Sharon Rechter’s first job was a company she started… while in law school. Sufficient to say, it’s not surprising that this go-getter decided to follow her own adventure. After a time working in the professional world of advertising and media, she started her own cable network that, at one time, broadcast one of the only channels geared specifically towards babies called BabyFirst. Her most recent business venture, First Media, is a media company that creates inspirational video content for Millennial women.
Between being a mother and an innovating leader in digital media, we were ecstatic to talk to Sharon about everything from maintaining work life balance with kids to bringing your ideas to fruition and following your gut.
Name: Sharon Rechter, President and Cofounder of First Media
Location: Los Angeles
Education: B.A. in Business Administration from the Arison School of Business and LL.B in law from the Radziner School of Law, both at The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
For my first job I started a business, though this was during law school! This was for my hometown and we created this beautiful coupon booklet with the city to encourage local business growth by offering coupons to shoppers for a number of businesses. They were all delivered by hand and by mail with the intention to boost the declining economy and retain customers who were going to neighborhood cities.
What was your motivation to pivot your career to media?
I initially went into advertising, but realized that law and advertising are both consulting jobs and my passion is building things. So I was then offered a job in New York to run a small cable network. I eventually asked for a $1,000 raise, and when they said no, I decided to do my own thing. I quickly learned how different it was to start a cable network compared to working for a very small one. We knew nothing about the space, yet we launched a cable network with 60 million homes. But I think that is what entrepreneurship is all about: being overly optimistic and not understanding that how difficult it would be.
You’re the woman behind highly successful social channels, like Blossom, So Yummy, and Blusher. How do you see social media to have impacted the visual, digital, and print media world?
Today we consume media differently than ever before. As very busy women and busy moms, we have very little time to actually sit and read or watch lengthy information. So often when we drive our kids or we’re at the dentist, we have five minutes to look at something and social media is there waiting for us, curating the pieces of information that interest us very, very fast. Visuals hugely matter because at the end of the day, I have your attention for 30 seconds or less and you’ll either keep watching or continue scrolling.
As for print, you see the chapters of books are much shorter because of our shortened attention spans and we want to read something with a beginning, middle, and end right then and there. There used to be checks and balances with long waits to publish, but today anything can be posted on social. As a publisher, we have a responsibility to deliver a quality and accurate product.
The views on your company’s viral social media videos are 100 percent organic. What makes First Media stand out in terms of audience development?
There is a really good understanding, which I believe a lot of moms can relate to and stands in the essence of our videos. There is something so wonderful and releasing about saying that you’re not perfect and that’s OK! With the acceptance that I am not perfect, and with the fact that I am a mother of four, I still want to have perfect and separate birthday parties for my twin sons who want different superheroes. I don’t have five weeks to plan those two parties, I have one day. So as moms today, we need shortcuts.
First Media provides moms with hacks that will do at least three out of four things: save them money, save them time, give them healthier options, and always make them look good in front of friends and family. And with that, our audience is so loyal to us and engage with our content because it’s so true. We all have super crazy busy lives and nobody gives us a break, so First Media gives you a break and some hacks.
Your company even started a 24/7 cable television network for babies: BabyFirst. It’s available in 33 countries and 13 languages. What sort of impact do you hope to have with this network?
What I love the most is hearing from moms how accessible our content is! I once had a mom say to me, “You are not my doctor. You are just like my friend who had kids two years before me and relaxed.” I love that positioning because if we can be there for moms in a time when it’s really difficult — where the world is changing and they’re seeking information that they can use to engage and enjoy with their child — then I think we’ve done something really great.
You have four adorable children. How has motherhood impacted you as a person and a professional?
When the kids came, I realized how much spare time I had before that! And actually after every child I realized the same thing over and over again. It always amazes me to realize how efficient I could actually be and that I really do have time for everything — it’s just a matter of prioritizing. I always think, “What if I have two more children?” and right then and there I have a look at how much time I have.
My children have taught me how to love in a completely different way, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have four very different children and I try to see each as who they are. It requires a lot of conscious, thoughtful parenting and teaching a lot of lessons. Through those lessons and learning curves, it has significantly improved my negotiation skills!
With so much of your work being in television and digital media, what are your thoughts on screen time for your children? How do you manage screen time at home?
Screen time is a part of our life. Our family tries to put phones away from 6-8pm, which is a helpful habit and leads to greater conversation. I think for the question of “whether or not kids should watch,” that train has already left the station and kids are going to use the technology. It’s not just about what they’re watching, but it’s part of their social interaction. By taking that away from them, it means I’m excluding them from that social aspect. So my job as a parent is to monitor and guide to the best of my ability, making sure they know what’s out there and keep our lines of communication open so that they can share with me and keep me in. For my younger boys, I would say everything in moderation. Chocolate, TV, and lettuce — all things in moderation!
You and your husband, Guy Oranim, are partners both in business and in life. How has your marriage been impacted by your joint career-life?
We both think we’re right 99 percent of the time, but because we never know when it’s the 1 percent we are wrong, we are always respectful of each other. The way we run our business together is that we consult with each other. If somebody objects to something completely, then we won’t do it. But when decisions need to be made on a topic, on any topic, there is a decision maker. So if it’s his decision and I still talk my lungs out against it, his final decision stands and I let it go. He does the same for me — if it’s my decision, he lets it go.
There isn’t anybody in the world I would rather partner with or parent with or be married to. The fact that we’re sharing the same goals in all aspects of our lives has been wonderful because we always understand each other. If I need to miss work for a kid’s thing, or if we need to cancel vacation for a work thing, we both get it! So maybe once in a while we have to make sure we go one day without First Media, but in general, I think the pros for us go way beyond the cons.
What do you see as key components for being able to balance career, marriage, and parenthood for families with two working parents?
I would say truly supporting each other, so one is always there for the other. I often speak in front of young women who are at the beginning of their careers, and what I encourage them to do is not to look for a job, but to look for a path. Looking for a path will essentially get you some control over your time. I think the real way for a woman to have it all is if she gets really good at what she does and maintains control of her time. None of us have full control over our time, but if you can balance your time, if your job is not fully set in stone on hours, then it allows you a ton of flexibility.
Tell us about transitioning to being a working mom and what surprised you the most about it. Did you ever take a break from your career?
I never took a break, not in the slightest. I actually negotiated deals over the phone the day after my C-section while still in bed. Though I love what I do, I really, really love my baby girl and I could not continue to live that way. It took a while to realize that life had changed and things had to change. For me, what translates is to be more efficient and go by the Pareto rule of 80/20, so I accepted that I would only do the 20 percent that leads to 80 percent of the results. I do understand that I will leave some things on the table and that’s a conscious and OK decision. Once I leave them on the table I can either delegate or not do them at all. The idea that I can do everything on every frontier just doesn’t work, so you have to pick what’s important and focus there.
What are the biggest hurdles that you see for working mothers in America?
The biggest hurdle is not controlling their time. Women have to give so many hours with very little flexibility and are expected to be perfect in everything we do — perfect mothers, perfect wives, perfect employees. That’s the message we’re combating with our content and with the culture at First Media. We’re showing women how to make life a little easier while still looking and feeling amazing.
What’s the best part about what you do? What’s the hardest?
The best part of what I do is that I’m constantly challenged with new and exciting ventures and that I get to build and affect people every day. The hardest part is I don’t have enough sleep!
What lessons have you learned in your career that you apply to parenting?
When you fall, get up. It’s what I want my kids to learn and it also applies to parenting — it’s not always successful, but you get up and keep going.
What do you hope your children will learn from your example? What do you most want to be remembered for?
One thing I would like my children to know is how to adjust to changing circumstances. The only certain thing in life is change. I would like my children to see me fall and then get up, and fall, and get up again, and know that it’s completely OK. If they can do that, they will be just fine. I haven’t done it yet and I have a long way to go, but I’d like to be remembered for making a positive influence on people’s lives.
You wrote the best selling children’s book “The Girl From There” at just 11 years old. What was your inspiration for writing at such a young age and do your children show signs of following in your literary footsteps?
My grandparents passed away in a car crash and this was my way to channel the sadness. I think much of it is also attributed to the fact that YouTube and social media didn’t exist. When I was 11, when you got bored you would write. Today, kids don’t get bored enough to write a 68 page book. My kids have wonderful, wonderful talents, all in different ways. One of my children is a great entrepreneur and another is a great debater. I think they have their own talent. They can all write nicely, but I would love for each of them to shine for what they’re great at.
What do you teach your children about success and failure?
Get up! If I teach my children one thing, it is to understand that sometimes we lose, but the only loser is whoever doesn’t get up. You get up, you try again — go from a different angle and continue trying. I like to celebrate failures with my kids and we laugh at them because it’s not the end of the world. It’s like Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
We so often try to protect our kids and not share with them our hardship, but I think we are doing them no favors by them thinking we’re perfect. I like them to see my imperfections and how I fail regularly but see that it doesn’t break me.
What’s the most rewarding and challenging part of being a parent?
The most rewarding part of parenting is when your eldest daughter goes on her first trip to DC at 13 and is doing awesome on her own. Seeing that she’s confident and independent is such a great reward. The most challenging part of parenting is when your kids are in pain and, at a certain point, you realize you can’t protect them forever.
When it comes to being a mom: what are you most insecure about and what are you most confident about?
I’m insecure about my inability to protect and confident about my great bond with my kids and the ability to see them for who they are.
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
Snuggling in bed with all four kids on a Saturday morning.
Tell us about your morning routine.
After waking up, Guy and I go to wake up our children. I quickly scan the news and emails to see if anything urgent came up that needs to be handled before breakfast. If it didn’t, I’m happy to deal with everything after my kids are dropped at school. I shower with my daughters and we share plans and anticipated challenges for the day, which allows for little pep talks. Then we gather the family together for a shared healthy breakfast, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t! We then drive our kids to school and once they are out of the car I truly start working and take calls in the car on my way to the office.
What advice do you have for other mothers juggling career and motherhood, while also trying to maintain a sense of self?
I make a list and prioritize. Of course I want to do all these things, but I actually choose to give some of them up. Once I’ve consciously given them up, it’s a lot easier to deal with what I will get to and what I won’t. I might put on the same list that I want to have a really meaningful summer vacation, and I want to take our company to the next level this year. These two might not work together, so I should ask myself: for this year, what am I choosing? I have to be willing to pay the price for whichever I choose, and either is OK. But the point is, I’ve made the choice. So, make a list and prioritize.
Sharon Rechter is The Everymom…
Favorite family tradition? For birthdays, we have a dinner with extended family and we all go around the table, person by person, and everyone says why they love the person whose birthday it is.
Last home item you splurged on? We typically don’t splurge on home items, but a juicer.
Most embarrassing mom moment? One time I forgot to pick up my kids up from school — only once!
Proudest career achievement? We have 200 people who love to come to work with us.
Favorite date night activity? Sushi and a movie.
Best mom advice you’ve been given? Kids are not as breakable as you think.