Finding the parallels between motherhood and entrepreneurship

Sophie Su co-founded Pingo Space, a mobile app that connects Chinese locals to expats through in-person experiences. As a Chinese Australian, she grew up in Sydney and came to Beijing in 2007. The 31-year-old is a mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old son. She is also a first-time entrepreneur, who turned down a store manager job with Apple in the name of making a meaningful impact on society.

She was pregnant when she went to Silicon Valley to meet her developers for the first time, and says she gave birth to two babies around the same time. She sees parallels between her son and entrepreneurship, and how she has grown with these two babies.

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t expect their startup to grow like a giant too quickly

Su said a startup takes time, nourishment and patience. It’s exactly like having a baby. She once heard an entrepreneur compare doing a startup in college to having a baby in college: people are unprepared for either at that stage in life. There is a whole glamorization behind entrepreneurship, where some people dream of becoming Mark Zuckerberg overnight. She said she sees a startup as a two-year-old: young, immature and needing time to grow.

Mothers can also start companies, and it’s actually better

Su said when one becomes a mother, one has more patience and love for everyone. She has more to give and cares about the world that her child is growing up in. She cares about whether she is contributing to society the right way, and said her perspective has changed since entering motherhood.

She is a better entrepreneur because she is a mother and vice versa

Su said she has been absorbing knowledge and experiences from her interactions with different kinds of people in her journey as an entrepreneur, and feels she has grown more as a person. Through being a better boss and entrepreneur, she can educate her child through different perspectives.

Her relationship with her husband has become stronger since they founded Pingo Space

Some couples may disagree on this point, but Su said work exposes the best and worst sides of an individual. She said married life at home can become mundane, but if a couple can see each other’s extremes when they work together, they have to learn to deal with one another professionally. She said she understands why her husband is so tired after work because she was there to witness it, and said she has a better connection with her husband because they are on the same level.

The measure of success in this chart is interchangeable between a man and a woman.
Sophie Su’s own research comparing life stages in married couples. The measure of success in this chart is interchangeable between a man and a woman.

Su thinks that many couples divorce after a while because they grow apart. Her own research comparing life stages in married couples is illustrated in the chart above. She said a couple usually gets married in their early adulthood when they are attracted to one another for different reasons. But after marriage, their life stages may diverge due to, in some cases, a man progressing his career drastically while a woman grows hers in a linear fashion.

Some women may even call a halt to their career because of their decision to become a full-time mother. In that case, the working world of a husband and wife may change. The husband lives in a cut-throat business world while the wife fully embraces motherhood. That’s when misunderstandings could arise, according to Su.

The measure of success in that chart is interchangeable between a man and a woman.

One famous example from Silicon Valley is Elon Musk’s first marriage with Justine Musk. During their eight-year marriage, she gave birth to six children while Elon went on to become a serial entrepreneur. In a September 2010 Marie Claire story authored by Justine Musk, she said her wealthy husband would fire her if she was his employee.

In short, Su said she has broken the stereotypes of working with her husband and being a mother while embracing entrepreneurship.

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