Dadpreneurs have their day

Photo from Websites 4 Small Business

Mompreneurs have been a thing for a long time. The term was coined back in 1996 when two entrepreneurs who were also mothers published a guide to using the internet “for work-at-home success.” Work-life balance was coming further into the spotlight as more moms started up businesses and stopped hiding their kids and families at home. In fact, a whole new industry of at-home-entrepreneurs began to flourish.

But what about Dadpreneurs? Where have they been?

Well, everywhere. Entrepreneurs who are also dads have been the backbone of the American economy for hundreds of years, but they have largely worked outside the home, supported by partners who are taking care of the house and children. For better or worse, work-life balance for dads has relatively recently become part of the conversation.

The coronavirus pandemic with its closed schools, economic contraction and stay-at-home orders has elevated the conversation and is creating in real time a new generation of fathers who are running their businesses, teaching homeschool, entertaining kiddos and managing the household.

With millions of families working and learning from home, one thing is clear: Kids are spending far more time with their dads than they ever have before. And piles of research has shown that kids who spend time with involved and loving dads are more resilient, have higher levels of academic readiness and better self-esteem. In short, they’re the ultimate lucky ducks.

For Father’s Day, the Vancouver Business Journal caught up with Tim North and Dan Meyers, two dads who are also entrepreneurs and office mates in Vancouver. Here are their Dadpreneur stories.

True North Geotechnical Services, Downtown Vancouver

Dad: Tim North, Principal Engineer

Mom: Ewa North, Operations Manager

Kids: Felix, 7, and Emmett, 4

Tim and Ewa North own True North Geotechnical Services in downtown Vancouver. They are pictured here with their sons Emmett and Felix. Photo courtesy of True North Geotechnical Services

What has the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order looked like for you as a father who is also a business owner? 

The stay-at-home order has not significantly affected the volume of business but has certainly affected our ability to take care of the work in an efficient and timely manner. Ewa used to come into the office two or three days a week to manage the business side of things, and now out of obvious necessity, she has been thrust into becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom. I’ve tried to work from home, but we live in a small house, and young children don’t have good boundaries. Luckily, I have a small basement office that I only share with one other person, so I’ve been able to work out of there throughout the stay-at-home order.

What have your particular challenges looked like? 

The biggest challenge I’ve faced throughout these past few months has been being able to manage employees. I hired a new employee right before the stay-at-home order was put in place, and training them has been a learning experience. In the past when I hired a new employee, I had them shadow me for a few weeks to learn the flow of work, field techniques, etc., but obviously this was not an option at the beginning. A lot of my work is done out in the field on undeveloped sites, so we are generally isolated, but having to travel in separate cars and keep distance on site made it hard to discuss the work we were doing, answer questions, etc. I have since hired a summer intern as well, so I suppose I’m getting better at this training thing!

What have the benefits, or unexpected side effects been? 

The biggest benefit has been being forced to look at how we do business and look for ways to connect remotely and share information more efficiently.

Do you talk about these challenges and benefits with colleagues, clients and customers? 

I think there is general agreement among my colleagues and clients in the industry that we are all dealing with changes in family and business dynamics as a result of this. Everyone seems to be a little more forgiving and understanding right now. Of course, everyone is also a little more on edge as a result, as well.

What is changing now that the economy is opening back up? 

Now that business is opening back up, we’ve been able to hire our babysitter again to watch the kids a couple days a week so Ewa can make it in for a few hours a week to help again with the business.

How do you predict the pandemic will permanently change home-life balance for dads? 

Honestly, I wish I could say that as a result of the stay-at-home order I’ve been able to spend more time at home with my kids and wife, but I’ve been as busy as ever. I know this is something to be grateful for, when everyone else is hurting financially or stressing about the future of their jobs, but it has been tough seeing all these other people treating this as a family bonding experience. As a matter of fact, we had a couple nice vacations planned this spring and summer that have now been canceled as a result of the pandemic, and I’ve been working day-in and day-out the entire time, instead. We’ve finally found a small week-long trip we can make to the Kitsap Peninsula, and I’m hoping the improvements we’ve made in communication, scheduling and project management as a result of the stay-at-home order allow me to avoid spending too much of my vacation time working.

What other thoughts can you share with our readers?

I can’t imagine how I would be able to pull this all off without Ewa. She’s the real hero of this story.

DM3 Consulting, Downtown Vancouver

Dad Dan Meyers has a wife and two little girls, ages 5 and 8

Dan Meyers, a father to two little girls, ages 5 and 8, owns DM3 Consulting in downtown Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Dan Meyers

What has the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order looked like for you as a father who is also a business owner?

It’s been quite a change with the kids out of school and pre-school. My wife works at home, so that has helped in that we end up splitting our time with the girls during the work week. I’ll either take one or both with me to my office, and then other days I’m completely free. My work as an industrial designer saw me get involved in providing PPE medical gear to front-liners, so my business became “essential,” meaning I’ve been still going to the office every day. But it has been really nice in that the girls get to see “daddy’s work” and really enjoy coming. When I don’t have them here with me now it’s honestly a bit lonely; I’ve gotten very used to having them around a lot more. Not sure I’m even excited about them going back “full time.” Of course, they need that social interaction and I really want them to experience full school for many reasons. But having the little ones around has been pretty darn nice. I love my girls! 

What have your particular challenges looked like?

The biggest challenge has been splitting my work time to handle more childcare in place of school. Plus, pushing the online learning elements with my 8-year-old … that’s been a little tough. Online learning, while our only real option lately, just doesn’t come close to replacing the real thing. And the amount of time spent on Zoom with her teacher is just 45 minutes per day … not enough to really engage, in my opinion. But at least my 8-year-old’s teacher is amazing. Mrs. Young of Southridge Elementary – retiring this year! 

What have the benefits, or unexpected side effects, been?

Tons of family time! So darn cool and unique. And … we’ve really been taking what I call a “Huckleberry Finn approach.” Instead of doing super intense math and reading (and we do a measure of that for sure), we are instead taking a lot more walks in nature, identifying birds, plants, bugs, rocks and the like. They are learning all about the natural world. We are lucky to have so many nice nature trails literally off our doorstep … so we’ve been exploring, mapping trails (which uses math, reading, etc.) and doing drawings. Just a different focus that reminds me more of what it was like growing up in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Also, since I pivoted my business (industrial design, print/web design, animation, blog writing) to assist first responders, I really got to “do something to help.” I really wanted to pitch in … and making re-usable masks for multiple ICU RNs, doctors and dentists has been a big time, feel good thing for me. Having done most of this work pro bono, well, it’s not sustainable. But … I wish it was. I enjoy doing things for folks that really need the end product and are so appreciative. 

Do you talk about these challenges and benefits with colleagues, clients and customers? Indeed. Most of the folks I talk with are having similar experiences, really enjoying the increased family time. That said, many have also noted huge challenges, especially for those in “essential services” where school has been interrupted but their work has not. Finding childcare, that’s been the issue for some. 

What is changing now that the economy is opening back up?

The novelty of going to a restaurant and sitting on the patio … that’s been amazing. I am quite happy to be able to go out and be pampered by a waiter or waitress … never knew how much I’d miss that (probably because I do most of the cooking at home). It’s so great. Also, starting to see more business activity. I was setting up for the best financial year (of my life) and then POOF … several projects were put on temporary hold (and in some cases canceled altogether). That took some adjusting to, but it’s beginning to thaw and pick back up. I just hope we don’t see another big wave. 

How do you predict the pandemic will permanently change home-life balance for dads?

I think we’ll get more time with our kids (bonus). I don’t see that changing anytime soon, especially with school likely going into some kind of hybrid mode of partial in-person teaching combined with online. For me this is great. I’ve always heard how fast it goes when your kids are little … so I feel like this slows it all down. Gives us a chance to smell the roses and enjoy more moments together. 

What other thoughts can you share with our readers?

I believe the pandemic has given folks a lot more time to reflect on what’s truly important. With so many freedoms taken away we can’t help but sit back and ponder it all. What do we truly, truly miss? What was costing us so much money with not a lot of benefit? (For us, just one example is eating out too much … costs big $$ and isn’t as healthy). What do we really want to see “come back?” Me? I love going to the movies … so I hope to see theaters reopen safely. Also, re-focusing on helping others. With so many in need, a focus on altruism is a clear result for many. And finally, one of my biggest concerns is the mental health of others. I know my wife and I are firmly involved, caring parents. But I worry about others that have lost jobs, lost businesses or have seen upheavals they can’t really manage … and the effect this may have on them and their children. The stress has to be HUGE … so I hope there are remedies coming soon to help deal with this.