#SWAAYthenarrative

My Mission To Rebrand Motherhood For A New Generation

4 Min Read
Business

When Jill Koziol was expecting her first child, she didn't see motherhood depicted in a modern, authentic, and inspiring way— so she decided to rebrand what it means to be "Motherly."

Before having children I had an illustrious career in consulting advising senior government officials and impacting strategy as the highest level. I was confident in who I was and the value I brought to my profession. When I met someone new they always asked what I did as my career, and I was proud to share my work. But, that all changed when I became a mother. While I continued to work, I found that the world no longer saw me as an accomplished professional — before anything else I was a mom. Now I was asked what my husband did as his profession, not me.

I felt lost, like I was missing a core piece of my identity and had been put in a box that just didn't fit. Why was it that society saw the characteristics of motherhood as nurturing, loving, and caring, without acknowledging that women who are mothers can also be ambitious, driven, and confident? These attributes appeared to be viewed as contradictory, but that didn't align with my truth.

It took randomly crossing paths with another mom, Liz Tenety, through the Stanford Graduate School of Business community. Liz and I got to know one another as working mothers but even then our lives didn't intersect much. We were just too busy raising our young children and putting our husbands through business school to get to know each other that well.

Now I was asked what my husband did as his profession, not me.

Incidentally, Liz and I had lived parallel lives for nearly a decade— though we had never met. We both attended Georgetown (Liz as an undergrad, me for grad school), worked in DC (me in strategy management consulting for defense and intelligence agencies, Liz in journalism at the Washington Post), and married Naval Academy graduates — and lived as Navy wives while our spouses deployed abroad.

It wasn't until 2015, after Liz attended a mother's symposium on finding your authentic self, that our worlds truly connected. On a cold NYC day in March, Liz called me to chat about some ideas she had for a business to address the fact that motherhood was consistently portrayed in an outdated manner in media. She was not looking for a co-founder on that call, but what she said resonated deeply with me as both a millennial mom and a woman — a partnership was born.

The more we talked, the more Liz and I realized that the issue wasn't simply a media issue, but a systemic one that cut across content, community, and commerce. We also quickly recognized that this blank space existed not just for us but for our entire generation.

Research shows that millennial women are the first generation where women are more educated than men. They are also the first digitally-native generation to become parents. This generation of hopeful, accomplished, and discerning women was arriving to motherhood wanting to embrace this most incredible transformation of their lives but found themselves disappointed with the outdated offerings from media outlets and consumer products.

That's where Motherly came in.

From across the country, with Liz in California and me in NYC, we launched Motherly's "alpha" within six weeks of our first conversation and spent the next six months leveraging a design-thinking, user-driven approach, gathering data from thousands of women to understand what their pain points were in the micro-moments of motherhood. Through those interviews, we realized that creating a community around woman-centered, expert-driven, non–judgmental content was a way to connect with and inspire women.

Today, nearly five years since that first conversation, Motherly has emerged as the voice of the millennial mom and is a lifestyle parenting brand redefining motherhood on behalf of a new generation of mothers. We provide our 30M+ community of mamas with the encouragement, support, and inspiration to meet her real life, real mama needs by reminding her that motherhood is an opportunity to nurture — not lose — her true sense of self.

We are proud to be two female founders building a business for women, by women and creating a next-generation employer where parents can thrive. But all of this success hasn't been without its challenges. Our growth has been organic simply because we weren't able to raise the capital needed to fund marketing campaigns. Looking back, all of those "nos" from venture capitalists the first three years were a blessing. We were forced to be scrappy and it taught us grit and resilience. And our team owns our success in a profound way — we've earned our audience's loyalty, mama by mama. In business, money can hide a lot of problems and in its absence one must address each problem head on. We did all the hard things, which in the end were the right things.

In addition to the stereotypical challenges we faced from investors as female founders who also happen to be mothers, we both faced deeply personal struggles in Motherly's first years. Liz, now pregnant with her fourth child, has endured hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe nausea, through two pregnancies. And three short months after our formal launch in December 2015, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an incurable neurological disease. Thanks to amazing doctors and cutting edge medical treatments, I'm blessed in that it's unlikely I will ever fully develop MS. And, as everyone at TeamMotherly can attest, my disease hasn't slowed me down at all.

Today, nearly five years since that first conversation, Motherly has emerged as the voice of the millennial mom and is a lifestyle parenting brand redefining motherhood on behalf of a new generation of mothers.

Though it all we've had each other's backs and we've had an amazing village in our staff, TeamMotherly. We've also had a deep passion and conviction driving our every decision that women and mothers deserve better—we exist to change the world on her behalf. And, we've got this, together.

Portions of the article are excerpts from the intro of This is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices.

This article was originally published May 6, 2019.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.