From kindness to focus, our mothers can instill values in us that help us reach success. And there’s no better time to reflect on the values and lessons from our mothers than Mother’s Day, which we’ve officially celebrated for more than 100 years.
Timeless motherly advice especially resonates for entrepreneurs, whether that’s during hard times such as making critical decisions or more mundane aspects of life in our daily interactions.
We asked founders to share the mom-inspired nuggets of wisdom that have made them better entrepreneurs. Here, we selected our favorites.
“I was a smart but headstrong child, raised by parents with angelic levels of patience. A million times in my young life, my mother reminded me: ‘Be humble, Matthew. Always be humble.’ I doubt that I knew at that time what she meant, but I understand it better now: knowing the limits of my own opinions, and seeking value in the opinions of others. That’s critical to any entrepreneur’s success. Thankfully, I know I’ve improved: Mom hasn’t reminded me to be humble in nearly a week.”
“My mom always valued focus and criticized me when she thought I didn’t have enough. She has always said to me that ‘a knife cannot be sharp on both sides.’ You have to pick one edge and she said that a lot when I was both fencing and running my business. I ignored her for years, but since quitting fencing and focusing on my business, I realized that she was right all along.”
“My mother is a caregiver, putting others first, always. This selflessness and drive to help others has been fundamental to how I’ve approached my life and the businesses I’ve helped to build.”
“My mother instilled the belief that trying to do something to the best of my ability and failing is significantly better than regretting not trying at all; that fearlessness is the life’s blood of an entrepreneur. Along with that ‘never say die’ attitude, my mother instilled a very strong sense of empathy in me, from a young age. That ability to understand and connect with people on a personal level is tremendously valuable for cultivating lasting relationships, both internally with all levels of employees and externally with clients.”
“My mom taught me that if you have a problem, don’t rely on someone else to solve it for. For example, when she couldn’t find matching Easter dresses for all five of us girls and herself, she made her own. Now, I’m no seamstress, but I did have to get creative back in the early days of our company. We had a great product but very little money for marketing. Like many entrepreneurs, we had to create our own buzz.”
“In purely practical terms, negotiating is an essential skill for any entrepreneur. My mom taught me early in life that it’s essential in getting paid what you’re worth and not paying too much for things that aren’t worth it. Whether it’s sourcing items or services for your business or talking salary, always negotiate.”
“My mother, who was one of three sisters, grew up in a household where independent thinking was encouraged, which was a rarity in Indian society. She passed on this thinking to her children and from an early age, we were encouraged to read literature and philosophy — Western, Eastern, ancient, modern. I’ve benefited from this thinking and early encouragement from my mother since day one of my career. It has helped me inform the strategies that I helped develop in my career at HP, Pepsi, Unilever, and later in the principles that I try to use in my management of Eos.”
“As kids we rely on our parents to provide the things we want and need. Rather than simply buying what I wanted, my mom would give me money and send me to the cash register on my own. If I didn’t get the exact product I wanted (wrong ice cream flavor, uncomfortable sneakers), she would encourage me to go remedy the situation myself. How many store clerks would turn down a 5-year-old’s request for a different flavor of ice cream? It gave me the courage to always ask for what I wanted, even if the answer was very likely no.”
“My mom grew up in a small town (Edina, Minn.). After college, I moved to New York and I will never forget the first thing that she said to me when I moved to my first apartment. ‘Always support the local businesses. Things like restaurants, dry cleaners, shoe repair and grocery. Although they may (or may not) be a little more expensive, you want them to know you and be thriving businesses. Because if they are, your neighborhood will be safer and more vibrant.'”
“My mother is an entrepreneur herself and I remember the earliest days of her business and how she made detailed financial budgets (she’s a former accountant after all) and found every place to save money or increase revenue. She also has incredible creativity in solving problems showing me that no matter how seemingly impossible something is, there is nearly always a solution to be found.”
“So much of what inspired me to create Outdoor Voices is thanks to what my mom taught me as a kid. She was the best kind of coach, and always sent me, my brother and my sister out the door saying, ‘TYB, baby!’ which is short for, ‘Try your best.’ It didn’t matter if we were going to school or soccer practice or a slumber party, she always encouraged us to give it our absolute best. That attitude informs the approach we use at Outdoor Voices : to take on everything we do with unbounded enthusiasm and persistence.”
“My mom taught me that the majority of what you do, as a parent or an entrepreneur, goes unrecognized. You need to get comfortable with this and still to put your head down and do thankless things. In the long run, at some point in the future, those around you will take a moment to pause and see what you have built. It’s the long game that counts. That perspective is priceless.”
“My mother always said, it’s all about the little things. In business, always appreciate your smallest customer as much as your largest, because they will all contribute to your the success of your company.”
“My mother always said that we aren’t judged by our mistakes and failures, we’re judged by how we handle them. It’s not about how many times we fail, it’s about moving forward and learning from it.”
“My mother passed away when I was nineteen years old and that loss, although heartbreaking was a catalyst for a lot of self-reflection. When I remember my mom, I don’t idealize her — she was a very complicated woman, an imperfect person just like the rest of us, but she was also the most generous person I have ever met in my entire life. That spirit of generosity coupled with self-compassion for my own imperfections is what I try to bring with me to work every day.”
“Growing up, my mother insisted that I write ‘thank you’ cards for damn near everything. As this was Southern California in the ’90s it didn’t earn me a ton of street credit, but family, friends, teachers can all testify to my illegible handwriting and tenuous relationship with grammar. Not much has changed since then, but now everyone in my company has received one of those handwritten letters. Either welcoming them to the team, thanking them for the tons of hours they put in making this place magical, or offering our condolences through a tough time. I still don’t know why my mother insisted on Mad Men sensibilities but in our ephemeral digital landscape, there is absolutely something special about receiving a personal and physical token of someone’s appreciation.”
“One of the greatest lessons I learned from my mother is to never give up, work hard and trust my instinct. I grew up in a household where both my parents worked full time and were successful in their careers, showing that hard work and determination truly pay off.”