Sharon Kan is the CEO of Pepperlane, a place for mothers to start and grow their businesses and cultivate their entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to her current role leading mothers turn business owners, she was Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Accomplice, Chairwoman of Luminoso Technologies and Chairwoman of Orora Global. She is also a Co-founder of the WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab at Babson College.
Sharon has spent 20 years growing successful businesses in high potential markets. She was instrumental in developing and leading companies from inception to successful acquisition including Tikatok (sold to Barnes & Noble), Zoomix (acquired by Microsoft), C-Ark (acquired by SSA Global, now Infor), and Demantra (acquired by Oracle).
Sharon holds an Executive MBA from the University of Bradford in the UK, a BA degree in Business from the College of Management in Israel, and is a graduate of the French Culture program of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Despite how far we’ve come as a society and how many women now take the helm of major corporations, no one in history has ever figured out how to empower mothers to work for themselves. There are 40 million mothers that are not part of the workforce, and over the past two years, I have connected with thousands of them.
So many of them shared they can’t be part of the workforce because they don’t have the right skills, confidence, flexibility with their family’s schedule, or just don’t want to work 9 to 5. These mothers are looking to earn a living on their own terms – all while doing work they love.
And when we all band together, support one another and have access to a step-by-step process to successful business building; we can build a thriving mother economy.
Tell us about your business.
Pepperlane provides mothers a powerhouse of tools to monetize their skills and earn money on their own terms. Whether they’re looking to pursue a lifelong passion, require a flexible schedule, or need something for yourself, Pepperlane caters to mothers on a journey.
We offer a clear path to launch or grow a mother-powered business, one step at a time. Our Pepperlane Pathway course provides flexible, online business training to help our members build their business and dreams. But it’s not just about information and education.
Our Pepperlane Boost offers the chance to meet-up locally with other members, get support, and find new customers.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Yes! We launched our membership program, all LadyBossBlogger fans will receive 25% off with coupon code LADYBOSSBLOG.
Where is your business based?
Pepperlane is located in Cambridge, MA, but we cater to women around the country, with our pilot markets being in Boston and Portland, OR.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I’ve been passionate about helping mothers and empowering them to enter the workforce on their own terms for years. But then I decided to interview hundreds of mothers to dive deep into their hopes, dreams, and struggles to help shape Pepperlane’s mission.
I also recruited my co-founder who had amazing, complementary skills to mine. Together we ran our first pilot in my hometown to validate the concept and quickly scale.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
By far, word of mouth has been integral to our success. Mothers are spreading the word at the playground while waiting at school to pick up their children and on social media.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Like every startup, Pepperlane just wants to do it all, but you have to make tough choices. For example, we made a very tough decision to first help women that exited the workforce, whether they are staying at home with their kids or are working part-time.
Yes, we definitely want to help every mother with a dream whether they’re working full-time or not and fix the broken workforce, but we have to focus. We decided to start by creating all if the tools you need to jumpstart your business from home.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Pepperlane tirelessly experimented, tried different messaging and targeting, and ultimately realized we needed to choose our own voice that aligns with our mission.
We have to stay authentic in order to serve our community but know not everyone will resonate with Pepperlane’s message, don’t need to work for someone else, you just need to start your own business on your own terms.Your skills and contribution are valuable and there is a place for you. The market is big enough.Click To Tweet
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
It’s not always easy. But you just take a deep breath and remember why you started this business journey in the first place. I know that Pepperlane is all bigger than just me and realize that I am doing it to serve a purpose.
I also know that I am not alone in this journey as we build this company full of amazing mothers. I have an incredible team, and it’s all about us working together to revolutionize the mother economy.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We pride ourselves on staying authentic to our mission and know that real success comes from investing in their customers’ success. Pepperlane genuinely believes we can build the mother economy together, that mothers can sell valuable services, find customers in each other, and that we simply don’t need to be employed by someone else.
The Pepperlane team knows that if you stay focused on your dream and execute your vision while listening to your customers, that the competition will lag behind.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
“If you let it go, good things will show up.”
Despite loving this advice, it actually goes against my nature as an entrepreneur. I am creating all the time and really push myself to reach my goals, but sometimes, you don’t need to move mountains.
Magic can happen if you just slow down and pause and trust that good things will come your way and fall into place. It’s still a struggle for me to trust the process, but it works if you just let go.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t take yourself too seriously and stay authentic to yourself, especially if you’re a mother. Don’t try to cram yourself into a box that works for someone else.
Customers, investors, and partners are attracted to authenticity and passion. There is only ONE of you in the world, so stay special and true to yourself.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
There are so many! But I would have to say Slack. It makes it so easy to communicate with my team. I love it.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I’ve devoured it twice already, and am going to tackle it for the third time.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Pepperlane wants to create a movement that revolutionizes mothers in the workforce. But my team and I can’t do it all ourselves We are recruiting Boost Leaders to run our events in New England, NY and OR. If you are interested please apply here.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We are thrilled to launch our membership model and the Pepperlane Pathway training program and welcoming new members. Check out our upcoming conference dates: Pepperlane Connect Step Forward.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
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