How to Run a Startup While Homeschooling 6 Kids

September 22, 2014

12:00 pm

Before her six kids wake up, entrepreneur Ariane Fisher is already awake and (on good days) working out. It’s going to be a long day, and the quiet time in the morning helps her get started on the right foot.

In the morning, Fisher homeschools her kids, ages 2 to 13. Homeschooling might seem like a huge undertaking, but Fisher decided to do it because it actually saves her time. She isn’t tied to the school’s schedule or coerced into helping with school activities, and she doesn’t have to spend hours a day helping her kids with homework after school. An ice hockey player, she gets to share her passion with her kids and play hockey for gym class.

By 3 pm, Fisher has swapped places with her husband, and she is in her downtown Chicago office working on Storymix. Her focus now is on WeddingMix, one of their services. WeddingMix ships out video cameras for your wedding guests; after the wedding, you ship the footage back and WeddingMix turns it into a video, for less than the cost of a professional videographer. Their newest service is VideoStitch, which uses similar technology but for brands. The 10-person company went through the Capital Factory accelerator in Austin, and Fisher was recently selected as one of the top 10 emerging entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur Magazine.

I say that Fisher “swapped places” with her husband because he is also one of her cofounders. Fisher had gotten the idea off the ground when her husband quit his job to come on board as CEO, balancing her operations and technical skills with his strategy and big-picture thinking.

Her husband stays home with the kids in the late afternoon and evening, but they don’t need much supervising. One of Fisher’s secrets to juggling a startup and a family is teaching them to be self-sufficient: they do the whole household’s laundry, for example, and are responsible for figuring out how to get school assignments done.

Another secret is having a cleaner. “If you can’t afford a cleaning woman, you can’t afford a startup,” says Fisher, quite seriously. “I’ve always paid my cleaning woman before myself.” She recognizes that hours spent vacuuming and scrubbing are hours that she could be spending building the business.

Fisher’s day may sound all neat and orderly, but she insists that it’s not. It’s taken her a long time to start truly “leaving work at work,” and not be constantly talking on the phone or checking email while at home. “I fall off the wagon sometimes,” says the former Ford design engineer. But she’s also applied some work-like ideas to the home, setting family goals and scheduling time to accomplish them so they get prioritized.

In the end, she wouldn’t call it work-life balance, but it still works. “In my head when I picture [work-life balance], I picture the hectic mom at work getting a call from the day care and having to run home and balance everything. I think it’s more about order – putting everything in order of your own priorities and making sure you get done the things that are most important to you.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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