I started Mindr on my own. Being a solo founder is a thrilling but lonely journey. Every mini-crisis, every decision, every consequence is on you. It was made worlds easier by the enthusiasm and support of the incredible Mindr community, who are always keen to help out in any way they can. And the team has grown. I have found the most wonderful partner in Rebecca Abramson, Mindr's head of operations and Sarah Gibbs proves that remote work is possible, working as our Editorial Director from her home base in North Carolina; Alexis Barad Cutler is our intrepid social correspondent on the ground; and we have just brought on the wonderful Katie Poulin to help with Mama Meet 2019. Every hurdle is easier to clear when you're doing it together, and this strong team environment is so different and so much better than the early days, when it was all me.
Sarah Luxe-Lee is the creator and force behind Mindr, what some of described as the 'TED Talk of the parenting world.' She organizes conversations around big issues with some of the top changemakers of today...and babies are welcome. We caught up with Sarah to learn a bit more about her background, what's in store for Mindr and of course, what she does each and every day to bring her joy!
Where are you from originally? How did you end up in NY?
I come from the Land Down Under (where on my best day, someone smiles and hands me a Vegemite sandwich). I initially came to New York with my husband in 2014 for my Masters degree in public policy. Four years, a daughter and a business later, we’re still here.
Tell us about your background? What was your career prior to Mindr?
I started out my career as a corporate lawyer (although from my eccentric combination of law and math degrees you might have guessed I wouldn’t stay there long). Drawn to work that would let me improve the system rather than just operating within it, I moved over into the public policy sphere, advising the Australian government on how legal structures could be used to expand access to education for children across the country. When I arrived in New York for my public policy Masters, I discovered a whole new world of social enterprise and gender advocacy, with so much innovation going on to advance towards equality. During my studies, I undertook internships at UN Women and the World Health Organization and competed in social enterprise competitions to come up with innovative solutions to big social problems. Operating in that environment, you can't help but believe that it's possible to make some big and lasting changes, if only you put your mind to it.
When did Mindr start? How did you come up with the concept?
I became pregnant during my Masters degree, and my daughter Ella was born six weeks after graduation. Suddenly, my whole world shifted. I went from talking to some of the world’s greatest thought leaders about our society’s most pressing challenges, to singing yet another chorus of The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round. Don’t get me wrong - I have absolutely loved mom life (and that song) - but it struck me how many of my former intellectual and professional opportunities were now closed to me in my new, primary-carer life. You can't really bring a baby to a conference (I know because I've tried), and with the astronomical costs of childcare and, frankly, my desire to be as available as possible to my kid, I was no longer able to participate in big-picture thinking and professional collaboration like I had been able to before. That seemed to me like such a waste - for the individual and for all us - and I decided to do something about it.
Mindr was born as a way for the many brilliant young people in New York City who have kids to keep learning, growing and connecting, all with their little ones by their sides. We invite people to expand their minds, crying babies (and older kiddos) welcome. From entrepreneurship workshops to climate change discussions, our events present world-class content in a truly child-friendly environment, which is why we've been called the "TED talks of the parenting world." We've also gone global - we founded and co-host the annual World's Biggest Mama Meetup campaign in partnership with the United Nations (anyone who wants to get involved in next year's campaign should give me a shout!) And after almost two years of getting to know thousands of urban parents, we've come to deeply understand one of their biggest pain points - navigating their competing ambitions at work and at home. So we now help employees and employers improve their work-life health and ensure that every working parent has the fullest opportunity to thrive.
For someone who hasn't been to a Mindr event, what can they expect?
Our events are pretty diverse, but they all share some common characteristics: world-leading expertise, a supportive community of like-minded current and future parents, and excellent snacks. One of our favorite recent events was a talk by current Nobel Peace Prize recipient Beatrice Fihn about how motherhood has strengthened her on her journey to the Nobel (the New Yorker came along to give you an inside look.) And then, of course, there's the World's Biggest Mama Meetup, for which our flagship event takes place at the United Nations. Think almost 600 parents, hundreds of their kids, and a distinguished panel of mama-leaders from across the United Nations and civil society, all gathered in the inspiring Headquarters of the United Nations. It's quite a scene.
What do you hope people gain from being a part of the Mindr community?
I hope that no matter where people are in their work-life cycle, they will find their tribe at Mindr. They'll be able to discuss their career ambitions, intellectual pursuits and parenting goals in the same breath. They'll find the support and strength they need in order to succeed both at work and at home. And they'll never have to compromise on the quality of the networking, development and growth opportunities they can access on account of being a parent.
What have been some of the major challenges starting Mindr? How are you/did you push through?
What can we expect to see from Mindr in the coming months and even years?
We have heard from members of the Mindr community over and over again how much they need support in managing their work-life health. So this is an increasing focus for us. We help people lay a solid foundation for smooth work-life transitions - through pregnancy, birth, postpartum and beyond - and help them maintain a constant, positive career trajectory throughout. We believe parenting is not a weakness in the workplace - it's a strength. To borrow from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, parenting gives us a sense of proportion and perspective that others may lack. It also makes us more efficient, better at problem-solving and feeds our creativity and empathy. We're working on giving people and companies the tools to recognize and harness those strengths, to the benefit of themselves, their companies, and society at large.
What is one thing you do each day that brings you joy?
The most joyful moment of my day is walking into my daughter's bedroom to get her up in the morning. She springs up, huge smile on her face, giant bear hug at the ready, excited to conquer the day. I can't get enough.