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Introduction: Hi there, mama. Are you searching for another way to approach motherhood? One that puts your needs first, that allows you to live it all without guilt or holding back any of your amazing talents and unique gifts. Then the Live It All Mommy Podcast is made for you. Each month we are taking you behind the scenes, looking into the real world of motherhood.

Giving you a roadmap to unleash your unique potential, your passion, self-trust, and purpose as an amazing mother, deep soul, and powerful working woman, it’s time to live at all Mommy. Let’s dive in.

Pia Dögl: Today I’m most delighted to interview Sonja Hoel Perkins, an amazing entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is traveling around the globe to serve on many boards, and who is also a loving, tenderly caring mother of a daughter who is already a young adult.

Sonja, thank you so much for being here. Please, before you share any details about your amazing story. What was your upbringing like? Was your mother a power woman like you are?

Sonja Perkins: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and my mom is a Norwegian immigrant and my dad is the son of Norwegian immigrants, but he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and he was a college professor, and my mom sometimes had part-time jobs, so she was mainly home with us.

And it was a rather plain childhood, I guess. Not a lot of glamor. But we were very much loved by our parents.

I had two other sisters, including a twin, and they told us that they trusted us and not to disappoint them and not to lie. And so those were kind of the ground rules and that’s pretty much how I was raised.

Pia Dögl: What a solid foundation to learn as a child that, your parents trust you.

That’s really something incredible. And do you remember the moment when you knew what you want to do with your life and what you are really passionate about?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Well, it’s funny, my mom always said that when I was little, I said I was going to make a lot of money.

That’s what I wanted to do, probably because I had to work and I loved clothes and I had to buy my own things. So I thought, well, wouldn’t it be easier if I just had a better job? But I always knew I wanted to be in business. I was one of those kids that was selling bean bags at the neighborhood fair and part of junior achievement and all of that. I just found the whole concept of business fascinating. And so that was very clear. And I had a neighbor when I was 12 years old, her name was Wendy Brew, and she got into the McIntyre School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. And when I was 12, I was like, I’m going to go there, I was determined.

Isn’t that funny? So I think that is a real advantage, knowing what you want to be when you grow up and actually having goals in life because if you have something to strive for, it’s just so much easier than just trying to figure it out or informational interviews and things like that.

So I wasn’t a hundred percent certain that I was wanted to be a venture capitalist, because I didn’t know what that was at the time. But, when I was in college, I had a professor that taught entrepreneurship and I was very attracted to that field and I became a venture capitalist after taking a bunch of jobs, becoming helpers in the PC industry.

So in college I worked at the computer lab. I taught Lotus to business professionals. I was a software programmer in the department of Neurosurgery. And when I got out of college I needed a job and I wanted a job that was going to look at a whole company instead of just parts of a company. So I didn’t want to just focus on marketing or sales or finance.

I wanted to focus on all of it, including strategy. And so I came up with venture capital as a way to do that, and it turned out to be an incredible career and life fit for me. I mean, I was literally 22 years old when I started at TA Associates in Boston and have been doing the job ever since, and I love it.

Pia Dögl: Wow. Wow. So what I’m hearing is that you knew pretty soon what you wanted to do and what I’m not hearing is any kind of self-doubt or something that holds you back? Or any fear? I mean, when you’re describing it, it sounds you’re going step by step by step to the point you want to go.

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Yeah. For me, I think life, especially for women, all women of all ages, it’s about creating options for yourself. So it’s about being able to choose what you want your life to be versus someone telling you what your life is. And if you can get a great education and you can get a good job you have a lot of options.

You have options about where you want to live, if you want to get married or not, if you want to have children or not. I mean, it’s all up to you. You get to choose. And I think a lot of people end up not having a lot of options, which is why when I tell my daughter, hey, maybe you should study hard in school, I tell her it’s not about me being proud of her or being concerned what the neighbors will think if she doesn’t have good grades. But it’s about her having options in her life, right? So if she gets good grades when she’s in high school, she’ll have a better chance of getting into a good college, which will give her a better chance of getting a job and thus creating options for herself.

Pia Dögl: Beautiful. And what I think is, you mentioned if you have a good education and college degree, et cetera, then it makes life easier. But what I’m hearing from your way of thinking and from your mindset is that it is really about living from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

And I would say this is the foundation to live your life fulfilled, no matter if you have a high degree or not. Would you agree or is this too simple?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: No, I’m trying to understand what you just said… but inside out, I think everyone needs to have life with purpose and that’s from the inside.

And having a purposeful life is a meaningful life. I think if you are following the wishes of somebody else that are not your own, that’s clearly not as purposeful. So finding what matters to you makes life better. And I always talk about when Jack was born, I thought, well, what am I doing? What am I doing with my life?

I was working at the time, 60 to 80 hours a week, commuting, the whole deal. And I said, well, what do I really want to do? And what I really wanted to do is invest in people and companies that mattered. So I still wanted to invest as a venture capitalist, but I also wanted to invest in my family and my parents and my community, which required reducing the hours of work.

Pia Dögl: Yeah. And that brings us to the next question. What would you say were the internal steps that you have been moved through when your daughter Jack was born?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Jack. Well it was interesting because when Jack was born it was a very busy time and I was living in San Francisco and working in Menlo Park, so that just had a built-in hour commute each way.

So there were many days that she would be asleep when I left the house and would be asleep when I came home which I didn’t like at all.

My husband looked after her and we had some really wonderful people that helped us. We definitely had people at home with Jack but I felt like I was missing out. And I’d come home and they all had a fun day. She was such a cute baby and so I needed to just scale that back and just figure out how it was going to work for me. And so I decided to start Broadway Angels and to step aside from my prior job which took about 10 years to unwind because I was on the boards of 11 companies. It took a long time.

The venture industry is an interesting industry because you’re a partnership and each partnership is 10 years old. And then you invest in companies that you go on the board of usually starting as a startup and typically there’s not a liquidity event for at least 10 years.

So there’s a lot of time and so when you sign up for a new fund, you’re not just signing up for another year or two of work, it’s another 10 years of work. So it took a while but it all worked out and I was able to start Broadway Angels and a non-profit called Project Glimmer, which were more close to home and also really focused on showcasing successful women and also helping the women and girls in our community that were overlooked.

And that’s what we do with Project Glimmer, is we help every girl envision and realize her empowered future. And for me, becoming a mother really helped point out that. That there were so few women in the venture industry and that as one of the few women in the venture industry, I needed to have a greater voice for women because I had such a great platform and I needed to do more to get more diversity in venture as well as to build up some of the women and girls in our community that were not really cared for by our community or were forgotten.

So having a child turned me into the biggest feminist ever. I always say our children are our best teachers, and if we just listen to them and just see where they take us it’s usually in an incredible place.

And so I am so grateful for my daughter for being born because she really helped me advance as a person tremendously.

Pia Dögl: How old is Jack now?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Almost 15.

Pia Dögl: What would you say the current lesson is from her?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Jack is very independent and Jack decided that they wanted to go to a specialty art boarding school, which is 3,000 miles away from our home.

Pia Dögl: You said they decided to, who’s they?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: So sometimes they use the pronouns, they, and sometimes they use she, so it’s interchangeable. It’s very common among kids that age. So Jack decided that she wanted to go to the school and she drove the whole process in terms of applying and getting in.

And it was a pretty competitive school to get into and so I had to learn how to live in a house with my husband and our two dogs without our child after setting our whole life up around her. So that’s a learning experience too. But I think we’re all really thriving and finding our groove. I know Jack is, Jack’s just loving boarding school.

Pia Dögl: So the process was to let go and to restructure your life, right?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Yeah. Yeah. It was just to let go and to trust her to to get her homework done, to get her laundry done, to make sure she eats all three meals and gets enough exercise and gets enough sleep.

I mean, these are all the things we worry about for our kids. And the other day we were on a call with her on FaceTime and she was sitting at her desk doing her homework and I was so proud of her. It was quite a challenge but we had to remind her to do that.

Pia Dögl: And how did you find that time and energy for yourself? I mean, you were describing that once your daughter was born, you restructured everything and got a new focus. What about yourself? I mean, how do you fill your cup and is there any kind of self-care you are doing, what was the learning curve on that?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Yeah, you know, I think I’ve always been pretty good at remembering to take care of myself, or at least in the last 20 years or so. I really like to exercise. I go on a hike every day, which somehow makes me happy. I like to meditate. I think that helps a lot. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it’s super helpful.

And then we as a family, we like to go away for the weekends and when we go away to the beach or we go somewhere we can all kind of do our own thing while being together. We can be outside in a beautiful place, but it’s not all the pressures of the city where we’re all running around in different areas.

Pia Dögl: Beautiful. I think that’s really the goal. And I mean, what you’re describing with your daughter, that she is living somewhere else now and living her independent life. That you still feel so closely connected, right? What a gift to have the freedom and to have the bonding.

Sonja Hoel Perkins: No, it’s nice. It’s fun to see her grow up too. I mean, when you’re 15 years old, you’ve got your own ideas and your own thoughts and your own opinions an d points of view. And that’s just so fun for me to see what she’s thinking of.

Pia Dögl: Beautiful. And looking back at your life so far, would you say there is anything you would do differently as a working mom?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: It’s funny, I never do that. I never look back and say, oh, if I had only done that, like regret. I try to live in the present and sure you make mistakes in the past, but if you beat yourself up… I don’t know, I just don’t do it. And I believe that life happens as it should.

Even the bad things. Sometimes the bad things help make us who we are in a very positive way. And so I don’t really have a lot of regrets. I might not have ever had a Diet Coke in my life. I don’t think that’s very good for you. So maybe I would’ve been healthier in terms of what I consumed in high school and college much.

So I probably wouldn’t have had a Diet Coke, knowing what I know now. But other than that I’m sure I’m fine.

Pia Dögl: Super example. I used to smoke two packages of cigarettes and now I’m not drinking alcohol or coffee, nothing at all. But I don’t regret it, so I’m pretty much the same. I don’t think it brings you further if you look back at what you have done wrong, but sometimes there are just some little things for you. It’s the Diet Coke that you regret.

Any number one advice for new moms who want to live it all? What would you like to share?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Well, it’s funny. I just always say it doesn’t have to be perfect and sometimes especially as a new mom, you think, oh, I have to get it perfect. I have to get it right.

And you look at the other new moms and maybe they look like they’re doing it right, but I think everybody isn’t getting it perfect. So wouldn’t worry about that. And just don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong. Everybody gets it wrong.

Jack and I call it mommy bloopers, like every once in a while I’ll mess up and I’m like, oh yeah, it was such a mommy blooper. Like the day when we told our friend to pick up our daughter at camp because my husband was sailing in a regatta. And she got the day wrong. And so it was a big mommy blooper trying to get her picked up at camp at the last minute, you know, it was a Saturday, not a Sunday, right?

So that kind of stuff is going to happen. But when someone has a baby, I always say eat super foods like sweet potatoes and avocado. No diet Coke. Don’t get all the packaged baby food and hire people that you want your kids to be like, you know?

And that’s always something that I would do. And then, say yes and no early. A lot of times kids will ask and ask, and ask and ask. And you say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And then finally, the millionth time, you say yes. And that’s just not a good habit to get into. So say yes early and say no early.

And just have fun with it. I’ve just been really surprised at how quickly it’s gone. I mean, I only have one child, but you know, I thought there were some days when she was a baby that like, it’s only 10 o’clock, you know? I couldn’t even believe how long the day was. And now we’re 15 years later and I’m like, what happened to that time?

I mean, it’s gone like that. Childhood is gone, so enjoy every minute.

Pia Dögl: Beautiful. So that’s what I’m learning from you, to be present, to be in the moment, to have fun.

There aren’t many role models out there who are successful business moms like you who are not afraid of sitting in a room full of men.

As the only woman who did you learn from the most, would you say?

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Probably my dad, believe it or not. He was such a professional and he gave me such respect at all ages that I just never doubted myself. I just assumed that I was as good as he thought I was, and so there it was.

And my mom had three children and her parents are from Norway, so she didn’t have a lot of support or help with the children growing up. And I saw that she just didn’t have a lot of options. She was our mom and that was her choice and those were her options.

But I learned that maybe it’s nice to have a lot of options. And my mom helped me learn that. Beautiful.

Pia Dögl: Yeah. And you created it based on trust. Right? You created your own options. Your freedom to make a lot of money is one thing, but to be able to be present and to make changes and to look at it in such a positive way is your own work. It’s not that you can buy.

Sonja Hoel Perkins: It’s true. It’s definitely true. Yeah. And not to get discouraged.

Pia Dögl: Exactly. Wonderful. Sonja, thank you so much for being with us and encouraging all moms, including myself, to have the confidence and to find out their own way of being a loving mother and successful working woman and being themselves.

Sonja Hoel Perkins: I think you can do everything. You just don’t have to do everything all the time.

Pia Dögl: Right! Thank you so much.

Sonja Hoel Perkins: Thank you, Pia. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Outro: Mama, are you ready to learn how to keep your cool even during the hottest family fights and biggest struggles at work? Head over to my website at to get our free self-care guide and the top self-compassion tools you need to know in order to feel more patient, confident, and more yourself.

It’s your decision to be a fulfilled mom and woman. I truly believe in your amazing, unique potential. Until next time, don’t forget. To live at all Mommy.

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