Entrepreneur and single mom Angela Min was pondering the idea of “leaning in” long before Sheryl Sandberg’s book came out. Here’s what the phrase means to her.
By Angela Min (Co-Founder, Storybox)
I’m co-founder of a site called Storybox and also a single mom to a six-year-old girl. “Leaning in” is a constant theme of my life. On the surface, it’s an issue of time and money. Who’ll watch my daughter after school and how much will that cost? But what’s the cost of missing an important meeting? It’s nearly impossible to separate “work” from “life”. A decision on one thing ripples out to affect everything else.
Because really, there’s no separation of work and life. I think “life” should be the sole motivation of a startup anyways – and not “work” or “career”. I created a startup that spoke to the most important values of my life. Our site, Storybox, is a visionboard tool. Our mission is to help people imagine and create new possibilities. Not coincidentally, these are the ideals I hope to instill in my daughter. There’s no separating my daughter from the equation – she is the equation.
Women have long been considered the “weaker” sex because of statements like that. But why is it a weakness? I call it a strength. As women, we don’t separate, and thank goodness. What a drab world we’d live in if all I did was go around separating and segmenting life. Sugar, flour and water would just be piles of white powder with clear liquid in between — instead of a yummy homemade pie. For women, 1+1+1 doesn’t equal three, but so much more. It’s a different brand of math, and defies logic, utility and reason. It doesn’t calculate, it creates. Our ability to perform this irrational math is the single greatest advantage we have over men. All we have to do is lean in.
Leaning in about making an investment in the unknown future. And like any investment, it’s risky. So, for mothers and mothers-to-be, it can feel like a great risk indeed. We do the calculations then hold back. But by holding back, we deny ourselves the single most powerful thing we have, as women. Our ability to create. And entrepreneurship is the most creative activity I can think of, after motherhood.
They say only 10% of startups succeed. Then perhaps 90% of the startup advice out there is wrong. So here’s my crazy solution: let’s buck the traditional wisdom. Let’s do it our way. Will it work? Only one way to find out. Instead of separating work from life, how about we mash them together. Weave our magic, and turn those ingredients into a glorious pie. My personal life informs every aspect of the startup. My best friend from college is my co-founder. We bucked the traditional wisdom of separating business and personal, and instead, took a leap of faith. We chose to lean in, together. Without her, the journey would not have been possible. We’ve continued to tap our personal lives, and networks, to build our team. One of our engineers is a graduating senior from our alma mater (Wellesley). We’re “grooming” her in a mentorship system created by our CTO, for which she is receiving course credit.
We’ve also worked hard to establish ourselves within the emerging tech ecosystem of Long Island City, in Queens. Our office is co-located inside the office of Songza, a music startup currently featured in Bloomberg’s campaign to promote NYC tech. It’s a stimulating, inspiring environment in which to work. It also serves the practical benefit of being a place to bring my daughter after school. My daughter gets to do homework while seeing her mom at work in a “cool” setting filled with young, energetic people. In return, I like to think we offer a fresh perspective on what it means to be a startup, made up of mostly women (+ one girl!).
I believe that as women we’re at our best when we choose to capitalize on our strengths, rather than downplay them as “weaknesses.” Having children is not a weakness. It is a crucible of strength. Because no mother leans in, casually. She doesn’t do it out of disregard for her child, but in absolute regard for her child. In other words, she does it out of love … and takes the leap. She leans in. And leaning in, like all leaps of faith, is an irrational act. Like love. But without it, nothing worthy in this world can be created. And what a drab place that world would be.
Women 2.0 readers: What does “leaning in” mean to you?
About the guest blogger: Angela Min is co-founder of Storybox, an online social visionboard. Before making the leap into tech, Angela was founding principal of a residential design firm. Her design advice “3 Second Scan” was featured by Oprah as the #1 spring decorating tip. Angela studied economics at Wellesley College and Cambridge University, and has a Master’s from Pratt Institute of Design. She is mother to a crayon-wielding, fairy-tale imagining six-year-old and all-around irrational dreamer and seeker of beauty.