Bringing up baby, startup style
By Jennifer L. Jacobson, VP of Communications & Public Relations at Plug and Play Tech Center
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer isn’t the only “lady with a baby” in the Silicon Valley these days. Startup Camp graduate and Bonica Co-Founder Julia Carolina pitched onstage, recently, at Plug and Play Tech Center’s Fall EXPO to over 500 people… while 7 months pregnant!
When most women would be considering maternity leave, Julia is moving at the speed of Silicon Valley. Today, Julia Carolina is at DEMO showcasing her startup Bonica, a shopping recommendation service for new parents, which she co-founded with her husband, Hans Teja.
Q. Julia, how would you describe your role at Bonica?
I’m the Chief Mommy Officer – the mom behind the startup. I have a 17-month-old daughter and I am expecting my second child very soon.
Q. Where did the idea for Bonica come from?
When I had my daughter, I had a lot of trouble with knowing what I needed to buy for her, especially when it came to clothes. That’s why my husband and I thought, we’d come up with a web tool for parents, to help them know what, and how much, to buy. Today you can give Bonica basic details about your baby and we’ll recommend exactly what you’d need.
Q. Tell us how you manage startup life and being a parent?
Our daughter is currently in daycare. Of course, I would love to be the mom who works from home while watching her daughter but at 17 months, she’s running around and there’s no way I could get any work done. For the moms who can do that, I say, wow. I don’t know how they do it.
Q. You named your daughter (and later your startup) Bonica. How did you choose that name?
It all started one day when my husband and I were making fun of people who name their kids strange things. These days parents come up with really interesting names for their kids and my husband and I knew we had competition. Since we both like the sitcom Friends, we decided to play with each of the character’s names and replace the first letter of each name with the letters of the alphabet until we got something that sounded nice.
We changed Pheobe to Bheobe and that sounded weird. Rachel became Brachel, and so on. When we got to Monica, that became Bonica and at that point we were like, “hey, that sounds pretty good.”
Later we were relieved that it means something good – Bonica actually means “beautiful” in Catalan.
Q. What are your earliest memories of entrepreneurship?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, since I was very young. I’m an only child and my parents are very supportive. They are both business people, and growing up I saw them as entrepreneurs and I knew early on that that was the kind of lifestyle I wanted. They have a clothes manufacturing facility, so I grew up seeing them do business together. I think that also influenced me and my husband working together. But, sometimes it’s also hard to work with someone you’re so close to – there are times when you just want to say, “can’t you go and get another job somewhere else?”
Q. When you became an entrepreneur, were there any surprises?
Being an entrepreneur is much harder than I thought actually. Initially, I thought startup life would be easy, but I soon realized when you become an entrepreneur, your whole life is taken over by the business. At least when you work you have the weekend. As an entrepreneur, you have to be very disciplined and you have to use it to balance your life, otherwise it will be just, endless work. Sometimes you have to stop and say, okay, this weekend is for family only.
Q. You and your husband came to Silicon Valley from New Haven. What has the experience been like?
It has been a really great experience. We came here with an initial idea and we had to pivot many times as we get to know our users and what they needed. It’s been a very humbling and good experience for us.
Q. What is your advice for would-be entrepreneurs? Especially momtrepreneurs?
There is nothing to loose if you are really passionate about what you want to do, just go for it because we only have this one life.
Sometimes you think that, you’re going to make it big right away and then you step back and realize how many obstacles there are and how you need to change your model. Don’t think about profits – think about how what you’re making is going to be useful to people.
I think entrepreneurship is more than just failure and success. It’s really the entire process. You get to enjoy and learn so much about yourself. It’s a discovery experience and I think if moms want to do this they should really go for it.
That said, be prepared incase it doesn’t work. Always have a backup plan.
Q. Do you hope someday that your daughter will become an entrepreneur?
I think it will be up to her, but of course, if she has an entrepreneurial flare, we’ll support her all the way, just as my parents encouraged and supported me.