On acting on your passions and forgiving yourself as an early stage builder and founder
“There are no big mistakes in being an entrepreneur and founding a startup - as long as you keep moving.”
Sara Romano is the founder of Just Parent, a companion for parents and caregivers that provides them with “personalized, evidence-based, step-by-step guidance to curb normal but frustrating behavior.” Once a cognitive and behavioral psychology major and mentor of teen girls with anxiety, Sara decided to leave her corporate job in New York to create a product that could help parents, like herself, teach children to communicate and regulate their emotions effectively. We spoke with Sara about deciding to become an entrepreneur, and being kind to yourself when there’s always more to do.
In conversation with Sara Romano
How did you get into entrepreneurship and land on your idea for Just Parent?
“I worked in corporate America as a financial services recruiter. I remember one project specifically where I was only given a piece of the puzzle to solve, and that was unfulfilling to me. I realized that I like to take a top down perspective, to be able to see everything. That’s when I first got the tip off that the typical corporate work environment maybe wasn’t the best for me.
Then, I went through some life changes: I got engaged and moved away from New York City.
I stayed at my old company for about six months and then my fiancé (now husband) was starting his own company. He really got me thinking about what I myself could do. In the middle of wedding planning (being super Type A), I started thinking about what parenthood would be like, and how I could prepare better for that.
That exploration shaped what Just Parent is today.
So it was a new chapter in life, realizing that I wanted to build something, as well as coming across a really good idea and something that I was really passionate about.”
Do you see entrepreneurship differently today than you did at Just Parent’s inception?
As a first time entrepreneur there are so many things that you can think about. There are different end goals that are really exciting. I dove in thinking that things would go a lot quicker than they have. I’m learning to appreciate and accept that processes take a long time — and not only to accept it, but to be happy about it. - Sara Romano
“A lot of the things that I took for granted are sometimes hard to learn. Even just how to approach a conversation, like, ‘are they a potential investor?’ ‘Are they an advisor? What are you asking from people? How do you ask it?’
Learning that song and dance, and being able to state where you are, and how to be thoughtful about what your asks are, and how to interact with people, are also things that I’ve learned a lot about. But it’s still an ongoing process.”
How has Just Parent changed?
“We have moved closer to identifying what our audience wants and matching that up with what they need clinically. I think creating something that works in both capacities — has been the challenging part.
You can print the data, you can say ‘here’s a miss in the market,’ ‘there’s overspending,’ but actually creating a product that fits that need has been the biggest challenge. It’s something that we’re constantly working on.
Have you reached any growth milestones?
“We recently decided to focus our efforts on a direct to consumer push. So we’ve been doing a ton of customer discovery and have an awesome marketing partner who’s helping me interact with these families, moms specifically.
We’ve learned a lot about the language and the sentiment behind what it is that they’re experiencing, and we’re making a concerted effort to redo our branding to build brand awareness. Once we start to get a little traction on that branding side we’re excited to move towards building the product.
What strategies have you used to grow your business?
All of the strategies that we have been using have underlined exactly what our audience will look like. We’re doing customer discovery surveys — as in Google forms online, as well as face to face. So, really digging in to exactly what it is that people want and listening to them.
We’re ultimately providing an automated therapeutic technique, but parents don’t want to hear that. Parents want to hear that you're giving them more time, and that you're taking away the worry that they’re going to mess up their kids. I think the biggest lesson there is to listen to your customers as much as you can.”
What strategies have you learned are necessary for building a successful start up?
“Prioritization is the number one thing.
The cool thing about doing a startup is that there are so many resources that are available to you, but it’s also kind of a catch-22 because people that are entrepreneurs are usually ambitious go-getters used to doing whatever they need to. So, when I saw all of the options in front of me, my first reaction was to go out there, read every book, do every exercise, interact with everyone, create a thousand decks.
I think that people need to be mindful and intuitive about where they are and what makes sense for them. It’s easy to get distracted thinking that you’re doing the right thing just because you know ‘this worked for someone else,’ or you read a book and it told you to do that.
Being in tune with what timeline you’re on, and what your goals are is one of the biggest pieces of advice that I could give to anyone who’s jumping in.”
What advice would you give to early stage startup founders?
“Consume as much information as you can, but be thoughtful about how it changes the trajectory of what you’re working on and when you’re working on it.
I think a lot of what’s out there works for some people, but it’s not necessarily something you and your startup 100% need to do. It also might not be the right time. I forced myself to do things, and spent a week on it, and realized ‘this isn’t the right time, this was a complete waste, I should have been working on something else.’
You have to be forgiving of yourself, because it is your first time doing so many things and you’re just trying to stay active, stay learning, stay involved.
Sometimes you just make mistakes, you can’t really fault yourself for it. There are no big mistakes in being an entrepreneur and founding a startup - as long as you keep moving.”
Enjoyed learning from Sara? Check out Just Parent here.