I had the honor this week of interviewing my partner, Becky Brown, who was the original founder of what is today, Stride Services. She started Keeping Your Balance over 15 years ago and, in honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to interview her to get her take on what it has been like to navigate as a woman and an entrepreneur over this period of time.
What have been some of the changes that you have seen in women’s leadership since you started Keeping Your Balance (today Stride)?
It’s really funny that you asked me that. I don’t really think there’s much different. What’s different is that I have a family now, kids, and a husband. I really don’t know what my experience would be like today if I was trying to balance my family and starting a business. The fact that I was a woman back then was less of a big deal. I was an entrepreneur. I don’t remember having my gender be a thing.
Over the past several years, it has become more about women and entrepreneurship whereas back then it felt more like an age thing. I really never associated my gender and entrepreneurship being in conflict. But people would always say to me, “Oh you’re a mom and you have a business.” But I started the business before I was a mom so I didn’t really associate these two things.
Growing up, I never really thought about the difference between men and women from an equity standpoint. I’m one of three girls. I was always around girls. It never occurred to me that I was any different.
Did you ever have an experience that you can remember where your gender has played a factor in your business?
Well, in many ways, it has probably worked to my advantage. People expect that accountants are women and I fit the role really well. So the very nature of the business supported women.
You have hired a lot of women who are mothers that wanted to work from home. Was that by design?
I met a woman many years ago who was a strong advocate for getting moms to go back to work and it opened my eyes to this idea. There are a lot of times moms go out of work, and then they try and come back, and there’s nowhere for them to go. So I think created a really great opportunity for us.
Do you believe that men and women have different management styles? If so, what are they?
I do think there is an expectation that because I am a woman that I will be a certain way, maybe nicer or more compassionate. Maybe I’ll be less willing to say no, but that’s not true.
Have you had any women as role models in your life that stand out for you?
I have a lot of female role models who I saw had figured out how to design their own life. I was always inspired by people that worked for themselves. I got that from my dad. I think a lot of women lack confidence. They think that they can’t live without a paycheck. I think women are less risk-tolerant than men. I think men have a lot more ability to just jump and not worry about it.
Where did you build that confidence?
Probably my dad again. He never made us aware that we were girls or like that it was different. It never even came up. Own your own business. Do your own thing. Be in control of your life. Make sure you have enough money.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue entrepreneurship?
Do it before you have a family. If you really want to have kids and a family, I can’t even imagine doing it at the same time. Like, I just I can’t like I can’t fathom it. I know people do it. Also, probably doing it with a partner is a lot easier than doing it on your own. When you start a business, you can’t just work five days a week. You have to work a lot.
Thank you Becky for sharing your experience and showcasing your accomplishments and contribution to women in entrepreneurship. We have a long way to go and you laid a terrific foundation. Thank you!