Mompreneurs have it made: they have a career, a family and they manage to keep everything perfectly in sync.
Well, not really. Olympic gold medalist Gigi Fernandez knows how it difficult it is. Since the age of three, Fernandez yearned to play the sport she loved most, tennis. Even though her parents knew she had a talent for tennis, her eye and hand coordination skills were very good, her parents resisted her begging for lessons until age 7.
Path to the Olympics
Never feeling forced to love the sport, Fernandez says she saw playing as the greatest time. "I was having fun; I was hitting against the wall when I was three and started taking lessons at 7, both my parents were players and when they went to play, I would watch and play."
Fast forward to the 1992 Olympics and Fernandez became the first Puerto Rican female to win a gold medal. She won gold again in 1996. Her ambitions didn't end there, however.
Biological Clock Ticking
"When I turned 39, I started to think about my biological clock ticking. I started thinking about my life and wondered, 'What am I going to do for the next 40 years?' I felt very empty to think about it without having a child be part of my life," Fernandez said.
When Fernandez and her partner Jane Geddes started trying to conceive, it turned out to be quite a roller coaster ride. They tried fertilization treatments, adopting and finally were able to conceive through an egg donor, their friend Monika Kosc. "It was some of the toughest years of my life," Fernandez said, adding, "There was a lot of crying."
Fernandez and Geddes now are the proud parents of twins, a boy and a girl. "It's the biggest joy in my life. I'm truly blessed. I'd trade all my gold metals for them!" said Fernandez.
A New Business Venture
After having her children, Fernandez started a company that sells instructional videos teaching the fundamentals of sports to children. She got the idea after finding out that there were no such videos in the market. She named her company Baby Goes Pro. "I figured if I had the desire to start my kids in sports, most likely other people did too. So I set out to interview psychologists and we ended up producing this award-winning DVD," Fernandez said.
The first DVD is for 4 year olds and under. It visually teaches them how to kick and swing. The second is for older kids. It starts introducing them more to the rules and the motions of various sports.
Several media outlets Fernandez interviewed with have talked about her product, but at the same time mentioned that starting kids too young in sports can be detrimental to their development.
Fernandez offers a different view. "Our name is a cute catchy name. We are not saying that all babies who watch these DVDs are going to go pro. It's just a cute name, and the motivation is to get them active and moving. Starting them in a lifetime of fun and activity is what we promote."
Too Early to Teach Kids Sports?
Her kids have been watching the videos since they were 9 months old. By the time her twins were 13 months they were kicking the ball, when most kids that age just want to pick it up, Fernandez said.
"The media is always looking for controversy because controversy makes news. I agree, kids should not be training at 2 years old. Tt should not be structured and they should not be in a path to pro at this early age, but I can’t imagine any parent out there who wants to train their kids at such an early age thinking this is the start of a professional career. It's not right. It's just craziness to start your 2 year on the path to pro!"
What the videos do offer kids, according to Fernandez, is the confidence to know what they are doing. It gives them an early introduction to sports and doing so gives them a jumpstart.
The company was started in March 2010, so it's still in startup phase and Fernandez said there is not much money for marketing yet. "We just signed a sales and distribution agreement and now we are trying to get into the retail market," she added.
"It's very hard to be a mompreneur," said Fernandez. "It's difficult to find the balance." She said that her main focus is always the kids. "We work around their schedules and we get the help of a live-in nanny. I work 3 days a week away from home, but the priority is definitely the kids."
Advice for Mompreneurs
Not all moms have live-in nannies but being an entrepreneur is still doable, Fernandez said. "I think a lot of entrepreneurship is character based. I'm a doer, so I'm always working on something."
When starting your own business, Fernandez advised to:
- Make sure that you have a lot of support.
- Do not start a company by yourself, that is extremely difficult. "I was mostly doing it by myself and sometimes I wished there was someone else helping. I started out with a business partner but she lived in a different state and that was very difficult so I don't recommend that."
- Find someone who doesn't have young kids so you can do trade offs. You want someone you can rely on in case of emergencies.
- Make sure you are fully funded. Make sure you have enough money to sustain you for at least 2 years.
Photo courtesy of Gigi Fernandez