I first met Christine Bronstein at her home last spring at an event she was hosting for A Band of Wives, the online network she founded, which I’d discovered thanks to an article in Marin Magazine. I was impressed with how warm, welcoming, and real Chris was the moment I met her. I loved this woman right away, and I’m sure you will, too.
Bio: Christine Bronstein is the founder of www.abandofwives.com a social network and information website for women. She was CEO of one of the few women run, venture backed health and fitness companies in the nation for 8 years and president of a child-welfare foundation for 3 years. She is a graduate of Columbia/UC-Berkeley executive MBA program and a member of the honor society Beta Gamma Sigma. Chris is married to Hearst/San Francisco Chronicle’s Editor-at-Large Phil Bronstein and mother of three.
Peggy: You’re the founder of www.abandofwives.com, a fabulous and super-successful social and information website for women. You also blog for Huffington Post, and you’re the mother of three young children. Previously, you were CEO of a health and fitness company, and president of a foundation. How have you achieved all of this? What makes you excel at what you do?
Christine: I have achieved all of these things with lots of support. Anyone who says that they achieve alone must have a terrible memory.
Also, I don’t necessarily see myself as excelling, but when I put my mind to something it is because I am passionate about it. And when I get passionate about something I’m like a racehorse with blinders on.
But, when you are doing something you love, it doesn’t matter how successful it is. You just feel good doing it. I think that is true for the opposite as well. I have been in the situation where from an outside perspective it would seem that the company I was running was successful, but I didn’t love doing it and I was very unhappy. Achievement is actually very much an internal thing and it took me a long time to learn that; actually, I would say I’m still learning it.
Peggy: What prompted you to start A Band of Wives?
Christine: I had terrible post-partum with my daughter and I wanted a private place to communicate with my friends (I wasn’t on Facebook because it felt too public). One afternoon, I was standing in line at Whole Foods in Mill Valley reading a magazine and I read about Ning (the platform we use). I had a group of women and we all called each other wives. So, I went home and built A Band of Wives that afternoon and sent out invitations to my friends.
Around that same time my husband had written a column called Wives have wives-and that is healthy. He got an amazing outpouring from women readers who loved this notion. So, although I built it for my group of friends, I had hoped that it would spread, but I couldn’t have imagined it growing as much as it has.
And each member has something so inspirational to offer. Almost immediately ABOW started taking on a life of its own, so I can’t really take credit for its growth.
Peggy: Many people come up with great ideas, as you did with A Band of Wives, but then never execute them. You could still be sitting around talking about this great community for women you’d like to start…but instead you went ahead and did it! What is it about you? How did you get your idea off the ground?
Christine: I have had many ideas that haven’t gone off as smoothly, but I can say that I do try to put everything out there. If I get an idea, I do it. And I work hard at it. If it doesn’t work out, then I do the next thing (after a good cry in the shower).
So, I think there is a lot of luck and timing involved with getting projects off the ground. A Band of Wives is a very needed presence in our hectic world. Women need community and a safe place to find and flex their voice.
Peggy: In your Huff Post Women article, “Can Estrogen Fuel Our Global Economy”, you talk about how you raised $4 million in venture capital when you were 24. Wow. Sounds like you were born with confidence and gumption. True? What were you like as a kid?
Christine: I was a tomboy when I was younger and then kind of a rebel. I moved out of my mom’s house at 15. By 16 I was living alone in an apartment that my father owned, but only visited once a month. I had to learn how to take charge of my life and I also learned how to build a community for myself out of friends and extended family.
When I raised my VC funding I had a great mentors, I worked 70 hours a week and I had an inflated, neophyte ego—all things that go over well in the VC world. (Although I pretty quickly lost my inflated sense of self.)
Peggy: How do you balance work and motherhood…and still find time for yourself?
Christine: It is VERY hard. I have a lot of help, a very supportive husband and lots of wives. I have started doing less email on the weekends and although I am now constantly behind in my emails, I get fun, connected time with my family that keeps me going all week.
Peggy: Is there something you do every day that helps you stay focused/sane?
Christine: I try to do yoga once a week and I practice A Course in Miracles when I start to feel unbalanced.
Peggy: How do you get out of a funk?
Christine: Zoloft, chocolate and my wives. Women especially need to have time with one another. It boosts our oxytocin and is so important for our overall health.
Also, helping those in need always brings about a pretty quick change in perspective and a good dose of gratitude.
Peggy: Dark or milk chocolate?
Christine: Both, but I feel like I’m being healthy when I eat dark chocolate. I like to think of it as a fruit.
Peggy: I love that…chocolate is a fruit! Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
Christine: Aside from chocolate my favorite food is bacon.
Peggy: Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and for being so candid. I wish you much more success with A Band of Wives…I’m very proud to be a member!