Lizzy Brockhoff and Elizabeth Shaffer had their babies within 24 hours of each other, just the latest tag-team effort for the friends and coworkers. At the time, the two both worked at e-commerce startup Jet, a business they’d joined from their previous jobs at Moda Operandi. In the lead-up to becoming first-time moms, the women quickly learned there was a lot of stuff they needed to buy ahead of their baby’s arrival.
Brockhoff and Shaffer were introduced to “baby lists,” giant spreadsheets and documents moms swap with each other. The lists are essentially a product-based version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and include women’s personalized recommendations for things from which goods you need to outfit a nursery to which strollers are worth the price tag. The lists are sourced from all over the internet and are the result of thousands of soon-to-be parents’ impassioned googling, but they’re not organized. Brockhoff and Shaffer sensed an opportunity.
They came up with the idea to launch a platform that would deliver real reviews from real people for all their product needs, baby-centric or otherwise. To date, Masse has featured 3 million goods through its app, harnessing, as Fortune put it, the purchasing power of Facebook mom groups to drive the business.
Here, the cofounders break down how they used their maternity leave as an early-stage incubator for the company and explain how becoming moms pushed them to take the leap and launch their company.
Sometimes you have to balance bottles with business calls.
Lizzy Brockhoff: On maternity leave, we only had small chunks of times between feedings, bathings, etc. So it was all about how much we could get done between those moments. We’re inherent planners, and are project managers by trade, so we set ourselves goals along the way to chip away at things. It was a lot of Google Hangouts and planning. Then the big concern became, how would we continue to work on this when we went back to work? It was a challenging time because we were trying to do three things: work at our full-time jobs, build out Masse, and then also care for our families.
Elizabeth Shaffer: We both went back to work at Jet and were working on this on the side, so that was really a challenging period. One of the hardest things about having kids and starting a business is that you don’t have time to catch up on the weekend. Your weekends are for your kids. But a lot happens after the baby goes down to sleep. It was really all evening work. We’d go to work during the day—we’re both fortunate to have great childcare—and then we would come home, spend time with the babies, put them down, and then post–8 p.m. get back online. It wears you down, for sure, but we both felt like it was such a passion of ours that we pushed through—and on an emotional level it was really helpful to have each other. I’ll also give a call-out to our husbands, who have really been phenomenally supportive and helpful with this. I think that’s often not talked about. Husbands and fathers have a really big role to play in working mothers reentering the workforce.
Launching a company isn’t an individual decision; it’s a family one.
Brockhoff: We’ve heard this from other women and colleagues. That having that first child is a real catalyst for thinking, “Where do I really want to be spending my time?” I think having a little one propelled us a bit more because there’s such an opportunity cost to what you’re doing, so we really felt it was time to take the leap.
Shaffer: We both had to have a series of really serious conversations with our husbands and families before we quit our jobs and launched Masse. I think maybe our families didn’t take us seriously at first. Like, “This is a cute plan they have!” But when we both started talking about quitting our full-time jobs, they sat up and took notice. I think there was a lot of convincing our families that this could actually work and also having open discussions, because on the financial side, we were going to be taking a pay cut. But at the end of the day, they were really supportive and could tell this was so important to us.
Choose your cofounder as you would a spouse.
Brockhoff: I’d recommend choosing your cofounder before even coming up with your business concept. You’re in a second marriage with that person. There are a lot of extreme highs and a lot of extreme lows, so there’s a lot of trust, and you need to evolve with that person as if you were in a marriage. I think the other thing we’ve learned along the way is that resilience is a key quality when you’re starting your own business because there’s definitely going to be more bad days than good days. It's a long road.
Shaffer: We have a rule that there are no secrets between us. We literally know everything about each other’s lives. And we balance each other's loads. If Lizzy has childcare issues one day, I can take over. I had a second kid and took maternity leave, so Lizzy really stepped up during that time. Being able to trade off is incredibly important at this stage of our lives.
We’re also both really open and honest with each other about how we handle stress. I tend to get angry when I’m stressed. Lizzy tends to go internal. So we sort of calm each other down when that’s happening. We always make time at least once a week to get a proper lunch together and just talk about our personal lives and what’s going on.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Samantha Leach is the associate culture editor at Glamour. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_sleach."
Originally Appeared on Glamour