11 startup founders reveal the best advice their mothers ever gave them

- May 10, 2019 6 MIN READ

Mums became big news this week, with Labor leader Bill Shorten talking about how his mother was an inspiration to him and shaped his political views.

Politicians aren’t the only ones with inspiring mums. Becoming an entrepreneur is often the result of hard work, sacrifice, love and more from parents who’ve raised their child with the confidence to launch a startup.

So ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday, we asked 11 startup founders for the best advice their mothers ever gave them.

Here’s what they said.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there. And thanks, Mum.

George McEncroe

Founder and CEO Shebah

George McEncroe and her mum

My mother worked full-time with five kids. That was a rare thing in the 70s and 80s. Mum had a very strong work ethic and she took enormous pride in being a school teacher and then a Principal.

I took a great deal of inspiration from her, her sisters and her mother, who all worked very hard to support their families in both paid and unpaid work. The women in my family spoke directly, laughed often and took no crap.

I was surrounded by women on all sides of my family, including my mother in law, who cared deeply about other people and worked every day to make the lives of other people better.

Courage, honesty and love of family are at the core of my business, and these are threads I can trace back to women who I’ve been close to since I was born. I’m so grateful to them all.

Josh Vernon

Founder and CEO Earnd

Josh Vernon and his mum, Nikki

I’ve been getting pieces of wisdom from my mum throughout my life, but the one that stands out most to me is a gift she gave to me years ago. It’s a famed Dr. Seuss quote, which reads: why fit in when you were born to stand out?

This quote has stayed with me as I’ve navigated a somewhat non-traditional path.
My mum has been hugely supportive of me in helping found Earnd, and she really got on board when she saw my passion and reasoning for starting Earnd. She knows we’re working hard to help Aussies, and are genuinely making an impact on people’s lives, which she’s very proud of.
I’m lucky to continue receiving her advice and guidance.

Yanir Yakutiel

CEO & Founder at Lumi

Yanir Yakutiel and his late mum, Yael Yakutiel.

Unfortunately, my mother passed away when I was at university, so she was never able to see me develop professionally.

However, without a doubt, the best life advice I got from my mother was always to have a positive outlook on life and never give up when the going gets tough. This advice has served me well as an entrepreneur, as often you find yourself in a position that you’re facing a cliff’s edge, and the deck is stacked against you.

It is precisely at those times I reflect on how my mother used to encourage me as a child whenever I faced hardship (like falling off my bike).

Now as a dad, this is also something that I try and instil in my seven-year-old son. Grit and self-belief are the two most important indicators of success.


Jonathan Jeffries

Partner and director at Think & Grow

Jonathan Jeffries and his grandmother

I was brought up by four influential women – my Gran, Grannie, Mother and Stepmother.

With my mother studying as we grew up, it was my grandparents who brought us through Monday-Friday. I consider myself very lucky to have had two generations of women helping to shape me into the person I am today.

With a Gran who only ever talked about seeing the world, which allowed me to escape through adventures and creativity, to a Grannie who always provided structure and stability with very traditional and structured meal times, meal rotations and seasonal food.

They both lived through war but were opposites in so many ways. They were however similar in love, care, loyalty and family time.

My mother qualified as a primary school teacher and my stepmother worked in Human Resources at the BBC. Both provided me with perspectives on humanity and the world – they taught me to listen, step back from situations and ensure that my inner health is always strong.

Health in the body and mind is essential for success in life, both at home and in business.

Michelle Gallaher

CEO of ShareRoot

Michelle Gallaher and her mum

My mother started her own business when she was about 37 and I was 12. In our current language, she had done a career pivot and taken herself back to study to start the business she had always dreamt of.

I used to admire her, sitting at the dining room table at night, books spread in layers, watching her beautiful cursive script filling pages and pages of notes, putting her lipstick on to attend night classes.

I remember her and I talking about our shared new beginnings, me leaning over the kitchen bench watching her make dinner. I was starting high school and together we were navigating new friendships and embracing new ways of learning.

The business she started was a huge success. She was a florist and every Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day it was “all hands on deck” and every kid, my dad and her friends were put to work in the shop serving customers, delivering flowers or making coffee and lunch for the workers. She would sleep at the shop the night before Mother’s Day, preparing bouquets and orders and I think she loved the chaos at those times of year because she could really stretch her retail muscles, try new products and watch her little business thrive.

My mother was happiest working for herself. She taught me persistence and to not be afraid to do your own thing. She also inspired in me a love for learning for life – something that I’m still doing. I have followed in my mother’s footsteps and involved my family, particularly my children in my business. Mum located her business a couple of blocks from our school and I’ve done exactly the same thing. It’s a genius strategy for working parents.

Ken Kencevski

CEO and founder of Devika

Olivera Kencevski with her son, Ken Kencevski

My mother has always been a massive inspiration to me and one of my biggest supporters.

While she has taught me many things, one of the lessons that really stuck with me was learning about the importance of discipline and always finishing what you started. From an early age, this was really drilled into my brother and I. Even if it was something as simple as finishing our dinner or committing to a school project.

Now, as a business owner and an entrepreneur, this mentality of having a ‘never give up’ attitude and the resilience to see things through has proven to be my greatest asset.



Ross Kemp

CMO and co-founder of The Burger Collective

Ross Kemp and his mum, Denis Kemp

Forever and a day my mum would tell me (and still does) to treat others as I wish to be treated.

I’ve tried to embody this advice throughout my schooling, corporate positions and now within my own start up and team.

This advice also breeds the foundations of a strong, supportive culture in high performance teams.

If your team knows they’re going to be supported and treated properly, employees feel they can take calculated risks to achieve overall business goals – if those risks don’t come off, they know they’re not going to be harshly reprimanded for doing something they believed to be beneficial.


Kieran Warwick

CEO and co-founder of The Burger Collective

Kieran Warwick and his mum, Allana

My mum was huge on accountability. Four boys were always going to be trouble, we were constantly pushing the boundaries and testing the waters – probably me the worst.

But she did an incredible job at making us accountable when we screwed up, and this has stuck with me throughout life.

Looking back on it I’m glad she was hard on me because it made me disciplined, something that is critical to running a start-up.


Haggai Alon

CEO of Security Matters Ltd

Haggai Alon

My Mum advised me to start every journey with an open heart and open ears to always listen before you speak or pass judgement. This will then clear a path of learning, development and growth.

I have employed this advice into all aspects of personal and professional life and think it has shaped my perspective, communication methods and help me to build long strong relationships across all facets of my life.



Dipra Ray

CEO & Managing Director at mPort

My mother is a very humble and down to earth person even though she’s had a successful career in community services.

Reflecting her humility, my mother has rarely given me direct advice, choosing to educate us through her own behaviour versus words.

I’ve learnt in particular the value of personal relationships and the importance of having empathy in dealing with people whether in business or in real life.

The other piece of advice which she has given me since I was very little, is that success in any field whether that be studies, sports or business, is driven through hard work and perseverance.

Adrian Przelozny

CEO and founder of  Independent Reserve

Adrian Przelozny and his mum, Iwona

The best piece of advice my mum gave me was to never give up and always keep things in perspective.

She also always encouraged me to stay calm, carry on and trust my instincts.