Motherhood means more than having given birth to a child. Yes, it’s the sleepless nights, nursing and teaching them how to walk, talk and eventually grow up to be loving individuals who make their own mark on the world. To me, motherhood is also about seeing the potential in others the same way that we would see in our own child. It’s finding opportunities to show others that they too are smart, funny and capable of doing great things. Being stern and protective about the world that we all live in is what it means to be a woman.

Becoming a mother changed not only my home life, it also shifted the way that I choose to co-lead our company, Rebel Nell. I wholeheartedly believe in Maya Angelou’s words that, “success is liking yourself liking what you do and liking how you do it.” After giving birth to my son, I had to re-evaluate if the success of my business was truly aligned with my beliefs as a new mother. According to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, only 40 percent of professional women return to work full-time after taking time off to focus on family. Why so few? I’m sure it’s because they too asked themselves the hard questions and in their answers discovered a new purpose.

Whether a mother, grandmother, aunt, a friend or neighbor, women’s shared history and unshakable faith in the greatness in one another make for a lasting bond. Sometimes we see motherhood in different forms and through different people who have influenced our lives. It might not have been the person who should have loved you, but you become who you are because somebody chose to love you.

A one-size-fits-all definition of motherhood leaves out so many women who are worth celebrating. Women all around the country are leading the charge of making change with kindness and strength. Right here in Detroit, I see so many women who make the nurturing nature of motherhood the centre of their business models. In honor of May being Female Founders Month, here’s how some of my favorite ladies get the job done:

Generosity — Pay It Forward

Yodit Mesfin Johnson of Lips and Hips, runs her business through a model of deep giving. Her vision to create a space where girls and women could dream, plan and do what they are purposed for is her way of paying forward what she is thankful to have received. Serving girls and teaching them how to become makers, entrepreneurs, leaders and feminist- changemakers, is the form of activism that her business believes in. “I owe a debt to those who paved the way for me. Investing our business resources to support marginalized girls and women is one way we pay forward our gratitude.”

Invest in Your Own Backyard

Rebecca Smith’s mother gave her advice that she never will forget — “bloom where you are planted”. When she moved to Hamtramck, Detroit in 2010 with a small ETSY hobby making bags she leaned on her mother’s advice as she began to experience growth with Better Life Bags. A decision to employ from her community transformed her life and the lives of her neighbors. “It only made sense to hire women from our neighborhood to connect the desire to invest in the community with the need I had to keep sewing bags. Once I saw the difference a steady income made in one woman’s life, I decided to expand intentionally and find more women in need of a job in our neighborhood.”

Grit & Hustle

Having spent a lot of time with her maternal grandmother due to the instability of her primary family unit, April Boyle of Build Institute sees Detroit as a city of people who are resilient and creative innovators out of necessity. Knowing that Detroit is brimming with talent but not everyone has access to the same resources, is why her mission is to turn their business ideas into reality by providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and support. “Becoming a mother has reaffirmed my commitment to help democratize entrepreneurship and small business funding so that all people can build wealth and feel invited to the table.”

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