Alex Skove is the CEO and Co-Founder of KidGooRoo, the number one online destination for parent-reviewed kids’ activities, which she founded in 2015. She started her career in the investment banking division of Morgan Stanley and went on to work in the business development area of digital media and software companies such as News Corp, LinkShare and Net Perceptions. Alex is a committed volunteer serving as the President of the Rumson Community Appeal and as a Board Member for Second Family Foundation. Alex lives with her husband and four amazing kids on the beautiful Jersey Shore.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
There is nothing like motherhood to teach you how to lead. You have a direct and immediate impact on every aspect of your kids’ life and they are watching every move you make. You learn early on to model appropriate behavior, to manage multiple personalities, to be consistent in your praise and criticism and to watch your mouth in the workplace. Want to prove yourself as a master-motivator? Convince a 10-year-old that piano practice is fun. In general, I don’t think mothers give themselves enough credit for the leadership skills they develop through raising children.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I started in investment banking then moved on to a series of software startups. Working 80 hours a week as an investment banking analyst does wonders for ones’ financial modeling skills. It’s been a critical skill set I’ve fallen back on often in starting KidGooRoo. Having previous work experience at startup companies prepared me for the fact that there is no job outside of my scope of responsibilities. At a startup you do everything, or it doesn’t get done.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
I have immensely enjoyed the process of building a company from scratch. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of every aspect of the business from product to marketing to office culture. It’s incredibly energizing to see it all come together. That said, starting your own company brings wild swings of highs and lows that I didn’t expect. I remember when we got our first paying customer. I was thrilled for literally a minute before my stomach dropped. Now I needed to produce a product that was worthy of a paying customer! I also immediately wanted more customers.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Make sure you are prepared for the time commitment. When you are starting something new, it is a 24/7 engagement. When you’re not physically working on the product, you’re thinking about new marketing strategies, or networking at your kids’ Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) event. I was lucky in that my husband semi-retired around the same time I was starting KidGooRoo, so he was able to pick up the slack at home.
You also have to be ready to put yourself out there for judgement. Your company is a direct reflection of you. If someone invests, or buys a product, or comes to work for you, it is because you made it happen – or didn’t. Develop a thick skin early because some people are going to tell you your baby is ugly.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
There are no stupid questions.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I’m extremely lucky to work 5 minutes from my house and as I mentioned my husband is around in the afternoons to manage the kids. Plus, my kids are older now. They go from school to practice to homework. I’m not sure they even know I’m at the office half the time. I’m in awe of women that start companies with young children – any woman that manages young kids and a full-time job is my hero.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
My co-founder and I call it the “mommy track.” It’s when women who become mothers are automatically relegated to less intense work. Salespeople are suddenly given smaller accounts or marketing people are asked to work on short term projects. I’m not sure it’s even intentional, but there is a stigma in the workplace that women who have kids aren’t as reliable or aren’t going to be as committed as their male counterparts, therefore can’t handle the long-term or mission critical projects. For some women, it may be a blessing if they are looking to scale back. But for other women, they are forced to work twice as hard just to prove their commitment. It’s something men just don’t have to deal with when starting a family.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
There is very little support, either financially or structurally, to help women turn an idea into a product. This is especially true of older women. There are plenty of incubators around universities or in Silicon Valley, but very few in NJ where I’m based. I would love to see Governor Murphy’s new government put real resources behind incubator services for female entrepreneurs. We could become the Silicon Shore!
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I haven’t had professional mentors as much as I’ve relied on family and friends. My dad is a former college professor and finance professional, so he’s been an incredible resource.
Which other female leaders to you admire and why?
I have a special place in my heart for women who have experienced success and have paid it forward. Not just with talk and self-promotion, but with action. Tory Burch, for instance, is lending her money and celebrity to a program that extends funding to female entrepreneurs.
At a local level, I admire all the PTO and PTA presidents out there. Those women, and they are almost always women, are donating their time to benefit the school, the kids and the community. It’s a thankless job and yet these women volunteer, assume responsibility and are tireless supporters of their schools. Without them, there would be no white boards, no field trips and no band uniforms. They are awesome.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
My goal is to continue to grow KidGooRoo. In the next year, that will mean building a One-Click Registration tool for parents while growing our community of parents and businesses. We’re also working on our first institutional round of funding, which has been an incredibly educational process thus far!
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Have at least one finance person and one creative person in your founding team.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s money or advice. You will need a lot of both.
Celebrate the little successes. Sometimes the big successes can be spread out, so enjoy the small victories when they come.