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Balancing the Grind with Marla Shapiro, Founder of HERmesa

Marla Shapiro is the founder of HERmesa, a women-led angel syndicate. HERmesa invests into women (co)founded startups at pre-seed and seed stage in the UK and Europe.

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

I started my career working in IT and structured finance on Wall Street, in NYC. I did this for about 6 years at 3 different banks, before I realised that I was much more interested in my clients vs. their balance sheets! At the time, I was covering clients in Silicon Valley in the early days of the internet, and became fascinated with the overlap of media and technology.

I then moved into the media space, working for the next 15 years in digital print, music and film for both large companies and startups in the US, UK and Europe.

About 3 ½ years ago, I started angel investing part-time. Angels are some of the earliest investors in companies and typically invest both capital and time/expertise to help the startups grow. After I did my first deal, I was hooked!

Angel investing, combined finance, entrepreneurship and tech, all the things I had been doing for 20 years! But, I very quickly realised that only a handful of women are angel investing (~12% of angels in the UK are women) and women founders receive hardly any early stage money (~5% of early stage capital goes to all women and mixed gender founding teams). 

This isn’t equitable, but it is also bad business, as all studies show that diverse investors generate greater returns and diverse founding teams, especially women, outperform their all male peers.

I founded HERmesa in early 2020 with the twin goals of recruiting more women into angel investing and adding more ‘smart capital’ to female early stage founders.

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

I start most days walking my 10 year old son to school. We have a nice chat and I get in a brisk walk, as we are always running late! I sit down to work just after 9 and usually go through until about 6.30-7pm. 

Having said that, I try to get out a few times/week for a long walk in Hyde Park or to go to my local climbing gym – both of which are great for clearing my head and simultaneously having a chat with a friend.

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

I work from home and have done so for about 10 years. Although this gives me a lot of flexibility, as I am my own boss, I do try to keep to a routine, which includes consciously stopping work in the early evening and sitting down with the entire family for dinner every night.

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

I have been the sole founder of HERmesa for 2 years. Running all aspects of the business has meant that I work a lot – usually 6 days/week – and I don’t think I have a proper work/life balance. If I’m not working, I’m looking after my children or trying to find some time with my husband. The struggle is real! 

However, I’m thrilled to be adding two great colleagues to HERmesa in January 2022 and have promised myself that I will find that elusive work/life balance (or at least try!).

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

The past 12 months in the UK have included a long lock-down and home schooling. I spent a great deal of that time baking and eating cake. My new habit has been to stop eating cake! 

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

I love to listen to Fresh Air from NPR. Terry Gross is a wonderful interviewer and I enjoy spending time in her company as I walk around London.

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

My MOFT portable laptop stand. The key to avoiding neck and back strain wherever you work!

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

One of the best productivity recommendations I’ve ever received was to read the book, Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu. The tagline of the book, “Achieve more by doing less” pretty much sums it up. I’d love to hear more from her.

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

It is a cliché, but it’s really true: If you love what you do, you will (mostly) enjoy the work. I’ve never worked harder than since I started HERmesa, but I’ve also never been more professionally fulfilled. I’m not sure work/life balance is truly achievable, but the work/happiness balance is.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.