Entrepreneurs need to have a thick skin: Karla Bookman on starting up TheSwaddle.com

Women Entrepreneurs in India : Karla Bookman


Being an entrepreneur is an addiction for Karla Bookman who never thought she would build a startup. Like many great success stories of entrepreneurship, her idea was born when Karla found there was no one offer out special services, information and advise for new moms. Mother to a little girl and founder of TheSwaddle.com, Karla  set up this website to answer all questions a new mum seeks out to answer. And surprise – she got a community going. Meet another spectacular digital women entrepreneur on SheThePeople.

What prompted you to start TheSwaddle.com? It’s not just about babies but addresses a lot of questions for parents. 

The birth of my first child was a huge catalyst. There’s nothing like having a life-changing experience [like having a baby] to show you inherent pitfalls or problems with existing support structures. I was shocked at the dearth of good, helpful, and not overly-sentimental information for new parents.  As I dug around for myself, I realized that others felt the same way.

Women Entrepreneurs in India : Karla Bookman

Women Entrepreneurs in India : Karla Bookman

So what was the journey like? Being mom. 

I obviously haven’t read a book cover-to-cover in two years. Travel is more complicated. Life requires a lot more juggling and multi-tasking than it used to. But these are all common experiences that all new mothers have. I think the hardest part for me – and for many working mothers – is to learn to accept imperfection and not beat yourself up for your choices once you’ve made them.

I think people have really responded to the realism and frankness of our site – Karla Bookman

What are the kind of parental queries most popular among your audience?

I think people have really responded to the realism and frankness of our site. We get lots of reader responses to our mental health pieces, special needs content, and to those pieces that don’t sugar-coat issues like self-harm in teenagers, the difficulties of breast-feeding, or marital discontent after children. From these reactions, we see that there is a lot going on in people’s lives that they don’t necessarily have an outlet to discuss, and we’re excited to be able to provide that forum for people. We are just excited to be starting some of these open conversations.

You have lived in many countries while growing up. How has living in so many different countries impacted your life?

It’s certainly made me adaptable!

How difficult or easy has it been for you as a woman to start a company?

For the most part, I don’t believe that being a woman has made it more difficult for me.  I have a very supportive partner and that makes a huge difference.

But don’t get me started on the word “Mompreneur” – I mean, how offensive can we be to women entrepreneurs?  (I certainly have never seen the label “Dadpreneur” on every man who happens to start a company and also have children.)  Unfortunately all sorts of biases remain when you’re a woman starting a business, and particularly one in the kiddie space. But my previous corporate experience gave me a tough skin, and when it does happen, I don’t get too flustered by other people’s misconceptions.

How did you overcome the difficulties faced by a startup in the fast-growing ecosystem?

It’s tough to be a digital content business in 2015.  Users want content more than ever, but there’s also so much of it out there that it’s sometimes difficult to get noticed in the din.  That was one of my biggest concerns going in: was our commitment to quality and editorial integrity going to show, and if so, are those values still important?  It’s a question I still struggle with. And yes, digital is fast-paced which means a new learning curve every six months. It’s a challenge but it also makes things more fun.

Digital is fast-paced which means a new learning curve every six months. It’s a challenge but it also makes things more fun – Karla Bookman

Do you think parenting slows down a career-oriented woman?

Sure, of course it does, for the first few months.  Anyone who says it doesn’t is trying to fool someone (most likely, themselves).  But new mothers regain equilibrium after they’ve adapted to their new role, and once they’re there, I think they’re hyper-efficient, driven, and focused.  So long term, no, it doesn’t have an impact.

How do you strike a balance between work and life?

It’s been different for me at every stage of my daughter’s life so far; I’ve always committed to spending quality one-on-one time with her every day, but that also means that I have to catch up on emails late at night, and some of my best brainstorming comes at 3am!