Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”
BY THE WAY…
- Looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT, the novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.
- The Balance Project interview series recently celebrated its first birthday!
- Fortune ran a feature about The Balance Project.
- Want to be a part of The Balance Project? Complete the interview.
No. 66: Nichole Montoya, CEO of Cheddar Up
Where I live: Denver, CO
Job: CEO of Cheddar Up
Kids: Two girls ages 8 and 9
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
No–thank goodness. Although I can’t say that it’s any calmer or less time consuming now than it was before kids. In fact, it’s crazier and more stressful than any other “job” I’ve had. BUT my work now is also more interesting and is something I’m very passionate about. There were times in my career, particularly when my daughters were very young, when I made adjustments to my schedule and focus. But my daughters were my passion then. Now my daughters are more independent and I’m realizing that fortunately there is room for multiple passions–and these days that includes my family… and my work.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I don’t subscribe to “having it all.” It’s a subjective phrase and means something different to each person. I do believe in doing something you love, in finding something you’re passionate about, in spending time with people who make you feel good, in trying to be present… and in being happy–for whatever that means for each individual. But even those things have tradeoffs. Take me, for example. I’m writing a blog on “balance” at the most “unbalanced” time of my life. I’m reminded every day that life is a journey, and if we’re lucky, it’s filled with many different phases. What phase am I in? The crazy busy phase. And for me, that means “having it all” just isn’t in the cards. Right now, I’m fine with “doing the best I can.”
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Apparently, I need to get my rear back in shape. I know this because my girls have told me point blank that I have a floppy butt twice in the past two weeks. Ouch. Both times I laughed out loud when they told me, because I knew they were right and I appreciated their candor. But with my company, Cheddar Up, it’s fallen to the wayside. Apparently I’m not getting fat… just “floppy.” Whatever.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I’m realizing that “balance” for me, is more of a mindset. With such a zany schedule, I suffer from “mommy guilt”–the mental punching bag of comparing the amount of time spent at work versus with my daughters. But more and more, I realize how unproductive it is… and if I’m anxious about it, my girls can sense it. On a good day, I stop myself short, focus on being present and give them extra big hugs and a few more kisses.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From your mother? “I’m proud of you.”
From your spouse? “You’re a good mom.”
From your kids? My mom started a company called Cheddar Up.
Notice that none of these are advice, but encouragement. Clearly I’m starved for attention. But in reality I think we receive fewer compliments as an adult…especially from those closest to us. I hold on to these little nuggets. They mean a lot. And nothing kills mommy guilt better than hearing your girls speak highly of your work. It makes it all worth it… especially when trying to raise strong, confident girls.
If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
I would spend that hour going on a walk while listening to a podcast while walking my standard poodle.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Stop trying to please everyone. It hinders more than helps.
What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
Stop trying to please everyone. It hinders more than helps. (not a typo)
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cooking… hands down. I’ve decided that it’s completely overrated.
Whose job do you wish you had?
I quite like being myself. But if you twisted my arm, I’d enjoy a few days in Kate Middleton’s shoes.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Construction. I wouldn’t last a day. I’ve learned over the years that my work must involve “creating”–and not in a physical way–and solving problems. Construction doesn’t fall into that category for me.
What are you reading right now?
My email… If I have some “downtime,” podcasts are my books these days. They allow me to multi-task but still relax.
Activity? Reality TV. Only one series in particular, which will remain unnamed. When I watch it I can feel the endorphins kicking it. It’s weird. Not proud.
Food? Cookies or scones. And pumpkin anything.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
What do you read every morning?
I wish I could say some smart and witty blog. But I typically start my day reading my email…then more email…then social media and a few headlines via theSkimm (again…another form of email!).
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: have a great life.
I wish I: could freeze time.
My kids: are amazing, sparkling creatures who I adore.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
These days it’s “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
Nichole is Co-Founder and CEO of Cheddar Up—the simplest way to collect and track online group payments. Thousands of moms and schools are already using it to eliminate the need for checks and paper forms. Its wildly simple user interface makes collecting online payments accessible to anyone. People can create custom online payment pages in a matter of seconds for almost anything. Cheddar Up features robust online payer tracking, automatic reminders, no fees for the collector, custom form fields, and the ability for people to pay in as few as three clicks. Think of it as the evite of online payments.
Nichole is co-founder and CEO of Cheddar Up. She has 15 years of experience helping to grow and build businesses. Prior to founding Cheddar Up, Nichole served as a marketing strategist for the past eight years, helping firms grow their brands and reinvent themselves. Her most recent clients include KPMG, where she was a consultant on special marketing projects. She was also retained as the head of Marketing for WealthTouch, a global provider of financial data aggregation services, where she led its complete brand overhaul. Nichole also co-founded and operated a high-end children’s apparel company where she helped design the product, managed production, and built distribution in 50 stores. Nichole began her career at Andersen Consulting where she was a member of the company’s founding New Media team and helped rebrand the company from Andersen Consulting to Accenture. Nichole is currently participating in the 500 Startups accelerator in San Francisco and enjoys speaking on women entrepreneurship. Nichole lives in Denver and has two daughters, Sevilla and Julia, husband, Anthony, and standard poodle, Teddy.
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 1: Jessica Mindich, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 2: Veronica Beard, Fashion Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 3: Emily Liebert, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 4: Lyss Stern, Mom-trepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 5: Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 6: Elizabeth Moyer, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 7: Annabel Monaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 8: Holly Gordon, Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 9: Jill Salzman, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 11: Jenny Hutt, Media Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 12: Angela Santomero, Kids’ Media Creator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 13: Carola Donato, Yogi
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 14: Tiffany Washington, Pastry Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 15: Emily Giffin, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 16: Alana Sanko, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 17: Cara Lemieux, Journalist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 18: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Authors
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 19: Nikki Mark, Author & Foundation Director
Shonda Rhimes on Doing It All
Indra Nooyi on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 21: Jill Bryan, Comedian
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 22: Cindy Callaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 23: Stephanie Hirsch, Artist
My Times of India Interview on Work-Life Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 24: Whitney Dineen, Author/Baker
AmEx’s Sobbott on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 25: J0-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 26: Whitney English, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 27: Jennifer Gooch Hummer, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 28: Melissa Amster, Book Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 29: Nigel Marsh, Author and Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 30: DayNa Decker, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 31: Amy Selling, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 32: Heather Sonnenberg, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 33: Allison Winn Scotch, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 34: Bibi Kasrai, Entrepreneur and Chef
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 35: Karen Sutton MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 36: Samantha Ettus, Balance Expert, Author, TV/Radio Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 37: Pam Yudko, Holistic Health and Transformational Coach
THE BALANCE PROJECT| No. 38: Nancy Huang, Nonprofit Outreach Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 39: Mary Laura Philpott, Writer, Editor and Illustrator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 40: Towanda Long, Marketing Communications Specialist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 41: Kristyn Kusek Lewis, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 42: Tracy Pollan, Actor and Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 43: Christianne Phillips, Fitness Consultant and Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 44: Susannah Lewis, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 45: Kimi Culp, Producer, Author and Creative Consultant
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 46: Traci Bild, Entrepreneur
The Balance Project Interview Series Turns 1!
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 47: Laura Vanderkam, Journalist and Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 48: Amy Tara Koch, Style Expert and Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 49: Cozy Friedman, Kids’ Hair Expert
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 50: Bobbii Hach-Jacobs, Music Promoter
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 51: Niketa Jhaveri, Game Creator and Web Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 52: Sheri Silver, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 53: Lori Pollan, Cookbook Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 54: Chatón Turner, Attorney and Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 55: Joanne Wilson, Investor and Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 56: Nicola Kraus, Author and Creative Coach
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 57: Shiri Sarfati, Marketing Expert
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 58: Audrey McClelland, Entrepreneur and Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 59: Jessica Lahey, Writer and Teacher
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 60: Lindsay Bressler, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 61: Marie Claire Lim Moore, Banker, Author and Speaker
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 62: Stacey Ballis, Novelist and Cookbook Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 63: Amy Hochhauser: Co-Founder, JoyRide Cycling Studio
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 64: Molly Sims, Actress, Author and Humanitarian
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 65: Colleen Oakley, Writer and Author