Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Carrie Kwan, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Mums & Co

Carrie Kwan is the co-founder & managing director at Mums & Co, where she’s building Australia’s most connected and empowered community of mums in business.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My first decade of work centred in corporate marketing – Ernst & Young and Capgemini gave me a great foundation.

After an exciting stint in London I returned to Sydney and in 2008 and entered the foray of startups launching one of the first online lifestyle communities, insider’s lifestyle guide,

I successfully exited Daily Addict, yet was still hungry to build another business. Having since had children, I began to see how business doesn’t suit business owning mothers. In 2016 I co-founded and became Managing Director of Mums & Co, an inspiring movement and women’s network powering women at all stages of their business and motherhood.

Mums & Co is backed by IAG, Australia’s largest general insurer and we represent the 345,000 mothers across Australia that are building their own business while raising a family.

My role involves advocating for women and mums and leading the digital platform to upskill and connect in all areas to help them succeed in starting and staying in business. Realising for more investment in women-led ventures is what I’m passionate about and every month I host monthly pitch practice sessions for anyone to join via the Mums & Co platform.

We commissioned a major survey into the experience of business owing women in 2017 and launched a national pitch competition in 2018 to close the gap in pitching knowledge. We have more upskilling and networking planned for 2021 for all the business owning mums out there, come join us!

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Mornings are lively and begin with getting my young family in gear. I have a boy in pre-school and the other in primary. Once they’re out the door, my husband and I try to fit in a meditation on the deck facing our backyard for 15 mins before the work day kicks off.

2020 discovering the hybrid work model – typically I’m in the IAG offices in Sydney’s CBD Monday Tuesday and working for the rest of the week. I spend most of my time connecting and enabling our community of individual business owning members, fantastic corporate supporters and our distributed team and suppliers.

One of the most popular Mums & Co products is our 1:1 expert session where members can book 30 minute sessions with experts across most industry fields and I really enjoy advising on PR, strategy and networks when the Mums & Co community books me!

I usually have a 15 min lunch break and then 30 min break to take a walk and pick up my eldest from school. The work day typically wraps up at 6pm for me but flexible if I need to attend to anything after the kiddos are sleeping.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Absolutely! Truly flexible working is the only way, there’s no valid reason why it can’t be if there’s understanding, trust and the right people are in the right seats.

Like for many working parents and carers, it’s the reality of COVID-19 and working whilst raising children. At Mums & Co we call it harmonising our ambitions, livelihood and wellbeing.

As it’s currently school holidays in Australia, we’re calling on the ‘village’ grandparents, and family to help out with care. On the odd day that we’re all at home together (which has been a lived in experience globally for many since COVID19) we work using blocks of productivity.

For example starting before the kids get up or working after they get to sleep, tag teaming our breaks and keeping them entertained with safe activities whilst we work. As much as I rely on my calendar there has to be a degree of flexibility to deal with the wild things that young humans throw at you!

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I prefer to approach it as work-life harmony. Balance implies that it should be equal. Whereas harmony implies that each aspect important to me should learn to work with each other, integrate and the parts be arranged so things work; for me and the important people in my life.

Some days my work will be extra demanding, other days my wellbeing and family require focus, all three aspects are important to me. I’ve learnt through lived experience, and coaching and listening to thousands of working parents.

A few strategies I use include:

  • Protect and prioritise my calendar every day to help me focus.
  • Assert my ambition by allowing things to take time, take a big picture view, and giving permission to self and to those around you.
  • Clearly articulating what you want and need directly correlates to your success. The trick is being nice but honest.
  • Being open minded and more tolent. You need to be as tolerant through a toddler teething as you do throughout early venture success.

Know that you are never alone. Everything is more realistic and sustainable with the right “Company” around you. Like having a supportive partner and family that now knows a little bit more about your ambition thanks to all the time we’ve spent this year at home.

That’s why we often describe Mums & Co as ‘the Co founder you’ve never had’. We get it, we understand the daily challenges in running your business and role in parenthood and are helping to keep you on track to all of your success. Remember it’s OK to be out of tune sometimes and change up the parts!

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

The past 12 months have seen an incredible amount of change. Covid19 has no doubt meant monumental changes for all and been a watershed moment for flexible or remote working.

My team and I worked entirely remotely March – November, and will only return two days per week. That’s been an adjustment – the two hour thinking and travelling time saved have been re-allocated.

I’ve started automating more things like using Notion for note taking / calendaring / knowledge management and syncing with work and personal calendars, and putting on auto-pilot our home-delivered fortnightly grocery shopping.

I’ve started practicing wellbeing as a mindset – mindfulness practices such as meditating, doing puzzles which we complete as a family during the week, dabbling in painting and colouring in. Decluttered by redesigning my working and sleeping space, and being aware of distractions by drastically limiting social media time or deleting Youtube off my phone.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Podcast – How I Work by Amantha Imber, At Home With Brie / At Night with Brie.

Books – Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.

Newsletters – Benedict’s and Mums & Co of course!

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

  • Self Journal for goal setting
  • iPhone + Apple Mac Pro
  • Slack + Trello for team and project management
  • Notion for note taking and knowledge management
  • Spotify for entertainment

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We’re part of a movement that embraces ambition, or #mumbition if you will. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but like all good things – allow it to take time. Take a big picture view and plan to build your business as you do your family over many years. Don’t chase the overnight fallacy, it’s a myth!

Being assertive is about giving permission – to yourself and to those around you. Clearly articulating what you want and need directly correlates to your success.

Anything that will help you articulate and embrace what you want and need is great for becoming more assertive. In your business, job and career, these kinds of statements might be found in company or brand values. In your personal and home life, try having family statements or code.

The most important person to be assertive with is you. Try to avoid (or at least reduce) any self deprecating or justification of your desires, dreams and ideas. Practice being positive and kind as being assertive. No one idea, wish, ambition, or need is the same. Be kind, positive and assertive with yourself and watch how others will become curious and supportive for your ambition along the way.

If this resonates, we welcome you to our movement at Mums & Co.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.