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In Conversation with Missy Narula of Exhale Parent & Diapertainment

Describe your business in a few words?

I have two businesses!

Exhale Parent has legal and financial information for new families, starting with maximizing parental leave.  

Diapertainment makes diapering easier, safer, and a lot more fun

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

While I was working at a large private equity firm, I had three children. For each of my 3 maternity leaves, I was lucky that my employer made me whole on pay during leave, but I had to apply myself for the California benefits. In going through this process, I learned that California has a really confusing web of benefits. Despite having a really, genuinely supportive employer and having been through it many times myself, I still made mistakes on my third leave in the state of California. This inspired me to start Exhale Parent to help others navigate through the rights associated with parental leave. As for Diapertainment, I developed this product when diapering my squirmy toddler became impossible and I wanted a solution to keep her entertained on the changing table.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I spent 14 years working in big business: investment banking, management consulting, and private equity

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

As a child I always wanted to be an inventor and entrepreneurship has brought this childhood dream to fruition. However, I really enjoyed working in big business and would have remained in that realm indefinitely had I not identified problems that I genuinely wanted to solve by building businesses around solutions.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Before I launched Exhale Parent, I tested marketing to understand if the topic was interesting to consumers. That pre-launch phase taught me a great deal about which consumers found the topic interesting and what the engagement rates would be. Since launching, many things about the environment have changed; for example, marketing became less expensive in the summer when COVID forced the closure of many small businesses. However, for the most part, our pre-launch test gave us marketing expectations that have largely held up!

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Oh goodness, I have made so many mistakes! I can still clearly remember the time when I was an investment banker and I made a big mistake that made my boss look foolish in a meeting.  Somehow I think mistakes hurt more when someone else is impacted. (Sorry about that, boss!)

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I have 3 kiddos who are curious and kind little beings. Nothing compares to the joy I get from seeing them thrive.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

During COVID, our childcare situation changed (like many families!) and instead of having help with our 3 kids, my husband and I were full-time parenting while working. During this time, we changed every one of our 1-year old’s diapers and found how extremely challenging it is to keep a squirmy baby entertained on the changing table. 1-year olds have a really exciting explosion of developmental skills, but these skills make it hard for them to sit patiently on a changing table. I found myself sometimes giving my baby my phone to keep her entertained when I had particularly challenging diapers to change. I invented Diapertainment as a way to keep my phone safe while entertaining my baby during diaper changes. It has been a complete game-changer in my home and every single customer so far has loved it!

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I have only been an entrepreneur for 1.5 years, but I have already developed two different businesses, both driven by problems that I personally experienced. Now that I have built some entrepreneurial muscles, I hope to keep inventing new businesses that solve real problems. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Be kind to yourself and patient with yourself. I am a type A person to the max, but 2020 has taught me to slow down and be more flexible. If I don’t get through my entire checklist of to-do’s because my kids need my help with virtual school, so be it. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Entrepreneurship can be really lonely! I have been fortunate to find networks of like-minded entrepreneurs who have provided me with support. Before diving into entrepreneurship, I didn’t anticipate this need!

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Oh 2020! In an interesting way, 2020 has grounded me more than any other year because I have spent so much time at home with my kids (ages 8, 5, 1). There is nothing more grounding than getting snuggles or dealing with arguments on an hourly basis! I will be delighted (and a lot more efficient) when things return to “normal,” but I do think 2020 has been an exceptionally special year.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I believe in work-life integration, not balance. Over time and with the help of technology, life has slowly integrated into work. Correspondingly, the transportability of work has enabled work to trickle into home life. When I was a 20-something investment banker in 2003, my computer always stayed at work and I had a natural separation of work/life. Now, work and life are largely integrated, and the challenge/opportunity is to draw boundaries to manage efficiency and peace!

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I once biked across the United States!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • I try to “touch” everything only once. If I see an email come in that I can deal with quickly, I deal with it immediately rather than waste time skimming it, then return to it later. 
  • I always have a to-do list.
  • I reprioritize on a daily basis.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

I feel that entrepreneurship is a privilege. Being an Entreprenista inspires me to use that privilege to build cool companies and inspire others to also build authentic businesses. Thanks for having me!

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