as told by Butterfly Co-Founder Bradi Nathan
BN: What did you do before you had kids?
|Truth be told- I hate the cold. Perhaps its poor circulation but even as a write this I notice my fingers are cool to the touch. My thermostat reads 71 degrees by the way. Sometimes I fantasize about moving to the West Coast. Although, I know that Id never have the guts to uproot my family for the sake of warmer extremities. Valerie DeLong was lucky enough to survive the transition from east to west at the request from her former employer, Universal Music Group. It wasnt until they asked her to move back that she resisted the notion of again, uprooting her family. Former SVP Promotion at Universal/Motown Records and mother of two, Valerie happily resides in LA. With the decision made based on quality of life, Val went on to launch Moxy Entertainment, a full service music company. In an exclusive interview with Butterfly, Valerie share her journey from employee to employer:
VDL: I was the Senior Vice President of Crossover Radio promotion for Universal/Motown Records Group based in Los Angeles.
BN: How did your workday change once you became a mother?
VDL: I began my day at 5:30 a.m., showering and dressing so that I was ready before my children rose. I wanted that precious 1 of time each morning before I went to work to be focused and dedicated to their needs, so I made sure everything I needed to accomplished was done by 7 a.m. I was fortunate to be working for an east coast based company therefore, my day ended slightly earlier than most so I was able to be home by 5pm or so. If I had an event that evening, I sacrificed sleep rather than time with my family.
BN: What emotions did you wrestle with in returning to work after your children were born?
VDL: As with any working mother I struggled between my dedication to my family and to my career that I had spent 20+ years building. I worked overtime and in overdrive to make sure no one received the short end of the stick. I was convinced that I was juggling everything beautifully, but at the end of the day as I super served everyone in my family I had no time left for myself. I had also convinced myself that I wasnt missing anything in my childs life, I was super mom, but in reality my time away was a void in their lives.
BN: Any advice you have for moms who are returning to work after maternity leave?
VDL:Realize that you need to devise a plan to carve out productive time for your family, yourself and maintain a productive and fulfilling career. Be extremely organized and you can accomplish your 8 hour work day in 5 if you are focused and determined. Make sure you leave time for yourself and nurture your marriage, a happy mother and wife usually means a happy home.
BN:Was it difficult for you and your family to move across the country at the request of your company?
VDL: When I made the move from New York to Los Angeles it was pre-kids so that part was easy. The difficulty arose when my company requested that I move from LA back to NY once I had my two children. It was a flattering offer, but it also meant being an absent mother and wife to my family. I knew what was in store for a working mom in Manhattan in a high position within a corporation such as Universal Music Group.
BN: How did you children react to such a big life change?
VDL: Our life change applied when I refused to uproot my family to move to NY.
BN: Why did you make the decision to stay in California versus a return to NY as your former employer requested?
VDL: As stated before I knew exactly what was in store for me if I took the position in NY. It meant 12 hour work days, unlimited stress, manipulation of my nights and weekends, plus 25+ people to directly manage. I knew it was time to prioritize my family over a business that is struggling to maintain in these digital times.
BN:How difficult was it to make the decision to say no?
VDL:It was a very difficult to say no and walk away from not only my corporate career but risk the chance of never getting back in. I had spent my entire adult life working for a major record label, so it was everything I had grown accustomed to.
BN: Was it always a goal or dream of yours to start a company of your own?
VDL: It only become my goal when I had no other choice. I still had a passion for the business and I knew conclusively that I did not want to be a stay at home mom.
BN: Were there any skills learned in corporate that made the transition easier for you?
VDL: I used every ounce of management skills I had learned and applied them to my business model. I had fortunately assisted two CEOs in starting ground floor records labels, one for EMI and another for Time Warner. That experience was invaluable as I pursued a niche business in a shrinking industry. My greatest asset became the relationships I had built inside the labels and most importantly with the clients within each facet of the industry.
BN: How did your former employer react when you turned down the offer to move?
VDL: At first they did not comprehend that I had actually said no and continued to ask me to reconsider. It was only after my lawyer began my exit negotiation that reality sunk in for both parties involved.
BN: How do you balance your business and your family?
VDL: It is actually harder to balance things now then when I was working full time. I had a full support staff while working for the corporation and now I have limited assistance and I work from home. I still rise at 5:30 and go to bed later than I did before! I make sure I am available for volunteering, school and sports events and find myself working late into the night now.
BN: When is the best time for you to work?
VDL: The best time to focus and be productive is while the children are at school and after they go to bed and the house is quiet.
BN: What have you gained from being your own boss? What are the disadvantages?
VDL: I have always been my own boss as I put more pressure on myself than anyone else ever could apply. I am extremely self-motivated and driven therefore for me, its a lifestyle. I also was given autonomy when working for corporations as my bosses knew my personality and was confident in my ability and vision.
BN: Do you have advice for women who are looking to go out on their own?
VDL: Yes, make sure you have a solid foundation for your idea and that you are as confident as you can be through research that there is a need for your services. Keep things lean and keep overhead to a minimum, luxuries come with financial success. Also, be certain that your home is structured in a fashion that allows for you to have a dedicated and quite space for you to work. Be prepared to work harder than you every have before, there is no mailroom, assistant, accountant, tech guy that will be there at your beckon call its all you.
BN: What resources can you offer women who are looking to set up their own business?
VDL: I would devise an exit strategy of several months that allows you to set up your business while still employed. Work at nights and on weekends to open your corporation and secure accounts so that you are up and running day one. Network with everyone you know and have your client base and projects forecasted for at least 3 months.
BN: Who has inspired you on your journey?
VDL: Everyone that I have worked with in the past has inspired me or has taught me a lesson through my corporate journey. My family has inspired me and reassured me daily that I made the right decision to leave my corporate job. My inspiration comes from the fact that I walked away with wonderful relationships with my former employers and now can work with each and every one of them on their most passionate projects.
BN: Additional thoughts?
VDL: I am a working woman to the core and will always have that aspect to my personality, but now I have a life. I have a new found passion for a career that not long ago had burnt me out. I super serve my clients with calmness and an effective resolve that I would have never found during the madness of corporate life. You can place family before work without sacrificing either. Fulfill your need to work, but do so without missing all of those special moments that being your own boss can provide.
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