Q&A with Attorney and Entrepreneur, Lori Mihalich-Levin
Lori K. Mihalich-Levin, JD, is the founder of Mindful Return, author of Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave, and creator of the Mindful Return E-Course. A partner in the healthcare practice of a global law firm, she also is a mama to two beautiful red-headed boys. Lori holds a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and completed her undergraduate studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I’m a healthcare lawyer at a large, international firm, founder of a program that helps new parents return to work after parental leave, and mama to two wonderful redheaded boys, ages 5 and 7.
What inspired you to start your business?
When I went back to work full time after having my first son, things were hard. Going back after my second felt like 1 child + 1 child = 85 children. No one was sleeping, my husband and I were both exhausted, and I was in tears on the kitchen floor more often than I’d like to admit.
It occurred to me at that point, that while there were courses out there to help new parents make birth plans, puree baby food, and massage their babies, there was no curriculum for how to plan for and navigate maternity leave and return in a calm and empowering way. I wanted a guide for how to be a new working mom without going off the rails…so I was inspired to create Mindful Return.
Where is your business based?
I live in Washington, DC. But the new parents who take the Mindful Return courses live all over the globe.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
My very first step was to start writing the content for the online course I wanted to create. Then I brainstormed names, hired a graphic designer to create a logo, and started focus groups of new parents to get feedback on my concept and draft logos.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
A number of strategies have been effective. First and foremost, getting out there and speaking on the topic, and daring to talk to executives at conferences who might consider offering my program as a parental leave benefit to their employees. You can’t beat delivering a high-quality product and have your super users spread the word, too. And finally, publishing a book and getting some great publicity for that was extremely helpful.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Time is always my biggest challenge! Trying to juggle being a partner at a law firm, running my business, and caring for two energetic kiddos makes for a life that is never dull. I overcome the time challenge by reminding myself daily that a journey of a million miles begins with a single step. Baby steps are truly the only way I get anywhere, but I’ve taken enough of them that I’ve covered quite a distance these past few years!
How do you stay focused?
Ironically, perhaps, I stay focused by having a portfolio approach to my career. Because I split my professional work week between my legal practice and my own business, I am laser-focused on each when I am working on it. I pick bite-sized goals, stick with them, and then tackle the next thing. Being a working parent has definitely inspired me to become more efficient.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
In the return-to-work space, there’s quite a bit of 1:1 coaching, but I haven’t seen many other cohort-based approaches. Through my program, new moms get both quality content delivered through an e-course and a community of new working parents who are all returning to work the same time they are. Employers purchase my program because it’s cost-effective and helps with new parent employee retention.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Getting written about in the legal trade press was probably the one thing that led to the most growth for me. Once one law firm started offering my program as a parental leave benefit, many others wanted on board.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Anyone – truly anyone – can indeed be an entrepreneur. I’m a risk-averse perfectionistic lawyer type who never in a million years dreamed of owning her own business. And, inspired by a need out there in the world, I’ve found my inner entrepreneur. You can, too.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
App: My google analytics app. (I’m admittedly a bit addicted to my blog stats…)
Blog: www.abundantmama.com, because Shawn Fink, its founder, inspired me to believe in the power of online courses for creating communities of amazing women.
Book: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Because we can all learn a thing or two about vulnerability, and we are all daring greatly at this entrepreneurship thing. Her title quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s speech (“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”)
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
The BossMoms Facebook Group has been an amazing resource for me. Full of entrepreneurs with great ideas who are willing to help get the word out and share content.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Sara Avant Stover has inspired me to get clear on my goals and embrace the feminine side of my business.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
The new dad version of the Mindful Return 4-week program is launching in January 2018! Mindful Return has been helping new moms return to work for the past 3 years, and now it was high time to help the new working dads, too.
How can our readers connect with you?