Launching Your Own Business as a Working Mom
As the managing director of marketing at Chicago’ massive Merchandise Mart, Megy Karydes knew she wanted a change. She spent almost every month traveling, overseeing some of the biggest
trade shows in the world.
“I felt like I was at the point where, I’d done everything I needed to do,” she says. “It didn’t feel challenging anymore.”
With two children under the age of two, Karydes left her job and launched her own business. Karydes Consulting is a C-corporation in Chicago. It offers marketing, communications, public relations, and media relations services to corporate and nonprofit companies.
At the same time, she also launched her careers as a journalist. Learning how to balance being a journalist, a marketing and public relations consultant and a mom is a lot. Here’s how Megy does it.
Making the transition
Start by identifying your audience and your unique selling proposition to let potential clients know what you can offer based on the kind of work you want, Karydes says. When she decided to start her own company, the first thing she did was email her entire network of contacts to let them know.
“As soon as I sent out that email letting people know what I was doing, I immediately signed two clients.”
Over the past decade, Karydes’ business has grown to include major clients such as The Morton Arboretum, Union of Concerned Scientists, Heartland Alliance, McCormick & Company spice, and Meredith Corporation.
Vetting potential clients
Her advice to new business owners: hone in on both the type of clients you want and don’t want. It’s important to interview potential clients to make sure they are a good fit for you. Just as much as the other way around.
Although Karydes wanted to focus much of her work on nonprofits, many didn’t have a large enough budget to make some potential clients a good fit. To ensure business viability while fulfilling her need to work with nonprofits, Karydes began focusing only on mid-to-large organizations with budgets of a million dollars or more.
“It’s important to me to determine that early on,” she says. “I don’t want to fall into the trap of just accepting a client and find out when we begin working together that we’re not seeing eye to eye.”
To vet potential clients, Karydes starts by asking “What are you trying to achieve by trying to hire someone like me?”. To do her job right in media and public relations, Karydes needs access to sources, imagery, B-roll video and the ability to quickly get in touch with an executive if a reporter wants to do an interview.
If Karydes feels like she has the expertise to work and help a potential client achieve their goals, she then asks the following questions:
- How available will you be for me?
- How do you prefer to be contacted?
- Are you prepared to provide me with the necessary material in order to do my job?
“These questions are so basic. But when you ask the questions, it puts the onus on them to understand that I can only do my job as well as I can if I get what I need from them,” she says. “They almost forget that. They almost feel like if they hire someone like me, they can just hand over everything to me and wash their hands from having to do any more work. That’s never the case. We need to be a team for this to work.”
“If executives are difficult to reach, because they are constantly traveling or don’t check their phones, it makes it a lot harder for me to do my job,” Karydes says. “That’s a problem. If I have a reporter who needs to do an interview, thenI’ve lost that opportunity and potentially alienated that reporter.”
Karydes’ son Alex, who is now 12, was only 10 months old when she started her own business. Her daughter, Chloe, who is now 14, was less than 2 years old.
Running her own business has given Karydes the flexibility to work the type of hours she wants and still be available for her children.
“I was fortunate that my mother was able to take care of my kids full time while I worked. I realize that is not something that’s common, but it was so integral for me,” she says.
Her advice: Since finding affordable (and safe) daycare can be difficult and time consuming, it’s important to do it early on.
“It’s easier said than done, because our country doesn’t necessarily value that kind of role,” Karydes says. Because of this, she suggests involving your children in your work when possible. For Karydes, that meant bringing her children, even when they were babies and toddlers on business trips. She did this especially when she was writing travel stories.
“For the longest time they didn’t even know about kids menus,” she says. “We went to so many restaurants we just let them try the food from our plates. They couldn’t read the menu so they didn’t even know kids’ meals were even an option which has made them become much more adventurous eaters.”
More importantly, it’s helped open her children to different cultures and other ways of life. Even if it’s just in another neighborhood in Chicago.
“It’s a good reminder for them that they don’t live in a bubble,” she says. “But they’re part of a bigger community.”
Editor’s Note: Megy’s story is one of a four-part series celebrating women business owners throughout the month of March. Take a look at the other inspiring stories in the series: How I Built My Own Business After Cancer.