"​​I just didn't think anything would change"

with Maria Hvorostovsky

Show notes:

Maria was 6 years into her business when she fell pregnant with her first child. And I can hard relate when she said “I just didn’t think anything would change”.

Maria didn’t take maternity leave until her daughter was 6 months old, and was taking work calls just hours after giving birth! Hear her thoughts on whether it worked for her, and her perspective looking back on it.

We talked a lot about how amazing women and mothers are, and how we just don’t get the respect we deserve – society still just doesn’t get it. And we can see that in the lack of women in senior leadership positions, the ludicrous cost of childcare, and the way that women can be judged for “taking a break” to have a baby.

Lastly, Maria shared what she’s learnt about leadership from her podcast, Anatomy of a Leader – what makes a good leader, founder and business owner. Listen in and let me know if her description resonates with you.




About Maria Hvorostovsky:

Maria is an international head headhunter and Founder & CEO of HVO search, whose goal is to help Founders, Investors, CEOs and HR Directors identify and hire the best people with the RIGHT superpowers who are aligned with their MISSION, MINDSET and VALUES.

You can find Maria on her podcast ‘Anatomy of a leader’, which she started in 2020 following her fascination with what makes a great leader: the lessons they learnt, failure and how they overcame it and why some leaders thrive in one environment and not another.

All of this alongside becoming a mother and raising her two young children.

Maria Hvorostovsky’s Links:

Instagram (Maria)
Instagram (HVO Search)



Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline [00:00:05]:

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I am your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I have the absolute pleasure of welcoming Maria Hvorostovsky. Maria is a powerhouse, an international headhunter, founder and CEO of HVO Search, where their goal is to help founders, investors, CEOs and HR directors identify and hire the best people with the right superpowers who are aligned with their mission, mindset and values. You can find her also on her podcast, Anatomy of a Leader, a podcast started in 2020 following her fascination with what makes a great leader, the lessons they learned, failure and how they overcame it, and why some leaders thrive in one environment and not another.

Caroline [00:01:14]:

All of this alongside becoming a mother and raising her two young children. So maria welcome.

Maria [00:01:22]:

Thank you so much. Caroline, nice to talk to you.

Caroline [00:01:25]:

Lovely to talk to you. I’m really excited to share some of the things you might have to say about motherhood and business ownership. Now, what I’d really like to start with is just finding out about Mums and who are founders and the career path that led to that. So please tell me a little bit about yourself.

Maria [00:01:41]:

Sure. So going back to how did the whole motherhood come around? I always knew that I wanted to have kids, but it wasn’t ever a plan. And I met my husband and literally, it was like love at first sight. We got together, I got pregnant within three weeks of meeting him.

Caroline [00:02:05]:

That’s a great story.

Maria [00:02:07]:

Yeah, that was a whirlwind. And I already had my business, so I’ve been running my company then, I think six years or so. Five or six years. And yeah. Never really thought that it would happen this way. I thought maybe there’ll be some kind of a plan, but I guess the time was right. It was that moment in time when you meet someone and the stars align. And we both wanted that.

Maria [00:02:35]:

It wasn’t really much thinking going on in terms of how is it going to be running a business and being a parent. But I suppose going back a little bit further than that, when I did start my company, it wasn’t started as a way of, well, let’s have some flexibility so I can have more freedom. There was an element to it, but I wanted to do my own thing. At the time my grandfather passed away, I was just about to turn 30 and I was like, you know what? If I don’t do it now, there’s just going to be something that’s going to prevent me from doing it so there’s less risk. Let’s start it. And so I did, and I’ve already had very amazing examples of female founders that I’ve worked for, so I’ve always seen that that was possible. So I guess that was also part of the reason for wanting to do something of my own, because I see examples of it. But no, I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like to be a business owner and a parent, a mother in particular.

Maria [00:03:46]:

So I’m sure you hear a lot of that on your show.

Caroline [00:03:49]:

Yes, I think we can all relate. Basically, it’s the common theme running throughout, especially if you had your business before babies, which I didn’t. And I can relate to that a lot, actually, because I think coming from the VA industry as well and seeing female founders, and I think that’s probably why I’m starting this podcast. If you see other people doing it or around it, we can both relate. It wasn’t as much of a leap for us, maybe, because it’s kind of something we’re immersed in, is that founder community. So were you working in before you started HBO Search? Were you working in the industry before that?

Maria [00:04:21]:

Yes, so I spent, I can’t count now how many years it was before I started my business, but yeah, no, I started with a boutique executive search firm, and I spent about just five and a half years there, really learning the craft of research and interviewing, screening candidates, finding them. I even caught the days of having to go to the library to look through books, to look for people. And now that we have LinkedIn, obviously that has completely gone away. But yeah, it was a really interesting way to start because you’re already talking to very accomplished people, very senior people, very early on. And so I stayed there for five and a half years. I went to another fashion related recruitment company that was building out their executive search practice. And that was a whirlwind, because there was traveling every single week to Berlin, Paris, Milan, and looking for new business, because this company hasn’t been that well established in the UK just yet, and actually in UK and Europe, and none of that was really fun times, but as I said, it was leading up to my was like, you know what? Let’s just do it. Let’s just go for it.

Maria [00:05:46]:

What do I have to lose? And then here we are.

Caroline [00:05:50]:

Best time to do it. And so let’s fast forward. You get pregnant three weeks after meeting your husband. So did you have any plan or any thoughts in place of, right, how is your business going to work alongside motherhood?

Maria [00:06:04]:

Absolutely not. I had no idea. I didn’t think about it. Actually, that’s not true. I did think about it. I just didn’t think anything would change. I thought, well, I’ve already got some kind of flexibility. I had a team at the time.

Maria [00:06:22]:

So I can delegate, I can make things work. So I just thought I was just going to continue the same. We could talk about the birth, but I had my first and my second as a home birth. But on the first one they recommended that I go to the hospital for just like a routine thing. And so I remember sitting there and feeling so happy and so elated that this baby exists. And a client of mine texts me and she’s like, hey, I’ve got two searches for you. And I’m like great, amazing. So I’m there on the phone with her, literally, I have just given birth like 6 hours ago and I’m just so happy and I’m like, yeah, I can totally do it.

Maria [00:07:13]:

And I felt so much energy on that day and just so much happiness that I thought I could literally do anything. And a week later I was probably regretting that because I remember about to go on the call and just desperately crying, thinking I don’t know what I’m doing and just obviously feeling very hormonal. And that’s when I started to think, you know what, I know I can do it. And I did do it. I would recommend to another mother to really be that way. So you don’t have to be a superwoman, you don’t have to be on the phone and saying yes, ready to take a client on. So I think that’s the mindset shift and it’s like, well, I can absolutely do it all. And I did, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the right thing.

Maria [00:08:01]:

And looking back, I wouldn’t do that again. I would be like great, amazing, maybe give me a few weeks or something just to spend time with my baby.

Caroline [00:08:11]:

Or ride the high out because I love you sharing your high after birth, because I had that with my first as well. And I think it’s so wonderful that that can be the case. And if you run a business, maybe don’t agree to stuff when you’re on that high after you’ve just birthed your first child.

Maria [00:08:27]:

Yeah, for sure.

Caroline [00:08:28]:

Yeah. And I appreciate you sharing. Maybe you wouldn’t recommend that because I do think sometimes you can, especially if you’re talking to us a few years ago. Because I can relate to that as well of like nothing’s going to change. I’m going to carry on doing this and be superwoman. It’s okay to say no to business or to delay it or to have that time to recover because of the hormones and what your body goes through. Even with a healthy birth, I think it’s so important to recognize that I did this. But it doesn’t mean has it laid the path for where you are now or saying yes to those two searches.

Maria [00:09:08]:

I think it came from a place of and this is something that I’ve learned being a mother and having to not just think about yourself, but also the lessons that it teaches you. And I went through a whole journey of understanding where my triggers and my traumas come from. And that actually the reason why I’m so driven and so relentless and sometimes like a dog with a bone and just, like, won’t give up. I will just keep doing it, even if it’s at the personal cost to myself. And being a mother, I’ve realized that that’s not the best way of operating. You’re not operating from a place of abundance. You’re kind of operating from a place of fear. At least that’s what it was like for me, and that was something really important.

Maria [00:09:57]:

So I’m now a huge advocate for taking a moment, taking time. You don’t have to be constantly busy doing something, even if it’s productive, even if it’s really good for your business. I think there are moments when you just need to prioritize yourself first and put yourself and not actually engage and just take care of yourself and your body.

Caroline [00:10:24]:

Yeah, I think that’s such a valuable thing because I can identify that. With my first job, I felt such a place of fear that I was going to get left behind and went back very quickly. And I think that is such great advice if anyone can kind of feel, okay, my drive. Is this coming from a place of true, like I said, abundance or true joy, and it is the right time, or am I doing this because I fear this new stage of my life and I fear that I might have to take a pause, figure out who I am in motherhood, and then come back to it. And that might not be the traditional year that some people take from corporate, but just give the timeline that works for you if you have that privilege with a business.

Maria [00:11:07]:

I do think that we’re still not there yet culturally about accepting women who work whether they are in the corporate or whether they are in or whether they’re running their own business. I lost a client when I was pregnant with my second. It was a client that I’ve worked with before, but when they found out that I was having a second baby, it was literally like, okay, well, we’re not going to go ahead with the search anymore. So that really stuck with me. And I think that was the first time that I realized, wait a second, there is something to this about being a mother and all of a sudden not being seen less than that. Somehow you’re not capable. Even though with the first child, literally, I didn’t take a maternity leave until six months when my daughter turned six months when we went to Brazil and we spent two months out there. When I say maternity leave, I basically worked through at least 50% of that remotely.

Maria [00:12:15]:

And when I was with my second, I was like, I’ve already done it. I’ve already proven that I can do it.

Caroline [00:12:23]:

And that you still want to as well. I think that’s the thing. You’re not just going to dump your clients kind of thing.

Maria [00:12:29]:

I think this fear doesn’t necessarily come from your own traumas and your own fears, unfounded fears. I know that in society we don’t see women who are mothers as capable because, well, the physical health, the priorities change. But I think that there is still a long way to go to figure out how to make that happen. And for, I guess, society to realise that, yes, women can do it. But yes, we also need to support them so that way they can continue that they don’t fall out of the workforce or they don’t stop doing their businesses or investors invest into the founders who are mothers. So there’s a lot to be done there.

Caroline [00:13:18]:

No, I agree. And I think even I don’t know, I’ve thought about this a lot because when women are like, oh, no one told me this was going to happen, or this is how it is. And I think there was an element we didn’t want to listen before we came kids. So that’s where the society change comes in, is making women, girls and men more involved in what a journey of becoming a family looks like and supporting them pre when they’re ready to get to that stage because then it’s less of a shock for them.

Maria [00:13:47]:

Yes, I definitely like looking at my own experience. I should have really looked into it a little bit more. But you know what? Sometimes just life is like that. Things happen. And there’s a lot of women who wait and wait to have children and then sadly, some cannot. And sometimes you just have to do it or it just happens by accident and you figure it out. And sometimes when you know how hard things are, you decide not to.

Caroline [00:14:18]:

Yeah, that’s so true.

Maria [00:14:19]:

Same thing as in business. A lot of founders, like, if I had known it was this hard, I would never do it. And I think.

Caroline [00:14:29]:

And was there anything that stands out as shocked you most once you started to get into the routine of motherhood and running your business? If you’re in that routine yet.

Maria [00:14:39]:

I think I am in the routine now. I mean, my daughter’s five, my son is going to be four very soon. So we are in the routine now. And I’d say the reason why we’re in the routine for two reasons is because childcare is now simplified. Because they are nearly both in the official kind of government plan and the school that they go to has after school childcare. So you’ve got like wraparound childcare. And I think if it wasn’t for that, it would be extremely difficult. I think one of the things that really shocked me becoming a business owner and a mother is all of the structures that you don’t think about.

Maria [00:15:24]:

For example, I can’t expense childcare as a business expense. But then I’m like, well, if I don’t have that, then I literally cannot work because I don’t have my mother. My mom passed away. My husband’s parents are in another country. They’re in Brazil, and so what am I supposed to do? So if I don’t have childcare, I can’t run my you know, okay, there are some government, but it’s just not enough. I mean, this is something that I feel a lot of women don’t really understand until they’re in the thick of it. And it’s not easy to understand all of it either. It’s not easy.

Maria [00:16:05]:

It’s not easy to understand what you’re entitled to, how to calculate it. And it’s just a constant balance. It’s a juggling act all the time.

Caroline [00:16:15]:

And like you said, with the changes, I think my personal shock, which I hope others can relate to, was the school hours, when that became a thing, because you get used to nursery, and that’s like eight to six. They get all their meals there as well. And then you’re like, oh, but I’ve got to leave at half two to collect my child. If your child doesn’t have a school with wraparound care and things, and we’re lucky now, but we didn’t have access to it for about a year or something. And it is that whole logistics of that, I think, can be quite a shock for mum starting it. And we touched on this briefly, but I just also wanted to, if you’re happy to talk about your home birth, because I am someone who also had one with my second, and it was amazing, but like, you had to go to hospital for just nothing big, a little issue for me. But then my child ended up getting very sick, and I felt I think it’s a good place to talk about it. I felt a lot.

Caroline [00:17:08]:

I was judged for my home birth. And so I think when we talk about walking, about judging working mothers, I think the whole of motherhood, we can sometimes judge on that. So what made you have a home birth the first time and just go for it? Because they both sound great.

Maria [00:17:21]:

I went from wanting to have an elective C section wanting a home birth, and I 100% give credit to Mary Anne Constable, so shout out to her, who was my hypnobirthing teacher. And when I first heard of hypnobirthing, I was like, what is this woo woo stuff? Like, whatever. But what I liked about it was it was in my yoga center that I went to just doing my usual yoga practice, and it was something that you did with your partner, so you did as a couple. And I thought, you know what, it would be a nice experience, kind of learn about it. And there was no woo woo stuff in there whatsoever. In fact, it was so super practical that I understood not only the biological process of birth, but also the UK NHS process of work. So I think it’s probably close to what the antinatal classes are. But she was so good at bringing the partner into the process, so you became a team and that was like massive bonus for both me and my partner.

Maria [00:18:33]:

And he still to this day says that he was so glad that he went to do it and that the birth itself was the most amazing experience that he’s had in his life. So, for me, choosing a home birth was actually a rational, logical and practical decision. And the reason why I say that is it comes down to amazing NHS and amazing midwives, and also luck to some extent, because when you have a home birth in the UK, they send you two midwives to come and stay with you, I think when you’re 4cm dilated. So that’s what they tend to like, they want to that’s the point in time when they come. So the two midwives stay with you for 12 hours and then they change for another two midwives. So, effectively, you’re in your own home, you’re in your own environment, and you’re getting almost like a private experience and it’s cheaper for the NHS for you to have a home birth than it is to be.

Caroline [00:19:38]:

I looked at the stats for that as well before I had one.

Maria [00:19:41]:

And when you’re in the hospital, basically, a midwife might come every so often, they’re not there with you, holding your hand and looking after you every moment of the day. So that was like, okay, this is really interesting. And what they explained is that because the luck part is that I live very, very close to the hospital, so in an ambulance, it’s effectively like a 15 minutes maximum. And what Mary Anne explained to me is that even if you’re in the hospital and you’re in the maternity wing, in a regular maternity wing, and something happens, and you need to have to go into a more advanced you have to have emergency C section or whatever there’s an emergency. It will still take somewhere between 15 to maybe even 40 minutes for them to prepare a room whilst you’re already in the hospital. And I was like, well, that’s the same amount of time that it’s going to take me from going to my house to the hospital room, but I don’t even have to the midwives will call the hospital, they’ll get the room arranged, they’ll call the ambulance, they’ll get you into the ambulance. So you effectively have two very experienced people who are monitoring you all the time. So, for me, as I said, that was like a complete rational decision.

Maria [00:21:05]:

And talking about judgment, I haven’t actually received judgment on having home births, but I do get sometimes like, oh, wow, you’re so amazing. Oh, could never do that. I was thinking about that. It’s like, I don’t think we should praise women for having a home birth and I don’t think we should look down on women who have an elective C section. Every way you have a birth is amazing and incredible. And I think living in today’s age and being so privileged, living in the UK and having access to medical care, it’s amazing to be able to have the choice and be able to be looked after if anything happens or if you don’t feel comfortable, that you know, that you your doctors will take care of you. And so having a home birth for me was great because I was in my home environment. My husband knew everything that he needed to do.

Maria [00:22:01]:

He was actively involved. We were cracking jokes with the midwives when I was having an air, and it was hard. It’s tough.

Caroline [00:22:12]:

Yeah, it hurts, doesn’t it?

Maria [00:22:16]:

I’m not allowed to use that word. We don’t talk about descriptive negative aspect of it.

Caroline [00:22:26]:

No, in the lead up, I never would have done. But it’s a journey. It’s not an easy one. And I do think, like hypno, I’m a hypnobirthing fan myself, and what the tools that teaches you can be relevant in so many areas of life?

Maria [00:22:41]:

I do think absolutely. Well, what it did make me realize about having a home birth, there was a moment when I was so tired and when I was doing a degree or when you’re doing a project or there is a search and you think, oh, it’s just too tough. You know what? I’m going to sleep on it and I’m going to wake up in the morning and I’m going to finish it. And I was like, you know what? I don’t have this option. There’s no option. This is happening right now in the here and now. I’ve got to do this. And I just remember almost, like, summoning up all of the energy that you could muster and being like, no, this is going to happen.

Maria [00:23:24]:

And all of a sudden, this surge of power coming into your body. And I remember thinking at that moment, if I can do this, I can do anything, and also thinking, like, I’m never having another child again.

Caroline [00:23:40]:

Well, in that moment, you may think that, and then afterwards you forget.

Maria [00:23:43]:

No, but it was so incredible. And as I said, I felt when she finally came out, and she came out with both her hands on toes and I don’t know, I only said that afterwards. And just feeling so elated and feeling so relieved and yeah, being in your own home and your own environment and yeah, just feeling like, this is amazing what the female body can do and how we don’t talk about that. We talk about, oh, keep breasts and all the stuff that happens, but we don’t go to the fundamental fact that every single person that has ever existed has come out of a woman. Yeah, there isn’t. I marveled it. I went to a shopping center at one point, and I was sitting there and there’s loads of people going by and I was thinking, oh my God, all of these people, every single one of you came from a woman and how much that’s not celebrated enough. And I think these stories about just the physical, the biological ability to do this is incredible.

Maria [00:24:56]:

And we forget and we have to not forget.

Caroline [00:25:00]:

I think that’s so true. And then even all the mental attached with that as well. And I think no matter how you birthed or how your baby came into the world, it’s such a good point. Like if it was celebrated like we came back to earlier and what we can achieve in business and things, maybe that would be more respected if we came round full circle to that. Because I think like your husband did and so many husbands out there do experience, see what their partners go through at birth and then we kind of forget about it in normal society and then just hear the parts that aren’t great about it. And it’s magical how it happens and how we summon the strength for it to produce offspring. So it’s really, I think, such a place for this on this podcast to talk about that journey you’ve been on alongside your business.

Maria [00:25:54]:

Yeah. So there’s the biological aspect of giving birth, of carrying a child. I mean, it takes its toll. And I think we as women, we try, we do up until having kids, we live a man’s life to some of that, at least I did. And that’s why I had absolutely no idea that there were any kind of barriers to me. And I don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be to live like a man’s life. You learn so many more different ways of being. As I said, it’s this biological aspect of producing a child.

Maria [00:26:32]:

But then there is the whole of the rest of your life looking after them and taking care of them and raising your children while still trying to look after yourself, building a business, having a social life, god forbid.

Caroline [00:26:51]:

And that is important since mine are now my youngest is now two and a half. So having a bit more of that space to be able to go and have a social life and realizing that makes me a better mother and a whole person to go and see shows, see people in real person, I think that is so important. We recognize that that we’re not martyrs, we don’t need to be martyrs. And it’s very important we appreciate what makes us better mothers and people.

Maria [00:27:16]:

Yeah. And I think this is where we go wrong in society of this small units of okay, a husband, a wife, dad that works, mum that stays at home, and this sort of division of labor, which is completely false to how we actually raise children as humans. Because being alone, raising your child by yourself is inhumane. Is inhumane. You are not supposed to be alone in the house, just raising your child. I’m not even including all of the other invisible labor, like washing the dishes, doing the laundry, cooking, whatever. We are not designed to bring up a child all on our own. We need others around us.

Maria [00:28:11]:

And I think this is where it all goes wrong, where we have the expectation that women will do this part, but actually we need to have a huge village around us to be able to support that. And that talking about networking and having a social life, that all ties into it. We need others around us. We’re not designed to live in tiny, tiny units, and we’re definitely not designed to raise a child all by ourselves.

Caroline [00:28:38]:

And speaking of tiny units, because you would have had both your children around during COVID and your business, how did that work? If you can remember it, you’re not blocked out your memory. Because I do think it’s important to bring up because our lives were so different a few years ago.

Maria [00:28:55]:

Traumatic, really. So my daughter was 15 months old when my son was born, and he was just over a year old when COVID started and they were both in nursery. And then it just unleashed a whole load of things in terms of not having any childcare living in the house, not being able to go anywhere. And it put a huge amount of pressure on my relationship with my husband. I won’t hold a lie. It was really one of the most difficult periods of time because there is this fear about what’s happening in the world. You have small children, what’s going to happen to your business? So literally every single fear was activated. So that period of time was really, really challenging.

Maria [00:29:46]:

And again, this is something that I’ve learned about myself, is that when things go wrong, when there is some kind of crisis, instead of taking stock and thinking, okay, let’s take a pause here, let’s take a breath and figure out what’s going on, I just jump straight into action and start doing things, which is great when things are really falling apart, but when it’s more of a psychological aspect, actually taking some time and thinking, you know, what is the best course of action? Let’s just take a breather and decide what not to do. So I think I overdid it at that point. Again, acting out of fear rather than thinking things through. Yeah, that period is probably best left for well done.

Caroline [00:30:35]:

Because I think thank you for sharing, because I personally can relate to the challenging times COVID brought to marriages and raising children and businesses at home. I mean, I was lucky. Mine wasn’t actually running, in actual fact. So that was great. So I just think it’s important to mention as that’s a real part of our motherhood journeys now, that time period, hopefully never to be repeated again, but still part of our. Journey. Something I’m really fascinated to know about you is you work with CC Talent and interview some of the most inspiring leaders on your podcast. What traits have you consider from them to be essential, to be a founder and especially maybe a mother and a founder.

Maria [00:31:23]:

The best leaders I’ve interviewed are self aware or at the very least they have arrived to it where they really understand themselves and they can accept the mistakes that they have made. They look at failure, that it’s not the end of the world, that it’s just something that happens and in order to arrive to success, you have to make mistakes. They’re not afraid to do that. Empathy and this is not talking just about female versus men, but I would say all best leaders have an understanding of how to treat other people. Because for a founder especially, you need to win other people on board. When you’re talking about sales, negotiation, marketing, influencing, you need to be able to get other people on board. And the best way to do that is to be a good person. I’d say yes, sure, there are some *** that succeed, but really the best ones, they bring people on board and they build exceptional teams so they hire the best.

Maria [00:32:40]:

They look for people who are better than them. They encourage people to bring the best out of them rather than micromanaging. I mean, we talk about that all the time, but it really is about getting people to believe in your vision that is so crystal clear and being intrinsically motivated to do it, rather than with cash bonuses or even negative incentives. It’s really about bringing people to do their best work by inspiring them. So yeah, I would say that amazing.

Caroline [00:33:19]:

And that’s so interesting bringing them up because you think as mothers, there’s no choice. I was saying this, I think earlier with someone else, that when you’ve got your little child there with all your traits and things, you’ve got no choice but to learn to be. If you’re not self aware, you start to learn to be and start to try and find out why you are. And the same with empathy and things. And I heard you also talk on your podcast how men are more likely to apply for jobs they’re not qualified for with women. Do you think that’s true with starting businesses as well?

Maria [00:33:49]:

I’m not sure. I don’t know if that’s the answer. I probably haven’t interviewed enough yet, or at least not focused on that question. But there is something to men just leaping into it without having all of the answers. But having said that, the women who I’ve interviewed who started businesses, they pretty much did that. So maybe if you look overall and again, I don’t have the statistics of how many men just sort of leap into it without realising versus women, maybe there is a little bit more of a risk aversion for women. Because for whatever reason but I certainly do think that founders who start you kind of leap into unknown known, and you can do all of the preparation, and you can figure out every single thing, but ultimately, you won’t have all the answers. And most of the founders have realised, as I said earlier, had they known it was going to be so difficult, they wouldn’t have started.

Maria [00:34:55]:

I think one theme that came out of the interviews from the podcast is a lot of women have started business, have started businesses in frustrations to the fact that they could not achieve what they wanted to do in the corporate world and then they wanted to take that into kind of like the unknown. So I feel like that is something happening for women for sure. That whether you didn’t have enough flexibility and you said, you know what, I’m just going to start whatever business in my kitchen and I’m going to work around those hours. So I think that flexibility aspect is massive for women and it’s a challenge for me as well because I think a lot of amazing, incredible women leave the workforce. So in the corporate world to create smaller companies, for example, so maybe they don’t even have any intention of having a unicorn, but they just want to have more flexibility and do work on their terms. And I would want to encourage women to start businesses because they are solving a problem in the world and not just creating flexibility for themselves. I don’t want to say that that’s the reason why they do that, but that’s what I’m getting from the conversations. So going back to whether men leap into it, there is this theory of why men kind of apply for jobs that they’re not necessarily qualified for.

Maria [00:36:30]:

And it’s to do with dating. The fact that heterosexual men, when looking for a partner, they have to go out and they have to ask a woman out on a date. And the fact that they do that means that they’re more likely to basically go out there and ask for things.

Caroline [00:36:47]:

Put themselves out there, I guess.

Maria [00:36:48]:

Exactly. Whereas women don’t. So I don’t know.

Caroline [00:36:51]:

That’s so interesting. Yeah, I need to look more into that. I like that whole side of it. And I love your thought because I’m speaking to more and more female founders as well, part of this podcast and just networking, a lot of them are all starting these businesses that aren’t just to make money or to solve a problem. It’s also to give back, like where it’s supporting the circular economy, things like that. And I love because I know you’ve also spoken to Rachel at Koru Kids because it’s also like supporting changing the state of childcare, which I know you talk about a lot, which I hugely respect because I can’t times. You know, I felt very frustrated early motherhood because I had a lot of friends who weren’t mothers yet and trying to explain to them how much a childcare bill was and why they should care. I couldn’t.

Caroline [00:37:40]:

And that’s just like women the same age as me, but hadn’t got to that stage yet. And it’s really a challenge we’re facing.

Maria [00:37:48]:

Right now, for sure. Cost of childcare I think it’s the biggest barrier to women being in any senior leadership positions, whether it’s in the corporate world, whether it’s having a business, because it’s a real consideration and something that I’ve only come to realise once I’ve started investing into it myself and realising just how expensive it was. But my business was doing fine at the time, so it was a normal consideration. But I think if you’re looking to go back into work and then you’re looking at the cost of childcare and how much you’re actually generating, you’re like, this doesn’t make any sense, because I’m going to work and I’m literally at net zero with childcare for a lot of women and thinking, well, I’m basically paying someone else to look after my children. But at the same time, if you do look after your children and then you don’t go back into the workforce, then you’re penalised because you’re out of work and not in the corporate world. And I feel like that’s entirely unfair. And if we want more women in senior leadership positions, we have to address that. This is like the number one thing where some country, Scandinavian countries have way more affordable childcare and you have more women in senior leadership positions who can progress.

Maria [00:39:21]:

And I don’t think it has to be a choice whether you stay and look after your kids or whether you go back into the workforce. You have to do both. That’s just life. We’re not one or the other. Or maybe you are, and that’s fine if that’s what you decide, but I don’t know how many women who are mothers who would say, okay, someone take care of my child and I’m just going to dedicate all of my hours to work. You still want to have a relationship with your children and I would dare to say that even men have that, but because culturally, it’s like, you go in there, you have like, whatever, one week paternity leave, that’s it. And you have to go and work for longer hours just so that you can compensate for your wife not working. And I think that’s all.

Maria [00:40:06]:

It’s all backwards. It’s just backwards. We need the village. We need the village.

Caroline [00:40:11]:

Where is it? And it’s the knock on effect with the gender pay gap and then pension gap as well, which is huge. It’s like, well, of course there’s a pension gap if you don’t have women going back to work and they’re not able to return to the senior leadership path they might have once been on before they had children. And that goes back to the village. And it also brings me to a question I quite like to ask a lot of our podcast guests is how do you do it? And the reason I ask this is because I know it’s a controversial question. I think from my experience, it’s been desperate mothers literally hoping I’ve got some sort of secret to give them, or people who aren’t at the baby stage yet and genuinely quite respect that. I have a business and babies, so I know it’s like, how do you feel about this question?

Maria [00:40:57]:

First and foremost, I love this question because it’s something that I’ve spent some time thinking about because I see these post and it’s like, oh, female CEO with the word female crossed out or oh, only women who only women get asked this question and not men. And whilst I’m all for having equality, I think also if we don’t address it, if we don’t talk about it, we’re doing women an injustice because it’s a conversation that needs to be had, because how difficult it is for women and what the challenges are. And personally, I want to know this as well. So when I’m talking to female CEOs, I’m like, how do you do it? Because I want to know what challenges do you face? Yes, they’re similar to mine. And then how do you work around that? What do you actually do? So I think it’s a very important question that we have to ask because we need to continue the conversation, we need to continue bringing this to the world’s attention and we also need to share we also need to share tips and tricks and hacks and long term strategies about how to make this happen. Because women have been in the workforce, what, since the 1950s. So it’s a tiny, tiny amount of time. And when I say workforce, I mean paid workforce.

Maria [00:42:28]:

Women have worked forever doing way more, way more for no recognition, no pay, but they want to be recognized for that now. They want to be paid, they want to have freedom, they want to have independence. And so how do you do it? Needs to be a national question and how can you help me do it? Needs to be a national question.

Caroline [00:42:56]:

Especially in a world where the world rewards financial independence. It’s a lot easier to get out of something toxic, whether it’s a workplace or a marriage, if you financially can fall back on it. And if you can’t, then it’s a lot harder and it’s a lot more toxic for everyone. If you can’t do mean that’s such a huge extreme piece. But that’s why I do think it’s so important if we’re recognizing the mental load is a in line with that. Have you got any tips, Maria, about how you have made it through the early years and got your business and your podcast? Because there will be people in awe of that listening to this.

Maria [00:43:38]:

I’d say number one is prioritise yourself. And I say this wholeheartedly to women because even be more selfish. Because I think on the whole, women tend to put other people’s needs first. Whether it’s because they’ve been socialised, whether it’s because there is some kind of gene in women that they’re more likely to do it. Whatever the reason is, it is just a fact that women do put others first. So even if they put a little bit more effort into looking after themselves, the whole world will improve their relationship with their children will improve their relationship with their partner, will improve how they show up to work, how they show up in business. All of that will improve. So I would say, really put yourself first.

Maria [00:44:32]:

Make time for yourself. I know not everyone can afford to do that, but talk to your partner. Explain to them that this is what you need in order to be the best version of yourself. Get your friends, your family. You need I don’t want to say allies, because it sounds like you’re going to war. You need, because again, this goes back to that kind of fear versus abundance. It’s about creating a structure around yourself. And I think for someone like myself, for example, where this idea of autonomy and freedom is so important that you shut out everybody else.

Maria [00:45:14]:

And I think it’s about going in, being the best female version of yourself, about including others and getting them to help you and accepting help. So I think this idea of spend some time by yourself, you need that. Be alone. Whether it’s reading a book, whether it’s sleeping, whether it’s getting your nails done, whether it’s going for a walk, just be alone. Just have somewhere where someone’s not bothering you every second of the day. And I think this is something that me and my husband have worked for quite some time in terms of I didn’t realize that I actually needed that time by myself. And when he like a night in shining armor said, you know what, I’m going to take care of the kids in the morning and in the evenings for the next three weeks. And whenever you want to spend time with the kids, you can do that.

Maria [00:46:11]:

And literally those three weeks, wow. At first I was like I felt guilty. I was like, I was working every single morning and every single evenings. I was like, I can just now get extra stuff done. And then at one point, I was like, you know what, I’m just going to just sit outside and look at the trees. Then it was like, I’m going to read a book. Then I was doing nothing. And all of a sudden my brain came back, my creativity came back.

Maria [00:46:39]:

And I was like, this is what men have been getting for generations, where just having that free time that you don’t necessarily have to do work or do anything productive, just being and enjoying yourself and I guess just connecting with yourself and I was like, this is it. So this is something that, okay, we’re not doing that. We’re still like, splitting our childcare, but.

Caroline [00:47:07]:

Sometimes you strip it back and start again. That was great.

Maria [00:47:11]:

Yeah. But just having that period of time just made me realize how important it is. So I don’t do it all. I don’t try to anymore. Pick your battles. Pick your battles, is what I would say. What’s important to you?

Caroline [00:47:30]:

I think we can also like martyrdom motherhood and we don’t need to if we’ve got the help there or a husband willing to do that or a community in some form, we don’t have the village that but if you’ve got a parent down the road, you can do what if it’s one day a week, you just know you’ve got that evening. I think that’s so true. And actually, that’s been shared on a few podcasts in a different form. So that was fantastic advice. Thank you, Maria. And is there anything you’d like to share about what’s next for your business or the podcast?

Maria [00:48:00]:

World Domination?

Caroline [00:48:02]:

Yes, exactly. Let’s all have Maria’s wisdom and leadership knowledge from the people you access. So no, that’s fantastic.

Maria [00:48:12]:

Thank you.

Caroline [00:48:14]:

Thank you so much for being on the podcast today on Bump to Business Owner. Now, Maria, where can people find you?

Maria [00:48:19]:

You can find me on LinkedIn. That’s the best place. So, Maria Hvorostovsky or Mariah HVO. And check out my podcast, Anatomy of a Leader, which is on all of the platforms, And on YouTube and Instagram. Yeah, I’m sometimes there too TikTok, but I’d say LinkedIn. Yeah, on and off. More to come. But yes.

Maria [00:48:47]:


Caroline [00:48:48]:

Well, no, honestly, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed our chat, and I feel so many women will get a lot of comfort from it. So thank you so much. Thank you.

Maria [00:48:56]:

I really appreciate it. Thank you, Caroline.


Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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