Resilience, Perspective, Humor. We lumped these three things together because they are all about getting through the tough spots. Something is going to go wrong, and you have to continue to move ahead. In podcasting — especially remotely — there are often technical issues and scheduling problems. The guest doesn’t have a good microphone or there is some mix up on time zones. No matter how much prep has been done for that interview, sometimes it’s just not going to happen. You can’t let those things trip you up. You have to find a way to hold onto the big picture and stay the course. For us, humor is key. We can laugh about almost anything.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Rodman and Julie Howard, Sisters Cracking Up.
Abby is a psychotherapist, speaker, and author of the Amazon bestseller Without This Ring: A Woman’s Guide To Successfully Living Through And Beyond Midlife Divorce. She has appeared on the Today Show, HuffPost Live, and is regularly sought out by media outlets for her expertise on relationship and parenting issues. A featured contributor to the Huffington Post, her work has also appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine. Abby lives outside Boston with her husband. She’s the mom of three sons, two stepsons, and her rescue doggie, Desi. She also lives too far away from her sister, Julie.
Julie Howard is a Beauty, Wellness and Trend expert who has worked for more than 25 years in Innovation, Product Development, and Marketing for some of the world’s most beloved brands; Clinique, Estee Lauder, MAC, Bath and Body Works, and more. She is also the author of the middle grade novel The Third Coin and is about to launch her first YA novel, Rob Starr. A lifelong advocate for the healthy development and empowerment of girls, Julie often incorporates those themes in her writing.
She is married, has two college-age daughters, and two rambunctious German Shorthaired Pointers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to start the podcast?
Because our family of origin was pretty chaotic in many respects, we clung to each other to make sense of what was going on around us. It engendered a closeness between us that has lasted a lifetime. We’ve always had a great rapport and have laughed a lot through the insanities of life. Also, we pretty much have something to say on every topic. We always wanted to do something together but our career paths took us in different directions. Life was busy with raising kids and all that entails. When Covid hit (and Julie left her beauty industry job), it gave us more time to think about what was next. Podcasting seemed like a good idea as it was something we could do remotely and from different locations. At one point, Amazon was sold out of podcast microphones, so a few other folks had the same idea! We wanted to create a platform that spoke to the richness and complexity of being a midlife woman. It’s the time of life for many women when they’re finally able to step back and say, “Wow. I’ve been through so much and done so much but there’s so much life left to live.” We wanted to create something that reflected that this time of life is extraordinary for women. We’re warriors and truth-tellers. We’ve been in the trenches but we’ve hopefully figured out how to find joy and laughter along the way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
With props to all the podcasters out there, podcasting is no joke. It takes a ton of work and focus and planning. There have been tears and frustration. When we first started, we were doing it all ourselves. We still do the lion’s share, even the “techy” bits. I recently went to buy a new computer and when the salesperson asked what I’d be using it for, I told him podcasting and audio editing. His mouth almost dropped open. When I told him what programs I use, he nearly had to pick his jaw up off the ground! Apparently, as a 20-something, he doesn’t hear these things too often from “older” women. He was pretty impressed, although he needn’t have been. But it made me chuckle and hopefully it changed his perspective a bit, too. Although this wasn’t technically a “mistake”, it was a funny moment and a lesson that we can continue to surprise and inspire people at every stage of life.
According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies/brands/platforms?
Women are still undervalued in the business world. They are still given less consideration by VCs in part because the men dominate the VCs and they still value men’s ideas and acumen over women’s. At the same time, women undervalue themselves in these situations. We have been taught to be careful and risk averse in everything we do while men are taught to be daring and to take risks. This starts at a really young age. Girls are rewarded and praised for following the rules and being cooperative, while boys are rewarded for being assertive, arguing their points, and taking the lead. We need to shift the mentality on both sides at the most fundamental levels.
We also can’t ignore the issue of affordable, quality childcare. The expectation that women must own this role in the family still hasn’t fully changed. Solutions must be easily accessible so women can pursue their dreams and missions. And men and women must stop judging other women for choosing to do so.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women are so creative. I honestly don’t know a woman who doesn’t have great ideas about how to do something better, more efficiently or make something more beautiful. Women are also better at making money go further. In fact, there are studies that show that women entrepreneurs bring in more revenue with less investment than their male counterparts. Women are also natural leaders and builders because they are excellent at managing complexity and juggling several issues simultaneously. My sister is the perfect example; she can run her businesses, prepare dinner, and fill out her taxes at the same time.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
Starting something new is never easy. I always say that change doesn’t come from your happy place, and nor does a new venture come from a place of ease or leisure. Sometimes we see women who’ve “made it” and it’s easy to attribute their success to luck or good timing. There is some of that, but founding something — anything! — is a result of blood, sweat, and tears. Plain and simple. Also, just because you think you know someone really well, doesn’t mean your personal relationship will parlay into a successful business relationship. It’s worked out for us, but we’ve gotten to know each other on a whole different level. Fortunately, Julie has the patience of a saint.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Confidence. You have to believe in yourself or no one else will. Again, Abby is a great example. She is so confident about our podcast and what we have to offer that she doesn’t hesitate to ask hard-to-get guests to come on for an interview and, more often than not, they say yes.
- Resilience, Perspective, Humor. We lumped these three things together because they are all about getting through the tough spots. Something is going to go wrong, and you have to continue to move ahead. In podcasting — especially remotely — there are often technical issues and scheduling problems. The guest doesn’t have a good microphone or there is some mix up on time zones. No matter how much prep has been done for that interview, sometimes it’s just not going to happen. You can’t let those things trip you up. You have to find a way to hold onto the big picture and stay the course. For us, humor is key. We can laugh about almost anything.
- Resource Management Thinking. No matter how creative you are, or your business, service or platform is, you must be thinking like a business owner all the time. You must use your resources (time, talent, and money) wisely. It’s critical to be aware that what you’re doing and what you’re spending is aligned with your objectives. Fabrizio Freda (CEO of Estee Lauder Companies) once told me (Julie), “My job as CEO is basically resource management.” I never forgot that.
- Curiosity. There is SO much to learn when you start a business of any kind, even if it is in the same industry you’ve been in for years. If you are naturally curious and excited to learn, you are going to grow faster and be smarter when the time comes for you to hire into the organization. Abby has become a very good editor and I recently taught myself how to make an audio post. Neither of us are particularly “techy” but we are both willing to learn and it’s been really fun.
- Other Women. As women founders, we agree that it’s so important to have other women with us on our path. We look to other women in business and in podcasting as role models. The majority of our guests are women. We make it a point to hire women for projects — we have a woman publicist, and a woman designed our website. And we even have a feature on the podcast called the Sister List, where we ask our guests to name women they admire and would like to have as honorary sisters. If women founders are going to make the impact we know they can, they must bring other women up with them.
How have you used your podcast to make the world a better place?
We’ve tried to create a community for midlife women that reflects what’s going on in their lives. It can be a time of life when women start to feel invisible and marginalized and we’re not going to let that happen! We want women in midlife to listen to our podcast and feel seen in the most resonant ways. We’re midlife women, too, and we get it. We also hope other midlife women feel inspired by our efforts and that they will get out there and be seen in whatever ways feel important to them.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh, this is too easy. Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach. We’re both huge fans and love their work, wisdom, and the difference they make in the world. If Glennon’s sister, Amanda, would like to join us, we’d love to have her, too! All three of these women are so impressive in their willingness to put themselves “out there” in ways that move and inspire us every day.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.