Startup pregnant – the journey of Content Manager Marit Letnes

Marit Letnes and her business journey

I had the pleasure to meet up with Marit Letnes, Content Manager and User Test Consultant, at Fole Godt Handtverksbakeri in Molde.

Over a cup of coffee, we dived into the topic of starting your business with a small baby, parenting, and self-development (or getting to know yourself).

From the fjords to the capital and back again

Marit was born and raised in Molde. Yet the big city of Oslo was calling where she lived for ten years before returning to Molde. She never expected to move back home, then neither did she foresee to meet a great guy who was also from Molde.

Marit enjoyed living in Oslo with all it had to offer, yet when her son was born she wanted to raise him closer to both of their families, and they decided to move back to Molde.

From a family perspective the best decision they have made. From a business perspective, it provides some challenges for Marit.

First, let’s back up a little. Marit worked as a Content Manager and user test leader in a consultancy and enjoyed her work and her colleagues. That said, during her pregnancy that dream of starting her own business grow stronger and stronger.
Also at the same time, some of her friends had already started their own business adventures, and Marit felt it was the right time with the right community to start her own business.

On being boss

One of the main things that attracted her the most was that she became her own boss. Yes, now she could boss herself around☺. On the downside, you really had to boss yourself around to get stuff done.

Marit Letnes user tester

“It’s hard being a boss and balance demanding the best, yet not too much, of your employees. It’s hard being an employee of a demanding boss. In my case, my brain is always telling me there are bazillion alternatives, and I have a tendency to suffer from shiny-object-syndrome. Constantly scanning the environment is both a blessing and a curse. So going easy on the self-criticism and staying focused is key”

Marit Letnes

It was a new experience to be in charge of every single aspect of the business, from acquiring clients, bookkeeping, content creation, and administration. It was easy to get lost in all the different tasks, so outsourcing and co-working were needed. At the same time, it was important to have the chance to withdraw and have focused time on her own. Finding balance is an ongoing process.

So she was happy to start a cooperation with AN:NA Design, to share a workspace with others, work together on client projects, brainstorm together and challenge each other professionally. She also works together with a local photographer, Andreas Winter.

Looking back, she clearly states that starting your own business with a small child is hard. Harder than she expected. Now that her son is getting older, it starts to be easier to manage both family and business.

The balancing act

As for many mothers, also Marit has the aim of having it all, both a successful business and being an outstanding mom. We’ve been told in many ways that we can have it all and that we can have it now. Yet it’s easy to underestimate that both starting a family and starting a business requires time, energy and mental capacity.

With a young child, you don’t have the same level of energy reserves and energy disappears fast during the day. While before when a deadline approached it was an option to put an all-nighter in or get up an hour earlier for work, that doesn’t work anymore.

With a family, it becomes a necessity to make sure all needs are met. Taking care of yourself becomes a top priority because no one else can do that for you. Self-care can´t be outsourced.

And then there is, what I call, mother guilt. While the circumstances and choices available may be different, there is one challenge all mothers seem to have in common. No matter if you’re employed or having your own business. How much time is it okay to be away from my child? Or do I spend enough time with my child? Is it alright to work while you’re with your child?

Marit also has these internal debates going, and since she is her own boss, it may be even more challenging to figure out what is best for her and her family. When we started talking about this challenge we really start talking about what thoughts and behaviors feel like set by our society, what is the standard today.

It’s ok to have your child in nursery school for 7 to 8 hours a day, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to leave your child because of work commitments for a couple of days. And the question came up, is this challenge influenced by our society, or is this a challenge that comes up as a mother?

Marit had no problem to admit that parts of the challenge are that what she believes others may say. The validation of being a good mother is essential for most of us. Yet, there is the inner voice who may want to go down a different path. Which view will we end up listening to? Will we find a compromise or will we end up feeling guilty for many choices we do?

“And what is a “good mother” anyway? Is it someone who always cater for their family and children and make sure everyone elses needs are met, or is “a good mother” someone who is independent, with a life outside the family, with people that cater for her? 
To me, its a scale, and finding the balance here is the tricky part. “

Marit Letnes

It was so great to talk to Marit and see that she is really passionate about her work. And the same as Silje who started the green hair salon Floke in Molde, Marit also feels that her learnings and growth in the last years has been immense. She is trusting more and more her own feelings and inner voice.

Which leads to running her business on both instinct and strategy and making the best choices for her. After realizing the impact her work environment has on her energy and work performance she started to make some changes in 2019 to optimize. It’s not always easy to trust and listen to your instincts, yet it’s one of the most powerful ways to lead your life.

Looking back and going forward

So what would you have told yourself about 10 years ago, before you were a mom and started your own business?

  • “Ease into it, things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Shut those “young successful entrepreneur”-stories out and just accept the struggle.
  • “Work hard, but don’t take it and yourself too seriously. Belly laughs are important.”
  • “Things often go better than expected, and many worries never happen – Surrender and let go.”
  • “Goals and intention are essential and an excellent road map, but also go with the flow. Be open to opportunities that come along.”

And Marit has a clear vision for 2019. She wants to do more talking than writing and start an online group content coaching to keep her energy levels up. Also to get more help in her business to free up more time for the things she loves doing most. Her mission is to help people within companies and organizations create user-friendly web sites and write as clear and concise they possibly can. She states working with content is like internal company psychology.

“There is an old joke running in the content strategy circles that we should title ourselves as “content therapists” not “content managers” or “-strategists”. Because putting the user’s fist means deleting a lot of content produced by the corporate ego. Everyone wants to put themselves first. Just changing the copy from “us” to “you” as in “we can deliver the following services” to “You can order/hire/get A, B and C” and killing darlings are in some cases a very delicate process.”

3 fun questions

As the last question during our chat, I asked what 3 fun, yet strange things about her. So I found out that she is a music encyclopedia, recognizing the music or song only from a few beats or a small sample. Very impressive! And she is a big fan of Trivial Pursuit. Gathering information, especially the silly kind, is just fun for her. She is also a really fast typer.

Oh by the way, if you wondered, Marit’s word of the year is “routine”.

Curious about Marit, you find her here.

Thank you, Marit, for our great conversation. It’s amazing to see while many challenges are different, we also have more in common than we believe. As mothers, we should hold together instead of judging each other and making it more difficult than it needs to be.

Talk soon, Cathleen

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