ParentPreneur Profile: Naomi Parness

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Nov 10, 2020

From a young age, Naomi Parness was crystal clear on her career aspirations and laser-focused on achieving them.
“I wanted to be a news reporter, a hard news reporter. I knew exactly what I wanted,” says Parness, during a video interview with Lianne Castelino for WhereParentsTalk TV.

And so, for Parness, the hard work to chase down that dream, began.

It involved interning, travelling, working in other towns and cities, both north and south of the Canada-US border, among other things.

Her goal was to amass the necessary experience, confidence and varied portfolio of stories that a young reporter keenly seeks to eventually be considered to work in a major market, big city newsroom.

Soon, the effort and unrelenting focus yielded Parness her “dream job” — television news reporter at CTV Toronto, the flagship nightly local newscast in the network’s family.

During a 10-year-career at CTV, Parness also become a mom. She would go on to add a second baby during that decade — a few years after her first.

Returning to work after the birth of each of her sons to the rigour, grind and often merciless schedule of a tv news reporter offered up a new set of challenges for Parness and her young family.

Like many parents, striking a balance between work, raising children and household demands was a delicate, unenviable dance, often rife with guilt.

A tough balancing act continued until Parness decided to be the architect of her own future career path, again.

Find out what prompted her to take unfamiliar steps along a completely different route, to a new destination.

Parness candidly shares her career journey, and the transition to becoming an entrepreneur.
She is the co-founder of KPW Communications.

She also offers some food for thought for moms and dads struggling with similar questions when it comes to the ever-elusive career and family balance.

Watch the video interview with Naomi Parness:

Click for video transcription

ParentPreneur Profile: Naomi Parness

Hello and welcome to Where Parents Talk TV. My name is Lianne Castelino.

And today our guest is Naomi Parness. She is the co-founder of KPW Communications. She’s also a mom of two and a journalist.

I was going to be a reporter. I wanted to be a news reporter, a hard news reporter. I was not interested in entertainment. I knew exactly what I wanted, you know, went to Ryerson, interned in New York for two summers then worked in Peterborough and then worked in Barrie, and then finally made it to Toronto, was at CTV for almost 10 years, and loved it. It was my dream, it was my dream job. In the middle of all that I had two kids, I had two boys right now they’re 11, and nine. And I don’t even know, it just, it progressively became a lot harder. I mean, in the beginning, it was really hard to be a mom with young babies. But it’s funny, someone once told me, they said, oh, it’s easy when they’re babies, wait till they get older. And they were right. Because when they’re younger, they can’t express to you what it’s like that you’re not home. Once they get older, it’s harder, and you’re missing things after school and you’re coming home after they’re asleep. And I love my job. And I left loving my job. But I knew that it wasn’t working for me. And I left in 2017. So it’s been almost four years now. With the math TV people don’t, they don’t. That’s why I fell into journalism. But I left almost four years ago. And it was a very hard decision. Like I said, I left loving it. And I left actually, because I just, I wasn’t I was finding that I wasn’t having as many good days as I was bad days, I was feeling really guilty as a mom, I was feeling like I really wasn’t around for my kids. I wasn’t present.

And I just as much as I loved what I was doing. I knew that being a mom and these years with my kids, were going to go fast. And I needed to take advantage of that. And so many people had said to me, someone actually said something to me that really made a difference. And it’s different for everybody. And everyone has to do what works for them. So I’m not preaching that people should do this. This is just what I felt in my heart, but I really wanted to be with them. And they said to me, you know, when you die, your tombstone doesn’t say, you know, CTV reporter or journalist, it says mom, and that really impacted me because I did not feel like I was being a good reporter, and I wasn’t being a good mother. I wasn’t doing anything well. And I wanted to do one thing well, at least,and being a mom at that point was more important. So I ended up getting a full time job working for a charity and I worked for the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, I’m Jewish, and my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. And I had done a lot of work with them. And it just seemed like a really fulfilling, great role to be in. I was doing storytelling for them. So I was still doing videos, I was still out, you know, gathering stories and telling the stories of what the charity does. But again, I found that I actually, because I had been a journalist for so many years working out of my car and working on this crazy schedule, I wasn’t an office worker. So it was a really interesting experience for me, because then people started saying to me, well, why don’t you, you know, go out on your own? Why don’t you freelance. And I was so scared, because I’ve never ever in my life, but I’m going to be you know, I’m going to work for myself and an entrepreneur, I never imagined not having a regular income where you get a weekly paycheck, you know, it was just something that I have had for so many years of my life. My husband is an entrepreneur, he’s always been an entrepreneur, he cannot actually work for anyone, can’t be told what to do. So someone came to me, one of my colleagues, and she said, you know, my friend, who’s been an entrepreneur for 10 years, wants to expand a little, she wants some help with her company. Would you ever consider owning your own company? And I had not before that, and this was almost a year ago, so I hadn’t even thought about it. And we talked and the more we talked, the more I realized that this actually might be a really good opportunity for me to have flexibility to be able to still do what I love, but then to also have the flexibility to be around with my kids. And a year ago, KW communications was born with me, Carmen Wong, who used to be at CP24. So also a former journalist and mother of three and Sarbjit Kaur, who was doing this for 10 years prior, but also a single mother raising her two girls. And the three of us together have very different backgrounds. But we’re all moms, we all understand, you know what it’s like to juggle everything. And it’s been incredible. I’ve had an amazing year being an entrepreneur. And like I said, this is something that I really almost fell into. I mean, I would never have even considered it if Carmen didn’t come to me and say is this something that you think that you would want to do? And now I can’t actually imagine my life any other way. There’s so much flexibility.

So that is wonderful, because the very next question is the first two years of anybody being an entrepreneur are said to be the toughest. So how would you describe that?
How would you say that being a parentpreneur is different than what you expected, or how did it meet your expectations? In what ways?

It’s funny, I’m still so new to this. So I certainly would not call myself an expert. And I’m still finding my way because a year ago, I really wasn’t sure if this was gonna work. And to be honest with you, the first month of the, like I said, I mean, this, these are unchartered territory. So the first month of the pandemic was awful. There was no work, you know, so then I was like, What am I doing? Should I go back to some sort of regular income, but I happen to be in a job that is needed. I’m making videos and telling stories for people. And now during the pandemic, which is all online, everyone wants video, and everyone wants online shows. So I’m very busy right now, grateful, very, very grateful for the work. So now it’s working for me, but it does take time, it takes time to settle into this. I mean, you know, first of all, it takes time just to leave your old life. And that actually, I don’t think until this year, I was actually okay with my decision. I think I waffled a lot about did I make the right decision. I miss news, I miss journalism. I mean, you know, you’ve been in the industry, it’s your family. They are still my family, I still speak to them every day. And I love them very much, all the people that I met, they’re my colleagues, we understand each other. But I finally feel like I’m at a place now where I think what it is, is that you I mean, you have to go through the motions, and there’s going to be bad months, and there’s going to be good months, but you get to a place where you realize it’s working. And it is, it’s working. Because as busy as I am, and I feel like, as an entrepreneur, you’re working even more sometimes, because most of us work from home. And especially now during the pandemic, everyone’s home. My hours are very late. And I’m doing work till one in the morning because I’m with the kids, you know, around dinnertime, and then after dinner, and then when they go to bed, I’m working. But you find ways to make it work. And I think once you find that, it feels good. So it takes time. And it ebbs and flows. I think everyone who is their own business owner will tell you that some months are great. And some months are absolutely horrible. Especially right now I’m only a year into being an entrepreneur, and I’ve had six months, which have been a pandemic. So it’s been a really, really interesting experience. You share your schedule, I’m kind of laughing because we have an identical schedule. So I hear you’re not the only one awake at one o’clock in the morning working on stories and things
like that. It is quiet. Yeah.

Let me ask you, what would you say even this early into your journey that you’ve learned about yourself as a parentpreneur?

So I’m a better parent, when I’m happy, first of all, with my work, and I am feeling fulfilled. And I think that I’m also very happy when I have flexibility. And I think that’s the one thing I learned that was missing when I was in journalism was that I didn’t have that. And I had a very rigid schedule that worked around, you know, the hours of the news. And I could not be at a hockey game at 6:15 if I wanted to because I was live. Now I think the one thing that I’ve learned the most is that I need to have a flexible schedule, I need the ability to say, I can’t book a shoot on this day because I have to take the kids here or the kids have something or they have an appointment. But I can do the shoot the next day, you know, so I think the one thing that I’ve learned about myself is how much I need the flexibility in my life. And also for myself, I mean, you know, if there’s a morning where I know I don’t have something I can work out, I can take the mental health time that I also need for myself to go on a walk to be outside. Just to run my own schedule, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to run my own schedule and have control of my own hours, my own life, my own day would flow. And I really appreciate that now and I’m I remind myself when I do have moments if I have them where I miss stuff that now I can do whatever I mean, you know if I want to take vacation, which no one is taking right now, but if I wanted to know what’s going anywhere, I can you know, and if my son in the past, even with my old job, when I was working for a company, it was a bit more flexible, and it wasn’t TV, and if my son had a hockey tournament, I could be there, you know, so I just feel like, I’m never going to regret the one thing that I always said, especially when I left is you’ll never regret making a choice for your family. Like you’re making a choice for your family is always the right choice for me because family comes first. So I may, you know, years down the road have regretted other things, but I certainly will never regret making my family a priority. That’s and that’s very specific to me. And it’s you know, for some people, like I said, it’s not that case, but for me, that made me feel better as a person.

It’s interesting. It sounds like your whole decision to get to where you’re at, was was gradual in some ways. In many ways. It’s not like you woke up one day and said today is that’s it, I’m done. But what kind of advice would you say that you’d have for other moms and dads looking at becoming parentpreneurs? And you know, as you’ve mentioned, we have the added layer of COVID, where this is becoming a big choice for a lot of families in this country and elsewhere, what advice would you have for them, people considering this path?

You know, it’s funny, because some of my friends are going through this where they’re trying to make career changes, I just turned 40. So I think we’re all at that point in life where, you know, you’ve been in a career for a while and and they’re just not happy. I think it’s just the point of how unhappy you are really, because so many people are unhappy in the role that they’re in and in the job that they’re in. And so many people hold themselves back because of the fear. And it really is a fear of going out on your own. And the fear of bringing in income and worrying about income coming in. I have to say, I mean, I’m very lucky that my husband was an entrepreneur as well and was able to give me advice, but also did okay. I mean, some people are not in a position to, to go out on their own. I mean, some people don’t have the choice, I was very lucky that I had the choice, because a lot of people don’t have that choice. But I was very unhappy for a long time. And I think that you have to then decide, you know, what’s worth it more is it, you have to decide how unhappy you are because some of my friends are really struggling with this. But they’re not going to make that jump, because they’re just going to stay in the role that they’re in because it’s comfortable. And that’s the other thing is being comfortable. And I know, you know, one of my best friends is Dana Levinson, who also just made a jump to be an entrepreneur and to go out on her own. And she left television after almost 20 years. And she was very comfortable. And she talked about that. And there’s this you become very comfortable in the position that you’re in. And there’s this fear of making that change. And it’s not easy. And my mind did, as you say, happened very gradually over many years of, you know, being out on shoots, and then being assigned to go down to cover a story downtown. And I don’t live downtown, I live in the suburbs. And then thinking well, I’m not going to make it home and crying on the way home and thinking this is not good. I should not be crying on the way home. Even though like I said, I really did enjoy what I did. I was so conflicted because I loved the job. I just didn’t love how it was making me feel when I came home. The guilt is paralyzing. Right? And guilt is awful. And I wish we didn’t have it and mom guilt baggage, we all have it. I mean, we all experience it. And it is awful. I mean, it makes it especially once your kids can express things to you like mom, you were the only one there today, you were the only parent who wasn’t there today at our kindergarten presentation. I remember that phone call. I was doing an interview at a high school. And I remember that phone call that I was the only parent who hadn’t been there. And, you know, listen, I also the kids also have to learn, we work and we can’t be at everything. But I wanted to be more present in their lives. I just really didn’t feel like I had that balance. And I don’t even think I mean you’ll never really. Balance is such an overrated word. I don’t know if we ever really truly find balance. But I feel like I found the most possible right now. And it could be different in another month. Like I said, when you’re an entrepreneur, everything changes. So right now I feel good. In six months after that, another six months into the pandemic but I think it’s working. It’s working right now.

So let me ask you this, because you’ve described how this change has impacted you and sort of your mental health and your outlook and those kinds of things. Those of us who are parents know that kids are incredibly observant. They see things that we don’t think they’re seeing, and they say things that just knock us off our feet sometimes. How would you say that your family dynamic has been impacted by you now being a parentpreneur?

You know, it’s very interesting. My husband ended up taking on a huge role. Obviously, in my early years of my career, he was always with the kids. He was one putting them to bed especially when they were babies, I was on the air live at 6:15. And I was actually the City Hall reporter at the time. So I lived in the suburbs, but was downtown everyday driving home. So I would call when they were babies and they couldn’t speak but I would just listen to them gurgling because that was it. They were going to bed, they were down about seven, and I wasn’t going to be home. So he did a lot. And I think it was a big strain on our relationship and our marriage and me being home was great. Like it really was very helpful. And I also think with the kids. I mean, the kids were so young when I was a reporter when I left they tried to think so they would have been
Yeah, they, you know, they were a little bit older to the point where it didn’t they didn’t really remember the years that I was reporter because I left once they were a little bit older, but I think they you know, they enjoyed the fact that I was on TV, you know there’s mommy and but they liked that I was around to go on field trips and I was the mom who was a volunteer in their class, and I was, you know, I just they liked that. And they liked that I was always around. So I feel like it definitely helped our relationship. And I feel like the years where I felt, I think it was also it was really me, you know, it was my own guilt. So I was feeling better, which meant that we could have more time together. And I just feel like I was a really big part of their life the last few years. And the biggest difference, I’ll tell you was being home for dinner.
It’s a game changer for me. I mean, really being home for dinner and having those conversations about your day and how when I always missed dinner, because I came home so late, and that was a game changer. Just being home having those conversations, I just feel like I know more of their life, who their friends are, what they’re doing, you know, just I’m more involved, I’m more present.

And those conversations around the dinner table are just going to become more fulsome and interesting as they get older. Right. And more important.

Yes, right. Well, they’ve been, they’ve been incredible and eye-opening during the pandemic, what the kids see, and you know, now they’re on social media, and they know more than I want them to know. And so we’re having discussions about things that I didn’t think they might be ready for at this point. But yet, dinner conversations are really important. So just being around it’s being homework and seeing what’s going on in their life. So I feel like it’s definitely helped our relationship for sure. When you finally decided to make the leap.

Did you prior to that, do any research to inform yourself I mean, as a creature of research and what you do for a living? What kind of research did you undertake to make sure that you are making an informed decision to go into the world of entrepreneurism.

So it’s funny. When I first left, CTV, I did a lot of research in the sense that I made a lot of phone calls, because the problem with that whole jump, which is what got me to my entrepreneur jump is that I had never done anything else. I was 16 when I started, and I was leaving at the age of 36. So I really had never done anything else. And I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I made a lot of phone calls to colleagues and to contacts that I had. And I said, you know, I’m, I’m not sure, but I’m thinking of potentially leaving, you know, what would it be like, if I worked maybe at the school board, because I was the education reporter. So I spoke to some of my colleagues there. I called colleagues in the health sector, what would it be like if I did this, and I sort of, you know, looked into all the different things. And then I had to figure out what worked for me, which I’ve always loved charity work. And I love storytelling. So it made sense for me to try and pursue that, which I did. And then when I started to talk about doing entrepreneurship and going out on my own, I would talk to people about, you know, what is it like? How much are you making, you know, what are the months like, it was very important for me to know about those sort of ebbs and flows, because they, they’re there, there’s months where you’re completely, you’ve nothing. And then there’s months where you’re so busy, you almost can’t handle it. So I spoke to a lot of people who had been out on their own. And I talked to them about, you know, the financial stuff, the stuff with their family, you know, how they made it work, and I’m still learning. I mean, I’m a year into this. So I’m learning how to deal with clients, how to manage my invoicing, how to, you know, how do you get new clients? How do you get new business, all of these things. So I’m, I’m still speaking a lot with people and doing research on a daily basis. I mean, we both, we all want to learn, right? We’re always learning. So I’m still learning and will continue to learn. But I’m lucky also because as I said, my husband had been out on his own for years. And so I saw what it was like for him. Interestingly enough, my father tried to go out on his own a few years ago, and it didn’t work for him, and he wasn’t happy with it. So I also knew what kind of personality you need too. I talked a lot with people about what kind of personality you need to do this because you need to be motivated. And you need to be a self starter, and you can’t be the type of person who’s going to be home watching TV all day. Because then you’re not going to get business. So you have to know your personality. And you have to know what you like in your life. And I think that was important too. So it’s been a big learning experience for sure. It’s exhausting being an entrepreneur, because you’re it’s all on you know, you don’t have anybody to help you but it’s also very fulfilling and very rewarding. So let me ask you this then knowing what you know now.

Being able to better balance being a mom and everything else that you do career wise.
What is your takeaway? Do you feel like you know, knowing what you know, now, what would you have done differently?

Nothing, because I needed to do all of that to learn to be where I am right now. And you know what all of that worked and the phase of life I was in, I think that we go through so many different phases of life. And when I was young, and you know, I was able to be working in different cities and to be traveling and to be you know, doing what I was doing. It worked and I loved it and I loved every minute of it and I don’t I don’t think I would have done anything differently because it was my dream. And I feel very good to say, especially to my kids as they’re growing up and trying to figure it out that I did my dream, I accomplished it, I went out and spent years volunteering. And I mean, all the people who go into that industry, we spend so much time working towards it. Once you finally get there, it’s a very satisfying feeling. So I would not trade that for anything. And I think that it’s brought me to where I am, I mean, the industry that I’m still doing as an entrepreneur is basically the same, I’m still doing storytelling, I’m still doing video storytelling, I’m still able to do interviews, now I’m finding different ways of incorporating my journalism background into what I’m doing now. So I’m posting online shows, I’m emceeing online events. So you know, it’s just, it’s pretty much It’s not that I left to do something different. I’ve just merged my life into sort of a new online world and digital world that’s working for me and my family, but I’m not working for a company, I’m doing it for myself. So you know, I don’t think I would have changed anything, I’m really happy with the way everything happened. And, you know, I do believe things happen for a reason. And Carmen called me last year, and that phone call changed everything. And now I have, you know, this new company and flexibility. And maybe you know, there’s so many things I still want to do. And you are an entrepreneur and you start meeting people and talking to them, all these other opportunities come up, which you know, once you take that big leap, you open the door to so many other opportunities, which is what’s happened. So I’m really feeling very grateful, because maybe I’ll do a documentary, I’ve always wanted to do a documentary made, you know, there’s so many things now that I have the time to pursue, and I feel really good about it. So I wouldn’t I wouldn’t change one thing. I’m happy.

That’s wonderful to hear. Because, you know, there are obviously, circumstances and situations where that’s not the case. And but I want to ask you, in closing, in what ways would you say that the way you were raised, influenced your decision on how you raise your children, because I’m thinking, you know, many of us, you don’t always have to have had a positive experience in how you were raised, but, but the way that you choose to bring up your children in this world, you know, conscious decisions, it can be dramatically different from what you experienced. But in your specific case, what was that, like?

It’s interesting. So my mom was always a working mom, and always there for us. But she worked. She’s still working, even though she just turned 65. But she’s retired, but not retired. And now she’s consulting. So she’s also doing her own thing, which is interesting, because we’re both entrepreneurs at the same time. But um, family was always very important. Growing up, I had a very close, immediate and extended family, and that my cousins and I, my aunt, they lived down the street. So there were always, you know, the group of us, like, we were always it was always a big family unit and family growing up was very important to me. And I think that foundation of family, my grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and they’re both still alive. They’re 102, and 94. And they really guide our whole existence, all of us. And you know, everything is rooted around that. So family and tradition has always been important. And I think I just knew that I want the same for my kids, I want them to have those experiences and those family experiences. So I just feel very lucky that I grew up in a place where family lives close. And we’re all together. And that’s how my kids now spend a lot of their life with their family. And, you know, during COVID most of the people we spend the most time with obviously our family, but really my nephews, my nieces, you know, that’s who were their friends, my kids. So I think it’s just that I think that’s probably what was at the root of family. And my mom always did work, like I said, So working was important. And having my own identity was also really important, because my mom did have that. And that’s always been important to me is having something that I feel I’m doing for myself and to make the world hopefully a better place. And I’m trying to contribute to being a good person. So that’s important to me, too. And that has always been no matter what no matter how, you know, my kids are very important to me. But it’s very important to me also to be a good person and to be giving back and to feel good about what I’m doing. That’s really important to me, too.

In closing, Naomi, what would you say to other parents in terms of tips and advice that you could offer being a rookie entrepreneur, as you are a parentpreneur that, you know might be helpful to them on their journey?

I think, I think it’ll come to you. You know what I also think I think we all we over think. It’s so interesting, because I’m such an over thinker. And yet when Carmen came to me and said, do you want to start your own company? I actually, I made the decision so quickly. It’s almost like I just knew it was right. So trust your instincts is one thing. And then also just, you have to you have to think about it. You have to think we’re in a really weird time. So it’s hard to give someone advice because I think the whole world is changing. And I think people are seeing that. There’s opportunities that maybe they didn’t think would exist.

They’re seeing the way we’re doing everything is changing and will probably change as a result of what we’re going through right now. So it’s hard to say. But I think people are seeing that things can be done differently. So hopefully you open your mind to that. I think that you need to be open to change to having something different to, to opening yourself up to fear. And listen, I’m someone who lives with a ton of anxiety. I talk about it a lot on social media, just because I don’t think it’s something that we need to discuss, we need to be honest about what we’re going through. So it was not something that came easily to me to make this decision. Because I always am anxious, am I making the right choice? I always, you know, second guess myself. But I think we need to face those fears and go with it. Because sometimes the best things come when you make those sorts of decisions, where you’re like, in your gut, you know, this is what I need to do, I need to try it. And the other thing is you need to try things and you need to fail. You need to try, you’re gonna let her know, if I hadn’t tried I wouldn’t know. So you know, you might as well try if you have the opportunity to and like I said, some people don’t, some people don’t have that choice financially, the situation that they’re in, in terms of, you know, with their partner, their spouse, sometimes it’s not possible. But if you have the option, and you can try it, if it doesn’t work out, you’ll find something else you’ll you’ll make it work. That’s sort of what I was telling myself when I said what, you know, why not? And for someone living with anxiety, that’s not always an easy thing, because I like things to be planned. And I like organization, and I like having control over things. But I sort of just for the first time took a big leap and it’s worked. Well see.

Well, listen, we wish you all the best thank you so much for your time and for really providing such a keen insight into, you know, just sort of what that journey was like for you and and providing some ideas for other parents who may be struggling or contemplating or on the cusp of becoming parentpreneurs themselves. Thank you so much for your time.

You’re so welcome. I think everyone’s needs to know, they all, we all have our own journey. And you know, it’s different for everybody. So, however they do it and whoever comes to us, good luck and it’ll come if it’s if it’s meant to be it’ll come. Thanks for having me. Lianne.

Thank you, Naomi.

Related links:

Work-Family Balance with Olympian Jessica Zelinka

Work-Family Balance with Mark Cohon

Stay-at-home or go to Work? Author Leslie Bennetts: A Feminine Mistake

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