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Founder, student, mother, carer: the invisible victims of COVID-19

Written by Alec Wagner
June 16, 2020

(photo credit: https://www.lyrahealth.com/blog/working-parents-during-coronavirus/)

Last month, we at the Purple Maiʻa Foundation nominated a handful of teams for grants from the Global Accelerator Network’s Founder Support Fund, which aimed to fund things that would support the mental and emotional health of founders around the world. Who did we nominate and why? We nominated the over 40% of women in our cohort who are mothers because as soon as stay-at-home orders went into effect, they went from working double-duty, working full-time jobs or enrolled in graduate school while starting a new company, to working triple-duty, now being tasked with caring for their kids and taking on a homeschooling responsibility in some cases.

With kids not being able to go to school, daycares, childcare, their friends’ houses and parents not being able to hire babysitters, parenting just got a lot harder. However, the burden fell into the laps of mothers disproportionately. According to research done at the onset of COVID-19 by Leanin.org, mothers are spending an average of 7.4 hours more than fathers on childcare (a total of 39.8 hours/week, nearly a full-time job).

That statistic hit close to home. About a month ago we interviewed Kālisi Mausio, founder of FoodPrint (Purple Prize cohort ’20) on a Sunday night at 9pm after her toddlers went to sleep. She explained:

“We just moved off island and a week later the COVID shut down happened. In a short amount of time I lost contact with my immediate family who I either had to isolate from because they were elderly, or because they had to quarantine in place on another island. I had to take my kids out of day-care and quite literally overnight, I became their only care-taker with no help whatsoever.”

Now that restrictions on licensed childcare operations have been lifted, you might think that the problem is solved, but that’s not the case. Childcare is expensive and broadly inaccessible for parents in Hawaiʻi where 48% of families were asset limited, income constrained, and employed in 2015 (this number is probably much higher now due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on our state).

That’s why we were so happy when we heard that Kālisi won a small grant specifically to cover the costs of a couple of months of childcare. To her it was and will be a huge relief. Other mother entrepreneurs would have felt the same way.

In the Purple Prize, we talk to our founders at least once a week, often more frequently via Slack, email, text, and Zoom. During the months of April and May, we heard from several of the mothers and female carers in our program about feelings of exhaustion, burnout, and the need to take a break or put their early-stage startup on hold. There is only so much time in the day.

From Kilo Hōkū 2020.

Recognizing this in early April, I tried to discover articles on the experience of working moms starting-up new enterprises, but in over a month, I only saw one (maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places): How Covid-19 is impacting women-owned small businesses. In the article, one mother, Allegra LaViola, who owns an art gallery in Manhattan, explained her complex situation of being tied-up paying for a day care program that’s not open due to COVID-19 and burdened with taking care of her young son. She says:

“How can I work if I have to take care of a very small child who cannot be physically left alone? Financially speaking, so much of our daycare was already paid upfront so we have already used up our child-care budget. So, even if I could find a babysitter who is willing to babysit my kid, how am I going to pay for it?”

As we recover from the first wave of coronavirus and prepare for the second, we need to be talking about mother-entrepreneurs. They will again be disproportionately affected by this pandemic if we do not consider them specifically in plans to buttress our economy.

Here are some places you can get started:

Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19 — (https://humanservices.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4.13.20-Final-Cover-D2-Feminist-Economic-Recovery-D1.pdf)

As you know, we’re also reacting to the unjust killing of George Floyd and figuring out how we as a country can be more equitable along the lines of race and color. That said, it’s more relevant than ever to highlight that these burdens disproportionately affect black and Latina mothers.

  • Latinas and Black women are spending far more time on housework than white women (more than 75% of Latinas and Black women are spending 21 or more hours per week, compared to 55% of white women).
  • Latinas and Black women are spending an average of 4 to 12 more hours per week on childcare than white women
  • Latinas and Black women are spending 15 to 20 more hours per week caring for elderly or sick relatives.

All the while, typical Black households earn only a fraction of White households — just 59 cents for every dollar. The gap between Black and White annual household incomes is about $29,000 per year.

As the son of a single mother entrepreneur, I feel for the moms starting up or running small businesses during this unprecedented time, and thought that this particular issue needed to be elevated amidst the other extremely pressing issues being dealt with today.

Here are a number of resources that mother entrepreneurs can take advantage of today. If you aren’t one, but know one, pass this blog along.

  • Moms as Entrepreneurs COVID-19 Relief Fund — Moms as Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit business incubator for women, has started a Covid-19 relief fund solely for businesses owned by mothers. The fund, which opened applications on May 18, will grant $500-$1,000 to mom entrepreneurs who have been shut out of government loans or other funding during the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 Relief for Women-Owned Businesses on IFundWomen — IFundWomen, a startup funding platform for women, is offering coaching, several grants, and a supportive Slack channel for women entrepreneurs.
  • Stronger Together Fund — The Mom Project has committed $500,000 to fund the employment of moms during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund, which is designed for “family friendly” businesses who need help during the pandemic, will be used to help employers pay for the salary of full-time employees or contractors.
  • The Red Backpack Fund — Sara Blakely Foundation and SPANX are granting $5,000, a “lucky” red backpack and a free all-access pass to 80+ MasterClass, which includes Sara Blakely’s class on entrepreneurship to majority-women owned and led businesses and nonprofits in funding cycles. Next one is July 6–13.
  • Bounce Back Grant — The Poise personal care brand has launched Bounce Back Grants, a program that will award 30 cash grants at $15,000 each to qualifying women-owned small businesses experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19. Applications are open through June 30, 2020.
  • New York Foundation for the Arts — New York Foundation of the Arts will distribute $250,000 in grants, up to $2,500 apiece, to women-identifying visual artists over the age of 40 who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The Amber Grant | Grants for Women in Business — Amber Grants are suitable for female entrepreneurs who are planning to launch small, local businesses. Each month, one female-owned business is selected for a $2,000 grant. At the end of the year, one of the monthly winners is selected for a $25,000 grant. Funding is doubled this year to $4,000/mo.
  • 37 Angels — 37 Angels is an organization made up of female angel investors that invest in women-owned small businesses. The organization recognizes the disadvantages that female entrepreneurs face in the loan market and seeks to close that gap. To help women keep their companies afloat, 37 Angels offers grants as large as $150,000.
  • COVID-19 Business Resource Center — Hello Alice, an accelerator/community working towards Business for All is offering $10,000 grants being distributed immediately to small business owners impacted by coronavirus.
  • Verizon Brings COVID-19 Small Business Support Up to $7.5M with New Grant to LISC — Verizon donated 7.5M to provide grants of up to $10,000 to businesses facing immediate financial pressure because of Covid-19 — especially entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises in historically underserved communities who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital. Funding can be used for paying rent and utilities, meeting payroll, paying outstanding debt to vendors, other immediate operational costs.

(This list is not exhaustive. If there are other opportunities that you know of that you think should be shared, tweet us at @thepurpleprize.)

I would personally be open to reviewing, commenting, and giving feedback on any proposal or application, if you think it would be helpful. Feel free to email me directly at alec@purplemaia.org.

With regards to childcare help, I’d open it up to our network as resources seem scarce (another blog about this coming). Drop the links of resources you’re familiar with to @thepurpleprize on Twitter if you know of any. We’ll post more as we find them.

Mamapreneurs, I see you. I empathize with you.

Aloha nō.

-Alec

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