Interview with a Mompreneur: Ayesha Rollinson of Team Atomica
HELM is very proud to provide grant-funded childcare support to Ontario-based women entrepreneurs. In our series, Interview with a Mompreneur, we get a glimpse into the businesses and lives of the talented moms who are taking part in The Childcare Support Pilot for Women Entrepreneurs. We hope you find these superwomen as inspiring as we do!
For this week’s interview, we are thrilled to introduce you to Ayesha Rollinson, the powerhouse founder of Team Atomica.
Tell us about your business:
“Team Atomica is all about mastering your inner athlete. The expert coaching staff use personal experience to create successful exercise programs driven by accountability, accessibility and education.
Team Atomica offers personalized training programs, swim stroke improvement, masters and open water swimming, indoor and outdoor cycling, and training camps. The Masters Swim Club offers 13 weekly workouts and the option of attending any that fits your schedule. The NCCP certified coaching staff is ripe with ex-professional athletes and an exercise physiologist who are ready to share their knowledge and educate the athletes.
Team Atomica is an open and inclusive club that works with beginner to professional athletes.”
Tell us about your family:
“Most people tell me I am ‘right in the thick of it’ when I say that I have three kids under 5: a 1-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 5-year-old. The thing is, I have always been busy. I enjoy work, and I get a thrill out of maximizing ‘output’. All that to say, I am getting a kick out of figuring out how to make it work.
I have a wonderful common law husband who I would consider the lead parent. He has taken paternity leave with each child to enable me to continue building my business. His willingness to be the lead parent in these first years has created a special balance in the family where gender roles are not defined or acted on. So much so, that my eldest daughter used to refer to both of us as ‘mommydaddy’. No distinction. She now sometimes catches herself referring to me as ‘daddy’ and daddy as ‘mommy’.
We have 3 active and healthy kids who see and hear their parents fluidly move from caregiver, cook, worker, play friend to mentor and back again.
My partner and I build exercise into our life by running the kids to school and having ‘date night’ on our bicycles in the basement while watching Netflix. We spent the first 15 years of our relationship as active competitors on the running and triathlon race circuit, and it is important for us to maintain our fitness and health.
We also have exercise survival strategies where one of us drives the kids to outings (3-10km away) and the other runs there to meet up. We switch places on the way back (energy levels permitting!).”
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
“In retrospect, my becoming an entrepreneur may have been written in the cards as early as 14-years-old.
I have always been industrious and someone who drives forward. My dad, an entrepreneur himself, says ‘there are no problems, only solutions’. I honestly just live this quote, day to day, without thinking about it. I think that this way of being, combined with a strong work ethic, lends itself to entrepreneurship.
As early as 14, I was making jewelry and selling it to my parents’ friends and at markets. At around the same age, I started to coach and mentor younger athletes who wanted to learn to run faster. You can see how I feel the wheels were already turning, and I was headed towards where I am today without any kind of conscious plan.
To get back to the question, I would have to say that my father is the real inspiration behind my business. He has a brilliantly creative mind and never let anything get him down. There was always a way out; there was always a good idea that would save the day and move his business forward.”
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
“Being empowered and feeling like I am contributing to society in a meaningful way. I am enabling people to better their lives through athletic goals, I get to provide for my family, AND I get to employ people. It is a dream come true.”
What are your goals for your business in the future?
“I want to continue to enable Torontonians to bring better health into their busy schedules. With this as my main goal, I hope to expand our menu of services and grow my team of talented coaches.
I have other expansion goals: to develop programs in Montreal, Ottawa and even London (Ontario). My current project is expanding my youth/adult program which provides group training for young swimmers and their caregivers at the same time.”
What is your biggest Mom vs. Career challenge?
“This is an interesting question because I don’t have a great answer. My current business model, work structure, and Dad being lead parent all ensure that I don’t feel a huge challenge here.
If I am being honest, I think the biggest Mom vs. Career challenge is being okay with slower business growth so that I can spend quality time with the family. This means I don’t spend all my time at work, which, frankly, I could. If I did spend more than 45 hours a week on my business, it would be bigger and better. However, I am happy to give up the bigger and better business for Team Atomica’s current state of ‘big-enough and good-enough’.
I look forward to more growth as the kids grow and require less of my time (and cleaning-up after!).”
What are your strategies for creating work/life balance?
“This is an easier one for me. This is an area where I feel my insane drive to do everything combined with my father’s problem-solving skills helps me to achieve more.
I integrate exercise into EVERYTHING I do. For instance, someone is interviewing me next week and I have set up this interview so that I will be training on my indoor bike while the interview is happening. I also do things like wear my sports bra as my everyday bra so that if a chance arises to run or workout, I can get at it more quickly.
I insist on practicing good sleep habits. This ensures I can be productive with the waking hours I have. I sleep in a cool room with a sleeping mask, earplugs and sleep socks (they work!). I go to bed at almost the same time and I wake at almost the same time. I take melatonin when I need to. I stay off tech after 8 PM at night—this means that I do not do computer or smart phone work after the kids go to bed. This is rare for entrepreneurs perhaps, but it is really important that I follow this rule to ensure good sleep!
One of the best business decisions I have made in the last 5 years was hire a virtual administrator. She has been instrumental in getting the day-to-day stuff done with her incredible focus on detail while I have been able to focus on developing the money-making streams and ideas for future projects.
One thing that is not talked about enough (in my opinion) is the need to live frugally. Living frugally and with the environment front and centre allows me the freedom to work less. I bike and run to get where I need to go, we cook at home, and my kids use a lot of hand-me-downs.”
What are your tips for other mompreneurs?
“Prioritize exercise and good sleep. Don’t always be the one taking care of the night wakeups, sick days and wet beds. Trust your life partner and support circle. Demand help when feeling overwhelmed. If you work at home, don’t do laundry during the work day. Know the numbers and how to price and cost out your services. Don’t make all the decisions at home—decision fatigue is real when you own your business.
Know that there will be moments when all you want to do is go work at Tim Hortons because you are sick of all the responsibility, unpaid time, and unknown future prospects. When this happens take a step back, go out with friends, consult your network, check in with your healthcare providers. And if the numbers are telling you it is still worth it, forge on.”
Need a babysitter?
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Are you a mompreneur in need of childcare support? Datenight Babysitting —a HELM company— is the proud recipient of funding from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) at Ryerson University to help women entrepreneurs with childcare support. Click here to find out if you are eligible to participate in this program.