For a few years, Lola co-founders Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier saw their relationship as similar to that of a marriage, and their company as somewhat akin to a child. "Right before we launched Lola, Jordana got married, and right after we launched, I got married," says Friedman. "Then you and I got married," she quips, looking at her business partner, "and we never saw our husbands again."
Those perceptions changed in March 2017, when Friedman told Kier she was pregnant. Kier had a baby in December. And now Friedman is due to go out on maternity leave again, beginning in July. Here's how the co-founders of the New York City-based feminine care product company have juggled three pregnancies, two kids, and a startup--so far. --As told to Kimberly Weisul
Friedman: We wrote a maternity policy knowing I would be the first to use it. The policy was a combination of our personal preferences, our desire to put a stake in the ground, and trying to understand what other companies at our stage were doing. We decided to offer 12 weeks fully paid leave. It's gender-agnostic.
We knew Jordana wanted to have children, and that my husband and I wanted to have another. This was sort of the trial run. How does it work to have co-CEOs pass a business back and forth while one is out? I had been managing marketing, customer operations, and digital. The month before I went out, we started to carve away my ownership of those functions, to make sure Jordana was 100 percent prepared. By the end, I was in more of a shadow role.
I didn't come into the office during leave. I was actively in touch with Jordana the whole time. I attended a couple of Lola events, like our company Thanksgiving, to stay in touch with the team. Toward the back half of my leave, I would meet with Jordana for a few hours on Fridays. She would come over with an agenda, and we'd go through the items one by one while I pumped or breastfed and rocked a baby.
At that time, we were kicking off a fundraise. We would talk about, what's our pitch right now? What have we achieved in the past 18 months? I didn't feel the draw to come in and engage operationally. But we knew we wanted to meet investors together. I remember those sessions fondly, because they were a welcome change of pace to my weekly routine, and exactly the right level of engagement for me while I adjusted to being a parent.
Kier: I am glad Alex went out on leave first. Of the two of us, she is the planner. She knew we needed to think about this two months before it happened. A few days after giving birth, I was ready to reengage.
Friedman: I think I knew that would happen.
Kier: I remember coming in after a month for a meeting. The team was like, please go away.
Having a newborn while also working on the business was really difficult. My personality doesn't lend itself to being fully in the dark for 12 weeks. I was lucky that my daughter, Rose, slept well, which meant that I slept well. I did check in with Alex.
I would try to schedule phone calls or coffees with my direct reports during my daughter's nap times, and occasionally bring her along. Of course, the first time I did that she had a blowout diaper and a total meltdown as I changed her on the floor. Sometimes I would recruit my mom, who lives nearby, to watch Rose for a few hours.
Friedman: When I first came back, I got a lot of calendar invites between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. I'd have to ask for a time between 9 and 6. Now I am offline from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. I block that on my calendar.
Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on where I need to delegate. It certainly makes me more efficient during the day. I used to oversee our website development, customer operations, and hiring; as we've scaled, we've empowered others to lead in those areas. Now I think, Where do I need to meet with people, understand what's going on, and where can I let others drive?
Kier: It's more about attention management than time management. We have to think about where our attention is best spent. You can have it all and get involved in it all, but you can't do it all.