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What Raising Kids Taught 9 Entrepreneur Dads About Work-Life Balance

What Raising Kids Taught 9 Entrepreneur Dads About Work-Life Balance

My father spent 40 years in the Air Force, but underneath the crew cut and the crisp uniform was a goofball, a wayward beard, a creative soul. He didn’t get to pursue his artist dreams. His was a path chosen out of necessity, and the sacrifice opened every door for me.

While I ignored most of my parents’ rules and advice, one thing he said stuck with me always: “Do what you love, dudette.”

For other dads, the entrepreneur-types, that same lesson is passing down to the next generation by example.

We celebrated Mother’s Day this year by rounding up some of the kick-ass women who juggle family life and small businesses with their eyes closed. It’s Dad’s turn to bask in the spotlight.

Few households today resemble the midcentury "American Dream": picket-fence, working dad, stay-home mom. Traditional roles are blurred, reversed, shared, or shouldered by one parent. And sometimes work life and family life are one and the same.

We found nine fathers pulling double-duty as Shopify merchants, running their own business with one hand while wrangling rugrats with the other.

Meet the dads of Shopify.

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1. Jake

Founder of RecycledFirefighter, Former Firefighter, Dad

entrepreneur dad

RecycledFirefighter materialized during idle time at Jake’s job at the fire house, as a means to supplement income to support his family. He meticulously perfected his product – accessories made from recycled fire hose – and grew it into a profitable family business.

“When my son was first born, I would put him in his baby swing in my sewing room and sew wallets in between bottle feedings. It was a juggling act for sure! Was I being the perfect dad? Probably not. But I was doing two very important things in my life, and trying to do them well.” 

Find out how Jake turned RecycledFirefighter into a six-figure business using Instagram. Listen to the podcast.

How does being a dad drive your business?

“Being a dad constantly refocuses my goals for RecycledFirefighter. Like most ambitions in life, it's good to reevaluate regularly to make sure you are staying true to them. I didn't set out to make millions of dollars. My goal for RecycledFirefighter has been and always will be a means to provide for my family while giving me time to be an involved father.”

What’s the secret to work-life balance?

“If I take time off to help my wife with the kids, or go on date nights each week, it makes things go so much smoother when I have to work some extra hours to make sure the business is running properly.”

Fave business resources?

eCommerceFuel, Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Workweek, and Ethercycle. Ethercycle set up several automated sequences that ended up paying for their services within 30 days, and continue to generate 10-20% of our monthly revenue.”

2. Rafael

Founder & CEO of Loog Guitars, Speaker, Rock Star, Designer, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Rafael is “a little bit business and a little bit rock and roll”, but he’s all dad. He developed Loog as part of his Master’s thesis and launched the business as a Kickstarter campaign.

“I make guitars for children, so I actually get to test my products with my kids. They like coming to the office, because it's full of musical instruments and fun stuff.”

How does being a dad impact your business?

“I used to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings: I’d go to a nearby cafe with my laptop and they were probably the most productive sessions of the week. Now that I'm a dad, I don't do that any more, so I guess you can say my productivity has suffered a bit. On the other hand, having kids really gives you that sense of purpose and an energy boost when things are hard.”

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

“Do it! But know that it's a long, winding road to stability and whatever you do, don't work from home.”

What’s the secret to work-life balance?

“Realize that a perfect balance is really impossible to achieve and just be cool with that. Once you have kids, you realize that there are things that are more important than achieving a sales goal or making a deadline.”

Fave business resource?

“My iPhone, Dropbox, and Shopify.”

Whatever you do, don't work from home!

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3. Cody

Founder of The Bad Dad’s Club, Shopify Plus & VIP Dot Connector, Doer, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Cody built Bad Dad’s Club only after joining Shopify full-time, but has worked in the fashion industry for more than 15 years.

“All of the brands that I grew up on started to feel stale (and look pretty terrible) after multiple spit ups and diaper changes. I wanted to wear something that appealed to my dad friends and me.”

How does being a dad drive your business?

“Every morning I get to open my eyes is a new day where I can impact the future of my family. Having others that count on me is the fuel that drives my passion for my businesses.”

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

“Family is always first. It’s hard to close your computer or phone after you get home from your career and it’s time to start job number two. You have to set a rule and a time when you shut down your hustle life and open up #dadlife. One rule in our home: no electronics in the bedrooms or at the dinner table.”

What’s the secret to work/life balance?

Always ask your boss (your wife) permission before doing anything. (Also, Rick Ross or Gucci Mane played at maximum volume usually helps.)”

Fave business resources?

Slack, Madden 16, my wife and daughter, Serato DJ, Postmates, Spotify, Task Rabbit, Calm, Sesame Street on the iPad (for baby distraction)

One rule in our home: no electronics in the bedrooms or at the dinner table.

4. Eric

Founder of ZonaCerveza, Corporate Real Estate Executive, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Eric found it challenging to access a good variety of craft beer brands in his hometown of Mexico City. His love for beer drove him to start a business on Shopify.

How does being a dad drive your business?

I will be able to tell my children the pros and cons of corporate jobs versus owning a business. Also, if I'm successful in this adventure, I'll be happy to leave something for my children.

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

“My advice is to take risks. Eduard Punset, one of the most famous intellects in Spain once said, ‘Happiness is the absence of fear.’ Also, surround yourself with good people who are experts in what you're selling.”

How do you find work/life balance?

“My new business is the fresh air in my day – it helps me forget the competitiveness of my corporate job. By the time I get home I can totally disconnect and spend quality time with my wife and son.”

Editor's Note: Eric is no longer running ZonaCerveza, but we've kept his story here for inspiration.

5. Merek

Founder of Mextures, App Developer, Photographer, Dad

5. Merek

A photographer by trade, Merek also sells his Photoshop textures on Shopify, and developed a photo editing app called Mextures. He's the newest dad in the group, balancing all of his creative pursuits while learning how to dad.

“My focus instantly changed from figuring out how to help photographers to looking for ways to help out my fellow dads with the everyday.”

How does being a dad change the way you think about your business?

"When you see your baby for the first time, something unlocks. I started rethinking my time structure, and while I was up with him at nights, would brainstorm different ideas. You really learn how to manage your time so much better."

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

"If you truly and sincerely believe that your idea or product can help others while helping improve the quality of life for your family, absolutely run for it. Running a business feels similar to running a family and vice versa – there are schedules, employees who are just absolutely fussy some days, extended lunch breaks, compromises, and much more."

What’s the secret to work/life balance?

“My wife recently quit her job after we had our first child, and I completely supported that decision. As a result, my time at work is so incredibly hyper-focused so I can work the best that I can. And when I get home, I'm home and have left my work where it should be – at work.”

Fave business resource?

“Having a to-do list helps me make the most of my time. Lately, I’ve been using an app called Plan and I highly recommend it.” 

6. Allan

Founder of Ocean View Woodworking, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Now that his son has grown up, Allan runs his business to keep himself busy. He’s handcrafting and selling sustainable wood cutting boards on his Shopify store, but still has time to embarrass his offspring:

“I read a lot of the Shopify blog posts and they really helped me get my social media off the ground. I remember James emailed saying, ‘K. Dad why are you on Instagram?’”

How does being a dad impact your business?

“My wife and I worked our butts off to put our son through school. Now we find ourselves in the position to see a little ‘return on investment’. My son and I talk about what tweaks I can make to my business (putting that degree to use, ya know?). Recently, he gave me the idea to reach out to my existing customers for testimonials. I’m old school, so I thought that might be ‘rude’ or ‘salesy’, but he helped me craft a nice message and it was really great to see people say nice things about my stuff.”

Do you have work/life balance?

“Confession: I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I had to pull myself from making boards for my markets this week to write to you, so I think any work/life issues might be self-inflicted. The most stressful part of my day is deciding on which beach to walk our dog Alfie.”

Fave business resource?

“I love doing research. I’m always on the net trying to find new ideas, products, and processes. My wife is my “Chief Opinion Officer” and has a lot of feedback on my aesthetic choices. My son is my sounding board and gives me a lot of great advice.”

My son and I talk about what tweaks I can make to my business. He gave me the idea to reach out to my existing customers for testimonials.

7. Tarik

Founder of TY Fine Furniture, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Tarik started building furniture 13 years ago while he was still in college. After graduating, his business was already in full swing, taking up 40 hours a week on top of a full time job. He was getting burned out, and his family became the catalyst for focusing on what he loved.

How does being a dad drive your business?

“When we had our first child, I took 3 months of paternity leave and spent the time bonding with my growing family and building the business. When my leave ended, I went back to work and quickly realized that I didn't have any time left over for my family. Fatherhood taught me that life is too short to do things you don't enjoy.”

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

“The start is the hardest part – keep your job and, if you can, cut back on work hours. Give yourself a reasonable chance to spend time on your passion and succeed, but moonlight until the numbers make sense.”

How do you achieve work/life balance?

“Early on, my wife drew a line in the sand and said she wanted me home by 6 every night. Having her set that boundary made a huge difference. We both shifted our work week to match my showroom hours, so I work Tuesday-Saturdays now. I finally decided Sundays were not worth the personal sacrifice, so my customers will just have to wait and understand.”

Fave business resources?

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, Shopify, GoDaddy Bookkeeping.

Fatherhood taught me that life is too short to do things you don't enjoy.

8. Zach

Founder of Shakoolie, Dad

entrepreneur dad

When Zach started Shakoolie – a beer holder for your shower – he and his partner had no experience in commerce. He learned to be agile to handle bumps along the way – a skill that’s served him well as a parent.

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

"Learn how to budget your time – look at your calendar each week and set your goals for business and family. Block time in your calendar for particular tasks that help you achieve those goals and honor those time blocks."

How do you manage work/life balance?

"In our case, sales are seasonal. The holiday season is our crazy time and summers tend to be a little more calm. The secret is trying to anticipate those swings appropriately and dividing up work where possible."

Fave business resource?

“Some of my favorite books are: Creativity Inc., The Design of Everyday Things, and High Output Management.”

9. Barcus

Founder of Thrice, Dad

entrepreneur dad

Thrice beard products were created out of Barcus’ own struggle with dry skin and beard hair. He built the site by teaching himself everything and “bootstrapping to the extreme”. Barcus says he’s learned everything he knows about content from his 9-year-old son:

“He wants to show people things, and more importantly, teach them. He’s not selling anything, he’s not trying to make money. People can read between the lines if you’re just wanting to sell them something. You come across as fake and insincere. Watching and talking to my son was an ah-ha moment for me.”

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneur dads?

"Figure out why you want to do this because it’s hard. Really hard. If you’re looking to simply get rich, don’t even attempt it. There’s no get rich quick businesses out there. You’ll end up wasting your family’s money and, more importantly, time."

Do you have work/life balance?

"I don’t think any parent is happy with their work/life balance honestly. We all start off wanting more time for our families, but the beginning is always the most time consuming. The flexibility (of entrepreneurship) is what I’m in love with."

Fave business resources?

Gary Vaynerchuck, The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and my mentor and one of my best friends, Anthony Lee. My wife is my secret weapon.”

Watching and talking to my son was an ah-ha moment for me.

Love this post? Read: 10 Businesses Run by Badass Multitasking Super Moms

And my own dad’s story? It’s a happy ending. He’s found his creative outlet now, tinkering his way through metal and wood projects in his basement workshop – a space he’s named, “Shop of I” (for his name, Ian), a play on "Shopify". 😂

entrepreneur dad

It seems he’s still teaching me things: you’re never too old to follow your dream, and dad jokes get better with age.

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