This is just one story in a magazine series on moms who run businesses (Poppy Barley‘s co-founder, Justine, is expecting her first baby in January 2016 and wants to speak to the experts!). See more posts in this series here, and find out Justine’s takeaways here.
Benoît, my son, was born September 28th, 2014
Another on the way!
I’m lucky to have a very committed partner who shares the workload equally with me at home and at work.
What is Duchess Bakeshop?
I am one of the owners of Duchess Bakeshop. We make French-inspired pastries from scratch and use only the highest quality ingredients possible. We opened the bakeshop in 2009 with only 5 employees. We have since tripled the size of our space, done a huge kitchen renovation and opened our little retail store, Provisions. The first few years were really hard. I was working 20 hour days and would sometimes go up to 6 months without a day off. I also landed in the hospital with exhaustion and could barely care for myself. Things have certainly improved in the last few years and I’ve been able to take a step back from the kitchen. Today we have over 60 employees and 18 full-time pastry chefs. Our plan is to maintain the standard that we’ve set for ourselves and to become more efficient. We have no plans on expanding the bakeshop, but we are currently working on a new breakfast restaurant, a Provisions expansion and a teaching school.
There are three of us who own the bakeshop: myself, my ex-husband Garner and my current partner Jacob (that’s a whole other story in itself!). We all have the utmost of respect for each other and know how to play up each other’s strengths.
How did you reconcile having a newborn and having a business in the first 12 months?
When we were in the early stages of our business, I had made up my mind that I would never have children. Being able to find a better work/home balance in the last 2 years made me realize that maybe I could balance both being a business owner and a mother.
… But this is definitely the hardest question to answer. My baby was actually due the day that my cookbook was due at the printers. Because we were launching the cookbook (with my name on it) right after the baby was born, I really only had two weeks at home before going back to work. My plan prior to having him was to stay at home for 3 months but with the scope of the cookbook it just wasn’t possible.
For the first two months, I brought Benoît to work with me. I set up a swing in the office and he would just hang out while I tried to get work done. When he got a bit older, I found someone who came to our house to watch him 2 days a week and grandparents did 2 days a week. It was a real juggling act but everyone around us pitched in to help.
We also had a super tough time with breastfeeding and Benoît never really latched. I was committed to providing him with breast milk for as long as possible so I pumped. I was pumping 8-9 times a day and would pump pretty much anywhere. In the end it was a blessing in disguise because really anyone could feed him, even when I wasn’t home.
Being a new mom is one of the most difficult, rewarding and amazing things you will ever do. It’s also a time when everyone seems to be giving you their opinions and sometimes you feel like you’re being judged. I vividly remember a customer calling the shop two months after my baby was born and when she realized it was me on the phone (it was public knowledge that I had had a baby), she scolded me for not being at home with my baby and told me that I wouldn’t be a good mother. I was deeply hurt by these comments but I was reminded by my partner that we are fortunate that our child will grow up with so many different people that love him and care for him. Stay strong and don’t let other people’s opinions get you down.
Any advice/inspiration/warnings for entrepreneur moms-to-be?
My biggest piece of advice is to not set yourself up with too many expectations. As a business owner, you are used to having control over everything and meeting goals but with a baby you really have to shift your mindset and just let things happen naturally. Go easy on yourself and your new baby.
In typical Duchess fashion, my second baby is due right around the time we plan on opening our new business. Although I’m still concerned about how we are going to keep juggling our businesses with two small children, I also feel a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. My life will never be a typical one where I get to go to play groups, stay home with my babies everyday and cook dinner every night but I feel lucky to have the life I do, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
More from this series…