It seems to be written in the “mom contract” to be good at giving advice—whether we want to hear it or not. “Wear a jacket with your Halloween costume or you’ll catch a chill.” “Don’t eat the box of Oreo cookies before dinner or you’ll get too full.” “No high school crush—no matter how cute—is worth your tears.” And as these entrepreneurs prove, mom’s wisdom, a lot of times, makes really solid business advice, too. Here, 22 CEOs and founders share their favorite lessons, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Feed the Malik
“My mom and I are opposites. Where I am impatient, often anxious and fiery, she moves through the world with a sense of calm and assuredness that I envy. From her, the most important lesson I've learned and will continue to learn throughout the rest of my life involves slowing down. More than anyone else, my mom has taught me that hustle culture, and the push to always be doing or creating often, benefits me the least. From her, I'm learning to take a breath, assure myself that it's going to be okay and give myself permission to step back and slow down.”
"As a first-generation Latina I am grateful to my family’s sacrifice that made it possible for me to now be a pioneer in my space and pave a path for other Latin entrepreneurs. My mother, in particular, taught me the importance of balance—to work hard but not to miss out on life.
A core belief within the Latin community is that you have to work extremely hard to get ahead. However, this mindset can contribute to burnout and take you away from the most meaningful things in life, such as family. I’ve found it necessary to create a routine that helps me find balance amidst the hustle and bustle. As an entrepreneur I can never fully ‘turn off’ but I schedule moments to relax and rejuvenate. I also end each day by going offline in order to connect with my husband and daughters.
Additionally, it’s critical to share the burden and not go at it alone. You don’t have to take on everything yourself. The single most important decision I’ve made as a founder is to bring on a team of people to support my vision. This delegation of work to incredibly talented individuals has taken my company much further than it ever would have gone otherwise."
“My mom has inspired me in countless ways. Through her lived experiences and life lessons, I’ve been fortunate enough to have her as both a mother, role model and mentor. Her immigration story alone is filled with lessons about the importance of hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and integrity which are fundamental components of my core values today. Between the language barrier and lack of resources, she still managed to raise my sisters and I (all college graduates) with invaluable life principles and values that will carry on for generations. She is my daily inspiration to work harder, strive for better and take advantage of all the opportunities this world has to offer.”
Silk + Sonder
“My mom's advice has always been to embrace who I am and never apologize for being myself. This wisdom has allowed me to embrace who I am authentically at my core and share that version with the world. It's liberating and empowering to be able to be me at work and in my personal life, and it’s exactly what we preach to our members at Silk + Sonder.”
Vanessa + Kim Pham
“Mama Pham is the reason we’re here today. Every night, she worked hard to cook a three-course Vietnamese dinner for our family—and for our intergenerational, cross-cultural family, this was her love language to us. While our products are largely born from the collaborations we have with our chef partners, we definitely see peaks of Mama Pham’s love for bold flavors in all that we do at Omsom. Mama Pham has taught us to be tenacious, kind and thoughtful both in our professional and personal lives, and we wouldn't be us without her."
“My mother was the hardest working single mama—her drops of wisdom are endless. One of my favorites is, ‘Everyone knows something you don’t, stay humble.’ My mom’s kind heart is felt by everyone. I love how much she did for everyone, but I also saw how important it is to take time to care for ourselves. My mom’s entire life was filled with pain and trauma, but despite that, she stayed kind. I always knew how much I was loved.”
“From a young age, my mom taught me to seek out quality. From artisan roasted coffee to a simple French cheese, she always paid close attention to the sourcing, creation and care that went into each product. The item's unique heritage was the reason for her purchase and she taught me to value that. Little did I know that this would have such a meaningful impact as I launched my own company, Táche.”
“I grew up in a structured and loving military household, and my mom's influence is evident both in how I run my business and raise my own children. I saw my mom strike that fine balance between discipline and flexibility, and I try my best to emulate that today. Motherhood is the hardest job out there, and it doesn't come with an instruction manual, so as a working mom, I've learned to cling to the core values that my mom instilled in me early on, like hard work, commitment and perseverance. For instance, she was totally supportive of me pursuing a career in beauty, but going to college was a non-negotiable in our household. This really taught me the importance of knowledge and how it can be leveraged to create whatever dream you have. It's because of my finance and accounting background that I have the business acumen that I do, and I often reflect on how happy I am that I had parents to lead me down that path."
“I've learned so much from her and she continues to be a role model for me in my life and specifically my career. She has a very successful career, and as I get older, I admire it even more. I am astonished by how she was able to invest her time into the continued growth of her career, while also being the most involved and supportive mother to me and my siblings. Somehow she has been able to do it all,’ and she does it very well.
My mother has instilled the belief that with hard work and dedication, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I've learned through my own experience how important it is to have a supportive system around you that believes in you wholeheartedly. That support and love is so powerful.”
“My mom is the scrappiest person I know. What I mean by that is even though we didn't grow up with a lot, she was able to figure out ways to just "make it work." From school projects to special costumes I needed, there wasn't anything a little tape, sewing and paint couldn't solve. It's the single most relevant lesson I use as an entrepreneur daily—there is always a way. You just have to roll your sleeves up and figure out a way to make it work both in business and in life.”
"I grew up with a mom who encouraged us to have an active appreciation for all things outdoors. We were so lucky to spend a lot of time connecting with nature. We spent our weekends hiking, camping, boating, skiing, gardening—and what I learnt was the health and happiness that can be found in those simple moments. Staying grounded. No matter what the worry or the challenge, my mother has always encouraged me to get outdoors to find grounding, peace and inspiration."
"Generosity—with love, gifts, her energy! My mom was always the parent who would drop off Target bags filled with items when we had donation drives. I learned early on the fulness you get when giving someone in need something.
And another thing: As an adult, if I told my mom that a new pair of shoes or jeans fit perfectly and looked great, she'd immediately tell me to buy two—go back and pick up another! While I do take this advice, it's not easy when you're living in a small NYC apartment!"
"The biggest and most profound lesson has been that, ‘If they can do it, so can you.’ I've lived my whole life without any limiting beliefs of my capabilities as a woman, and I owe this to my mom. She truly believes that everything can be figured out and that I was ‘just as smart, talented and capable’ as everyone else in the room, regardless of if they were male, female, went to a better school, had a different upbringing, etc."
“Since I was little, whenever I'd feel stressed or sad, my mum would listen to my issues with an appropriate dose of empathy, but then tell me (lovingly) that it was time to 'get up, dress up, show up'—get off the couch, put on your favorite clothes and go do the thing you're afraid of. It's been one of my mantras ever since. It's a reminder that we do have the agency to change our state—that a miracle is sometimes just a shift in perception.”
"My mother always held her head very high. She was an immigrant, from South Korea, raising a Black daughter in the US as a mostly single mother. At the time, she was a graduate student with very modest means. The both of us faced a lot of discrimination and bias in everyday encounters, but my mother refused to allow anyone to make us feel less than. She refused to allow anyone to diminish our self-respect, our self esteem, our sense of horizons and potential. She taught me how to find those reserves of strength within, in the face of dismissiveness and doubt."
“My parents came from simple means. They never lacked anything, but always both worked hard. From a young age, my mom helped her dad out at his chocolate factory (yes—you read that right! My grandfather was a chocolatier.). She wrapped up orders after school and simply helped out. That's the work ethic I grew up with—just help out. When she met my dad, she worked with him at his store in Montreal, again, just to help out. When recollecting these memories of working at her dad's store at a young age, she never reflected on these experiences with negativity or resentment that she was working instead of doing more normal ‘teenage’ things. It was a simple reflection that she was helping her dad, and that was that. That's a huge lesson. She never asked for recognition for her help. She helped just because she could and was the right thing to do.
That kind of work ethic is in my bones. From a young age, I always just tried to help my mom out, when I could. When she would get up early to prepare lunches for my siblings and I (we are 5 kids), I noticed that she did that, and started setting my alarm early too, so I could help her out.
As I've grown older, my relationship with my mom has evolved. We've learned, together, to speak our minds and express our feelings. She's taught me that it's also important to move on and let things go—in work and in personal relationships.
In business, I've learned, from both my mom and dad, that all the small sales amalgamate into a big sale. They've taught me to be humble and to make an effort regardless of the number, because you never know where or when the next sale is coming from.”
Girls Who Code + Marshall Plan For Moms
"My mom's experience taught me about the impossible choices mothers in our country have to make every single day. I'm the daughter of refugees, and my parents both worked and couldn't afford child care, even back then. So, every day my sister and I would walk home from school alone, even though we were bullied for being brown in a white neighborhood, and I know my mother must have been terrified. But what was she going to do? We have to make it possible for women to work and have kids, and to get the support they need to thrive. That's my wish for all moms this Mother's Day."
Cristina Ros Blankfein
“My mom taught me the importance of not being above anything. When my family moved from Cuba during the revolution, my great-grandfather was too old to be hired anywhere as a doctor, so he got a job as the overnight cashier at a Miami Beach hotel. I grew up on stories of him proudly ironing and wearing his uniform because work is work and it always should be done with pride. We have a “packing boxes test” at Swoon where we only bring on new team members who are willing to pack and schlep boxes. I think this makes for a collaborative environment where everyone supports each other and knows that it takes grit to break out as a small brand.”
"Persistence, independence, commitment and empathy. My mom exemplified those qualities and instilled them in me growing up. She always says to me, ‘Go figure things out by yourself! Keep your words, do what you say.’ That stuck with me, especially throughout my entrepreneurship journey. I'm forever grateful to this strong and kind woman who raised me to become who I am today."
“My mom gave me the gift of self-confidence, and she made sure I knew my worth every day. I never question if I belong in any room I’m in, all thanks to her. I’m doing my best to pass that down to my kids.”
Five to Nine
"Growing up, I was never an athletic kid. I was certainly the opposite: a bookworm. I recall my mom becoming an avid runner in her 40s and remember her telling me it is never too late to try. Her example and encouragement led me to throw myself into track and cross-country as a late bloomer in the 7th grade. Starting out, I was certainly no good, but she told me to stick with it because each day I showed up was a day I would get better. As a founder, I see many parallels between the resiliency of running for a sport and running my business. Each day you show up presents a different challenge or opportunity. There will be good days and bad days. The determination to keep going is up to you. Most importantly, it's all about having the confidence to show up—no matter how behind you may seem or how late you started in the game."
“My mom is truly the kindest human I’ve ever met (and not because she’s my mom). She approaches all situations with such grace and has taught me the importance of being kind to those that I work with and help build the dream with me. She has also taught me the importance of carrying myself like a boss!”