Pepperlane CEO Sharon Kan (center) takes a break at the Pepperlane Connect conference to catch up with Lioness Publisher Natasha Zena (left) and Lioness CEO Dawn Leaks (right).
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Pepperlane CEO Sharon Kan Is Creating A Mom Economy

Pepperlane CEO Sharon Kan believes it is finally time for a Mom Economy. With workplaces across the country finally trying to improve company cultures for today’s working mothers, Kan, and her Pepperlane cofounder Jess Peterson is introducing a new alternative for mothers.

“When I started my career, there were only two options — one was to participate in the workforce and work 9-5 or even longer hours or to stay at home and I wanted to provide a third option for mothers,” Kan said. “And the third option is really to build the Mom Economy by giving mothers the opportunity to define their success on their own terms and earn an income and be independent. I don’t think there’s a third option right now and Pepperlane is the third option.”

Pepperlane provides mothers with the tools and training they need to build a successful microbusiness. Based in Boston, the company is primarily run by mothers and their champions. On Oct. 2, Lioness caught up with Kan at the Pepperlane Connect conference,  sponsored by and hosted at Vistaprint headquarters in Waltham, Mass. The event provided immersive content and networking to support mothers who run or aspire to run their own business. Mothers gathered to learn from Kan, as well as Former Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman, Vistaprint CEO Trynka Shineman and C Space Founder and Chairman Diane Hessan.

At the conference, Pepperlane unveiled their new Pepperlane Pathway program, a personalized business training program to designed to revolutionize the way mothers think about building successful microbusinesses. The Pathway program joins women with up to 25 like-minded mothers and business owners who can trade advice, feedback and encouragement as they progress through the training. Pathway cohorts receive personalized plans with short daily lessons and activities that help them focus their energy where it matters most. Training topics include how to find customers through social media, how to network effectively, how to get more repeat business, and more. All in 10-30 minutes per day.

Program alum Beck Bast, owner of Declutterista said what she loved most about Pathway was that it was customized to her needs. “It was so clear that we don’t have a lot of time and we need the accountability and the structure to keep us on track. Pepperlane is the perfect platform for pushing you out of your comfort zone, but it also provides a safe, supportive community to connect with other mothers who are working toward similar goals,” Bast said.

The ability for mothers to be able to connect with their peers and no longer have to hide that part of their lives in business excites Kan. “I wanted to bring motherhood into business and instead of being in defense mode [at work when we need to say things like], ‘Hey, I need to pick up my kids.’  I wanted to create a platform where I can shut down my business between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. because I need to pick up my kids. You see, it’s a very different situation. [The first puts] one on the defense and the other one, [it’s like] it is what it is and I’m going to run my business the way I want,” Kan explained.

No newbie to the startup scene, Kan has founded four startups that were acquired by Oracle, Microsoft, Infor and Barnes & Noble. She also co-founded WIN, the Women Innovating Now Lab at Babson College to help female entrepreneurs start their businesses. Over the course of her career, Kan has mentored more than 150 female CEOs and business owners. Now, she wants mothers to be able to help one another. They can hire a fellow mother in Pepperlane’s marketplace.

The marketplace offers services in three categories — Run Your Life, Invest In Your Family And Yourself and Advance Your Business. Some of the services, according to Kan, embrace skills that the average employer might not appreciate. “On Pepperlane we see three types of services. Any service for home and family — running errands, tutoring, helping with homework, cooking a meal for a family  — those are the services that employers are not necessarily looking for but there’s a market for that … The other type of service is we have a category for self-care and, the last one, are the moms that came out of the workforce. They have professional skills [like counseling, bookkeeping, web development],” Kan said.

If you’re an entrepreneurial mother looking for new connections, Pepperlane offers Boost meetups. Most Pepperlane Boost meetups take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The next scheduled meet updates include: Oct. 9 in Arlington, Mass, Oct. 23 in Rochester, NY and Oct. 25 in Providence, RI.

To find out more Boost dates and cities, visit pepperlane.co.

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the digital magazine for female entrepreneurs, and the first media outlet solely dedicated to helping women launch and scale high-growth startups. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs at a number of accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences, including The Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco, Calif. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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