Publisher Angela Engel on Starting a Business and “Momtrepreneurship”


( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Angela Engel Tackled Major Setbacks When Starting Her Publishing Company Right Before the Global Pandemic Hit

ENSPIRE Contributor: Natalie Dean

Starting a business from home can be difficult enough, but with the added responsibility of being a mother to three young children, it can feel impossible! Through hard work and careful strategy, Angela Engel has accomplished this and more. 

Engel started her own publishing business, The Collective Book Studio, in 2019– right before the international pandemic. But what would have killed another business only made Engel stronger. Her press works to amplify the voices of niche and diverse authors, creating a unique space for creatives of all kinds to find success. This indie press has garnered plenty of media attention since its inception, and for good reason.

Photo: Angela Engel

Angela Engel spoke to ENSPIRE about publishing, starting a business, and the title of “momtrepreneur:”

I think we can all agree that being an entrepreneur while also being a parent is a difficult task! What are some of the best strategies you have discovered to help create a work-life balance?

I have actually come to terms with the fact that work-life balance doesn’t really exist. I know so many people who continuously chase after this ideal, instead of letting go and finding a compromise. Work is always on my mind, but instead of always sticking to my screen or a 9-5 work schedule, I carve out time for ME. One strategy that works well is to start my day with a morning run. This allows me to stay focused and healthy while still taking the time to think through current projects that might be stressors. My advice is to do something YOU love! I love to cook, so I’ll listen to podcasts or talk on the phone with a close friend while enjoying the process of chopping and prepping meals. Finding moments to take time out in the day for me, instead of feeling like I’m always falling short has been the best way to find balance.

How has your experience in the publishing industry helped you create The Collective Book Studio?

I couldn’t have founded a publishing company without knowing the industry so well—only insiders can be true disruptors because we understand where the holes are in the industry. I have an understanding of a book as more than just the words on a page because I can see where it fits in the market as a tangible product. 

What makes The Collective Book Studio different from other publishers?

We’ve taken traditionally standardized but hidden industry practices, such as hybrid contracts, and made them public-facing. We’re also pioneering a new model of intellectual property, giving authors the ownership of their creative work, while also supporting them with retail distribution. As an independent, woman-run company, we like to partner with fellow underdogs. We prioritize relationships with independent bookstores and debut authors while other publishers pour millions into Amazon and bestsellers. 

What has it been like to start a business in a “dying” industry?

First off, publishing is not really a dying industry. That said, it is a merging one, meaning that the percentage of books on the market published by Big Four houses (Penguin Random House/Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) is growing every day. It’s hard to be a small publisher competing against conglomerates who have what seems like endless budgets compared to ours. But we are a team of driven, passionate, and talented industry leaders with a mission to sustain the art of the book, and that’s why we stick with it. 

How have you embraced the title of “momtrepreneur”?

In all honesty, I have not embraced the “momtrepreneur” title. It frustrates me that while both my husband and I are small business owners, only he gets the regular old “entrepreneur” badge. I am proud to embrace being a woman-owned business and female founder, but putting motherhood on my resume is not that simple. I’d rather have conversations about disparities in finances between men and women, and how we can intentionally invest in women and/or BIPOC run businesses. 

What added burdens or successes come from this title?

As I touched on above, the “mom” label elicits expectations about your lifestyle and your priorities that dad-entrepreneurs don’t deal with. It puts me in a box where my choice to cook dinner for my family is seen as an expected limitation on my performance at work, rather than something I genuinely enjoy doing. 

What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to women like you who want to follow in your footsteps?

Be patient—it’s about the long game. This mentality will require you to be fearless, but mindful of your long-term goals. Don’t make excuses for being tenacious, but do so with optimism and a commitment to your mission.

Photo: Angela Engel

Such an inspiring and important interview! Engel makes great points about the way we treat female entrepreneurs compared to their male counterparts. Even though being a mother is a difficult and endlessly important job, it is not the only quality that defines these women, and ‌that no such term exists for father-entrepreneurs indicates the way we understand these women as mothers first and businesswomen second.

When we focus on female entrepreneurs as “momtrepreneurs” first, we are talking about them as mothers, not as people. 

When this article was pitched to ENSPIRE, it was with the title “Momtrepreneur and Publisher’s Tips to Launch a Business” and the description included several references to motherhood and raising a family as being major talking points for Engel’s interview. Clearly, through her answers, this is something she has dealt with a lot as a businesswoman, even though motherhood– as incredible and powerful as motherhood is– is not even close to the most interesting thing about her or her business. 

Photo: Angela Engel

Angela Engel is a fearlessly strong woman who has led her business to success despite difficulties such as the competition of the publishing industry, the unpredictable shock of a global pandemic, and the tribulations that come with starting and running your own business– and yes, she’s done all this while being a parent to three lovely children! On top of this, at the height of the pandemic, she also started a fund that raised over $35,000 and helped to distribute face coverings. The tips and tricks she has learned along the way would be imperative to anyone hoping to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps.

So without further ado, here are three tips for starting a business from Engel!

Photo: Angela Engel

Workshop your idea: Pick three people you have worked with before and ensure that your idea makes sense. You want to establish that there is a need for it. 

Trust yourself: If you see a problem in an industry, you ‌truly trust that you have the solution and you are the person to fix it. 

Hire people for small tasks: To start a business, you don’t need to do everything at once. Pick one small thing to do a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Hire a local graphic designer to create your logo. Then, file the paperwork to become a sole proprietor. 

Photo: Angela Engel

These tips come from Engel’s experience of starting and running a successful business during a very difficult time for businesses. Keeping these tips in mind as you go about your own entrepreneurial journey will be greatly helpful!

By supporting The Collective Book Studio, you are supporting a female-owned, female-founded business that values and uplifts diversity.

Visit The Collective Book Studio here!

Related article: Tips on Sustaining Our Support of Judge Jackson