“Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams”

July 26, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.

Here some of today’s smartest, most innovative, highly successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Helen Anderson, founder of Milkies. In 2008, after her son Henry was born, Helen was juggling working as a nurse in a busy emergency room and breastfeeding. To solve a common problem facing nursing moms—and to save time—Helen developed the Milk-Saver, a product that helped her collect and save her breast milk. She started Milkies, and began to manufacture and sell the product.

Today, the award-winning Milkies Milk-Saver is sold all over the world online and in retail stores. Helen oversaw every part of building Milkies, and sold it in 2013 to Fairhaven Health. She now oversees product development; writes for the company blog; appears in podcasts; and speaks at events about pregnancy, labor, delivery and the science of raising healthy children.

In early 2016, Helen achieved her dream of earning an advanced degree when she completed her coursework for a Master’s of Science in Nursing.

You can find her on Twitter @BellytoBreast.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Helen Anderson: I wasn’t one of those kids who had a plan for my life; I had no idea what I wanted to be. I do remember having a “mid-life crisis” at 14 and thinking, “There are girls my age with Olympic medals. I better get busy.” I grew up in the country without other kids around. I got used to being alone and listening to my inner voice, but I love being with people and listening to their stories. I’m still a strange extravert/introvert hybrid. Money was never a big motivator for me; I wanted to live a meaningful life with lots of adventure and great stories to tell!

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Anderson: I loved being a nurse and working in the emergency room of my small community hospital. It was hard for me to leave my kids, though. I wanted to work in healthcare, but have a flexible schedule. I had no plan to start my own business, but I had a big problem with leaking and storing enough breastmilk [during] my 12-hour shifts. I created a solution to the problem I was dealing with, and realized there were other moms that could benefit from it too. It was a slow process and stressful at times, but supporting breastfeeding is promoting health and Earth-friendly practices—it fit the goals for my life.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Anderson: That’s a funny question. I had a bottle of champagne in my fridge for years, waiting for that “big, pivotal moment!” Looking back, the big moments are my first paycheck from Milkies and being invited to join other mom entrepreneurs on ad and PR campaigns. When the women I admired became my partners, I felt they gave a vote of confidence to my abilities to grow my business and help others succeed.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Anderson: In the beginning, concentrate on doing it right. Efficiency will come later.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Anderson: This may sound too much like a mom, but here’s my best advice—take care of yourself. You are all your business has; if you are sick, things don’t get done. Every day you need to be ready to run the marathon of growing your business and taking care of your family. It’s easy to resort to eating junky, processed meals, but your energy will suffer and you won’t make it through the double shift of being a mom and running your business. Sugar is not your friend if you need to be on your toes from early morning until late at night.  Learn which foods give you long-lasting energy and make them a staple of your diet.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Anderson: Freelance and contract workers will continue to provide talent at a low cost to entrepreneurs. The quality of work I can get from a graphic designer, web designer or photographer on Thumbtack.com or Upwork.com is very high. Freelancers compete on price and ratings by past clients, keeping costs low, and customer service is a high priority. The marketplace will continue to grow and become more competitive.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Anderson: Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. The perspective he gives on the challenges of life is invaluable. I also listen to Ajahn Brahm, an Australian Buddhist. You will feel at peace with the world after one of his talks. As entrepreneurs, we can be short-sighted; we always have our heads down working. Seeing the bigger picture and understanding our own motivations makes us more innovative and less emotional in decision making.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Anderson: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined.”—Henry David Thoreau.


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