If you’re a millennial mother in the thick of daily life with your littles, you’ve probably read, shared, and loved an article from Motherly – a leading lifestyle community and digital platform co-founded by our NJMOMpreneur of the week, Liz Tenety. The former Washington Post editor and Summit mama behind this power brand started it because she saw a need for something that didn’t exist – an online guide to walk this generation of women through the biggest transformation in their lives. Known for powerful writing and an honest look at modern motherhood, Motherly has grown to be one of the most widely shared and read sites engaging millennial moms. She sat down with us to talk about what peaked her problem-solving entrepreneurial mindset, Motherly’s big new projects keeping her busy (hint: a new baby, a new book and more!) and her pick for best pizza in Summit (Village Trattoria, we’re looking at you).
Founder of Motherly & NJMOMpreneur Liz Tenety
NJMOM: What do you offer to your readers and how is it different than other brands in your field?
Liz: Motherly is the leading lifestyle brand and platform engaging millennial mothers. We aim to redefine motherhood alongside this generation of women. We want the term ‘motherly,’ and motherhood in general, to not just represent the nurturing side of women, but also the powerful side. Motherhood has been a source of strength and transformation to us as women, redefining our relationships, careers and daily lives. Motherly is the only publisher and brand focusing on the positive aspects of motherhood, providing more support and less judgment for women during this pivotal time in their lives.
We are also more than just a digital media publisher: we produce The Motherly Podcast, publish books (our first, ‘This is Motherhood,’ is out now), host Motherly in-person events, collaborate on product launches including our breastfeeding and pregnancy pillow lines, and feature online classes (launching this summer). We want to be there for women both online and offline, through the longevity of the motherhood journey.
Mothers are natural problem solvers and make amazing entrepreneurs because motherhood often brings superpowers out of us that we didn’t even know were there.” – Liz Tenety
NJMOM What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Liz: Jill and I created Motherly because it didn’t exist. When we became mothers, the absolute transformation of every aspect of our lives took us by surprise. We had used online tools to get into college, plan our weddings, and find our first homes. But for us, especially as digital natives, the milestone of becoming a mother left us feeling completely unprepared. We launched Motherly to guide women through this amazing journey with expert, woman-centered advice, a supportive and nonjudgmental motherhood community, and products that help make her everyday life better. We launched Motherly because we needed Motherly ourselves.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part of your business?
Liz: My favorite part of what I do is getting to learn new things every day in service of a powerful mission: to make motherhood better for our generation of women.
NJMOM: What is your professional background?
Liz: Previous to co-founding Motherly, I was a Washington Post editor and reporter.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Liz: I’m most proud of taking the risk to launch Motherly — taking this concept from a crazy idea I had one night in my kitchen — to a growing community of millions of mothers.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Liz: Since graduating college in 2007, my husband and I have lived in more than a dozen homes and almost ten cities around the country, from Seattle to Palo Alto, Boston to DC. Our grad school, job opportunities, and his military service took us all over the map. We’re happily settled in Summit, NJ for now, but still feel that adventurous urge to experience — and maybe move to — new places!
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Liz: My husband and I expecting our fourth child this summer (a little boy), which the whole family is excited about. On the Motherly side, we’re focused on going deeper with our relationship with our mamas — from serving them through richer online offerings via online classes and e-commerce, to offline connections through The Motherly Podcast, products and events. We’re excited to grow alongside our community of mamas.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Liz: My mom always impressed upon me to think for myself. She’d frequently say, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.” Actually, as a native New Yorker, the way she’d put it was, “Well Elizabeth, if everyone else jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, are you going to jump, too?” As a child, this quote represented not giving in to peer pressure. But as I grew up, it also represented a new way of looking at the world, giving me freedom to make my own choices, even when they were unpopular.
I realized how powerfully my mom had imparted this lesson is when I was in college. I was walking into a grocery store when I suddenly heard yelling and knocking nearby. I looked around me at the other customers to see if they heard the same thing, but everyone else shrugged it off and kept pushing their carts into the store. If I had taken cues from the people around me, I would have assumed that the yelling was someone else’s problem, or not that big of a deal. But the tone of the yells concerned me, so I followed the voice to a door at the far end of the vestibule, where I found a grocery store employee locked in a janitorial closet. He was sweaty and upset, unable to communicate with me in English but clearly grateful I had freed him. I have no idea how long he’d been in there. The analogy was too rich for me to mistake: there was no door handle inside for him to open; he had been trapped inside a locked closet and was only able to be freed by someone on the outside. Because I had trusted my own sense of right and wrong, I was able to help when others shrugged the problem off. I’m no superhero, but I’ve learned to pay attention to problems that could easily be ignored.
I believe this life lesson also gave me an entrepreneur’s mindset, seeing the same problems as everyone else, but believing that it was within my power to create solutions. This moment in the grocery store has stuck with me for life.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Liz: “It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.” I read this quote when I was on the verge of having my second child and beginning to panic about how I would manage a growing family. The clarity this quote provides — that challenges don’t just cause hardship, but that they strengthen your muscles and ability to deal with problems —completely and permanently shifted my mindset about motherhood, work and life. I now try to think about hardship as opportunities to learn and grow. On the hard days, I remind myself of this quote, and on my best days, I really believe it.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Liz: We bought a house within walking distance of downtown Summit because we love the ability to walk to so many restaurants, activities, parks, community centers and events. We especially love spring and fall here because it’s so easy to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Liz: Watching our little babies blossom into opinionated individuals with distinct preferences and personalities has been the most fun I’ve ever had. Every night, my husband and I recount funny and fascinating things our kids said or did each day.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Liz: I’m a big fan of Murray + Finn’s baby + child boutique and I’m a regular at the Manhattan Bagel (love their Hazelnut coffee) — both in downtown Summit. Also in my humble opinion, Village Trattoria is home to *the* best pizza in town. Try the Greek!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Liz: I live in Summit, NJ and I vacation in Summit, NJ. In all seriousness, since moving here two years ago we’ve truly enjoyed the simple life in our little backyard with our kids. We haven’t felt much of a need to explore or vacation elsewhere yet because we’ve been enjoying our stay-cations and just having a home of our own to ourselves.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur just starting out?
Liz: My advice would be to remember that you’re not a “mom entrepreneur”— you’re an entrepreneur who happens to be a mom. Motherhood has empowered and strengthened and inspired me in so many ways, but I truly believe it has made me more focused and determined in my career. I think our culture often labels “motherhood” as a niche, soft, and separate category, when really becoming a parent is one of the most universal life experiences there is. Mothers are natural problem solvers and make amazing entrepreneurs because motherhood often brings superpowers out of us that we didn’t even know were there.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Liz: You’ve got this!