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An inside look at what it's like to be a startup founder, CEO and mother

Jill Koziol
Posted at 11:26 AM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 14:40:51-04

Jill Koziol does the same routine every morning— a 30-minute self-proclaimed "symphony around the island of the kitchen."

"The goal is that they are fed," Koziol said, referring to her two daughters, Clare and Catherine. "It's that they have the right gear on from the clothing perspective and that they brush their hair at some point."

They get up at 7:20 a.m., they leave the house at 7:50 a.m. and they're at the girls' school by 8 a.m.

"They know they have to get to school on time," Koziol said, "not just to get to school on time, but because mommy has to make a phone call."

Within seconds of kissing the girls goodbye, Koziol jumps on the phone for a daily morning call with her chief of staff. Koziol is the CEO and co-founder of Motherly, which describes itself as a "wellbeing destination empowering mothers to thrive with expert content, innovative product solutions, and supportive community."

In her life, she is a mom, and her work is all about moms.

"I often mentor startup CEOs," she said, "and I was talking to one the other day. She's a brilliant woman in her twenties, and she's not a mother. She's not a mother. She is singularly focused. And it's impossible to be singularly focused, in my opinion, after you become a mother."

Motherly's 2022 State of Motherhood survey reflects as much.

When asked how they feel about combining a career and motherhood, 56% said they felt "frustrated" or "burned-out." By contrast, 36% said they felt "optimistic" or "confident."

Koziol's own experience starting Motherly reflects those challenges.

"Those early days," she recalled, "I woke up before the kids and worked. I then worked during naptime. I had maybe 10 hours a week of child support. Every night, after they went to bed, I was on the computer, trudging away until 11 o'clock at night."

Beyond that, Koziol says she confronted a significant bias against working mothers.

"We were part of an accelerator in Silicon Valley," she said, "and we were the first parents, let alone mothers." Koziol and cofounder Liz Tenety "were two millennial mothers fundraising a concept around mothers. And a lot of the investors we first met with were older white men who, rather than digging into the data and traction we had, would say, 'Let me talk to my wife about this,' or, 'Let me talk to my assistant about this.'"

As Motherly has grown to reach millions of moms a month, Koziol lives much more comfortably. But she still compartmentalizes her time to the minute, splits the parenting duties with her husband, and carves time for her physical health— a necessity since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis months after founding Motherly.

"M.S. doesn't impact my daily life," she said. "But it's changed my priorities and focus. It makes everything crystal clear. You have a moment where you mourn things in the future you didn't know you envisioned. I unapologetically prioritize my health and myself."

For more on Motherly's 2022 State of Motherhood survey, click this link. And for more of Koziol's story, watch our special report, Motherhood in America, at the video below: