WHO SHE IS: Allyson Downey, co-founder & CEO of weeSpring
LOCATION: New York City
SUCCESS STORY: Saw a big pain point and problem for new and expecting parents, who were overwhelmed by purchasing decisions… and fixed it
WORK SCHEDULE: Non-stop, except 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — and playtime on weekends
KIDS: Logan, 2.5 and TBA (due in June!) [update since first post Baby #2 is here!]
SANITY VICE: Bad TV
FAVORITE RECENT SMART READ: Contagious by Jonah Berger
BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Make use of your “found time”; I write a lot of blog posts on the subway
BETTER WAY TO SAY WORK-LIFE BALANCE? Work-life juggling. Watch Ally talk about “tandem parenting” and her “second baby” in this video.
5+ Questions for Ally
1. Ally, you’re a Renaissance woman (!) — MBA, MFA, business development on Wall Street, politics, now co-founder of a tech startup, weeSpring (baby product recommendations from your friends). How do all of these interests fit together?
To be completely honest, sometimes I worry this breadth of experience makes me sound like a little bit of a dilettante — but then someone will remind me that because I’ve done so many things, I have perspective from pretty much every angle. The common thread on all of them is that they’re entrepreneurial and require a lot of creativity. That’s what’s most rewarding for me: coming up with an idea, and then executing on it. Without red tape or roadblocks.
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2. You and your husband (also a co-founder of weeSpring) met while working on Elliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign. Do you miss politics and are there any similarities between that life and your current one?
Oh, there’s a whole essay in this that I keep promising I’ll write. I have a hard time imagining better prep for start-up life than politics (and vice versa): you’re scrappy, incredibly passionate about what you’re doing, and working ridiculous hours to market yourself, raise money, deal with competition, and get press — all with a big looming deadline. For campaigns, it’s Election Day, and for start-ups, it’s when you run out of money.
3. You have such a window into new parents and their needs. What are some interesting trends you’re seeing this year?
I think we’re at a real tipping point in terms of parents’ frustration about all the contradictions out there, and the studies and articles and books that are coming out in a constant stream, telling us (very inconsistently) what we should or shouldn’t do. I think most parents are very, very hungry for simplicity.
4. Many women who start their own businesses create the kind of flexible culture (which comes in many forms) they would like to work in, and pass it on to their employees. Are you thinking about this / doing this as you build your company?
Yes! We pretty much have limitless flexibility, though I definitely believe there’s a lot of value in convening the team in person (in one place) pretty regularly. Communications just run more smoothly. But we have a bunch of parents (moms, more precisely) freelancing for us who live all over the country and work on their own schedules, generally when their babies are sleeping. We do a check-in call with them all once a week at 9 p.m., and otherwise stay in touch via email.
5. What is the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?
I just believe there is a ton of opportunity to tap into uber-talented, under-utilized superstars — who somehow wound up on a “mommy track” because balance was important to them. Balance is totally possible in challenging, exciting jobs; it just requires a little creativity and a lot of flexibility.
5+. What advice do you live by as a working mom?
Someone advised me once not to “should on myself.” It’s a word I consciously try and limit in my own speech (and interior monologue), so I change phrases like “I should be working right now” to “I want to be working right now,” or “I wish I was working right now.” (Or, even, “I don’t want to be working right now!”) It’s a pretty minor shift, but it puts control back in your hands and eliminates the judgement.