How A Food Startup Founder Juggles Work & Raising 2 Kids

Being a working mom is hard, and it can often feel like "a day late and a dollar short" is the best case scenario: missed deadlines, forgotten dry cleaning, and never, ever seeing friends. But we don't have to reinvent the wheel to figure out a better way through. Just look around at all the super successful moms kicking ass on a daily basis.
This Is How I Do It is a new day-in-the-life series featuring some of these impressive women, who juggle big careers and families with grace and humor. Their stories won't literally do your laundry and pack your kids' lunches while you answer email, but they offer an honest peek at how someone else gets her life together every day.
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Nicole Bernard Dawes, 44, is the founder and CEO of Late July Snacks. She and her husband, Peter, are raising two boys, ages 11 and 15.
My day-to-day:
6:00 a.m. Wake up. I’m working from home today.
6:02 a.m. First cup of coffee. Check my calendar and glance at my to-do list.
6:05 a.m. I take a shower at night so my morning routine can be easier. I have a very simple routine of sunscreen foundation, a little hair defrizzer, brushing my teeth, and I’m set to go. I like to get ready before everyone else wakes up.
6:15-7:20 a.m. Breakfast with my family and frantically getting out the door for school. Today both boys had granola, fruit, and yogurt, Peter had oatmeal, and I had granola with fruit and almond milk.
7:20 a.m. Drive my older son to his bus for high school.
7:40 a.m. Second cup of coffee (usually iced with almond milk so I can pretend it is always summer) and answer customer comments on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve tried to have other people do this, but I can’t stop myself. I really want to hear what our customers are saying and seeing everyone's Instagram pictures with our products is such a highlight of my day.
7:50 a.m. Walk my younger son to his bus. This is the first year my kids are at different schools, which makes me a little sad.
8:00-9:00 a.m. I leave this hour free each day to schedule catch-up calls from the day before, calls with any Late July team members who request time, or from other entrepreneurs looking for help with something. Today, I have a call scheduled with another entrepreneur who has an organic ice cream company, and she asked if I’d be willing to help with a few questions she had. She was awesome!
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9:00-10:00 a.m. I look at my email constantly throughout the day, but I still set aside this time to actually tackle emails that need responding and rewrite my to-do list for the day
10:00 a.m. First meeting. Each day a different department has a standing meeting with Peter and me, today it’s marketing. We’re launching a new item and reviewing the packaging design color selections. The table was covered in Pantone chips with subtle differences, and we agonized over the final selections. The meeting ran about 30 minutes over.
12:00 p.m. Small snack of our Sea Salt Multigrain tortilla chips and tabbouleh.
12:30 p.m. Had a quick call with my Director of Finance to kick off 2018 budgeting. It sounds weird, but I actually love working on the budget. I can remember when Late July's sales for the month were equal to what we now do in one day.
1:00 p.m. Blind taste test of some new flavors we’ve been R&Ding. I immediately had a favorite.
2:00 p.m. I've taken three phone calls in the past hour. I always try to pick up when my phone rings if I’m not in a meeting.
3:00 p.m. Book a flight for customer meeting next week. I know I’m going to regret this flight choice when I board at 12:40 a.m., but it allows me to attend a meeting for my older son’s new high school the night before.
3:30 p.m. Send myself a reminder to order my younger son new sneakers. I remembered while I was booking my flight that his were pretty small this morning when I dropped him off. I’m not sure what I would do without online shopping. I don’t think my kids would ever have new clothes or shoes.
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4:15 p.m. Pop over to a grocery store on my way to pick up my younger son. I make it a point to visit all the stores in my area pretty regularly to check on our products and promotions versus our competitors.
5:15 p.m. Driving home I had a quick call with my VP of Grocery Sales about a customer meeting she has next week.
5:30 p.m. A quick 30-minute Peloton ride. Today, I chose instructor Ally Love; she’s my current favorite. I love days when I can fit in a 45 or 60-minute ride, but 30 minutes is better than nothing!
6-6:30 p.m. My husband went to pick up my older son from his bus, and I make dinner. I also finally call one of my friends back. She called me four days ago.
6:30pm-7:30 p.m. Dinner with family. Tonight, we had burritos, tortilla chips, pico de gallo, salsa verde, and guacamole.
7:30 p.m. Check email, handle personal stuff like ordering those sneakers for my son, and check social media while my kids do their homework.
8:30 p.m. Read with my younger son and sometimes my older son depending on his homework. Right now, I’m reading Carsick by John Waters.
9:30 p.m. Last check of emails, and I prep for tomorrow.
10:00 p.m. This is when my husband and I read books or news on Flipboard, watch a movie, or catch up on a little TV. We usually talk about work, too. Sometimes we also use this time to discuss family logistics for the next day. Who’s taking who where, etc.
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11:30 p.m. - 12 a.m. Bed.
Photo courtesy of Late July.
My current passion project:
Working with the Newport Folk Foundation on music scholarships in schools. Music is an incredibly powerful force for good in this world and has been so important to our family. Sadly, many kids have little or very limited access to instruction or instruments.
The best part of my day:
Eating dinner with my family is my favorite part of the day, especially as my kids have gotten older. Lately we’ve been playing a game where one person plays different songs over the Sonos, and the rest have to guess the artist. Last night, my older son chose the music, but we change it up every night. I enjoy cooking and find it’s actually a relaxing part of my day. I definitely use tools to make prep/cooking faster, and I’m not afraid to order out on particularly busy days. Sadly, it’s getting a little harder with my older son in high school, but we still make it work.
The one thing I wish I didn't have to do:
Fire people. It’s the worst feeling in the world. We have such a close-knit, small, hardworking team that it becomes really obvious when someone’s not a fit. I’ve totally changed our hiring process over the years to spend more time getting to know candidates to help avoid this situation, but it still happens occasionally. I even hate it when I’m not the actual person doing the firing. I always try to reposition someone several times before we actually cut ties. I believe everyone can be great at something, and it isn’t always what they were hired for.
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The one thing I always worry about:
I’m not a big worrier. My older son actually gave me a necklace that says "Eternal Optimist," which is really true. If I had to pick one thing, it would have to be my kids’ safety. Having two active boys who play sports and one with a food allergy, I’ve gotten that dreaded call that they were hurt more than once, and it’s very scary!
The secret to being a successful working mother is:
What works for me is both having the flexibility to work from home when needed and having a life partner who really supports me personally and professionally. I didn't start working from home until recently, and I can honestly say it been a total game-changer. I had to really shift my thinking once I realized how much happier/less stressed our team was knowing we supported them working from home when they needed to. What matters is getting the job done, not where you are physically present while you do it. I know a lot of companies have started shifting away from this, but I really think we need to embrace it as the future. There's just no way to be an active participant in your family life without some flexibility from your workplace. I realize not all jobs can be remote, even occasionally, so I would definitely counsel any woman who plans to eventually become a working mother to find a company that allows it and work towards a role that can successfully accommodate this type of flexibility.
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Equally important is my husband, Peter. Sheryl Sandberg was so right when she said your choice of life partner is the single most important career decision you will make. Peter and I share equally at home, and since we work together we can coordinate work travel/meetings, too. There are weeks that I'll be on the road quite a bit, and he'll be shouldering more than his fair share at the office and home, then the dynamic will shift. We are really in this together. I don't know if we ever specifically discussed it before we got married, but it was clear from the beginning that my success was important to him.
We met in college and had plans to both move to New York City. He graduated before me, moved and found a job he loved, but the next year my better job offer was in Boston. Not for one minute did he try to convince me not to take the job he knew I really wanted. He immediately supported my choice and as a result ended up spending a lot of time on Amtrak for the next couple years! I'm sure there were lots of other early signs, but that's the one that really stuck with me.
The one thing I would tell other working moms:
I try really hard to always be there for my sons, but there have been things I’ve had to miss, which never gets easier. Especially in the early days when it was absolutely essential that the founder/CEO be present for customer meetings or to handle problems at the office. Delegating too early in a company can be absolutely detrimental to growth and success, which can unfortunately mean missing out on time with your kids. As upsetting as this is, and as guilty as I feel when it happens, I remind myself it’s just a drop in the ocean of their life. And the positives of seeing both parents working hard and cooperatively raising a family far outweigh the negatives of that missed event. This is also why I place extreme value on family vacations and the memories we make during those special moments. My father had to miss a lot of things during my childhood while he was starting Cape Cod Potato Chips, but we always had the best family vacations even when we were struggling financially. Those are days I remember.
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Becoming a mother changed this thing about me:
It’s given me a greater purpose and with that more confidence. Whenever I doubt myself or ask why we’re doing this, I look to my kids and feel empowered. I want to be an example for them on how to work hard and persevere despite the odds. I want to show them that you can make a difference in the world if you try. It’s amazing how powerful that feeling of purpose can be.
Tell us about your village. Who helps raise your kids:
We’ve never had a nanny, but have used a patchwork quilt of help over the years. Also, my husband and I share almost every parenting function. Both of my sons came to the office until they started preschool at 3, and they often attended trade shows with us as well. I used to joke that it takes an office to raise a child!
Now that our kids are older, we primarily rely on their respective schools, and my older son can help watch my younger son, too. My husband and I work together professionally, and we work hard to coordinate our schedules so we don’t travel at the same time. It’s never been perfect and has had a lot of moving parts and pieces, but I think the chaos somehow actually kept us closer as a family.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking kids or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a bigif — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
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