Sheri Atwood: Be your own boss Featured

1:57pm EDT January 29, 2014
Sheri Atwood: Be your own boss

Transitioning from corporate America to entrepreneurship takes determination and drive.

If you want to start a business but don’t know where to begin, you’re not alone. More Americans continue to leave the corporate world to start businesses.

A few years ago, I was a vice president at a Fortune 500 company, a divorcee and a single mom. As a child of divorce I was determined to make my relationship with my ex amicable, for the sake of my daughter. We had agreed on child support and would share my daughter’s other expenses.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to actually manage this arrangement. There was no platform available for parents to track, organize and manage child support and shared child expenses. In the U.S. alone there are more than 39 million parents struggling with this issue.

It was then that I decided to take an unforeseen turn in my life and created a startup — SupportPay by Ittavi, an automated child support payment platform built specifically for parents. As a founder of a thriving business, I’d like to offer some advice to budding entrepreneurs.

Don’t be blinded by a false sense of security

One of the first things I heard from others was, “Wow. It’s risky leaving the security of corporate America.” But there isn’t much security in corporate America either — you could lose your job at any moment for a number of reasons.

At least I’m in charge of the finances, the business plan and can control my schedule — the success of my company is in my hands.

Success doesn’t happen overnight

Every day you see stories of companies being bought for millions and valued for billions. The stories make it seem so easy — and quick. But in reality it takes time.

Fundraising is a full-time job — and takes much longer than anyone anticipates. If you remember you are running a marathon and not a sprint, adjusting to the demands of startup life become much more bearable.

Learn to separate work and home life

If you think you’ll have a better work/life balance after starting your own business … think again. It’s better to set boundaries from the start.

I shut down my computer at 6 p.m. every night and dedicate 6 to 9 p.m. to my daughter. Three hours of quality time every night is better than more hours of being partly present.  

Never delegate unless you know what you want

Coming from a career in product management and marketing, I knew nothing about coding or product design. The first thing I did was learn the technologies so I could define what was desired and tell if outsourced work was quality and if time spent on it was realistic.

There isn’t room for a backup plan

You can’t go into the startup field thinking you can always go back to your old job. Learn from roadblocks and continue on — that’s one quality every entrepreneur must have. Remembering why you started this and remaining committed is the only way you will be successful.

The most important lesson to remember when starting your own company is that you are not alone. Network with other entrepreneurs, and never hesitate to ask for advice or an introduction to someone who can help.

Entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, but with a little drive, determination and passion, success is possible.

Sheri Atwood, founder of SupportPay by Ittavi, the first-ever automated child support payment platform, is a successful marketing and product executive with Fortune 500 experience. Atwood was named a “Top 40 Under 40 Executive in Silicon Valley” in 2009. For more information, visit

Learn more about SupportPay by Ittavi at:

Twitter: @supportpayapp