Mamaprenista Stephanie Cartin on Motherhood, Business, Women at Work
Each year in recognition of Women's History Month, SPARK features exceptional women small-business leaders. Stephanie Cartin, co-founder and CEO of Entreprenista, is up next.
Mollie Hope, 3, wants to work with her mommy.
"She'll come into my office and say, 'Mommy, I want to work,'" says Stephanie Cartin, Mollie's mother. "She knows Mommy is helping other women with their businesses, and it's amazing to see that. I want her to see that it's awesome for moms to work hard, be amazing moms, have awesome businesses and help people. It is absolutely possible."
Who is Stephanie Cartin?
A self-proclaimed "mamaprenista," Stephanie Cartin is a successful mom and entrepreneur. She's the CEO and co-founder of Entreprenista, a platform seeking to impact the success of women by sharing women leaders' insights and providing rapid access to vetted tools and solutions. She's also the co-founder of Socialfly, a social media marketing agency in New York City, and the co-founder of Markid and Pearl Influential Capital.
"At Entreprenista, we provide our community with access to the best business tools and solutions, many of which we've used and all of which we've vetted," Stephanie says. "We want to help our members save time by sharing the best business tools, solutions and resources for founders as well as access to our community."
Who is Entreprenista for?
Entreprenista positions itself as the top resource for women founders and leaders.
"Growing a business can be extremely lonely, especially as a solo founder. A lot of women in our community are solo founders," Stephanie says. "I've never seen anyone grow a big business without community, connection and resources. At Entreprenista, we are that community for these founders and give them the resources they need."
Entreprenista is a community in the literal sense; founders can join the Entreprenista League and receive access and introductions to business connections, including potential investors, employees and co-founders. But anyone can visit Entreprenista's website, inquire about its solutions or listen to a new episode of the Entreprenista podcast each Monday.
Stephanie and her business partner, Courtney Spritzer, CEO of Socialfly, co-host the Entreprenista podcast. Actress Alicia Silverstone, women leaders from the Hershey Company, Chase Ink and IT Cosmetics, plus a slew of women founders, have been guests on what Stephanie and Courtney have dubbed "the most fun business meeting you'll ever have."
Honoring and empowering women: The first 'why'
Stephanie and Courtney created Entreprenista for women founders because other women have championed their success, plus Socialfly's growth catalyzed interest in their expertise.
"So many women founders were reaching out to us every single week, wanting to go out for coffee to pick our brains and hear about how we were able to grow and scale Socialfly," Stephanie says. "We started to realize it was physically impossible to go out to coffee with everyone, so we thought, 'How can we help as many women as possible but do it at scale?'"
Cue the a-ha moment!
"We thought, 'Why don't we start a podcast where we share all these incredible stories of women founders and leaders who are building businesses and have so much insight and advice to share?' So, that's what we did."
The Entreprenista podcast went live in November 2018 and has grown into a full-fledged media company, podcast network and membership community.
Addressing systemic challenges: The second 'why'
By amplifying women leaders' stories, including those of other mamaprenistas, and cultivating community and connection for women founders, Stephanie hopes to address two systemic challenges: the inequitable amount of venture capital (VC) funding raised by women founders and the inequities of being a mom and successful in business.
According to Pitchbook, VC funding has skyrocketed but not at the same pace for women founders. In 2022, women-founded businesses received just 2 percent of total capital invested in venture-backed startups in the United States. That number is up in 2023, at 2.5 percent, but the figure has a long history of minor ups and downs. For example, it was 2.4 percent in 2021 before decreasing to 2 percent last year. It peaked in 2009 at 2.9 percent.
"It's not getting any better," Stephanie says. "We have to champion women and connect them. There's enough business to go around, and women don't need to be competitive with each other or anyone. We can all help each other by sharing connections and introductions to investors. We can help each other build businesses better, faster and with more resources and funding. It's one of the reasons we started Pearl Influential Capital and why we're sharing these resources in our Entreprenista League community."
She continued, "When we help women grow their businesses, we're helping them create jobs and wealth for themselves. When women have wealth, they can invest in other women-owned businesses, and that's how we're going to change these horrible statistics."
Being a mom and successful in business
Running a business while raising children?
"It's very challenging every single day, ups and downs, highs and lows," Stephanie says. "Raising a child is another full-time job."
Working for an employer while raising and homeschooling children during a pandemic?
"[Being a full-time mom and employee during COVID-19] was not a path you could take with a company that wasn't flexible or providing the right resources," Stephanie says. "Hearing stories of women feeling like they had to choose between their families and their jobs, it was very hard to watch. They couldn't do their jobs [effectively], because they needed to homeschool their children. That just wasn't sustainable."
Millions of women left the workforce after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many did so to care for children and other loved ones. According to recent BLS data, women have nearly bounced back. Their January 2023 prime-age workforce participation rate was slightly below that of February 2020, one month before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Still, motherhood penalties persist. Through storytelling, community and connection, Stephanie hopes she and Entreprenista can make motherhood and success mutually inclusive for mamaprenistas everywhere.
Stephanie's advice for small-business owners
Recent reports of a potential prolonged economic downturn have raised concerns among employers, including small-business owners.
A successful entrepreneur since 2009, Stephanie has experienced the ups and downs of running a business. She discussed three areas of importance: understanding, preparedness and community — understanding that economic fluctuation is part of running a business, preparing your business to withstand economic downturns and leaning on your community are essential, she says. For more on running a business during a downturn, listen to this Entreprenista podcast.
Stephanie adds that running a business is a rollercoaster, not occasionally, but daily; highs and lows come and go in minutes. Her advice? Enjoy the ups — and don't let the downs break you.
"You might have the most amazing business call, and the next minute, you might find out that an employee resigned or that a client just canceled their contract. But 10 minutes later, you might discover you won a new account worth millions," Stephanie says. "Even when you find out, for example, that you got this big client, the next thing you have to figure out is, 'Well, how am I going to execute? How am I going to get all the resources I need to be able to do that?' You have this moment of, 'Oh, my gosh, this is amazing,' but now you have all this work to do. There's so much more involved [than what you anticipated]."
She continued, "You have to be able to stay even and calm while running a business and know that you might experience these highs and lows every day. You have to not get overly excited or overly upset. You have to learn to be resilient. You have to keep going and surround yourself with the right community to help you through big moments."
A community's support through big moments
Stephanie has been very open about her pregnancy journey on social media and on the Entreprenista podcast. Before having her daughter, Mollie Hope, Stephanie had always wanted to be a mom. She'd known since childhood that motherhood was her life goal — ever since she was a young girl playing with dolls and pretending she was their mom.
But Stephanie's pregnancy journey wasn't easy. She and her husband tried for a year to get pregnant, to no avail. One of her biggest fears, infertility, had become a reality.
"It was extremely, extremely hard for me," she says.
Through a Facebook group, Stephanie met someone who owns a media company dedicated to people dealing with infertility and fertility treatments. Stephanie explained her situation, and the friend was intrigued.
"She said, 'I think our readers would love to hear your story, and I think it would help a lot of people if you shared what you're going through,'" Stephanie says. "We wrote a piece for her media platform, sharing my story from the early days of my infertility journey. The response immediately was people reaching out to me, wanting to help and make introductions."
Stephanie says she wouldn't have gotten pregnant or been able to stay pregnant if she hadn't shared her story with this community online, which directed her to the right people and resources. Specifically, a friend Stephanie met on Instagram connected her to a doctor who ultimately helped her bring Mollie Hope into the world through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
"My daughter is here today because of the power of community and connection," Stephanie says. "She is here today because of the people I met through Facebook and Instagram."
For Stephanie, as a mom and entrepreneur, all roads lead back to community and connection. They're the reason for Mollie Hope, who inspires Stephanie's work at Entreprenista daily (a future mamaprenista in the making?), and they're why Entreprenista was founded. They're also the mechanisms driving Stephanie's goal to impact women's success and create a brighter future for herself, her community and little Mollie Hope.
Finding the time and energy for community and connection
Entreprenista is a proud client of ADP TotalSource, a professional employer organization (PEO) for HR, payroll, benefits and compliance. Through TotalSource, Entreprenista, a small business, receives various helpful resources typically enjoyed by larger enterprises, including health insurance, a 401(k) plan and flexible spending accounts for medical expenses and childcare services. This arrangement helps Stephanie care for her employees' health and well-being while she rapidly manages Entreprenista's workforce-related needs, giving her more time and energy to be a mom and to impact women's success through community and connection.
"You don't have to be a billion-dollar company to get amazing health care and benefits for your employees," Stephanie says. "You can partner with a PEO, like ADP TotalSource, and access those resources. ADP's team is responsive, easy to work with and helpful, and their platform is easy to use. As an entrepreneur, I have many things to do in a day; there's not much time. Using a simple, easy-to-use tool our employees appreciate and use easily is extremely helpful."
Read these other Women's History Month features
Lighting the Way with Cate Luzio and Luminary
CPA Jamie Trull Uses Care, Simplicity to Help Small Businesses Thrive