Moms Doing It For Themselves: Leonie Lynch
Here at eumom HQ, we pride ourselves in supporting moms in all aspects of their lives and take great pleasure in giving working moms, moms with small businesses and entrepreneurs a platform to talk about their business achievements, dreams, and aspirations. Through the Moms Doing It For Themselves' series, we have met so many fantastic women who have inspired us with their stories.
Leonie Lynch has had a pretty diverse career path. Artist, DJ, pilates instructor, Marketing expert and now founder of www.juspy.com, nutrition for on the go mums, which is officially launched on Mother’s Day the 11th of March. We caught up with Leonie to hear about her amazing energy or as she puts it down to ‘not being able to sit still’...
Tell Us A Bit About Your Background
My background is quite diverse because I have always studied what has interested me at the time with no bigger goal other than being in that space at that time. So when I left school I went to Art College and studied painting. I left with a BA in Fine Art.
After that I worked as a visual artist for ten years, exhibiting and selling original art in Ireland, which was good at times and a struggle at others, typically. In my early twenties after leaving Limerick School of Art and Design I embarked on a ‘career’ as a DJ to subsidise the unstable life of an artist.
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In 2007, I moved to Dublin and set up my studio space in Monster Truck Studios on Francis Street Dublin. I was there a year and met my future husband on a visit back to Limerick one weekend.
Nine months later when the crash hit, the artist life was over. So I returned from my studio and decided to study a Masters in Marketing at the University of Limerick. I chose the course because it was a business course but a creative one. I began that in January 2011 and a year later I was awarded a PhD Scholarship from the Kemmy Business School to continue to study for the next five years (which I could not have done without). On year three of the PhD I had my first baby Beau and I graduated in August 2017, when I was five months pregnant on my second.
As part of the PhD, we had to teach in the college, which was really great which helped to build my confidence in presenting and speaking in public. I was a teaching assistant in modules like Marketing, Entrepreneurship, International Management and Communications. I also taught a Marketing module for the NCEF (National Centre for Exercise and Fitness in UL).
Inspired by fitness
While I was studying in 2011, I became a Pilates instructor to help support myself financially throughout my years of study (I am a qualified advanced level mat and reformer instructor). I wanted to do something that would give me a decent income for little time spent because I did not have much to spare. It was a way for me to keep my body fit and earn at the same time. I loved teaching it and still do (www.leonielynch.com).
In 2012 when I found out I was pregnant I studied to become a prenatal and postnatal specialist - first in the discipline of Pilates and then in a more encompassing programme - advanced postnatal exercise programming and optimal nutrition for postnatal recovery, with an inspiring woman called Jenny Burrell (Burelleducation.co.uk) in the UK. This led me to teaching more postnatal classes than anything else. It was a natural fit too because I was living and breathing that space.
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In 2015, I saw a gap in the market for a startup in the food sector. So I applied for the LEAP pre-accelerator program here in Limerick to explore my business idea further. Last year then in September, I applied and got a place, on the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme. This finished in April this year. In May 2017 I got Enterprise Ireland investment in the company through the Competitive Start Fund and I have been continuing to develop the business since.
I got a place on Food Works Ireland (a Bord Bia, Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland Programme) which started in October 2017 with seven other food companies. They will provide me with support to help Juspy launch its first product early 2018 – a specially formulated benefit food (readymade drink) for busy mums on the go.
Did Having Children Change How You Felt About Your Career?
Not really because I have always been into an alternative work schedule. I have never had a 9-5pm job. I have always worked unusual hours but having children confirmed to me that I definitely did not want a standard workday because I also wanted to stay at home with them in the early years.
So I needed to make sure that I could work in a flexible manner - if I wanted the best of both worlds – staying at home and working too. It was a very conscious decision because it was what I grew up with in our home.
My personal choice was that I wanted that life in the early years for my two girls (at least until they were both in school). I wanted to work to have my mind stimulated by pushing myself and my ideas. I also needed to bring in some money to the house, and I had just spent years studying and improving my skill set professionally so I did not want that to go to waste.
Paradoxically at the same time, I wanted to be a devoted mother at home. Motherhood is damn hard I tell you! There is always sacrifice and guilt in some direction.
My experience with Beau was great to start because when she was born she slept a lot. I was at home writing up my thesis, so it worked. That was until the naps became fewer and fewer. I would be all set to work for two hours and she would only sleep for 40 minutes. Other days it was 20 minutes. I ended up having to work later and later in the night to get things done. It was so difficult in my last year when I was trying to submit my PhD. All my work had to be done after 8.30/9pm when she was asleep and I was wrecked. It meant lots of late nights at the computer and pretty much zero time hanging out with my other half. But you have to make sacrifices to make it work.
Now I am doing the same juggling with Robyn. This time I am trying to set up my own business, again working when she sleeps. This is the way it has to be if I want to work the way I do.
Did You Make Any Changes To Make Your Career Work For You?
I have had to learn how to juggle really well, which most mothers do anyway, so no rewards for that. But because I wanted the best of both worlds I still work when they sleep. I make meetings when my husband’s work schedule allows. I take calls while sorting out clothes, write emails while cooking dinner. I make lists of to dos as they pop into my head throughout the morning and then while Beau is at preschool and Robyn is napping, I turn on Lyric FM, grab a green tea and run to the computer to be as proactive as I can.
Did You Receive Support From Your Employer At The Time?
I have spent most of my working life self-employed so the supports employed women get were not there for me. In saying that I did get a lot of support. When I had Beau, I was teaching in the University as part of my PhD. The college accommodated my teaching so that I did get a break, a maternity leave of sorts allowing me to get used to motherhood and feeding. I just made up my hours a few months later. With Robyn, I was actually five months pregnant when I graduated and six months pregnant when I applied for Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Programme (As Sheryl Sandberg says, I decided to ‘Lean In’). I was sure that being pregnant would go against my application but it did not. In fact, it was the opposite. Robyn was due halfway through the course in January 2017 but when she was born the first week back after our Christmas break the trainers there were brilliant, so understanding and supportive. They facilitated me to take part in the programme remotely. I was there with the group but at home on Skype. Robyn is very well educated in entrepreneurship – she spent many a session feeding and listening!
How Did Your Partner Support You Through This Time?
My husband is fantastically supportive and always has been. He enables and indulges my dreams because he knows I would be miserable doing something I was not into. He has a stable job and he likes stability. He has always helped us float - a struggle sometimes, but float nonetheless.
His work schedule actually changes every week which has been brilliant for a balance of work and family. The kids are always with one of us and we have been really lucky that we have never had to pay for childcare. So we are technically stay-at-home, working parents. He has had to take leave though to accommodate my business training days, but this won't be forever and I guess will get easier when they are both in school.
What Worked And What Didn’t Work Along The Way?
What doesn’t work is pretending you can do it all because you can't. So my beautifully clean house had to go. It’s definitely harder to whip up the gorgeous meals I used to make when I had time. We joke about it at home, but women need to be unapologetic about it – we can't do it all.
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What worked was asking for help. This time around especially, I am asking for more from my husband. Also, I could not manage the way I work on my own without the help of my mother, mother-in-law and sister who have been pulled in on many occasion to allow me to do my thing for a few hours.
How Do You Rate Your Work/Life Balance?
That’s a difficult question to answer for me because they are so intertwined. As I mentioned, for now, work is at home and I have to grab a moment with it when I can, so I rarely shut off. That’s a personality thing too and I would get bored otherwise. But when I want to look after ‘me’ because that’s so important I go and train, or exercise. . I have just returned to Bikram, which is so good for my body and mind (and headaches and tight shoulders from feeding).
Three Bits Of Advice For Working Mothers?
Working mothers here needs to be clarified for me. I see all mothers as working because today it takes so many forms. I would see three types of working mother: 1) the 9-5pm 2) the stay at home working mother and 3) the stay at home mother.
1. So for the 9-5pm (plus travel) mother let me say I am aware that I am not in their shoes. So while I have heard of their stresses I am not living them. However, from a fitness professional’s point of view though I would urge them to look after themselves in some way because if they are not okay the family doesn’t function at its best. The problem for these women may be that they get home from work and face into another days work of dinner, cleaning, bedtime etc. By the time everything is done they are wrecked and want bed or wine. Mum's time is limited and often forgotten. My advice would be to find somewhere in the week to get out of the house, let someone else do dinner and bedtime and go to an exercise class, go for a walk or massage. Something that allows you to recharge.
2. For the stay-at-home working mom like myself, I would say, cut yourself some slack. If the day does not go the way you had hoped (i.e. teething happens or naps don’t) and you cannot get to that email, try not to beat yourself up about how productive you were on that day. When you are working for yourself and staying at home you have to be flexible to change.
3. For the stay at home mothers who work in the home all day long I would say get out, get some air, try and meet like-minded people. Don’t let boredom kick in because often with boredom comes bad nutrition choices, lethargy and sometimes depression. If you were a woman that worked and gave up work to raise your children you need something for your mind:
Do any online course, read, upskill or just do something that keeps you connected with the outside world (not endless cyber snacking that just makes you feel bad). I am not saying everyone should study or anything like that, I am saying be empowered, keep your body and mind moving. This goes back to the idea that if you’re okay they’re okay.
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