Mother Honestly founder Blessing Adesiyan tells SEEN why she started a platform for working moms, how she balances work, her family and a startup, and the best IG accounts for moms to follow.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Featured photo courtesy Ashley Hoffman
Title: Founder of Mother Honestly
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
Current City: Beverly Hills
1. Tell us about your professional background: I studied chemical engineering at the University of Florida where I had the opportunity to work for various Fortune 100 companies, including PepsiCo, Cargill, HP and Microsoft. Upon graduation, I went on to DuPont in Parkersburg, West Virginia where I worked for five years in various roles and completed my master’s in energy management at the New York Institute of Technology. I moved to Houston in 2014 to manage a project on the Gulf Coast for BASF, the largest chemical company in the world. Once that project was completed, I moved to Detroit to lead our automotive coatings sales and operational planning. Concurrently, I am completing my MBA at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. It’s been an amazing career, and I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences ever.
2. Our women’s issue is focused on women innovators, and Mother Honestly is a pretty innovative platform for moms. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea and why?
The idea came during my maternity leave with my second child. I had my first in 2009, so there was a 10-year gap where I was heavily focused on my career. After my second child, I finally enjoyed maternity leave for the first time for four months. During this period, as much I enjoyed my time with my son, and connecting with new moms around breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, and so on, I noticed everything revolved around the child. I wanted to talk about my ambition and aspirations, and I searched for it to no avail. I realized that there was no personal development platform for women in motherhood. It seems like, as a society, once a woman becomes a mother, the child suddenly becomes the center of our world. I wanted to bring the focus back to the mother in and beyond motherhood. So I started the platform Mother Honestly, because as much as I’d love to share a formula for moms, we need to do it honestly. We need to nurture our professional growth in a way that works for our unique situation. If it means staying home to create space for motherhood, or switching to part-time work, or going full throttle as a full-time employee, then that’s what we do. But what we will never stop doing is growing. Every mother needs to lead a healthy, fulfilled and productive life, and that’s the premise at Mother Honestly.
3. What was one of your biggest challenges in getting started and launching Mother Honestly?
I think the biggest challenge was exactly that, getting started. I had a full-time career, and so I had to find people I could trust to get the work done. I brought on my Executive Director Kristen Hall right after our sold-out Mother: The Summit and lots of mothers in the Detroit area to serve on our advisory board. They have been instrumental in growing Mother Honestly.
4. What day did you officially launch?
We officially launched in July 2018, so I think I will just go with July 5, my birthday, but honestly, none of that matters. The foundation for Mother Honestly was laid down years ago when as a girl born in Nigeria, I constantly sought solutions that would improve the lives of girls and women.
5. How many mothers are now members, and do you have a target number you want to reach?
Today, we reach over 40,000 women through our website, podcast and social media. Our goal is to expand across the United States. Right now, we have 100 paid members who have access to our monthly masterclasses, various perks and discounts. It’s a steal at $99 a year — we need to do a better job of advertising that.
6. You hold events, blog, send out email newsletters, produce a podcast and work a full-time job — how do you balance it all while also raising your two young kids?
As mentioned, we really do have a team of women who have made it their mission to make MH work because they believe in it. I still get 8 hours of sleep, sometimes 10. When we first started, there was a lot of pressure to constantly be on social media. Now, I post in the evenings after work and on weekends, and our engagement is at an all-time high. I also prioritize my family above everything else. I was burning out at one point, and I had to have a conversation with myself to practice what I preach. So, I cut back on social media, newsletters and that has been a lifesaver.
7. Your podcast with local moms tackles tough topics like miscarriage, balancing work and kids, and maintaining mental health. Can you share one of your favorite stories from the podcast and a lesson other moms may benefit from?
Our podcast is truly the best podcast out there for working and entrepreneurial mothers who are in the thick of motherhood and are trying to make it work. My favorite episode actually was the one on Anuja Tolia’s journey of infertility. It really left me undone. This was the story of a woman, who in every true sense was not a mother yet, and went through hell to become one shortly after the episode aired. Her journey and how she stayed strong for herself, her husband and her business was truly remarkable. Women are tougher than we give ourselves credit for.
8. For other women who have an idea they want to pursue, but don’t know where to start, do you have any advice?
I think most people are scared that their idea is meaningless, misplaced and some even fear that others will judge them. Start anyway. Every idea is worth pursuing, and I think as women, it is our job to find solutions to our biggest pain points like child care, household chores, incontinence, social injustice and more. Leaving these problems for men to solve doesn’t do it justice. The workplace was designed for men, and how is that working out for us? We need to become problem-solvers in every sense and boldly chase our dreams and bring them to fulfillment. Start by starting, you won’t know what you need to make your dreams come true, until you start!
9. Who’s been a mentor in your career and why?
I have always sought mentors in various places. Women and men alike, both in and out of the workplace. My mentors have always believed in me prior to me approaching them. I cherish respect, and it’s important to me that my mentors respect me as much as I respect them. So, I do the work upfront and show them what I am capable of before approaching them. This way, the relationship is a win-win situation for all. They ask for my perspective when making decisions around their work or business, and I do the same. Prior to seeking mentorship, please ask yourself the real reason why you need a mentor. And find out what qualities you possess that can be useful to your mentor. Don’t walk in with a take-take mentality.
10. What motivates you each day?
I am motivated to remain an exceptional spouse and parent; it’s what drives me. It’s funny because research found that ambitious and educated women shoulder most of the responsibilities at home. We are actually the ones who choose to drop out of the workforce once we realize how demanding motherhood is. So, I have decided to use my family as a reason for why I work. I work because I want my children to see how exceptional I am in my role as a woman, wife and professional. I want my daughter to pursue her life with passion and excitement just as I’ve done, and I want my son to prioritize his wife’s ambition and career the way his father has done. For us, the decision to work isn’t about us, it’s about our children and their children.
11. A book everyone must read?
It’s funny, if you asked me last year, I would suggest a business or personal development book. But, I am really into Marie Kondo’s latest book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It’s true that when your life is in order, everything else falls into place. I’ve always been a neat freak, but life gets the best of us as mothers and suddenly there is a closet where you hide everything, a pantry filled with items you don’t use or need taking up space. I started cleaning out my house and suddenly I am happier, excited to tackle my to-do list and simply get things done.
12. Favorite Instagram accounts to follow and why?
Of course, I love SEEN Magazine to keep up with local love here in Detroit. My personal favorites are @isntthatcharming and @sandraalitv because they share so much goodness of their littles on IG story, and I am a sucker for that. I also follow business accounts such as @forbes which recently featured us on their website, @thefifthtrimester for advice on working mothers postpartum, @thereturnityproject on paid parental leave for women and men and finally ours — @motherhonestly where we inspire and encourage women to live their best lives in motherhood.
On to your style…
13. How would you describe your style? I would go with professional chic. I do tend to carry lots of neutrals in my wardrobe, and I am very basic when it comes to jewelry.
14. You can’t leave home without…? My phone, this is true for everyone!
15. You’re never fully dressed without…? My wedding ring, it’s the only consistent accessory.
Your Local Love List…
16. Go-tos for breakfast, lunch and dinner? For breakfast, I am in love with the avocado toast at Birmingham Roast. Lunch is most definitely MEX on Telegraph — their salad bowls topped with grilled salmon is the best. Dinner is tough, I’d go with 220 Merill. My husband and I enjoy summer evenings on the terrace with a glass of red wine and steak.
17. Your go-to clothing shops? Ferne Boutique and Good Neighbor.
18. On the weekends, where can we find you hanging out? With my family all weekend, with exceptions for speaking engagement and travel.
19. Favorite quote or words to live by? Just do It. It’s a Nike tagline that I adopted when I was a little girl growing up in Nigeria. So many times, we ask ourselves if we are enough, if we are the right messenger, if we can measure up. Just do It. Don’t ever seek permission to do what’s best for you.
20. What’s next for you? I think that we are starting to realize that the mission of Mother Honestly is truly about solving problems in the realms of motherhood. We plan on doing that through our Mother: The Summit 2019 which will take place at the Garden Theater on Oct. 11, 2019 with over 400-plus powerhouse women across the country. We also want to seek solutions to issues that matter most to women in the workplace such as paid parental leave, subsidized child care, equal pay and flexible work, so we are partnering with lots of companies and organizations such as Chemical Bank, Comcast, Build Institute and more to empower female leaders in their role as career professionals and mothers.
Bonus: What’s something people don’t know about you? I love spicy food, and no one in this country has yet to offer me the level of chilli pepper I enjoy. On a recent trip to Australia, my husband and I cooked with the Carolina Reapers. We coughed so hard that we had to get the kids out of our rental home. Turns out the Guinness World Record declared the Carolina Reaper as the hottest chilli pepper in the world — 8,000 times hotter than the ghost chili. We did eat it again the next day, I was hooked.