Let’s Talk Business: Managing Motherhood With Michelle Savage

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Welcome to Let's Talk Business, where Square business owners share their stories, the biggest lessons they learned, and their plans for the future. 


Today, we're talking to Michelle Savage (@mksavage), one of the owners of Savage Goods, a family-owned neighborhood cafe in El Paso, Texas. Michelle, her husband Tyler, and her sister-in-law Mariah started the business together in farmers’ markets in 2013. In 2017, they settled into a brick-and-mortar location serving up coffee, breakfast burritos, handmade donuts, pastries, brunch plates, burgers, and a fun community vibe. 


Since then, both Michelle and her sister-in-law have handled the challenge of becoming mothers at the same time. They put systems in place to be able to take time off and keep the business running without them. These changes benefited the business tremendously in the long run and they even helped her better define her identity


Watch the 30-minute video interview and read some highlights from our conversation.


What has it been like to start and run this business with your husband and sister-in-law?


“I feel so grateful that I get to work with my two best friends. We really complement each other. When one of us starts to get burned out, we're able to push each other through it all. There’s such a deep level of trust. We can go head-to-head in the business setting, but then we have dinner together. It helps keep things in perspective. It’s sometimes hard to separate the tension that naturally comes up with business partners, but at the end of the day, I've been really thankful for it.


“In the last year, both my sister-in-law and I had babies six months apart, which was definitely challenging. I already had a four-year-old, and my role has been more behind the scenes, but hers has always been in the kitchen. It was a pretty big wake-up call to figure out systems to make sure that this place can run without us.”



Michelle Savage (center), with her sister-in-law Mariah (left), and her husband Tyler (right).Michelle Savage (center), with her sister-in-law Mariah (left), and her husband Tyler (right).


What systems and changes did you put in place? 


“We started writing down everything we did in the business, from the biggest to the smallest things, and I started putting systems in place. We made sure they were replicable, accessible, and usable in the day-to-day. We really drilled into our team how and why we do what we do. Then it was just consistency, keeping to the system, bringing the team back to it. 


“We didn't realize how much we were the bottleneck. The business could only grow as big as our energy and time allowed it to, and we were holding it back. We hired managers who can lead and develop people while also holding a lot of responsibility. It was challenging to train them. I didn't realize how much was in our heads, and it was hard to let go.”


What was the adjustment period like when you came back into the business after you hired managers?


“I was able to take an eight-week maternity leave where I didn’t step foot in the cafe. I thought I would go back sooner, but by the time eight weeks came, it was still a little bit hard. I took some time easing back in. We had built the systems, we had support, and the business kept running at the level we needed it to for that time, and that's exactly what we were hoping for. 


“I was able to step away and then come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm and a fresh perspective. Being able to take a step back has really provided a little bit of separation where I can be more steady, less emotional about it. That helps me be more strategic and enjoy it more, which has been nice. Having people handle the day-to-day has given me room to take on a different role. We can focus on new branches of the business, like catering. I'm thinking about strategy. Our marketing now has a plan, not just what I’ll post on Instagram today.”



Baked goods by Savage Goods: Blueberry coffee cake and hand-rolled donuts. Instagram @savagegoodsBaked goods by Savage Goods: Blueberry coffee cake and hand-rolled donuts. Instagram @savagegoods


What does it look like being a business owner and a parent? How do you balance and manage it all?


“I have very structured calendars: my own, the business, and my kids. I can see how everything is moving together, and I have simplified a lot. I have a good enough list for the day: If I get these two things done, that is good enough. It's a constant juggling and balancing act. I pivot a lot. Being a little bit flexible helped me get out of my head a little bit and be just present. I feel like it's made me a better businessperson because I'm not as rigid. Putting the systems in place so the business can run without me there has been the best thing that we have done. I can check on the reports and with the managers. It has been helpful for me and the way my family has grown. 


“It's honestly been freeing to expand my identity. I'm not just a business owner, I'm also a mother, and I'm raising a son who sees me as the boss running this company. I'm proud of what he sees, to be that role model for him, and that has been really life-giving. It has also brought a lot into perspective. If the business fails tomorrow, my life won't end. Our businesses are wonderful, but we are more than that. Care for those other sides of yourselves as well. There might come a day when you come to a crossroads, and knowing there's more to you than just this business is really valuable.”


    Watch: Let’s Talk Business with Michelle Savage   


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Aylon Pesso is the Square Small Business Evangelist, helping sellers run their businesses better. Based in the U.S., he is a former small business owner, consultant, and Square seller.


This article is only for informational purposes. The information provided in this article solely reflects the speakers’ views and is not endorsed by Square. This article is limited in scope and is only intended as a high-level overview of the topics mentioned.