118 Mentoring MomPreneurs: Why Sharon Kan is Helping Mothers Create Microbusinesses

Serial entrepreneur Sharon Kan is on a mission to help moms learn entrepreneurial skills and create lucrative microbusinesses with her new platform, Pepperlane. A four-time founder and three-time CEO with four exits to her name, Sharon believes moms can help other moms – high performing female founders and executives need more help, and stay at home moms who want to return to the workforce need opportunities.

Melinda Wittstock:         Welcome to Wings Sharon.

Sharon Kan:                        Hello. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here today.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m really excited to talk to you because I think you have such a wonderful mission with Pepperlane and, I wanted to start by asking you what inspired you to create the company?

Sharon Kan:                        What inspired me to start Pepperlane… it was after I had hundreds of conversations with mothers that told me that it’s too late for them to start something new, that they don’t have the confidence, that is … they’re not sure they have the skills to help other mothers, that they don’t know how to make money. And the more I spoke with them, I realized that they are so talented, that they’re so gifted and really this is the time now to go and create a platform where they simply can come in, offer their incredible skills to the world and we’ll take care of the rest. We’ll help them to launch their businesses, and that’s what really inspired me is I saw so much talent out there that it’s not visible right now, because they’re not part of the workforce or they’re trying to fit in into the workforce and it’s too hard for them or they don’t know how to get back to the workforce. But if you help them and show them how to start a business, they could be incredible. So there you go.

Melinda Wittstock:         That is so interesting. You know there are some statistics out there that say that 40% of the American workforce will be ‘gig workers’ by 2020. So that’s just two years away, which indicates really that we all have to be entrepreneurial whether we’re actually serial entrepreneurs like you and me, we still need those skills, and so women in many ways need to write their own rules. If they can’t fit into an old or broken structure, I guess create a new one.

Sharon Kan:                        Right. And if you look today on the workforce, employers are looking for certain skills that is … But what I found out is that women and specifically mothers, have so many, many more skills to offer to the world that maybe are not going to be ever relevant in a company, but she can be a great project manager, she can really run my budget, she can really help me with putting a hot meal for my kids, she could really run errands. But she could also have great professional skills, that she used to work in a workforce many years ago and she can apply it now to a business and help another mother to establish her new business by giving her social media help or by giving her some writing and editing services. Whatever it is, what I found out that there are so many small businesses that grow out of this new economy versus trying to meet some demand by employers.

Melinda Wittstock:         So at the beginning you were talking about the … really what I’d call a mindset issue or a block-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Where mothers say, “Oh, it’s too late for me or I’m not good enough for that kind of thing.” So how do you help them overcome those sort of mindset issues?

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]The first thing that we’re doing with our customers is reframing success. What is success for them? #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @SJKan[/tweet_box]

Sharon Kan:                        Oh and this is huge because these mindset issues start with society. All right. We are being told that in order to be successful we have to create something big. Maybe it should be the next Uber; maybe I should think how I can be the next Amazon. What happens in our society that we’re setting up our kids too for very, very high level targets, but there are so many other ways to be successful. I can build a business based on my needs and if I want to have one customer or 10 customers, that could be good. And if I want to work four hours or 20 hours, that’s okay too. So the first thing that we’re doing with our customers is reframing success. What is success for them? We’re sitting down, we’re figuring out okay, how many hours do you want to work or can you work? How much money are you looking to make? What are the skills that you have and in your area what would be the best skills to monetize based on demand? Right? So we’re putting a plan together that they can see the path for success and that’s we’re we get stuck. That’s why we don’t know how to start because the barriers for success are so high that we absolutely are … we’re not even seeing the way to success. Right? So it’s reframing success number one, number two identified skills, number three put the plan that will work for you.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s wonderful. So how long have you been going and how many women are you working with right now?

Sharon Kan:                        So we’re relatively new, we just launched in May 2017. So we’re running a couple or months now and our core customer base is in Massachusetts and now we’re expanding to other states. We have thousands of mothers that joined the platform since we have begun and 1,000 of them started to build businesses with us.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that’s wonderful.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Such quick success.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so give me an idea of the range of business types?

Sharon Kan:                        So we really have three main categories. The first one is what we call home and family category. This is a category that I would say every mother doesn’t have to have any previous experience because she has it already: she’s a mom. It could be home organization, project management, running errands, helping to put hot dinner if she loves to cook, organize parties for kids, organizing traveling for families. Anything around home and family, you name it; we have it. This is good for mothers that didn’t really build their resume over the years or they stayed at home and they just want to jump and start a business and that’s the best … I would say area that I would suggest that they would focus.

The second one is what we call the business services. Those are mothers that are for example could be social media strategists, they could be great writers, proof … they could be editors; they could be marketers. Usually those mothers worked in the workforce before and they left the workforce or they want to leave the workforce and they want to maintain balance and work from home, they’re coming in to help other mothers to build businesses by providing those professional services. And the last category that we have is self-care and wellness. Those mothers provide all care for our customers. So it could be personal stylist, makeup, trainers, Reiki, anything with wellness and self-care we have. We have so many talented mothers that know how to do them very well and they offered their skills to other mothers. Now the way it works is that you select your skill, you build your website with us and you are part of a market place where other mothers are waiting for you because they want to buy your services. So that’s how it works.

Melinda Wittstock:         I see. So it’s mostly mothers who are business owners who are buying the service of other moms.

Sharon Kan:                        Correct.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh. That’s great.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah, or working moms that don’t have the time and they need help around home, they need help with the kids or they want to buy some self care services for themselves. Right? Personal trainer, personal shopper, whatever it is we have that. So yes, you’re right. Most of our business owners buy services from each other but we also have working moms that come into the site and buy services because they need help.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. And it’s interesting, so many of the high performing entrepreneurs that I interview on Wings, we talk a lot about the concept of leverage and that often we found the trap of trying to do it all or trying to control too much and isn’t it … I’m sorry. I’m just going to pick up that question again ’cause my internet did a weird … It said it was unstable so I’m worried about the sound. So let me just do that question one more time. You know Sharon on this podcast I talk to so many high performing entrepreneurs like you who have … and like me as well, struggled with this impulse to try and do it all ourselves, and learning really to let go, learning to ask for help is a really big part of the female entrepreneurial journey I see. And so there are so many ways, when we think about the concept of leverage-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah. So I-

Melinda Wittstock:         I could spend say an hour working on my business and what’s my hourly rate doing that? Am I creating a new revenue stream or fresh and valuable IP in that hour? So is my hourly rate a thousand, 10 thousand more or I could do the laundry?

Sharon Kan:                        Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right?

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ll be the highest paid laundry person ever, right?

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so it’s so interesting what you’re doing because you’re really helping almost like a two-sided market.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes. Yes. And I think you’re so right. The first that I had to learn was to ask for help because we want to do everything by ourselves, including our mothers, our business owners. And what we teach them is that you can get so much help and be so much more efficient and yes, you also need to help for help. I’m going to be very blunt with you, women don’t like to pay for help.

Melinda Wittstock:         Why?

Sharon Kan:                        Well I think because we put ourselves last. Right? We don’t feel comfortable spending money on ourselves. We need a good excuse to spend it on our kids and we come last, and I think what we did in Pepperlane is start to teach them that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to pay for help. And I’ll give you an example: I’ll start with me. So I built Pepperlane and I’m working full time, I’m traveling, I’m on the road. I have five mothers that holding my life together. Do you want me to list?

Melinda Wittstock:         I love it. Yes, list what they all do.

Sharon Kan:                        Okay.

Melinda Wittstock:         This is awesome.

Sharon Kan:                        Okay. All right. Do you have the whole day because … This is now like a therapy session. Let’s do it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Let’s do it. This is awesome.

Sharon Kan:                        Okay. All right. So the first one, she … Sonia comes to my house and when I work late days, I have late nights, then she is responsible for putting hot dinner for my kids. She is an incredible, incredible cook and that’s what she does. She does the grocery shopping; she put the dinner. So I know for sure that I have three nights, not in the only two ’cause there are leftovers that I’m covered. That’s number one. Number two, when I have a problem … and a problem is what … You know how you just want to get into the car and drive and of course, what happens? You cannot turn on the car. Right? So when I have some things like that, which happen to me I call Amy. Amy is my problem solver. I had a big meeting that day, I couldn’t turn on the car, I called Amy. Amy took care of it, brought back the car and I attended a meeting with investors. Now you could’ve said, “Why didn’t you deal with the car?” But that’s silly. I should’ve been in a meeting and I’ve done that. Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sharon Kan:                        So that’s number two. Number three is tutoring, one of the big categories on our site today. Ruth is coming twice a week and sometimes she comes even more ’cause she’s a mom. She knows that it’s not predictable. That’s so special about our [inaudible 00:25:21], they’re not just service providers, they’re moms. I can call Ruth and say, “Hey, you know what? My daughter had extra homework, do you mind coming in?” Or, “She has a test. Can you help?” And I always get this welcome feeling from her that it’s okay. I didn’t interrupt her life. She knows, she’s a mom too. Right? She’s coming in. That’s number three. Number four, Heather. Heather came the other day and she swapped the home offices between my husband and mine and it was a project that I should have done 10 years ago, but I didn’t and I just … One day I just couldn’t live anymore with the mess. I called Heather; it took her exactly two hours to swap the offices. She did a phenomenal job.

Now listen to that, here comes the mom aspect. So in my room, I usually paint with the girls and I have those nice canvases that we paint together with oil. And I don’t want to hang it in my living room; it’s just paintings for me to have fun with the girls. So Heather asks me, “What do you want me to do with all of your paintings?” And I said, “Oh, just throw them away.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Aw.

Sharon Kan:                        Now listen to that, here comes the mom aspect. You won’t find that on any marketplace ’cause any service provider would say, “Okay.” She looked at me and she said, “Wait a minute. You’re going to throw out those paintings? What is the message to your kids?” And I said, “Heather, there’s no way in the world I’m going to hang my paintings.” And she said, “You know what, Sharon? Let me figure this out.” She went downstairs; she looked at the garage. We have a garage for parking our cars, and she said, “What if I take this space and I just going to hang all of the paintings, yours and your girls and make a little gallery. It will be your private gallery. No one will know about that, but every time you’re going to get in with your car, you’ll feel the best mom in the world.” And that’s what she did.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, how beautiful?

Sharon Kan:                        Right? That’s Pepperlane.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s amazing. So did you find all these women through your own company?

Sharon Kan:                        Yes. I didn’t know anyone. I have no time to socialize.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well this is the other biggest challenge for female entrepreneurs-

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because so much of success-

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Is based around your network and who you know-

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         And you’re developing relationships-

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         And we’re also over extended for … Right? Because we’re trying to do it all, right?

Sharon Kan:                        Always. So-

Melinda Wittstock:         Business Barbie.

Sharon Kan:                        Right. Right. So-

Melinda Wittstock:         Be all things to all people and so we don’t have time for that.

Sharon Kan:                        Right. So here comes the last mom, because I’m so overwhelmed sometimes, that’s the last one. She comes in and she does yoga and massage and I felt so guilty to do that. But you know what? I learned that this is not even nice to have, for me its ‘must have’ and I found her on Pepperlane, and every time she comes I feel like a new person and I stop feeling guilt. I don’t have any more guilt feelings about it. I just do it and then I come and I’m fresh and I know wow, I can be successful because I took care of myself. So there you go, five moms holding my life together.

Melinda Wittstock:         I love this because it really is proof that it does take a village.

Sharon Kan:                        Oh yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And having the right people around you though too, that their attitude …

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Is such that they really are supporting you and making you feel good. I mean that’s so important. So where did those guilt feelings come from that I think we have that stop us from asking for what we want or what we need or stop us even from feeling good about receiving help?

Sharon Kan:                        So I think we’re going to have to do some digging into historical … I think it starts from the plastic era, I’m not joking. I think it’s so built in right now that women are here to serve and what we don’t understand is that in order to be the best of who are, we need to invest in our mind and body and there’s … People say that if you want to help other people be successful, if you want to help your family members to heal from a health crisis, whatever it is first of all go and heal yourself. Take care of yourself, and I never understood that. You know how the pilot always says in case of an emergency, put your oxygen first and then your kids?

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. I was just thinking of that.

Sharon Kan:                        Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s exactly that.

Sharon Kan:                        We don’t get that. We don’t understand that that’s the way it works. What I found out is that the more we take care of ourselves, number one our brain functions so much better and number two, if you’re going to ask me … I have two girls, what is the example that I want to set for them? Do I want them always to take care of themselves last? Do I always want them to support others including their husband and family members or do I want them to be the best or do I want them to be … to reach to their full potential and feel healthy and centered? Of course that’s what I want. So when I have my moments of guilt, I say, “Wait a minute Sharon, if you’re not there to do it for yourself, do it for your daughters. Show example, you’re going to take the damn massage right now because you want them to do that.” Right?

I want my girls to be independent. I don’t want them to be feeling that they are stuck or they’re not able to take care of themselves, and it starts first of all by showing example. And as I said at the beginning of the podcast, we don’t have good role models. We’re still learning, we’re still developing the model. So for me Pepperlane is part of a much bigger dream that I have. It’s really to help women understand how to put themselves first and it’s not a bad thing. If you put yourself person, people will align. You can become the right leader. You don’t do that by pushing others. You’re not doing that by being aggressive. You’re doing that by setting an example of what a good human being is and it starts with taking care of yourself and then your brain function and then you focus and then you can make the right decision in the boardroom.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think that is so true. And Sharon you came up as a serial entrepreneur in very male dominated fields.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         So let’s go back in time a little bit for when you were first starting out.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         What were some of the big challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? Because you’re a very successful serial entrepreneur and we’re going to go into all the things that you’ve accomplished in a minute… But when you were starting out and you were probably like me-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         The only woman in the room.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes. Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         What was like and how did you get through that at that time to succeed in that era, ’cause it’s hard?

Sharon Kan:                        It’s very hard. I grew up in an industry where women did not obtain sales roles and I was very fortunate to have a CEO that gave me two options. He said, “Do you want to take the marketing role or do you want to take the sales role?” And of course I said, “I want to take the marketing role.” And he said to me, “That’s the wrong answer.” And I listened and he said, “I want you to take the sales role. I want you to head sales because you’re going to be responsible for the bottom line, the revenue of the company.” And he said, “This is where people really matter.” And I did that and what I did is I worked like a man, I dressed like a man, I was talking like a man. I really suppressed all of my feelings and emotions. Every time I got emotional I would hold because this is not what you should lead with.

I was tough and I climbed the ladder with a very [muscular 00:35:24] model, where in many ways I have not used my skills as a leader. I just pretty much did what every man around me did and in many ways I was … I made lots of mistakes, I could tell, of how to manage people, how to drive people to success because as I said I functioned like a man sometimes. And I think that as women, we have so many skills especially communication skills and reading the map and understand how to negotiate. But because I didn’t have a role model, I haven’t done that. But I did climb the ladder. By the way you can climb the ladder in a masculine way, if you’re willing to pay the price.

Melinda Wittstock:         And what was the price?

Sharon Kan:                        I think the price was to hide who I really was. The price was to hide that I wanted to be a mother one day and when I became a mother that was huge disadvantage because … And because your gravity change, the center of your life change, the way you think change and in many ways that was not a great fit and … What I feel today much more comfortable is to say to women, “We are a whole and being a mother is part of who we are and you don’t need to hide that.” You know I talk to women sometimes … There was one woman that told me the other day, she’s working in … She’s part of the corporate world and she said, “You know Sharon I can have the day off working from home, but my boss ask me just not to say that to everyone else because I need to stay with the kids.” I don’t want to be part of this culture, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Where you have to apologize for something that’s part of you.

Sharon Kan:                        Right. Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         We talk on this podcast a lot about concepts of strength and power, that in an archetypal sense-

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Have been traditionally associated with masculinity. And so as a leader, as an innovator, as someone who is growing and scaling a business … I mean you’ve got to be strong. And so what is authentic feminine power and how can we leverage that because there was this association that somehow by being feminine and intuitive and showing our emotions, that that was somehow weak?

Sharon Kan:                        Right, right. And if you think about it, showing emotions is not a bad thing. I mean I see so many people that are showing anger. Why anger is a good emotion to show? And showing when you’re passionate about something or showing your vulnerability, to me is so much more authentic. Right? I think that trying to … It’s almost … If you research the human being, we’re not just a physical body. We have emotions. I feel that sometimes in the business world we want to absolutely avoid that, but in many ways if you feel that you’re open and you can show your vulnerability, I actually think vulnerability is part of creativity. If you don’t go down with your emotions … right? The times that I created good companies, was the only time that I went deep authentically and said, “Let’s talk about the real problems?” If you think about Pepperlane, Pepperlane was … I don’t think could have born without really talking to mothers about the most vulnerable things in their life. “Sharon I’m stuck. My husband is working full time, I’m with the kids. I’m going to go nuts. What can I do 10 hours a week?” “Sharon, I think that I don’t have the right skills.” Right? “I don’t think I have any talent.” Or, “You know what? My kid just left the house, what can I do now? I have 20 years gap in my resume.”

So they were … They exposed themselves. They put themselves for real and told me their stories, and only then did I realize how I can help them. I can help them only if I know the real situation and I went home and I started to productize that. And I said, “Okay. So she cannot work full time job and she needs a break between two to four because she needs to pick up the kids. How will this product look like?” Right? I don’t want to show her service between two to four. Okay, so how do I do that? So when people are authentic, when people talk for real what really bothers them; that’s when you go and create great companies. When I see fake, I stay away. When I see authenticity, this what really attract … And it’s not just in companies, it’s also people. People that are not authentic are to me … are not the kind of people that I would want to hire.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more and this of course comes from someone who created an algorithm called ‘Return on Authenticity’.

Sharon Kan:                        Oh, whoa.

Melinda Wittstock:         So it’s pretty. I mean actually how that happened was interesting because I run my other hat, I run a social media predictive analytics company called ‘Verifeed’.

Sharon Kan:                        Uh-huh (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         And so when we’re analyzing all these millions of social media conversations-

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Through machine learning and natural language processing and all these things, I found that brands and businesses that spoke like human beings in a really authentic way and vulnerability was part of it-

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Transparency … I mean it was a whole bunch of things. But I thought, “Okay. So what is that?” Let’s reverse-engineer what they’re doing because when they were authentic, they actually sold more their brand was more trusted. So it’s true in life and in relationships as well as in commerce.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         The more authentic you are at a time in our society where … I don’t know; trust is so challenged.

Sharon Kan:                        Very much.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right? In so many areas of our lives … like not trusting the government or not trusting the media or not trusting a company, or that kind of thing… So the only way you can really develop trust in a relationship is by being authentic.

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         This is so true. So it’s funny when you were talking before about climbing up the ladder kind of like a man. I did the same thing and so … I started my … I was very entrepreneurial as a kid, but then I became a journalist-

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because I thought I had to have a ‘job job’. And so … But I created one that was very much … like every day was different ’cause that’s also who I am. Right?

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m an exercise in avoiding boredom. But I was pretty sharp elbowed, right? Anything for the story, very male focused. I struggled to find female mentors or role models; I couldn’t find any.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         But I was pretty aggressive and I think other women … In my 20’s I didn’t really have a lot of women friends ’cause I think they perceived me as being … I don’t know pushy or … I was always very kind. I wasn’t bitchy at all, but I think I was afraid of the B word.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         ‘Cause I never really behaved like that at all. Always very nice to everybody and polite and kind and … But all the same I was aggressive, and so other women would say, “You’re very direct. You’re very aggressive.” And it was a put down.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, yes. I still get that. By the way, I still get that.

Melinda Wittstock:         I get that sometimes too and it’s funny, even from other women that are very successful entrepreneurs. It’s like; “Wait a minute, why are you telling me I’m direct. What does that mean?”

Sharon Kan:                        I know. I … Yes, yes. You know, I get that. Yeah, one … Yes. Totally get that.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s funny, isn’t it right? So one of my guests described it as tall poppy syndrome. That we’re sort of afraid of standing out because we care so much what other women think of us.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so that when we do try and soar to new heights … others around us make us feel bad for that and that’s got to change.

Sharon Kan:                        It’s going to change. You know what? You’re just … It’s so funny. I was traveling last night and one of the Pepperlane moms texted me and she said, “I know how busy you are but can I just talk to you for five minutes?” And I always try to take calls from customers as much as I can. Right? So she called me and she’s saying, “Look, I’m doing this and a friend of mine is actually in the same market, and what I found out now that she’s not happy that I pursued the same career as her.” And I said to her, “What is really important, are you passionate about that? Do you want to do that?” And she said, “Absolutely.” So I told her, “Go. Go get it girl. Fly.” That’s one of the things that as women, we’re looking for validation all the time. If we don’t get … If we don’t get the “Uh-huh. It’s okay. Uh-huh.” Then we get stuck.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. It’s interesting around that too and I don’t know … You know with your first business, did it coincide with having children, like going out on your own?

Sharon Kan:                        So my first … So here’s how I stopped climbing the ladder, is when I became a mom and I was pregnant and I wasn’t very attractive as a CEO candidate. So I had to go and create the next opportunity. I always laugh but I think it’s true, I don’t think I was ever offered a real job. I always have to go and create my jobs.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, me too.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, since I became a mom.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, man. It’s always been like that for as well.

Sharon Kan:                        Right. So-

Melinda Wittstock:         But I guess it’s more fun. I mean you grow more as a person. You have a much fuller life actually for all those challenges.

Sharon Kan:                        I see it now but during my career [inaudible 00:46:34], I was really bummed by the fact that oh, people don’t want me or people don’t want to hire me, they don’t offer me job, I’m too old, I’m too young. It depends where … I had my moments of doubt; I won’t say I didn’t. But getting into my first venture, which I created by myself was really where I started to write the new rules. I never said that to myself, but I was a mom and I had five years old and a newborn and I created my company, and the rules were very different. So first of all I worked from home and I built a virtual company; that was one. The second thing is I remember when I raising money, my marketing manager was with me on the phone and I used to tell her, “Look, if the baby’s going to scream during the call I’m going to put myself on mute. If you don’t hear me anymore, you jump in and you talk.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Sharon Kan:                        And we raised money like this, I have to say and this company by the way was sold to Barnes and Noble. So the rules-

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. Congratulations. That’s awesome.

Sharon Kan:                        Thank you. So the rules were different. As mothers, what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t mean I don’t work harder, I actually might work much harder than a man. But I do that in a way that I can still have time with my children. It’s blended model, it’s not that everybody … I’m sure you’re going to ask me how do I balance my life.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well I think it’s actually integration.

Sharon Kan:                        It’s integration.

Melinda Wittstock:         I mean it is for me too. When you’re balancing a business and your kids, it is really about that. It’s hard to be in … I don’t know. I find that kind of concept of balance kind of difficult.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah. I don’t think my life is balanced and everything.

Melinda Wittstock:         No, mine’s not either. Is anyone’s really? I mean-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         I don’t know. I mean I think when we think about concepts like this, we’re always in the back of our mind thinking about what’s the right way, what should I be, not who am I or what do I want.

Sharon Kan:                        Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s the life of should’s, which is I think a tragedy.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah. It’s part of letting go. I let go of the big pic … the beautiful picture of balance. I actually … probably my model is more blended and be who I am. I’m very, very proud of my daughters. I want to be proud of their life but I also want to very … I am very driven to be successful. I love Pepperlane. I love the mothers and the community that we created. I invested a lot of time doing that. So my girls have to share me with the rest of Pepperlane community and sometimes they’re very upset about that, and sometimes they’re very proud of me. So I take it day by day, some day I’m doing very well for my daughters and some days less, and I’m okay with that. I think this is part of the role model that I want to show them, is that you try to do your best and sometimes it’s working and sometimes not everybody will be happy with that. But did you do your best? So that’s how I feel.

Melinda Wittstock:         So similar and I think, wow you and I are like sisters from another mother because-

Sharon Kan:                        We need to be.

Melinda Wittstock:         We do.

Sharon Kan:                        We need to take a girls trip.

Melinda Wittstock:         We do.

Sharon Kan:                        ‘Cause I want to see how are you … when you’re vacationing what happens. You know I didn’t tell you all the secrets.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, man. When I’m vacationing I like to really … I’m a big … I like to adventure. I like to get kind of … I like to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise do.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I love to be by the water.

Sharon Kan:                        Oh, nice.

Melinda Wittstock:         I do my best thinking when-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         In fact, for a couple days over Christmas I went and I … I went to Key West and I just sat and I looked at the water-

Sharon Kan:                        Nice. Beautiful.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I did my intentions of the year. I kind of reviewed the previous year, you know what did I learn-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         That kind of thing.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m learning to be at peace with myself.

Sharon Kan:                        Nice.

Melinda Wittstock:         Have that kind of … those moments of solitude.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah. No, we should do … When I say a day trip, I was thinking also about the level of conversations that we can have. Right? For me to be a good entrepreneur, it’s just not about getting your goals. It’s how do you treat your mind and how do you think about your life. So we can have a very philosophical time together. I can tell that it will be fun.

Melinda Wittstock:         I can tell too because I’m just realizing that the funny thing is all that kind of … being sort of a man in a skirt say in your 20’s or whatever [inaudible 00:51:39] in your 30’s, having children, starting a business. Like my first business, I raised all the money for it and got all my clients together and all of that while I was pregnant.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And then it launched when Sydney … She’s now almost 15, but it launched when she was six weeks old and … I don’t think … and it was sort of unplanned, like it just happened that way.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so it’s like the motto … She goes to an all girls’ school and the motto of her school is ‘Find a way or make one’.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes. I love that.

Melinda Wittstock:         Which is awesome and so that’s kind of what my life was like. You know, find a way or make one.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And you just do the best with every situation you’re in and one of the things that I’ve learned … I was not good at this at all to begin with, but really forgiving myself. Right?

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, and I still suck at this but I’m learning. But it’s so interesting what you said about businesses, when you launch them and I get these questions from mothers on Pepperlane all the time … or not questions, statements. I hear them and they say to me, “Sharon, it’s not a good time to start right now. It’s just not a good time.” And what I tell them is that, “There is never a good time to start.”

Melinda Wittstock:         There’s never a good time. It’s absolutely true.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         The only thing you can do and this is something that Kara Goldin from Hint Water on this podcast said, which was so great, “Just start and keep going.”

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Just keep going.

Sharon Kan:                        And for me when I look back, the best moments that brought creativity and helped me to start businesses, when I was in some sort of a crisis mode.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah.

Sharon Kan:                        So having a child, it’s sort of like a crisis mode, nobody would want to admit but it is. It’s a big … It’s a drama and I didn’t feel well. I didn’t have an easy pregnancy and post … Once she was born, I felt sick and I … No joke, I could have gone to a therapist or start a business and I chose-

Melinda Wittstock:         Business is therapy.

Sharon Kan:                        It is.

Melinda Wittstock:         What are you talking about? Of course, it is.

Sharon Kan:                        It is. It is. It was a way for me to escape a little bit from getting well and I channeled my creativity and let me ask you, how can you do it without emotion? I was broken in terms of emotions and I just didn’t feel well. My thyroid was not really working well at that time; it took time to balance it. So all the emotions came out and a beautiful company was born that was later sold to Barnes and Noble, and I have to say same thing with Pepperlane. When I started Pepperlane, three weeks later … Three weeks after we started Pepperlane, I had an accident.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh.

Sharon Kan:                        And I hit my head.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes, and that was no joke, and for a year and a half I had symptoms. And the way for me to cope with pain was to keep going with Pepperlane, because creation and innovation … Creativity sometimes comes from places that you don’t know and what I told my body and mind, I cannot be only pain, I have other parts that I can foster. Right? And I have two choices right now, pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. What do you choose Sharon?

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s so beautifully said.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         What’s interesting and a real determinant of success, I’ve found just in all the women that I’ve interviewed for this podcast and also my book, is that we know how to leverage adversity. When you’re … If you think of it in business terms, so when you … Whatever your circumstance, you have a way in your mind of thinking, oh, where’s the opportunity in this? What can I do with this? How can I channel it? How can I do something with it that … like you say is turn it into a positive energy? And something like creation and innovation is positive. So can you turn a negative into a positive, and entrepreneurship I find is like that, because every day there’s something beyond your control. There’s some sort of crisis, there’s something that goes wrong and I think over time, you start to just, “Okay. Well that’s okay. I mean you know, I’ve survived it last time. I’ll find a way or make one.” Right?

Sharon Kan:                        Right, right. And yes, that’s what we have to do. I always say that negative … If you want to be negative, you will attract negative people and circumstances around you. I tried it with my kids. I said I just want to try it. One day I just showed up and I pretended to be very angry. I didn’t say anything to them, I just looked angry. And what I’ve noticed, within an hour everybody was angry in the house too.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Well energy … This is so … I love this story that you’re telling-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because energy has impact-

Sharon Kan:                        Of course.

Melinda Wittstock:         In fact, it’s been proven in science now.

Sharon Kan:                        Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         What we give off and our thoughts … our thoughts have power-

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And they have power over our destiny. So we kind of are-

Sharon Kan:                        Of course.

Melinda Wittstock:         We are what we think and we create-

Sharon Kan:                        We are … Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         Our own environments around ourselves. It’s like it’s so radical but like once you get that it changes your life.

Sharon Kan:                        Yes. So listen to that. So the day after, I had such a bad day. I had a headache, I had a bad day, just did not … All the day did not go my way, but I made a vow to try now come in in a happy mood. I came into the house, I was smiling and I was laughing and inside me, I just want to cry. Right? But I said, “I got to try that.” And suddenly within an hour, everybody was smiling and then two hours later, I’m dancing with my girls and I’m thinking it’s so interesting. It’s so interesting.

Melinda Wittstock:         Choose your thoughts. Choose how you’re going to be.

Sharon Kan:                        Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Sharon, I’ve just enjoyed our conversation so much.

Sharon Kan:                        I was just getting into the therapy session now.

Melinda Wittstock:         I know. Right? Well you’re welcome to come on again and we should some sort of epic experience. Maybe we should do like a Wings Pepperlane epic experience.

Sharon Kan:                        Let’s do it.

Melinda Wittstock:         And go do that; that would be awesome.

Sharon Kan:                        I’m in.

Melinda Wittstock:         So I just want to … As we wrap up, I know that there’ll be moms listening to this podcast who want to learn more about Pepperlane and how they can get involved or how they can work with you or whatever. So how can people find you?

Sharon Kan:                        So go to Pepperlane, p-e-p-p-e-r-l-a-n-e.co. This is the site. I just urge every mother just to take a look, and I bet that at some point in her life, she had an idea. And this is the best time to start and this is our moment, this is our time and she’s not alone. I want her to know she’s not alone. There’s a community of mothers that will help her to be successful. So please go and if you … if any of your listeners have questions for me, they can always find me at sharon@pepperlane.co.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Thank you so much-

Sharon Kan:                        Thank you.

Melinda Wittstock:         For putting on your wings and taking flight with us today.

Sharon Kan:                        All right. We still need to plan our field trip.

Melinda Wittstock:         We’re going to do that.

Sharon Kan:                        Okay.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m going to catch up with you offline. Thank you so much, Sharon.

Sharon Kan:                        Thank you very much. It was my pleasure. Bye-bye.

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Listen to learn the secrets, strategies, practical tips and epiphanies of women entrepreneurs who’ve “been there, built that” so you too can manifest the confidence, capital and connections to soar to success!
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Review on iTunes and win the chance for a VIP Day with Melinda