By Tricia Srinivasan
Tricia Srinivasan is a Los Angeles-based mom (to a teenager and a toddler), and when she has the time, she loves to take care of herself at the gym and the salon and spend time with her family with bike rides on the beach and traveling.
She also happens to be a 3x technology entrepreneur in the fashion space. We sat down with her to learn about her company Modern Brands, and to hear more about her path to entrepreneurship, how she manages the stress of it all, and what learnings other moms can take away for their creative pursuits.
Your company Modern Brands is the first open-source fashion platform in the world. Can you share what this means and how you landed on this concept?
It’s like GitHub for physical products. It is similar to how programmers use GitHub to store, share and archive code – we wanted to create a platform for people who created physical goods to store, share, and archive their work.
I come from fashion, which is, weirdly, one of the harder things to make. Despite only about 2,500 different items in fashion (i.e., a denim jacket or a pleated pant, etc.), there are no “standards” to speak of, and most companies start from scratch every time they make something.
So, we started to build this for the fashion industry, but we have plans to open it up to other types of products too.
If you think about anyone who makes physical products – it’s a lot like cooking. They create specifications (sketches, measurements, etc.) which are like a recipe – telling you how to put something together. Their source ingredients are materials like fabrics, buttons, and zippers. And then there’s the oven that does the cooking, or in the case of fashion, there’s a factory that assembles the products.
Our platform is built to enable people to share physical product recipes the same way programmers use and build open-source code.
What made you choose the entrepreneurial route?
I’m really intense and find it impossible to sit at my desk.
What I mean by this is I was never content showing up to a job and just doing a job. I drove most of my managers crazy because if I’m going to spend my time doing something, I’m going to be really into it. I just never fit in as a worker-bee, and similarly, when I got into executive roles, I was often too visionary and intense to manage people well.
It’s important to say while this way of being got me here it’s also 100% the thing I struggle with most. No one works well under a CEO who can never sit at their desk… LOL. It’s both my greatest strength and my biggest weakness.
Finding some kind of balance is hard for entrepreneurs and moms alike, and you’re both! What’s your approach so that you’re not always burned out?
I married an entrepreneur. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but my first marriage was with someone who could never understand the desire, the pressure, and the trade-offs I was willing to make. So while it’s 100% crazier to live life as two people running companies, having a partner who just gets it is easier and more fulfilling.
Also, I let go of the idea of balance. It’s a farce. Life is messy and short. You gotta dig in and forgive yourself where you can.
Entrepreneurs often face a lot of rejection, and it can be a lonely road to walk. How do you handle the challenges?
I bitch and moan about it. Loudly. To anyone who will listen. I’m really bad at handling it. Really. No insight here. I just decided I’m allowed to feel this way, and I try not to let it skew my thinking. But it frequently does.
Do you have any insight or advice for moms also interested in pursuing entrepreneurship? It can be challenging when the current ecosystem isn’t set up to afford moms the same opportunities.
I work with many moms who’ve become freelancers, which I would consider a form of entrepreneurship, and 90% want to work on their own time because it’s the only way they can meet the demands of taking care of their family.
The difference between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur is that when you start a business, you are providing/becoming responsible for more people. So you need to be really honest with yourself about that. Are you okay taking care of more people? You will need to pay for childcare, you’ll need to take care of employees, you’ll need to take on more paperwork, etc., etc.
I’m still unsure if I’m doing it right, and some days I can’t do anything for anyone else and feel completely depleted, and It’s not talked about nearly enough.
When my husband, an entrepreneur, does something for the kids, house, etc., he’s applauded as the man of the year (and he’s thankfully very aware of this). At the same time, I would never be afforded that applause. It’s not easy. You will have to give up on things.
I’m not sure I would advise anyone to “switch” over. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, so I was sure it was the path for me, but it takes work to switch to entrepreneurship. The same way that if you dropped me into an office setting right now, I would probably lose my mind.
What learnings have you found from being a business owner that is good for being a mom too?
When you have kids, you have to put the fun into functional, like at some point, you will have to say, “Okay, well, someone pooped their pants, and we don’t have a change in the bag – so we’re just going to have to improvise.” And you do it, and you pull it off with a smile so that no one feels bad and everyone gets what they need.
In a business, you do a lot of improvising. Haha, lots of people “poop” their pants, and it’s your job to clean it up!
If you could do it all again, would you choose this road?
I would. Absolutely.