Dr. Marika Lindholm // a FemCity Interview
I recently got a chance to get to know Dr. Marika Lindholm, Founder of ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere). As we read and connect with the stories of other women, we understand that the struggle of growing a business and raising a family is one many of us share. I hope this gives you light, inspiration and motivation to keep on your path to your envisioned purpose.
What inspired you to create this business?
I got divorced when my children were three and five. It was one of the hardest times in my life because I was plagued with guilt, always worried about money and the legal process was demoralizing. As a sociologist who taught courses on women’s issues, I was aware of the negative financial impact of divorce but I wasn’t prepared for overwhelming sense of responsibility and loneliness that followed. I was a strong independent woman yet felt unsupported and confused by the whole process. Amidst the struggle, I made a secret vow that one day if I could, I’d like to make it easier for other women in the same situation. It took fifteen years but ESME.com was born out of that difficult, but ultimately empowering, experience.
What were some struggles you had at the start that would you like to share with other women looking to launch?
I struggled with self-doubt because starting a company and launching a website required learning a whole new set of skills. Academia didn’t require a knowledge of social media, search engine optimization or user experience. Fortunately, passion and drive more than compensated for my insecurities! Finding the right team was another challenge for the same reason. As a new business owner, I was overly impressed with resume’s rather than trusting my gut. Now my team is a phenomenal group that is genuinely dedicated to making sure that single moms find support, connection and resources at ESME.
What advice would you give to women scared of launching a business?
Do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Dive in!
Make sure you know your market. Is there a need for a business like yours? I started with focus groups in LA, New York City and Chicago. I spoke to Solo Moms to find out their needs and potential interest in a site like ESME. Those dialogues were invaluable to the design and mission of the site. My next step was to gather information about start-ups. I sought out expertise from any entrepreneur who would talk to me – especially those who began start-ups on-line. I kept a notebook for insight and inspiration. I asked many different questions. I always asked, “What mistakes did you make and what would you have done differently?” My rationale was that mistakes and missteps were inevitable but I didn’t have to repeat the same mistakes. No one is fully prepared for the many challenges of starting a new business so at some point you just have to dive in. I say go for it!
What has been the secret to your success in growing your business?
I don’t think there are any secrets. Do your homework, pour your heart into being a success and be willing to adapt. Start-ups are always a work in progress, you need to be willing to evolve and transform when you see what’s working and not working. Patience, passion and persistence are essential. If you are missing any of these, it’s not going to happen for you. But if you passionate and willing to struggle in the face of early failure, you are on the right track.
What mantra kept you going during the dark times of growing a business?
Everyone I spoke to, explained that traction and growth take time. Repeatedly, I heard that it takes at least three years to determine if your business will make it. Related to this is the fact that too many entrepreneurs give up too early. Many successful entrepreneurs are ahead of the curve when it comes to their service or product. Sometimes it takes a while for the general public to catch on. ESME launched less than two years ago, so I always remind myself of these realties when I’m worried about users and traction. So I suppose my mantra is “Don’t panic!”
Did you ever feel like quitting?
We all have our moments but I really haven’t considered quitting. There are too many Solo Moms who reach out with stories as to how ESME helped them during tough times. I feel very responsible to them and future women who face this difficult challenge. Also I’m super competitive and stubborn so it takes a lot for me to give up!
Do you have a support system? If so, who?
I was fortunate to recruit a close friend to become the Director of Operations at ESME. She moved her family from Chicago and we support each other in all that we do. The lines between ESME and family are often blurred and I can count on my family and team to support me and pitch in when family and work collide. I hope they feel the same about me. We have over 50 Solo Mom consultants writing or working for the site. Our business model has to be more forgiving, flexible and supportive because of this. It makes for a very family centered approach to daily decisions around meetings and deadlines. In the end, we all feel more supported and can do a better job.
Did you have any mentors to help you along the way?
This question really got me thinking. As a woman without family or friends in the start-up world, I didn’t have specific career mentors per say. But I’m certainly inspired by strong, smart women in my circle of friends and family. I’m also in awe of role models such as, Gloria Steinem, Ruth Ginsberg and Ursula Burns. I think about how brave, strong and pioneering each of these women have been in their journey toward greatness. A true mentor would obviously be fabulous but not having a mentor hasn’t stopped me from pushing myself and learning as much as I can. As I mentioned earlier, I always meet people and ask questions. And my hardworking team is dedicated and willing to stretch in new ways as ESME.com grows. We’ve learned so much together. I look forward to continuing this great collaboration on behalf of single moms for many years to come!
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Violette is the Founder of FemCity // an online global network featuring business and lifestyle trends with over 70 local communities designed exclusively for women. Violette is also a motivational speaker, small business consultant, writer and mother of three. As a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience, Violette is passionate about supporting women entrepreneurs through business growth, big vision strategies and positivity along the way. For more inspiration and business tips, visit www.femcity.com and www.violettedeayala.com. Follow Violette de Ayala // @violettedeayala