Business Owners Tell All: Business Lessons I Learned From My Mom

Sarah Hodgson

It’s hard to imagine some of the most successful entrepreneurs as they once were: wide-eyed children, dependent on their parents for guidance and protection. How did they get where they are today? Who molded them into the savvy, independent industry experts they’ve become? Behind many successful entrepreneurs is a mother who encouraged, taught and loved unconditionally.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, we asked business owners to dig deep and share the lessons from their moms that drove them to success. Below, we’ve compiled our favorite bits of wisdom that show just how far a mother’s love and teachings can take you both personally and professionally.


Nick Gray, Founder & Chairman of Museum Hack

My mother certainly has been a huge help in my journey as an entrepreneur. I hope it’s not cliche, but, she taught me strong financial principles. My mother used to work as a financial planner. So, from my earliest days as an entrepreneur, she instilled within me a requirement for always balancing my checkbooks, saving money, spending less than I made, etc. As Museum Hack has grown and worked with more and more B2B clients and large corporations, she’s helped me learn about invoicing best practices too.

Some of the best things I’ve learned from my mother as a business owner are: always paying off my credit cards and never carrying debt, being diligent about our company insurance and tax payments, and the value of forecasting and projections in order to help us with cash planning. Following her advice has helped take years off of the learning curve and assisted Museum Hack in the transition from scrappy startup to stable company.


Evan Roberts, Real Estate Agent with Dependable Homebuyers, Baltimore

The most important lesson I learned from my mother was to treat every person like a future client. Working in a referral based business means that your most important marketing material is yourself and the impression people have of you. She emphasized that it is a small world and you never know who knows who. Her motherly wisdom has influenced me to approach everyperson in my day-to-day life as through they are a future client because there’s no telling when in the future they may consider hiring you for your services.


Craig Wolfe, President of CelebriDucks


Mom gave me two great pieces of business advice and I have never wavered from it. I borrowed $500 from two people and eventually became the largest publisher of artwork from television commercials creating the first ever animation art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Bush, M&M/Mars, etc. I paid these folks back within a year.

Then I sold it all off to create a whole new art form of celebrity rubber ducks of the greatest icons of film, music history, and athletics.

So what was her great advice? Don’t take on debt and pay off everything. And second, keep 100% control.

I know in today’s world it’s fashionable to leverage yourself and your business to the hilt, but I never took that route. I didn’t spend money foolishly. Forget all the fancy smanshy offices and shiny new expensive computers and other high tech toys. Lean and mean is the way to go until you have established success…and even after! I built up everything I did working out of a home office….still to this day love working at home! As I always tell people, it’s not how much money you make…it’s how much you keep!

And you know, I never did give away any equity in the business. You could live to regret it if you get in bed with the wrong folks. 100% ownership is highly underrated!

And because I adhered to her two principles, no-one could stop me as I recently took another big step addressing the importance of bringing jobs and industries back to America. I got so tired of seeing the whole country outsourced. We just launched the new Made in the U.S. ducks this past year. Imagine a rubber duck being made in America again where the rubber duckie was actually invented! We’re now doing them for everyone from Harley-Davidson to The Future Farmers of America!


Ed Vargo, Founder of Burning River Advisory Group

My mom is a first-generation immigrant from South Korea. She met my father while he was stationed in SK during the Vietnam War, where they married, and my older brother was born. She grew up in a patriarchal society and didn’t have much of a formal education. Truth is she had a hard life, one of having to overcome one obstacle after another, some horrendous in nature.

Unfortunately, her challenges didn’t remain in Korea. No emotional or social support system, never learning to read or write English, and a lack of economic mobility were just a few of the challenges she faced. So how does this pertain to my business, what “lessons” have I learned?

It’s meant everything.

Looking at all of the things my mother has had to overcome, my business issues pale in comparison. So often the things we get upset about or derail us are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Without saying a word, my mom has “taught” me to broaden my perspective beyond my own backyard and evaluate from a much larger context.. This has been crucial for keeping my emotions in check and becoming a better decision maker. This may sound simplistic but it’s awfully difficult to be a consistently good decision maker.

It’s also been a valuable tool for teaching others the importance of perspective and how to persevere through seemingly “difficult” times. As a personal financial advisor, helping clients maintain proper perspective – keeping their emotions in check while the sky is falling – is often the difference between success and failure.

Finally, this life lesson has been crucial to me as a father and I pass down “grandma’s” teachings to my five teenage daughters. I can think of nothing more important than that.


Linda Ugelow, Visibility and Confidence Coach

Mom used to take me to dance lessons and as I would enter the room, she urged me to go to the front. “You’ll see better there and also be more noticed by the teacher”, she told me. I find that I still think about this advice. When I take a front seat at an event, for instance, I am more engaged, more connected and more apt to be noticed. At the very least, I will often take the time to go up to the front afterward and make a personal connection with the presenter.

I always found it annoying that my mom was so preoccupied with my appearance. When I came to visit her first words were “you didn’t brush your hair today?” “What’s that blemish on your face?” or “You look nice until you get down to the shoes”. Although I resented this greeting, I have found that it has served me well as an entrepreneur to be aware of the first impressions I make and as I coach others to be comfortable on camera.

When mom got dementia and encountered her foibles, she’d laugh at herself and say “My father used to say, ‘if you have your health, you have everything’. This phrase was repeated constantly. I loved hearing this over and over, because, as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to forget what really counts in life. It’s important to be grateful and celebrate the wins and know that mistakes happen and will get worked out someway. The best line, though, came later when her memory for even that faded further away. She started “My father used to say… what did he say? Oh yes, ‘you have everything!”



John Mansour, Co-Founder of B4

My mom’s constant advice to me was always, ‘Why not?’ and ‘You can do it!’ Since I was young, she helped me believe that anything was possible, no matter what it was. Do I want to run Google? Can I be the president of the United States? To which my mom would say, ‘Why not? You can do it!’ She would say, ‘We all have talents and abilities, just be the best at yours and anything is possible.’ That has really stuck with and allowed me to live by that motto every day. My wife tells me all the time that I don’t think about what cannot or will not happen, I just think about how I can make it happen. With no limitations in my mind, I have been able to do things in my life that would not have happened otherwise. I look at things and think, ‘How can I figure this out?’, instead of, ‘This is not going to work.’ I would not be where I am today without that level of confidence and belief in myself. Love you, mom!


Jeremy Ryan Slate, Co-Founder and CEO of Command Your Brand Media

I learned perseverance from my mother. In 2013, my mom had a debilitating stroke that took her language skills, and the use of the left side of her body. My mom is a fighter, after spending a month in a coma, she worked really hard for 6 months, to get back her ability to walk. I’ve run into a lot of difficulties in my entrepreneurial journey, but thinking of mom got me through 2017. It’s been well worth it, as we have achieved more this year than all of last year and the sky is the limit.


Jeet Banerjee, Entrepreneur & TEDx Speaker

The biggest business lesson I learned from my mother at a young age was the art of negotiation. I never realized it growing up, but everything was really a sales process. When I didn’t want to eat vegetables, she couldn’t force me to eat it. Instead, she had to find a creative way to negotiate with me and market the idea of vegetables to me. She would tell me how it would make me stronger and allow me to become a basketball player (my childhood dream), but how I’d be weak if I didn’t eat my vegetables. Not only that, but she would always find ways to make sure I made right decisions throughout my life by ‘branding’ these ideas in my head instead of just forcing me to do them. Negotiation is a skill that my mother had and it’s something extremely valuable in business as well.


Elizabeth Urenda, Founder of Talent Moxie

My Mom taught me to stand firm in my beliefs. In business I often stand boldly apart from others because I’m using my best judgement. I’m rarely on the fence about anything. My Mom taught me that failing in the face of my best judgement is better than following others just to be supportive. Because of her advice I think I’ve grown much faster in my ability to manage my clients in ways that help them best. And I don’t mind being wrong sometimes, I love the learning aspect of being wrong.


Hailey Dale, Founder of Your Content Empire

My incredible mother can always see the opportunity in what most people would say is a hopeless situation. This opportunity optimism has been my biggest asset in growing my business and I definitely have my mom to thank for it! For example, when a business peer and I came up with practically identical ideas for a large online Summit, many would be tempted to throw in the towel on the idea, Inspired by my mother, it became an opportunity to collaborate, join forces and make the event an even bigger success than either of us could have done alone.


Levi Sanchez, Co-Founder of Millenial Wealth

My mom is an entrepreneur in the historically dominated agriculture industry. She taught me many things about life and business, however, two key attributes really stand out. 1. Even when the odds are stacked against you, hard work and persistence pay off. She was a young woman when starting her career in the agricultural business and it wasn’t easy gaining the trust and confidence of her male clients, yet she succeeded and now is part owner of a large fruit company in Washington State. 2. Connect with people and build real relationships. She’s a master at this, and seems to always be at the center of the room. Her personality lends to this, but she’s not afraid to branch out and meet new people. This has not only helped build lifelong friendships but relationships that extend into business as well.


successful woman in businessDeborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation

I’ve learned so many lessons, professionally and personally, from my mom! She has taught me how to be patient (admittedly, she’s better at this than I am), how to work hard and keep pushing towards your dreams, and how to stay focused. She has provided guidance in helping me learn how to be present with my own family (I am married with two sons) and how to make your schedule work for you and your family. She also taught me the importance of camaraderie at work. Many of her closest friends today are her work colleagues. I imagine, as I get older, this will be the case for me too!


Want to give your mom the shout-out she deserves? We would love to hear from you. Leave a little anecdote in the comments below!

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