rooted in my career. I had worked hard to land a leadership position at a major management consultancy. I loved what I did, and I loved the people I worked with. I loved the travel, leadership opportunities, and fast career track – it wasn’t everything, but when you work that much, it becomes a major part of your life.
When my baby arrived, I was excited to take on my new role as mom. I felt well prepared for the “taking care of the baby” part – there are endless resources on this, and I was lucky to have a wonderful partner, amazing neighbors, and grandparents to help with childcare.
On the other hand, I was completely unprepared for taking care of myself… and the abundance of mental and emotional challenges that come with a complete shift in identity. Navigating my transition to “mom” was the (relatively) easy part leaving behind who I was pre-baby and adjusting to everything I would now be – that was really, really hard. Over time, I stumbled my way back to work (twice, again, with the birth of my daughter) but never quite found myself in the same place I was before the kids.
That’s when I became inspired to create Josie.
Since then, I’ve spoken to so many other working parents who have had a similar “fifth-trimester” experience. At Josie, we’re determined to create a more intentional and positive transition so that individuals can embrace and be excited by their new identity as “working parents.” It’s what I wish I had and what I hope one day will be the norm for my own children should they desire to become parents!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
More than anything, it has been the personal growth I’ve experienced. While I loved my corporate job, I was also very comfortable, and my growth trajectory wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Going out on my own has forced me to take on new challenges and develop and hone leadership skills at a completely different level.
For example, being fearless in standing up for what I believe in, training myself to get through tough times by always going back to my "why," having heightened awareness of how my behaviors and decisions impact others (e.g., the stakes are a lot higher when you’re the CEO!). These are just a few examples of how becoming a business owner has helped me grow.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Maintaining positive momentum. To break it down, there’s the "positive" piece. As an entrepreneur, it feels like you are constantly running into new challenges, finding out what doesn’t work, seeing a new competitor, or hearing feedback about why you’re not doing something right. It’s easy to get distracted and feel demoralized, but in a fast-growing startup, there isn’t much time to wallow.
You have to always go back to your mission and focus on the good stuff to keep the energy levels right. Then there’s the "momentum" part of that statement. In a growing environment, it feels like you’re always looking for the next win—to keep the team motivated, to collect more proof points that you’ve "got it right," to learn things as quickly as possible. Maintaining positive momentum means each day is often all-consuming, which is very difficult—but also very rewarding.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don’t have a solution in search of a problem. Find something that sits at the intersection of what you really care about and what you’re good at and build your business around that – otherwise, your fuel to keep going will run out very quickly.
- Enjoy the journey – I read somewhere recently that you’ll never be satisfied if you’re just waiting to “arrive” somewhere – we never truly “arrive” – there will always be another milestone, another target, a bigger contract, etc. What’s important is that you recognize how much you’re learning and the good you’re putting out in the world today – don’t forget to pause and enjoy that!
- On tough days, always go back to your “why.”
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
As an entrepreneur, I've quickly learned the value of aligning myself with the people, products, and services I believe in. If my message resonates with you, I'm always looking to connect with others who are passionate about supporting working parents. Please reach out! I'd be delighted to hear from you.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.