Planting, growing, and raising seeds: How this business leader balanced rapid growth with two (very different) maternity leaves
If anyone can prove that there’s no perfect amount or timing for maternity leave, it’s Felicia Snyder. A successful entrepreneurial leader and now hospitality founder, Felicia rocked both an 18-month leave and a six-week leave during monumental moments in her career.
Felicia’s career path is studded with wins and self-discovery. She joined a pioneering cannabis brand Tokyo Smoke, in its earliest days to help build and scale the business. In 2018, the company was acquired by a multi-national CPG corporation, Canopy Growth. The acquisition landed Felicia as a VP at Canopy Growth right before she found out she was pregnant with her first child.
After years of scrappy, intense, and exciting work, Felicia was ready to turn her attention to preparing for motherhood.
The legally protected amount of parental leave time in Canada is 18 months, so Felicia decided to take the entire year and a half to spend with her daughter (who was born six months post-acquisition of Tokyo Smoke).
Felicia had a lot of time to think about what was next for her. In fact, during her leave, Canopy Growth invited her to participate in a leadership assessment and development exercise, which required honest introspection. At the end of this program - while still on parental leave - Felicia was offered an enticing opportunity to rise in the ranks at Canopy Growth. But the self-reflection involved in this assessment process had helped her realize she wanted something different.
Felicia was itching to get back into early-stage entrepreneurialism. Ironically, receiving the offer from Canopy Growth gave Felicia the confidence she needed to go out on her own. She rejected the offer and rejoined forces with the founding team from Tokyo Smoke on a new venture in a new industry – but this time, she is the co-CEO.
In Fall 2020, Felicia co-founded arcana, a design-driven hospitality start-up offering stays at architectural cabins in the wild along with innovative experiences highlighting the restorative benefits of nature. Felicia discovered she was pregnant with her son soon after founding the business. Undeterred, Felicia successfully closed the seed round for arcana while six months pregnant, and after the birth of her son, proceeded to take a short six-week parental leave.
With a two-month-old in tow, the founding team opened up the first round of reservations and sold out within 24 hours. They officially opened their first location in September 2021 and are building a pipeline of additional locations across North America.
Felicia’s drastically contrasting maternity leaves were what each moment in her life - and career - needed. The first was a long, 18 months to soak in motherhood and evaluate how she wanted to continue to build her career. The second was at the height of a new business-owner journey, where she used creative flexibility to guide the business to its continued success.
Read more about why Felicia never once questioned her decision to start arcana in the midst of having another child, and how she navigated a quick but supportive parental leave that allowed her to return to her founder’s calling. Dive deeper below.
#1 The decision to take on her riskiest role yet - while pregnant
Here’s why Felicia decided to start a company – and take on all this intense work - while having children at the same time
- The time – and business opportunity – was right: Felicia did a lot of introspection leading up to this decision. She had just come off of a long parental leave and was feeling really hungry for - and determined to get back into - an exciting entrepreneurial role. “For some women, working at a large corporation with safety nets is the right decision for them when they have a child. I personally was just so ready for this next step in my career and I had much more confidence with my second pregnancy to go out on my own starting this business.”
- She knew she would have a lot of power to make the situation work: As the co-CEO, she defines the culture and work environment by hiring the right people and setting the right example. Through her leadership, the arcana team is creating a supportive, progressive workspace that offers employees the flexibility they need to balance their work and personal lives.
- She had already worked with the founding team previously: Because she was starting the company with the same team as her last startup, she knew they worked well together and that they would be supportive of her pregnancy and parental leave.
- The mission was completely aligned with this stage of life: “We’re building a company with a mission to “return humanity to the wild” – which is really about re-establishing a connection with nature and oneself. The journey into parenthood aligns so closely with this goal that I knew we could figure this out.”
#2 Closing a seed round while six months pregnant
When arcana closed their seed round in December of 2020, Felicia was almost seven months pregnant. She welcomed her son in March 2021, in the earliest days of building the company.
Here is how Felicia navigated raising her first round of funding and early days of arcana while also having a baby:
- Raised the seed round entirely virtually: This meant no one ever saw her pregnant, and she never had to worry about what investors might be thinking about her ability to build this company with a newborn at home. “If an investor wouldn’t want to invest because a founder was pregnant, they really wouldn’t be the right investor for us. In hindsight, had the pitches been in person I would have been able to gauge this better.”
- Did not disclose her pregnancy in the initial pitch to investors: “Since it was all virtual, I struggled a lot with do I go out of my way to make investors aware of my pregnancy during the pitch? But if it’s not relevant to the raise, and I knew it wouldn’t impact the business in a negative way, why would I? I wanted to focus discussions on the business, the opportunity, the team - not my pregnancy.” She also set a target to ensure arcana had a diverse investor base - inclusive of female investors many of whom had navigated careers through motherhood themselves.
- Had a high-level idea of “contingency plans” in mind in case things didn’t go smoothly: She had worked with her founding team previously, and knew that they could step in for longer periods of time if she had a tough delivery and recovery.
- Began to ramp back up working around six weeks postpartum: By eight weeks postpartum she was back working 100% of the time, which “feels really good and right for me,” she said.
- Hired a live-in nanny: It was important to Felicia to have the flexibility and care soon after the birth of her son, which was best achieved via a nanny. Because of the pandemic, they opted to have a live-in nanny to reduce potential exposure.
- Asked for help: “You can’t do everything. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position where you can mobilize your resources or your support network to help with the things you can’t or don’t want to do – like laundry, cooking, dishes or cleaning – you should ask for that help, because it allows you to focus your time on your priorities. I feel like women are getting more honest now about how much help they have. We all need to acknowledge that external support is a major enabler."