Raised in a traditional home, Shannan Monson grew up believing that "it was a man's job to provide for the family and a woman's job to have kids, nurture, and stay home." At the same time, her parents passed on valuable lessons about making money and supporting yourself.
"My dad cleaned railroad tracks in college and cleaned bricks and did all these odd jobs, so something that was instilled in me from a very young age was there's always an opportunity to go create wealth," she explains.
Upon graduating from college, Monson welcomed a child in 2012 with her husband and settled down in Augusta, Georgia. "We really were so naive," she recalls. "We had no idea how much it would cost to support our own lives, let alone bring another child into the world."
Soon, her husband had returned to medical school full-time, and Monson was faced with being the sole provider. "My intention had been to be a stay-at-home mom and do what I'd seen modeled for me, and it was really quickly that I wanted to not just make sure our basic needs were met but provide for my kids in the way that I wanted to," she explains.
When her son was a newborn, Monson, who had been an athlete and personal trainer in college, walked into a gym and asked for a job. With just $200 in her bank account at the time, she embarked on the beginning of her entrepreneurial career.
While she and her husband struggled to make ends meet, Monson continued to believe in herself and her ability to figure it out. By 2014, she had done well as a personal trainer, but especially after having her second child and dealing with postpartum depression, realized that she couldn't simply keep adding more clients—and therefore, more hours in the day—to her roster. She needed to pivot, and she decided to follow her passion and boost her nutrition business.
"I started taking nutrition clients that I met on the internet," says Monson. "I started making meal plans, and I was like, 'This is great. I don't have to see clients one-on-one.' And I fell in love with social media. You have this ability to take your talents and your skills and find ways to monetize against that and turn that into profit for your business, for your family."
Monson soon saw success selling her meal plans on Instagram. Although it hadn't worked out the first time she had shared them on the platform, the second time, during a pre-sale period, she made almost $2,000 in just 48 hours. "That was the moment I realized, 'Oh my gosh, I'm onto something huge,'" she says. "And it's not meal plans but this ability to grow a business that you can reach people around the world."
Six months later, she was up to $10,000 a month, solidifying a successful six-figure business. "I felt like I had absolutely made it, but at the same time, I'm supporting four people on this salary and you pay taxes and you pay your business expenses, and I didn't have full-time child care," says Monson. "I realized, 'OK, I can take this concept to the next level, but I have to invest in child care.'"
She decided to get an office space to turn into a wellness studio and hire a nanny. "It was incredibly challenging between me and my husband at the time, because he's not an entrepreneur, not a risk-taker, and I wasn't supposed to be the breadwinner," recalls Monson. "I remember him saying, 'If you do this, that's $2,000 less dollars a month you can pay yourself from the business.' I finally just looked at him, and I said, 'I love you so much. And we're spending $250,000 we do not have on your dream of being a doctor. Why is my dream not worth [this expense]?' And that was the moment he was like, 'You're right. I'm sorry. I'm 100 percent behind you.'"
From that moment forward, Monson says she never looked back. "My dream was not ever second to me anymore," she says. "I really prioritize my kids, but my dreams mattered too. And I didn't have to give that up just because I'd chosen to become a parent."
By 2018, Monson, who had added business consulting to her original wellness studio, made her first million dollars in revenue. "We bought a beautiful home on the river, and I remember putting the whole downpayment down myself," she says. "I remember sitting there just being like, 'I did this, I never thought I was going to provide for my family, let alone be the main breadwinner.' That was one of the most powerful moments."
But success means a lot more for Monson. "It's about what it meant for our life—the kind of freedom of lifestyle, the ability to get our kids the best education," she says. "My husband is going to be a doctor here shortly, and he doesn't have a huge crushing debt when he's making decisions about what he wants to do. He got into this business because he wants to help and serve. So if he wants to work in low-income clinics and give back to underserved communities, he can do that. [And that is] just beyond any gift I think I could ever give to him."
Now, Monson wishes every woman could experience what she has and realize that they are capable of creating their own dreams. Here are her top tips for other parent entrepreneurs.
Think Outside the 9-to-5
The lesson Monson's parents taught her—that there are always opportunities to go out and find a way to make money, especially in unconventional, passion-fueled ways—is one that she wishes everyone would internalize.
"When you realize you're not stuck to however much you can make in your 9-to-5 and this fixed income, and there's so many creative ways to go create extra revenue and income in your life, it just opens up a world of possibilities," she notes.
Get Intentional With Your Time
Monson recommends focusing on how you can get the highest impact for the lowest effort. "It's not just a business principle—we can apply it to every area of life," she notes.
For example, while growing her businesses, she might prioritize her work over doing the laundry or dishes. "I was not the world's best homemaker," she says. "I remember this moment that my mother-in-law came over, and she said to my husband, 'Doesn't it bother you that she's focusing on her business instead of making sure that the home is taken care of and making you dinner and supporting you?' And my husband stood up for me. We were able to appreciate that making dinner was not the best use of my time then."
She recommends taking an inventory of your time throughout any given day. "Where is my time being spent and assign each hour a dollar amount," says Monson. "If you were to pay someone else to do the job you're currently doing, how much would that cost? If I was going to pay someone to do my laundry, maybe that's a $10-$12 an hour job. If I was going to pay someone to watch my kids, maybe that's a $20-$30 an hour job. Ask yourself, how can you only do the highest paying jobs that day. That's how you're going to create more wealth in your life."
Follow Your Passion
Monson believes the common thread among all of her businesses—nutrition, social media, business consulting—is that she followed her passion. "If there's something you love doing, there is a way to monetize that," says Monson. "I think I'm living proof of that."
She continues, "If you want to be a graphic designer, go get on Skillshare and take some classes and learn how to be a graphic designer, then go to Upwork and find some clients," she advises. "It doesn't matter how busy your life is. There are opportunities to find those six hours in the weekend or those two hours at night, and you can find ways to play the long game."
And adding that time in will set you up for long-term success in the way that your current job might not be, says Monson.
Trade Immediate Gratification for Long-Term Growth
Monson and her husband have worked with financial advisors since she hit six figures, because as an entrepreneur, she wanted to be sure she was investing and getting the best tax opportunities possible.
"We also were really intentional when we got like a chunk of money, figuring out how we could put the majority of this back into something that's going to turn into more money," she explains. "And whether that was a business, investing in a home, creating real estate opportunities, whatever that looked like, we always said, 'How can we take what we have right now and turn it into something five years from now?'"
And that's the key to changing your financial situation forever, according to Monson. It's about switching your mindset from what your income can do for you "right this second" to "what you can do right now to prepare yourself for six months from now, a year from now, five years from now."