Moms in Business: Get to know Sara Mauskopf
Sara Mauskopf has hopped from one hot tech company to another in her nine years in the Bay Area: From Google, to Twitter, to Postmates. But after giving birth to her first child in June 2015, Mauskopf realized there was a big void in the tech world for parenting apps. So she left Postmates and started Winnie in January 2016, Winnie launched its mobile app to help parents find everything from parks to family-friendly restaurants.
“A lot of parents don’t live in cities,” she said. “It’s really important that our product works everywhere, not just in major urban centers but in suburban environments.”
First, give us a little background on how you got to where you are now: What did you always think you wanted to do for a career, and how did it lead (or change) to where you are now?
I majored in Computer Science at MIT and went to work for Google when I graduated college. I spent a few years at Google and YouTube before leaving in 2010 to join Twitter as a Product Manager. Twitter was an awesome, wild ride and I got to watch the company grow from a small startup to a public company with thousands of employees. After Twitter I joined Postmates as their head of product to grow and lead their product team and not long after became pregnant with my daughter.
I am not the type of person who always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. I didn’t run a lemonade stand as a kid or have side businesses. But after becoming a mom I became really passionate about making the world better for parents and I saw a big opportunity to build tech to help.
Talk to us about Winnie, and what it means for you to help other parents.
Shortly after having my daughter I realized that there was so much information that I needed as a parent, everything from where to find great childcare to what to do on the weekends to how to breastfeed. Some of this information was available online but a lot of it was not. The more I started talking to Anne Halsall, my now co-founder, the more we realized that there was a real opportunity to build technology for this new generation of modern parents.
We quit our jobs and founded Winnie in 2016. Winnie is the app that gives parents superpowers. Whether you want to find new things to do with your kids, ask for advice, find local childcare, or just get to the nearest changing table in a hurry, Winnie can help.
For me personally, it’s been really motivating to wake up each morning and work on making the world a better place for parents. We hear from parents all the time about how Winnie helped them go back to work because they could find affordable daycare, or find enriching experiencing to have with their children in the real world, or just gave them the support they needed to get through the day.
How many children do you have, and what are their ages?
I have a 2.5 year old daughter Bryn and another daughter on the way!
How does your daily job impact the way that you raise your own children, if at all?
It’s pretty cool to work on a product that directly helps me! I use Winnie for any and all of my parenting questions from finding a preschool to potty training to my more recent struggle with infertility.
On the flipside, how does having children affect your business decisions?
My family helps put everything into perspective for me. It’s easy when you’re running your own company to be stressed all the time and think everything about your company is a life or death situation. I have literally never felt that way about my company though. I don’t sweat the small stuff at all and that is a huge asset as an entrepreneur. My family’s health and happiness is all I truly “sweat” in life and I think that level of perspective helps me take really big risks with my business because I’m not afraid of anything.
Describe what a typical (business) day looks like for you.
I wake up around 7am and usually get a chance to shower and get dressed and check on work stuff before my daughter wakes up around 7:45 or 8. If she has preschool that day then my husband and I take her to preschool and if not then we feed her breakfast and wait for the nanny to arrive. At 9am I head to the office and work until about 6pm. We’re a small team so most of my day is spent working really collaboratively with the team, and sometimes taking outside meetings with potential investors or partners. At around 6pm I leave work and head home. My husband, daughter and I all have dinner together around 7pm and then she’s in bed by 8pm usually thanks to my husband who is a master at the bath time and bedtime routine. I usually spend the rest of the night just relaxing, but sometimes I work or catch up on other chores.
On any given day, what are the biggest challenges you face at work and at home?
At Winnie, we are growing so quickly that it brings all sorts of challenges, but they are also all good challenges to have. I enjoy working with the team to figure out how to get us to the next level.
At home, I’m also experiencing rapid growth! The crazy thing about being a parent is once you have it figured out your child changes and there is new stuff to figure out. It never ends!
What keeps you grounded?
My daughter keeps me grounded. Not only is she the most important person in my life, she reminds me every day that parenting is the most important job. As parents, we are literally raising the next generation of humans. That helps me never lose sight of the reason I’m building Winnie.
Do you talk to your children about what you do for a living?
My 2.5 year old daughter understands that I go to work every day which I actually think is pretty cool. When I was growing up I always saw that my dad worked and my mom stayed home and took care of me. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my mom went back to school and started her career. Seeing her do that set such an important example for me that women too can have careers. I love the example I’m setting for my daughter from day 1 of her life.
How do you juggle your professional life with personal? We’d love to hear your tips on achieving a balance.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I do everything myself and I’m some kind of superhuman. I outsource as much as humanly possible and I have a ton of help from my husband. We pay people to cook for us, clean our apartment, and watch our child during the day. This means we don’t have money to spend on an expensive house (we live in a tiny apartment) or fancy cars or luxury vacations, but for us we’d rather spend our money on making our day to day lives less stressful.
What advice would you offer to new moms or moms that are also professionals in any industry?
You can do it! So many people told me it was crazy for me to start a company right after having a baby and they were all wrong. It’s totally possible to have a thriving, successful career after becoming a parent. In fact, I think being a mom is my superpower because it helps me focus on the highest priority things.
What helps you to unwind?
This is one of the (few) downsides to being a parent: you don’t get much time to unwind. When I come home from work I start my second shift of being a mom. You can never truly turn it off either. What helps me is to set aside time when I say to myself that I’m not going to be productive. Sometimes I use that time to think about work stuff but other times I just let my mind wander or read the news. You have to really force yourself to not be productive as a parent because you are in this mode of trying to make the most out of every minute.
What is your mantra?
“You have no idea what I’m capable of”
When people doubt whether something is possible, or whether I can do something (like start a company after having a baby) I always just ignore them and think to myself that they have no idea what I’m capable of. An early investor once told me he invested in Winnie because he knows I will run through walls to make something happen when I want to make it happen. When the going gets tough, I like to remind myself that most people have no idea what I’m capable of and that I can run through walls.
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