Michelle Mak was navigating a global pandemic with a new baby and a recent job loss. While Mak, her husband and family members helped care for her young son, she found herself looking for a system to keep track of feeding times, diaper changes and sleep schedule between each caretaker. Apps were too complicated and she wanted a simple straightforward product everyone could use. So like many moms before her, she created the solution to the problem at hand. The result is Mewl, a whiteboard that sticks to the fridge, divided into clear sections for feeding, diaper and sleep, so that all the adults caring for a little one can easily coordinate baby care. Today San Francisco, California-based Mak is working on managing her busy schedule as a mom and entrepreneur and taking inspiration from other mompreneurs in her community.
Mak’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I was in software sales for 5 years. I became a new mom and was looking into daycare options. However, the pandemic happened and I was let go from my company soon after. Like everyone else, I was worried about all the uncertainty. My mom came over to take care of my six month old son while I was interviewing.
When I was looking for a job, I drew out a simple chart on a whiteboard to help coordinate baby care with my husband and mom. I was surprised there wasn’t one in the market so I decided to manufacture it and sell it online. The original Mewl Baby Whiteboard is the easiest way to log and coordinate baby care. Selling on Amazon, Etsy, and Walmart gives me the flexibility to be with my son while running my business.
How do you define success?
Success to me is the feeling of fulfillment and finding balance. I felt I was giving up my career because I became a mother. Instead, I changed my career path and I’m happier than ever. I get to be my own boss and have the flexibility to spend time with my son.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I was featured in NTD Business and shared my story to inspire others to start their own business.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
It’s been a challenge being a solo entrepreneur because it’s lonely and filled with self doubt. Through online mom groups, I met another mom who was on the same journey of starting a new business while raising a baby. We are able to provide support, advice, and talk about mom stuff. These conversations help me stay motivated and accountable.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I’ve been approached by a few companies to join their sales team. It would provide financial stability but it would force me to consider putting my son into preschool full time. My concern is vaccinations are not available for my two year old. It would also significantly impact the time I spend on my business. It was a tough decision but I decided to focus on my son and business. I am investing the time now in order to grow my business and become financially independent.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Pace yourself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things done quickly, wanting to see success immediately. Starting a business definitely has its ups and downs as well as times of self doubt. This can lead to burn out pretty quickly.
I was creating my whiteboard while balancing the demands of a baby schedule. It was exhausting. I learn to allocate specific times of the day to focus on my business. I’m able to work more efficiently during these times. The breaks in between allows me to reflect and come up with better solutions.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I think about why I created the baby whiteboard. Baby tracking apps are tedious and there’s too much information to enter. It also doesn’t work for my non-techie mom and my husband forgot to use it half the time. My whiteboard has helped my family with baby care and I feel it can help others too.
Who is your most important role model?
My aunt was an important role model growing up. She was a single mom who opened and operated a clothing manufacturing company. I didn’t realize until I was older all the challenges she faced as a minority woman running a business. Her strength, independence, and grit to keep going was impactful. I grew up never doubting my capabilities was able to dream bigger because of my aunt’s influence.◼