4 Essential steps to launching a business with young kids

BELLA HUGHES

Bella Hughes is the President and Co-Founder of Shaka Tea, the first line of Hawaiian-grown, ready to drink iced teas brewed from antioxidant powerhouse, mamaki. Mother of two, serial entrepreneur, based in Honolulu.


When you start a business — or start a family — no one can really tell you what to expect. You have to experience it for yourself. I decided to do both at the same time.

My business, Shaka Tea, offers the first line of ready-to-drink, Hawaiian-grown iced teas brewed from antioxidant powerhouse māmaki. Within two months of launching our bottles in April 2016, we were doing $10,000 in sales, and we were picked up by Hawai’i’s largest beverage distributor and received national industry recognition.

We’re growing and finding success, but it hasn’t always been easy. My business partner, Harrison Rice, is also my husband, and when we launched the business, we had a newborn and a toddler. Let that sink in — a newborn, a toddler and a new business.

We were constantly on-call. After all, babies and young children are kind of like a startup business. Both need you 24/7.

Here are the four essential tips we learned about launching a business with young children.

1. Find strategic advisors and mentors who have launched a successful business with kids.

You need these amazing people in your orbit. It’s reassuring that even though no path to business success is the same and there are no guarantees, it can be done with a family!

You especially need this reassurance on the really tough days, when all your babies, the real and the business, “aren’t behaving.” I’m fortunate that my strategic advisor, a legend in the beverage industry, Jim Tonkin, is a parent. When he was coaching us for our first investment pitch, we had our then-18-month-old with us. She snacked and watched an irresponsible amount of Frozen over the course of three hours. Jim didn’t mind a bit.

Two personal heroes of mine who've had tremendous success in the beverage industry, detailing their experiences in books, Seth Goldman of Honest Tea (Mission in a Bottle) and Mark Rampolla of Zico (High-Hanging Fruit), also are parents. I strongly recommend their books to any parent who wants candid insight into what it’s like launching a company with a family.

2. Make use of your kids’ schedule.

Their schedule can be strategically maximized. I vividly remember doing a lot of the base research for Shaka Tea during early-morning feedings. Naptime is a perfect time to set priorities and crank out the hardest work of the day in absolute silence.

I’ve also learned to set up activities for my kids as they’ve grown and work amid the noise — chalk, blocks or Playdough are particularly popular, especially if I give them specific tasks to keep them extra-focused, like drawing their family, building a school or molding fruits.

I also wake up almost every day at 3 a.m. and go to bed with them around 8 p.m. The 3 to 6 a.m. period is essential to my productivity.

3. Build a great support system that believes in your business and your family.

I would not be able to do what I do without my parents. If you have the luxury of parents to help with childcare, I recommend relocating to launch your business close to them. We moved back to my hometown, Honolulu, to launch Shaka Tea.

As Harrison and I work and parent together, we’ve never had a babysitter or nanny. But between our kids’ independent play, preschool, my parents and handing off the kids between the two of us, we ensure one of us gets a chunk of uninterrupted work during the day.

If you can’t live near your parents to start a business and/or aren’t in business with your life partner, cultivating a network of friends or other parentpreneurs who believe in you is essential. Consider scoping out co-working spaces that offer childcare, too.

4. Turn it all off for one to two hours a day. ALL off.

It’s so important to unplug for two hours per day and spend that time with your kids. You need this probably as much as they do! For me, this is usually a mix of “chores” — my eldest loves to cook so we cook at least one meal together each day — and one “fun” activity, whether it’s building a volcano out of clay, going on a family sunset hike, or a visit to a museum, library or neighborhood park.

Our day usually ends in a good cuddle and as we say in Hawai'i, “talk story” session pre-bedtime, where we get to chat about the highlights of the day and our hopes for tomorrow.

Nobody can prepare you for parenthood or entrepreneurship, and both at the same time is challenging — but also rewarding.

What tips do you have to add?