Meet the #motherhustlers: Christina Nichols
Christina is President and Founder of Nichols Genuine Philanthropic Solutions, LLC. The company provides non-profits and higher education clients with full-service fundraising services. Her husband and she met in physical geography class and have been married for nearly 16 years (holy crap!). They have three daughters ages 7, 5, and 3 and live in northern Colorado. She was raised on a farm in the Midwest and lives by the simple belief that honesty and hard-work make a difference. When she’s not hustling, she is dreaming of travel, reading, taking walks, and gardening.
Tell us about yourself, your business, and how you got started!
As mentioned in my bio, I was raised on a farm and it’s an understatement to say that hard work is part of my DNA. In college and graduate school, I studied Geography with the desire to “build good communities”. After a few years as an urban planner and then director of a downtown-based non-profit, I entered the world of higher education fundraising. I sometimes laugh that I am in fundraising because the primary reason I didn’t become a Girl Scout was that I was petrified of asking people to buy cookies or give money!
What I learned is that philanthropy, like urban planning, is a tool to “build good communities” and ever since then I’ve been hooked. I want to be clear that I don’t try to sell people on ideas – I inspire them, connect them, and inform them of the potential impact. That’s the beauty of philanthropy, it’s about creating a connection.
What inspired you to start your own business?
When we were finally able to have children in 2010 (we struggled with subfertility for a few years), the challenge to find the ever-elusive “balance” began in earnest. I frequently told my husband that I couldn’t function in a 50/50 work-life balance. I love hard work too much (and may be a bit of a workaholic) and my split is more like 80/20 on a good day. It didn’t help that for our entire marriage I had been the breadwinner (even while in grad school full-time), so the pressure to keep performing, getting raises, and supporting our family was sometimes intense.
The pressure finally came to a head in spring of 2017. I had returned from a trip which was the last of a series that had me gone for 8 of 12 weeks and was enjoying the opportunity to read a book to our then two-year-old. Toward the end of the book, the phone rang and my daughter leaped out of my arms and raced to the phone yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!”. I was literally holding her and she thought I was the telephone. Something had to change.
I had a “breakthrough” the next day and realized that not only was my family suffering but so was my creativity and ability to really reach my full potential. After some brainstorming, I decided to start consulting and shared my idea with a few of my friends. By June of 2017, I was able to leave my full-time job and start Nichols Genuine Philanthropic Solutions, LLC (shortened as NicholsGPS, it is a nod to my geography background).
What struggles do you face when it comes to balancing your work and family and how do you deal with them?
The struggle between being a mom (and wife) and entrepreneur feels more manageable than when I worked a structured 40 hours a week, but there are definitely still challenges.
Childcare: We had to decide if our daughters would remain in daycare full-time or if I would be able to adjust my schedule to keep them home a day or two each week. After the first couple of months, it was clear that I needed the time to work for clients and build the business, so off to daycare they went. I managed to quickly get over the guilt after the first quiet morning in our home – I was SOOO productive! I also now have the flexibility to volunteer in our eldest daughter’s classroom and not feel guilty about missing work!
Domestic Duties: Working from home means that I see all of the laundry, dishes, and tidying up that need to be done. I decided to set aside a portion of my income to pay for a cleaning service so that, even if I feel guilty, I know that my work is paying for the house to get cleaned twice a month. That doesn’t really help with laundry, but I am pretty sure that laundry is infinite.
Office Space: Running my business from home is great most of the time, but when my husband decides to work from home or we have houseguests it is hard to close the door without feeling like I am literally shutting them out. It is also alarming how many times I walk into my office only to discover that it has become an “art station” or “fort” or other such creative endeavors for our girls. The space is supposed to be off-limits… but it’s so alluring because of that. I try to keep the doors closed and the “interesting” things (scissors, markers, etc.) up out of sight and reach.
Realizing that I still can’t do it all. I just can’t and it’s not good to feel guilty about it.
What do you think is the secret to raising a healthy business and a healthy family?
Grace, laughter, and a solid start to the day.
What is one piece of advice you could give to help other mompreneurs out?
This may sound nuts, but get up super-duper early (heck, we’re used to that!) and give yourself a half hour to ease into the day before anyone else wakes up. No, I am not joking (although I know I would have rolled my eyes at this idea six months ago). This has been a game changer for me. I aim to wake up by 5:30 am on four weekday mornings each week. Once I am out of bed I brush my teeth and head to my office to meditate, visualize, read, write, and plan the day. It is loosely based on The Miracle Morning and it has literally changed the way I approach the day. I am so much happier and more productive when I start my day with this time. Note that I am not aiming for a perfect five or even seven days a week because it’s not about being perfect, it’s about forming a positive habit and seeing the results of it. And it works!
What words of encouragement do you have for your fellow mompreneurs?
You are worth the time you invest in yourself, your business, and your family. You have something to offer to the world that only you can give!
Do you have any great / inspiring stories from your own experience that you would like to share?
One surprising thing that has happened in the last year is that other moms (and even one single guy) have reached out to me to help them brainstorm on starting a business. All of these one-off meetings became a group of local mompreneurs who are kicking butt and are all at different stages of business development. We now meet every other month to talk about our businesses and discuss a book – like a badass business book club. 🙂
Any fun facts you want to share?
I am a classically trained vocalist and after a couple of margaritas, you can bet that I’ll be belting out songs from the Sound of Music (I played Maria in our high school production) or some Italian opera.
Where you can find Christina:
Learn more about Christina and her business over at Nicholsgps.com, and hang out with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, her LinkedIn biz page, and Twitter!
Christina’s headshot was taken by #motherhustler Emily Hedstrom-Lieser at Dragonfly Spirit Photography.
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