How to run a company (in your spare time)

Burning the midnight oil photo courtesy flickr user gwdexter

(MoneyWatch) Ally Downey had just had a baby. She had just started a new job at a non-profit. "I needed to start a company like I needed a hole in the head," she says.

But she thought her idea -- weeSpring, a social network where parents could get advice from friends on baby gear -- could be big. After all, she notes, Diapers.com sells over 150 types of pacifiers. How is an exhausted new mom or dad supposed to know that while the clip on one brand seems like a good idea, it never stays clipped for long? Other parents can tell you which products are great and which are a total waste of money.

So she launched the business, which went live in December. Here's how Downey recommends combining life, work, and more work:

1. Embrace the second shift. "My husband is my business partner, so our living room became our office, and our company hours were 7:30 p.m." -- when the baby went to bed -- "to 1:00 a.m.," she says. "The two of us met on Eliot Spitzer's campaign, so working long hours together was nothing new."

2. Skip the weekend TV. "On the weekends, we practice what I called tandem parenting: One of us takes care of Logan while the other takes care of our second child, weeSpring," says Downey. "And then we swap."

3. Don't be afraid to call after hours. "We do a lot of conference calls that start at 9 p.m., which I don't necessarily recommend, but it works for us," she says. "And people, particularly creative types, are astonishingly receptive to doing things at off-hours." Parents may be up for another work stint after their kids go to bed -- so it's not a bad time to do business.

4. Always look for ways to be efficient. "It's usually a waste of time to have more than two of us show up to any external meetings. There's so much more we could be doing in those two hours," she says. "Two is good, though, because we can riff off each other -- and also demonstrate that we have great team chemistry."

Have you built a business while working at another job? How did you make it work?

Photo courtesy flickr user gwdexter

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