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   


See more interviews with business owners at squ.re/letstalkbusiness and subscribe to the Seller Community Blog

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.


@mksavage loved getting to learn more about your journey! It's amazing how you just took a leap in moving to El Paso and starting your bakery. Big fan of yours!

Square Champion

Thank you so much for this conversation, @Pesso! It was such an honor to get to share my/our story. I'm incredibly thankful for this community and for the ways we support each other through all the seasons of running a business!

Square Champion

Thank you so much, @maxpete -- you made my day!


The honor was absolutely all mine, @mksavage ! Thank you for being so open and sharing so much! 

Square Champion

Great story of balancing work and family life, with very helpful tips. Thanks for sharing @mksavage!


OH MY, so many thoughts @mksavage...


1) I love, love, love your thoughts on growing BOTH sustainably and profitably. I have to say, I feel like if I was a business owner, I would get lost in the sauce 🤑 and just say "SALE, SALES, SALES" - and then yes, you have growth, but what are the costs of growth like that without strategy??


As a Square employee (hehe), I love hearing how much you're diving into reporting, and utilizing those tools to make measured choices and goals, truly asking yourself "what is going to move the needle here?". Brilliant stuff. 


2) Girl it sounds like you're playing TETRIS with your calendars! I'm so impressed! It seems like such an organized way to manage family, personal, and work. Does it sound like a huge effort? Yes, but the pay off seems there. 


Thanks for sharing, Michelle. As always, excellent hosting/interviewing by @Pesso ! Happy to know both of ya. 

Square Champion

Thank you so much for encouragement, @isabelle! I feel like each of these lessons have been super hard-won, with much thrashing and struggling along the way. We still have a long way to go, and lots to learn, but it's actually really fun to pause in a conversation like this and realize how far I've/we've come. And then get back to work, ha! Thank you for all you do!

Square Champion

Thank you so much @TCSlaguna ! ❤️

Square Champion

Having a written planner & digital calendar color coded has always been my go-to....  Great piece.

Seller Community Mentor

Congrats @mksavage for making these changes so successfully!  Having already been in business for nearly 10 years and in brick and mortar for seven is awesome!  You're already building on success.  So great to hear!


Your story also sounds a lot like the book we're reading right now... The E-Myth... don't you think so @Pesso?


Thanks everyone for the wonderful support and comments! So glad to hear that this is resonating with y'all!


Yes, @CareyJo ! Definitely shows the advancement through from Technician to Management & Entrepreneurial vision, just like in The E-Myth book.


I keep returning to this article for inspiration. (OK and for the pictures of the baked goods!) Thank you @mksavage and @Pesso!

Square Champion

@Pesso @mksavage This was absolutely amazing! 

Seriously was like listening to an episode of one of my favorite business podcasts. (wink wink nudge nudge. Square seller podcasts?????)


Michelle you are seriously a super mom! You and your sister in law!

Absolutely loved listening to your story and really getting to know the heart and woman behind Savage Goods. So many incredible nuggets of wisdom. 

Seriously incredible. Thank you so much for sharing and being open in the struggles and challenges and how you have overcome it all!

Square Champion

@Lovewell @CareyJo @Helen @JUYBoutique20 I can't tell you how much your kind words and encouragement mean to me. It's sometimes hard to see progress, growth, and strength when you're in the midst of it all. So, having that reflected back is so helpful and encouraging. Love this community, and so thankful for each of you!

Beta Member

Very inspiring and resonating!


This stuck out to me so much! "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.”


Entrepreneurs have so much in their heads and trying to translate that into systems and teach another person your vision can be tough. Wishing you continued balance and success!


Thank you so much, @BostonHairnista ! I'm so glad that @mksavage 's words and experiences resonated with you! 


Have you faced a similar challenge? What did you find helps?

Beta Member

@Pesso I definitely have faced this a few times owning a salon. After opening a second location, I had to trust that my other stylist would treat clients the way I did and give the same quality services. It’s hard to convey to the team how to duplicate your process, especially for a hair salon. This was a great read 😁

Square Champion

Thank you so much for the encouragement @BostonHairnista! Operationalizing & training your process and vision is so hard, and I imagine it's even more difficult in a creative/artistic field like yours! I actually appreciated your use of the word "trust" -- I think that's been one of the hardest part. As business owners, I think "control" comes more easily than "trust." (At least it does for me!)


Such great points, @BostonHairnista & @mksavage ! It's really hard to delegate and have others take the lead to keep up your standards -- not only in the trust side of things, but also just to make sure that they have and know what they need to. Our most recent Square Readers Book Club book, The E-Myth talks a lot about that, and from my own experience a lot of it comes down to putting much detail as possible into the created systems and processes. The simplest step by step instructions have helped my teams a lot, and also giving similar information to them in different formats (paragraph, bullet points, photos, and video). Even more so, making sure that they care and feel as connected to the business as you are. Using those guides and motivations to train them according to your standards goes a long way -- but it really is so hard to do across every step of the process. Rooting for ya and hope it keeps getting easier!