How I met my co-founder, Debbie, who happens to be my mother..
First of all, it feels so strange to call my mother by her first name. It doesn’t matter how old I get, I still feel that “oh shit” moment when I call her by a name other than “mom.” That was a struggle being raised in a household where we were taught to call everyone by Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so. As a business owner, I feel like whenever I refer to her as “my co-founder Debbie,” she might snap back into the “mother” role real quick, reach through the phone, and smack some sense into her daughter.
So you’re probably wondering — How in the world did I go from “mama” as my first word on this Earth, to “mommy” as a child to “mom” as teenager-thinking-I’m-grown, to now “Debbie.”
Well, I’ll try my best to summarize the transition, but I’m still trying to understand it myself.
Last year, my mom called me with an epiphany as I was applying to jobs for post-Yale MBA graduation. She said,
“These menopausal hot flashes are crippling. I know you can’t relate, but my physician said they can last over 10 years! I’m tired of suffering in silence. I bought all these products on the market, most of them are obnoxious and just not practical- like a sticking a cooling rag or pearls in the freezer to then put around my neck.
What do I look like? Women deserve better, we need a discrete solution that I can wear on my body and just press a button to feel instant cooling relief. Something that will take me from the boardroom, to the courtroom, ballroom, bathroom and beyond!”
That conversation led to the inception of ThermaBand™- a smart wearable device that provides a personal thermostat for women and their families.
There is so much irony in the fact that Mother’s Day marks 9 months since we started our venture..
The same nine months it took my mother to nurture me in her belly, is the same nine months it took us to nurture this idea together. The strength others told me she had while nurturing me and enduring the pain of childbearing only pales in comparison to the strength I’ve seen in her enduring this entrepreneur journey as my co-founder, mother, best friend and confidant. I’ve been amazed at how much the same strength and resilience I admired growing up as she raised 4 children has translated so seamlessly into our business.
The same “I wish you would” tone she used with me during my rough teenage years, is the same unapologetic tone she’s used when men have outwardly questioned our intellect, business plan, and the trajectory of our company.
For that particular instance, this male engineer clearly didn’t know who my mother was, and I cringed as he continued to boldly proclaim that we aren’t solving the “right problem” and “he can think of so many other ways to solve it better.” I cringed not because I was affected by what he said, but because I was staring at my mother’s reaction through the Zoom camera. I knew she had reached another level of anger when she responded with some THICK Jamaican Patios, and quickly put this man in his place- starting with “With all due respect….” and ended with “Yuh Mad?!”. The engineer’s face turned bright red, and he quickly gathered the words to say “Well, that’s enough for today, we’ll keep in touch.” *Leaves Meeting*
The mother-daughter relationship is so complex, and it’s hard to articulate how we’ve navigated this transition from mother/daughter, to best friend, and now to business owners.
As a co-founder, I’m able to appreciate Debbie in so many other ways that I didn’t truly appreciate as her daughter. I’ve admired how much she intertwines God not only in her personal life, but our business as well. Her instinct when we’re faced with challenges (and sometimes seemingly petty conflicts between us) is for us to pray, and lean on God instead of our own understanding. We’ve embedded prayer as a norm in our business, and are excited to continue this culture as we build our team.
I’ve grown a greater admiration for the many hats she wears- as mother, wife, daughter, sister, leader, community activist and more. As we progress in our business, I’m continually reminded of the power in being in the trenches and daily grind with someone who has complementary skills and energy, and who knows my soul.
Reflecting and writing has helped us understand each other’s feelings and emotions. It’s allowed us to create a healthy dialogue in reflecting on our highs and lows. We’ve decided to share our journey with you all in the hopes that it’s encouraging and uplifting.
Stay tuned for more on how we’ve been able to separate business from personal, navigate conflict and maintain mutual respect and a special friendship in our quest to build a legacy and change the world.
Co-Founder of ThermaBand