The recent publication of “Lean In” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has reignited conversations about women as leaders and entrepreneurs. While some have ranked the book alongside “The Feminine Mystique” as a cultural manifesto, critics have said that the book’s message is more about what women can do for the workplace than about what the workplace can do for women.
While the theoretical debate rages, Teresa Setterlund lives her day-to-day life as an entrepreneur, wife and mom. After getting a degree in graphic design, she worked full-time for six years. She married her college sweetheart and had two children. Then her company announced it was moving her to second shift. “There was no day care we could have gotten,” she said. She felt forced into leaving, and she got a job at an ad agency. Three years later, when the economy crashed, that job ended.
Meantime, she had begun designing wedding invitations and had opened a shop on the craft site Etsy, called Appleberry Ink. By the time the ad agency job ended, she said, “I was making enough to cover the mortgage. You save money by not sending the kids to day care, and they’re with you, not a stranger.” She and her husband agreed that she could focus on the home-based business. While it’s primarily wedding invitations, she says, “I’ve done baby announcements, shower invitations here and there. During Christmas I have greeting cards.”
Two years ago, she started doing yoga. “I really liked it — it’s calming and a good stretch. I usually just ran,” she said. Soon, people started asking her if she was going to start teaching. “I thought they saw something in me that I don’t. I just went into training in the fall,” she said. Her teaching load is now up to six classes a week. While it pays less than design work, she likes being out of the house and the predictability of the income. In addition, she says, “I get about three-fourths of the workout I would get if I weren’t teaching, but I’m not paying the fee.”
Do you experience the problem of not being able to “lean in” to your career?
That’s exactly the problem — I wasn’t able to take myself seriously. When I’m in the office I feel like I should be concentrating on doing the laundry, cleaning the house. When I’m cleaning the house I feel like I should be working. People assume that because I’m at home, I’m not working. I don’t go to someone’s place of business and bang on their door.
What are the other challenges to growing your business?
The customer always comes first. A lot of times my business takes the back seat — doing more marketing, getting more customers. Taking time to freshen my shop, create new designs — that takes a back seat.
Does teaching complicate the mix?
I think it’s partially something I can fall back [on]. I don’t know where print is going. Maybe people will send Evites for their wedding. Maybe I’ll get burnt out. I also like doing it. The atmosphere is so positive. It’s great to be with other people.
What’s the most important tip you can give a woman entrepreneur?
I think first and foremost, your spouse needs to recognize and respect that it is your business. If everything doesn’t get done in the house, it’s because you were working. They think if you’re home, you can do it — but no. My husband is very analytical. He’s backing the wedding industry. □