Adam Mutschler: How to Be a Super Dad and a Serial Entrepreneur
by DC Startup Week Team
This week we spoke with jack-of-all-trades, Adam Mutschler — founder, podcaster, entrepreneur and father on his journey of running a business, starting a family and all the things in between.
1. What do you love most about the DC Startup Community?
DC has a growing community of founders and companies that make it’s startup scene very energizing. What I’ve found to be very promising is the generosity in making connections. In my work we say “relationships precede results,” I find this to be true in DC and it’s the foundation of any strong community – prioritize building strong relationships.
2. Tells us a little bit about yourself and your business.
The basics: my name is Adam, I grew up in Maryland, and have spent most of my life in the DC region now living in DC proper. I’m a partner at The Kedar Group, a boutique leadership development company, where we help individuals, teams, and companies more effectively work together and support them in manifesting their vision through coaching, strategic facilitation, and running internal leadership accelerators. I also am the host of The Founder’s Mind where I interview people in the entrepreneurial space learning all about what it takes to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. I’ve had the incredible fortune of interviewing New York Times best selling authors, founders who have raised millions of dollars in VC money, to solopreneurs who drop the most impactful wisdom the business world has to offer.
3. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
36,000 feet? Entrepreneurship is something I was born into. Zoom in: My whole life my parents have had their own businesses, my brother has always had a side hustle to full blown businesses. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents everyone in my family has blazed a path forward in life that not only inspired me to build businesses myself but enabled and empowered me to do so. I have early memories of crushing rocks that looked kind of like quartz and selling them for a quarter akin to a lemonade stand to “starting” a music recording business to record friends, building websites, a video production company, fashion brand, and beyond. It took awhile [last 5-10 years] to get into more profitable work but it’s a journey I cherish and appreciate.
All of that said – it is important, in my opinion, to highlight my privilege. While I work very hard and flex my many acquired and learned skills to grow the businesses and brands I’m involved with – my journey into entrepreneurship is layered with privilege and safety nets not afforded to most. The obvious ones – I’m a straight, white, man in business. The less obvious ones I grew up in middle to upper middle class environment, went to good schools, and had incredible examples within my immediate family and network of what potential there was in the world. This perspective is one I’ve slowly [too slowly] acquired over the years but one I remind myself of and share with anyone willing to engage in this conversation. While I work hard for the results and life I’ve built it has been on the foundation of many before me and the society we live in.
4. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business?
I would focus earlier on building and maintaining relationships with people I’ve met over the years. With the pervasiveness of social media it’s incredible to follow along the journeys and successes of the many people I’ve met whether in school [I went to 5 schools over 8 years for one degree… a story for another post] the companies I’ve worked for, and the communities I’ve been a part of over the years. You can’t rewrite the past but sometimes I ponder “what possibilities would exist today if I kept in touch and followed up more regularly.” As I mentioned earlier “relationships precede results” and that is something I hold at the center of how I show up today.
5. Congratulations on the birth of your new son! Any advice for parents in the entrepreneur space?
Thanks! Being a parent has been the most awe inspiring adventure of my life. My biggest take away: how do we maintain the innate curiosity and capacity to learn that infants and children have? We lose it along the way and I believe the greatest assets we are born with are curiosity and our ability to learn. Advice? I find that challenging. I was/am an uncle of 5 before I became a parent and the one thing I learned was that every child is different. The one thing I was prepared for in being a new parent was the reality that I could NOT be prepared. It’s not a role in life you can truly practice until you’re in it. In that thread I will say there is nothing in life that truly prepares you to be an entrepreneur, founder, CEO, and the like — other than living it. So the connection for me is, the more comfortable you are with ambiguity, rolling with what life gives you, thinking on your feet, allowing yourself to be a beginner, and give yourself a break the more approachable being an entrepreneur and/or a parent will be for you. Structure is important and it will get you through many a challenging moment but flexibility is crucial on both fronts.
6. So you’re a new dad, you own a company, you run podcast, and tons of other things going on. How do you juggle it all?
This is a great question and something I think that gets glossed over a lot especially on social media. I am where I am today because of the immense support of my family, friends, and community. Over the last 10+ years I’ve been able to pursue the work I’ve done whether at Apple, at Belly Card, and in my own endeavours because of my partner Erica. Historically, she’s been the one with a full-time job, health insurance, regular paychecks, and beyond. From 2008-2015 I had my moments of bi-weekly paychecks and health insurance but it wasn’t always like that. In 2015 when I went all in on coaching and leadership development I took another leap and Erica continued to carry the stable work. Not until recently end of 2018 when our son was born did the needle move from Erica to me. I was afforded incredible space from Erica and others to pursue my work and build a foundation that now carries us forward. In addition, I entered into a professional space that my mom, Leah Kedar, has been in for years. In partnership with my mom, I was quickly introduced to people that enabled me to dive deep into my work in a way many could not.
I’m able to juggle everything because of the foundation that was laid before and below me. How do I do it today? Family, friends and community. Erica is my partner in life and while we’re not business partners, I could not do what I do without what she does for our family and her expertise in the business world. The community we’ve cultivated both personal and professional empowers me to drive my work forward.
7. You spoke last year at DCSW about creating a more inclusive and diverse company ecosystem. Can you touch on the importance of that a little bit?
It’s hard for me to say “a little bit” on this subject when there is so much to discuss, explore, and move forward. I’ll do my best here though! The future of our world and the business world is shifting. If we look at it purely from a business perspective it’s a no brainer to amplify, raise up, enable, and empower the voices, perspectives, and needs of traditionally underrepresented groups of people — they are the future [and present]. It’s just good business. Companies founded and run by women out-perform companies founded and run by men. Underrepresented founders do more with less when it comes to funding [out of necessity] but it yields incredible results.
If we look at an analogous space, having a diverse set of skills, experience, and perspective on a sports team typically yields strong results especially when the team works together. We haven’t been doing that in business and the companies that don’t take this seriously today will not be the companies we talk about in the future. On a deeper more personal level — I believe the future role of the straight white man in business has to change if we want to realize more systematic shifts when it comes to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This may sound hyperbolic but to me it’s not.
I believe the solutions to the world’s most challenging problems exist within our current population. This begs the question, “Are we empowering, in an equitable way, everyone to realize their full potential and develop into the person that may solve cancer or climate change?” It is important to me to be apart of this shift and accelerate it wherever I am able to. Engaging in challenging and uncomfortable conversations around diversity and inclusion are just scratching the surface of what we need to do.
This was an incredible conversation! Thanks for chatting Adam. It’s doers and thinkers like him that propel, inspire and shape DCSW into what it is today. We’re looking forward to hear you speak at DCSW!