Motherhood and entrepreneurship go hand in hand

A place for women who grow businesses and humans!

Melanie Munir was a middle school teacher for six years on the east coast. After being promoted to middle school principal at age 27, she “had it all.” She loved working, leading a team of teachers and having a fast-paced, big career. But after working 80 hours a week for two years, she became burnt out and knew deep down that she was living in a reality that wasn’t quite right. It was time for a change.

She decided to shake things up and leave it all behind to travel the country for six months. She visited 49 states (except Alaska) before settling in Santa Cruz. Along the way, she started a travel blog and posted about traveling, quitting her job and working for herself. Little did she know that her travel blog would gain increasing popularity and pave the way for her to become a successful entrepreneur and coach.

(Munir is careful to note that she realizes the immense amount of privilege that she, as a white, straight, cis-gendered person has to be able to facilitate this kind of life overhaul.)

“Readers kept asking me for advice about how to quit their jobs and work for themselves. I have a Master’s degree in Leadership, so I started coaching them as an experiment. Then I took on regular clients,” says Munir.

She started a coaching business called “Professional Wild Woman” which provided a variety of services, including helping people start their own businesses, empowering other women and life coaching. She found quick success with this new business, but everything changed again when she had her first son, Rowan four years later.

“Becoming a mom and a solo business owner, I was floored by the level of sacrifice required of me, as well as the total annihilation of my self-care regimen and the isolation." — Melanie Munir

The business advice she had used to build her own business no longer worked within the paradigm of motherhood. The master-mind and coaching groups that she attended were made up of mostly non-parents who didn’t understand the complexities of parenting and owning a business. And the mom support groups she joined focused on encouraging women to be good stay-at-home moms or worker bees outside the home, with zero emphasis on entrepreneurs and business owners.

She started surveying friends and family on Facebook to see if any fellow moms would be interested in joining a coaching group that met regularly to talk about business in a way that jived with parenting. The responses were overwhelming.

“That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone and that there is a need for something like this. So I decided to be the one to create the space for moms to be successful entrepreneurs,” explained Munir.

In 2018 she rebranded her business as “Mama Knows Business” and launched her flagship program, the Mamapreneur Business Incubator, with a mission to give every mother who wants to be an entrepreneur the tools and support to succeed, while still having plenty of time for family, friends and self-care. The group filled almost immediately and has been full and on a waiting list ever since!

The Mamapreneur Business Incubator takes place at Luma Yoga Studio on Center Street, and consists of group meetings, power hour co-working sessions, and private coaching sessions, as well as an add-on childcare package for those who need it.

“It has become the place where women who are simultaneously growing both humans and businesses in Santa Cruz can find support in other moms, practical tools, inspiration, and accountability. It’s a place to have support where women often don’t,” says Munir.

The program consists of three trimesters that last for 12-weeks each: Winter (January – March), Spring (April – June), and Fall (September – November). At the beginning of each trimester, participants set their own goals and are led through visioning and goal-setting exercises. Every week they check in to report on their progress. Participants can expect to stay for one-year to get good traction.

Enrollment is now open for the spring trimester that will begin on April 8, 2019! The Early Bird rate ends March 22. Learn more…

Enrollment is now open for the spring trimester that will begin on April 8, 2019! The Early Bird rate ends March 22.

Great leaders inspire others. Munir’s story in itself is a great example of how a mother can also be a successful business owner at the same time. Not only did she launch her new program in 2018, but that was the same year she had her second son, Mahzin. While her husband drives over the hill to work as a high school teacher every day, Munir remains grateful to have the flexibility and freedom as an entrepreneur to work locally and balance her business and personal life. "Through the sniffles, sicknesses, temper tantrums, sleepless nights, and the jackets that take forty minutes to zip up, life can throw you curve balls that don’t fit within the paradigms of a regular job,” she reflects.

Since its inception, the Mamapreneur Business Incubator has grown to 30 participants—many of whom have gone on to create leadership roles of their own and have started up their own groups in various niches.

Take Kendra Dosenbach for example. When she came to Mamapreneur, her son was just 3 months old. She had many creative ideas but needed direction and an outlet. After harnessing the collective spirit and intellect of the group, her business idea manifested as a space where other artists could teach their craft. She successfully launched All Hands Workshops in 2018 which is a drop-in or membership-based, creative, skill-sharing studio that connects the community and local makers through inspiring handcraft, art and design in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. It hosts up to 15-20 workshops per month and will celebrate an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 19, 2019.

"Without the Mamapreneur Business Incubator, I would still be struggling with perfectionistic tendencies and generally treading water mentally. Being in this group has enabled me to take bold action—including actually starting my business, getting several new clients, joining an artist’s collective, and delivering my first (sold out) workshop! I’m doing it. I’m a businesswoman!" — Kendra Dosenbach, All Hands Workshops

Another exemplar mama is Sarah Joy Zell, who had an existing body work business for seven years in the Treehouse Healing Arts Center, which is an incubator for phenomenal, local, independent bodyworkers, craniosacral therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, energy workers, and coaches.

"I’ve participated in the Mamapreneur Business Incubator many times, and thanks to the structure and support of this community, I was able to take myself and my business more seriously and integrate parenthood. The second time I took the course, I doubled my profits. The third time I took the course, I doubled my profits again. My client bookings are now at full capacity!" — Sarah Joe Zell, Treehouse Healing Arts Center

Munir is proud of her participants and has found particular enjoyment training entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz. “There’s more support for the entrepreneurial spirit in Santa Cruz and it’s full of progressive thinkers. I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. where the 9-5 career is a priority, and I have traveled to 49 states, so I have a good idea of what’s out there,” she laughs. She hopes more mothers in Santa Cruz will take advantage of the program.

Good candidates for the program include mothers or expecting mothers who:

  • Live in or near Santa Cruz;
  • Have service-based businesses or who would like to start one;
  • Want to grow their business within a community of moms;
  • Desire more time to work on their passion while the kids are cared for.

“Becoming a mom releases a lot of creativity that needs to be harnessed. No mother should have to feel alone, isolated or frustrated while working on a business. Our sisters’ success is our success, and we are committed to lifting each other up with compassion and mutual, intersectional-feminist celebration,” says Munir.

Are you interested in learning how to integrate motherhood with your business venture? Learn more about the Mamapreneur Business Incubator, including cost, at And remember, the early bird rate for the upcoming trimester ends on March 22nd!

For fun, Melanie Munir shares the top three tips about how to be a successful mother and entrepreneur.

1. Let go of the idea of a "work-life balance"

Let go of unrealistic expectation of work-life balance. We seem to have this idea that we can be the perfect mother and perfect entrepreneur every day, as if we’ll get to spend an equal amount of time doing both and everything will go well. But any mamapreneur will tell you that’s not how it ends up looking. It makes more sense to look at life in terms of cycles. Sometimes you’re in a work cycle and accomplish many things while the kids are occupied. Then maybe a child gets the flu and suddenly you switch to a family cycle, and work takes a backseat. From the outside it can look like a lack of balance, but once you accept it, it can actually feel like quite an easeful flow.

2. Engage in REAL self-care

Moms are often told to prioritize self-care, but what does that even mean? It's great to go to yoga and get massages, but it's even more important to learn how to care for one's energy. As business owners we need to "show up" a lot. We can't afford to have "energy leaks" draining us from important work. Set healthy boundaries, learn how to say "no", accept help from others, go to therapy to take care of the "stuff", step away from the kid(s) sometimes, and allow a partner or caregiver to develop a relationship with them.

3. Kid Time and Business Time Should Stay Separate

My rule of thumb is not to work on the business when I'm around my kids. Mixing the two together can result in unfinished work and breed resentment. When I'm with the kids, I have to be with them and fully present. When I’m not with them, I get childcare so I can walk away.

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There are still a few spots left in both weekly sections of the Mamapreneur Business Incubator’s upcoming spring trimester, but likely not for long! To learn more and send in an application, visit, and remember, the early bird rate ends on March 22nd!

The Mamapreneur Business Incubator values diversity and strongly encourages moms of color, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, and other marginalized groups to apply.

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