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Case Studies // “A desire to control my ...

“A desire to control my work hours so I could have kids and actually get to see them”

Katherine Gordon did what a lot of people fear – she left her job at an ad agency, because she wanted more control over how she spent her time. She now runs Maternal Instinct. Read her inspiring story below.

What does your business do?

Maternal Instinct is an ad agency that specializes in marketing to mothers: a very powerful and vastly misunderstood consumer segment. We create online and offline ad campaigns, brainstorm new business ideas, advise clients on future initiatives and engage moms through social media.

415 Cambridge Avenue, Suite 2

Palo Alto, CA 94306


What made you decide to start your own business?

How much time do you have? Seriously there was so much upside to being an entrepreneur that I find it hard to itemize all the reasons. The primary one – the catalyst to leave my corporate ad agency job in San Francisco – was a desire to control my work hours so I could have kids and actually get to see them. Over the years I have been offered jobs at many clients – including Google – but declined them all due to a growing aversion to fluorescent lighting, undeserving bosses, commuting, time sheets, gray cubicles, vacation-request forms and many other atrocities of corporate life.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Time management is the biggest doozy. Having just enough work, but not too much, is difficult to pull off. It’s also challenging to delegate to others when I built the business myself. But the more I do it, the more I experience its rewards. Lastly, I think being an entrepreneur can be lonely. It’s important to build a tribe of sisters to lift you up and give you feedback so you keep moving forward.

How did you overcome these challenges?

My time management strategy is to outsource any work to freelancers or assistants that isn’t the highest use of my time. I also say no to unreasonable deadlines. I feared this would make clients not call me again, but the opposite happens. Clients want people who are in demand and have standards for quality work.

As for the “loneliness” quotient of life as an entrepreneur, I’ve built a community of supporters, both online and off, to cheerlead for me when I need it. And it’s deeply gratifying to give back to those communities, too. Even if you live in the middle of Timbuktu, you can build a tribe of kindred spirits via Twitter or Facebook.

What advice or tips would you give to other business owners?

Have fun. If you don’t feel like you’re doing the very thing you were put on this earth to do, then you are working harder and laughing less than the universe had in store for you.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Have the confidence a little before the competence.” This quote is from Millie Olson, owner of Amazon Advertising in San Francisco and a true trailblazer for women-owned agencies. I love this quote because I see every day how women wait until they’re perfect to launch into the marketplace, while men brazenly plow forward, sure they can figure it out as they go. As a result, women miss out on a lot of opportunities and the world misses out on years of their valuable contributions.

Who inspires you?

Annie Leonard, the woman behind “The Story of Stuff.” I went to hear her speak recently and was in awe of her knowledge and smarts about sharing what she knows with the world. Our planet owes a debt of gratitude for all she’s done to halt consumerism and get people to stop trashing the earth.

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