When two young mums with blossoming careers in law decided to take a furniture painting class, little did they know within a year their hobby would be a successful business called Lovely Things.
However, after friends and family expressed interest in their up-cycled pieces, Charlotte Dennison (pictured, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service) and Charlotte Smith (a legal assistant for Ryedale Council), both 32, decided to showcase their products at a local market, and the pieces were quickly snapped up by local stores. The Charlottes also now sell their goods on Ebay and Facebook.
Here the pair from North Yorkshire share their tips on how to run a sideline business.
Charlotte D: “When we started Lovely Things I was on maternity leave, looking after a three-year-old and a four-month-old. Charlotte Smith was back at uni as a mature student and looking after a 10-year-old.
“Luckily my husband is a policeman who works shifts and my in-laws live locally and Charlotte Smith’s parents help her out. There is no way we would be able to run our business without them, because we just couldn’t afford childcare.”
Charlotte D: “We split the big jobs in half. For example, if we’re decorating a table and chairs, Charlotte (S) will do the first bit and I will do the second bit. This way no job is too big, and we don’t get bored half way through!”
Charlotte S: “As we’re still in the very early days, we keep our own books and our overheads are low. We don’t have fixed prices for our items and encourage customers to make offers.
“We did consider getting our own website produced, but because we could use Facebook, Twitter and Ebay for free, it was hard to justify the additional cost.”
Charlotte S: “Being able to work in the evening and weekends allows us to fit Lovely Things around our family and work lives.”
Charlotte D: “If I could go back to last year, one thing I would change is I’d have more belief in our products earlier on. We were too nervous to go and rent a market stall to begin with because we were worried no one would be interested in our products.
“But it turned out to be the best thing we did, because it was at a market that we got talking to the owner of a local interior design business, who offered us space in her shop for our things. You just need to speak to everyone, because you never know who you are talking to and you really need to shout about your business. You have to believe in yourself, your business and its products.”
This guest post has been provided by Lima Curtis writing on behalf of ExpertMarket.
Research commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians suggests that women who leave their chosen profession to have a baby face a pay cut of up to £20,000 a year when they return to work.
The study of more than 2,000 women who have chosen or “been forced by time or financial constraints” to abandon their chosen career after giving birth found that 60% of respondents earn less now than they did before they went on maternity leave.
Some 70% are over-qualified for the jobs they now do and such positions would have been “below them” before giving birth. The average working mum earns £9,419 less a year when compared to previous income, while necessity has forced nearly a quarter of respondents to take any job to make ends meet.
A third said the difference in salary has “affected their life negatively” and one in seven admitted that it had affected their marriage. Four in ten do their current job because it “fits in with family commitments and brings in extra money”; with just 16% saying they are passionate about their profession; and 30% describing their current job as “menial”. While working hours were reduced to enable mums to balance parenting responsibilities, only 20% of respondents said their current job was less stressful.
Respondents’ average age for having their first child was 25 and 38% thought their employer wasn’t supportive enough throughout their pregnancy. Flexibility around school hours, job location and low stress levels were found to be the biggest priorities for working mums, with salary fourth on the list.
Many of us would like to believe that starting a business offers women a better alternative, yet it seems that many women are not planning to start their own business any time soon.
As reported by the FT in August, according to an Ernst & Young survey, just 16% of the 1,000 working women questioned wanted to start their own business, while the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor UK Report 2011, which surveyed more than 10,000 people in the UK, noted ‘that men tend to have more positive entrepreneurial attitudes than women’ and even that women were more risk-adverse when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Whether that is true or not, are there any other reasons why more women – particularly young mums – don’t start their own business? Leaving aside all of the common reasons why both sexes don’t start their own business, lack of access to finance is often stated as a hurdle more likely to affect more women more men. Childcare is another huge issue, of course.
And however much we like to believe otherwise, balancing the demands of running a business with family commitments remains a massive challenge. The dream of being able to really have it all remains just that for many women – a dream.
As journalist, author and mumpreneur expert Antonia Chitty admits: “Almost all mumpreneurs are doing it so they can spend more time with their family, and it’s always a bit of a struggle to find the right balance. It’s hard to find enough time for your business, your family, your partner and yourself.”
Perhaps none of us should be surprised that many mums compromise by earning less and doing jobs they don’t want to do or hate, rather than start their own business.
The Start Up Donut’s week-long celebration of mums who run businesses – mumpreneurs, kitchen table tycoons, business mums, businesswomen, call them what you will – is over for another year. What did we learn?
People don’t necessarily like to be labelled, so do we need a term to define this group? Is it necessary for people to know you’re a mum or is the fact you have children irrelevant?
The discussion surrounding the term ‘mumpreneur’ on our forum threw up some interesting opinions.
On the one hand, business women such as Laura Rigney are proud of the ‘mumpreneur’ tag. She said: “It takes an awful lot of determination and dedication to start a business from scratch and then continue running it while doing the everyday things that come with being a mother”.
Emily Cagle disagreed, saying: “The main issue for me is the irrelevant categorisation of a business owner (who happens to be female and a parent). People tend to mean well by using the term to recognise the challenges mums often face, but I think it's generally unhelpful.”
There will always be disagreements over such things, anyway, if Cara Sayer is right, the term 'mumprenenur' will undoubtedly go out of fashion”. Other terms, such as ‘kitchen table tycoon’, were also disliked, it must be said.
We also invited guest blog posts from business mums last week and it was interesting to see the common themes: the importance of being resourceful; effective time-management; the need for multi-tasking; the need to start up on a shoestring; remain flexible; and being adept at prioritisation of time and tasks.
The lessons learned when managing a family and various school runs, mealtimes, hobbies and bedtime routines can be very useful when running a business.
You can see from the case studies that we’ve featured on the site, such as April Browne who runs Crystal Jewels, that despite much competition for their time, many mums continue to be inspired to start a business, while for some, such as Claire Willis of SnugBaby, necessity is still the mother of invention and the basis for many new mum-owned enterprises.
At the end of the week, I asked an open question on Twitter aimed at all business mums: “What was your inspiration for starting your business?" These were just some of the replies:
These were broadly representative, with the vast majority related to having enough flexibility to look after children while still providing for the family. Starting a business seems to be the perfect solution for women who want to continue working but who also want to spend time with their children while they’re small.
On a personal level, it’s been really nice to be in touch with such a lovely group of people who’ve been so helpful and really got stuck in with the discussions.
I’d like to say a special thank you to our blog contributors and to everyone who retweeted, commented, said hello and helped to spread the word. Although Mother’s Day has been and gone, our support for mums running their own businesses will continue throughout the year.
Anna Kirby, BHP Information Solutions
I don’t often write about the challenges of running a business and being a busy mum to four children. And whilst I do attend some of the women’s networking clubs, I do like to think that our business can stand on its own two feet - mum or not.
To be honest I think that most of us mums have a massive advantage over the men and child-free ladies who are competing in the business world.
Well firstly women are naturally blessed with amazing multi-tasking and time management skills. Show me a working mum and I will show you a lady who has set the alarm for one hour before the the kids are up to complete a project and who has successfully managed to feed a baby whilst drafting an email on her blackberry.
The second and most influential success factor for working mums is determination. I was a young teenage mum. Before the birth of my (now nearly 19 year old) daughter, I was studious but really lacked any kind of focus on what I wanted to be. Having had a baby before my first job (does a paper round count!?) prompted me to question what I needed out of life. And the answer to that 16 year old mum was money. I chose A-Levels and a Degree that would open doors (Maths, Physics, Business Studies and a Degree in Computing). In fact my whole adult life has been goal driven.
Now in my mid thirties and with baby number five on the way I am so happy to have been able to carve myself a career whilst managing the work-life balance. Just in the last few weeks our home has been struck with a sickness bug, terrible three week long colds and on Wednesday my three year old son woke up covered head to toe in a horrendous rash which later turned out to be an allergy. Had I still been in the corporate world I dread to think what my boss might have said each day as I requested more and more leave to care for my children!
After 11 years of working as a lecturer in further education, I was beginning to feel more and more like I needed a change, but just didn't know what.
What I did know, was that I wanted to work for myself in some capacity. I'd run my own business before, but took the job at the college because I wanted the benefits of maternity and sick pay.
In February of 2007, I found out that I was pregnant. It came as a complete surprise and it certainly wasn't planned. I already had two boys and had made my mind up that I didn't want any more.
As soon as I began my maternity leave, I had an overwhelming feeling that now was the time to start my own business and I just knew that I wouldn't be going back to the college.
But what would I do?
In October 2007, I gave birth to a gorgeous little boy and I became even more determined to work from home, running my own business.
Although my partner was working, he also had a small online business called www.BeingaMillionaire.com. It had been moderately successful but he'd begun to lose interest and because of this, some orders had been overlooked.
I decided to start sending the orders out while I was off work.
I should add that at the same time, we were having a very large extension built on the house and the place was crawling with builders. The only place I could sit quietly and work was our bedroom. So it was there that I would sit on the bed, laptop perched on one knee, baby bouncing on the other while I typed emails with one hand!
It didn't take long for the business to take off. It was such a great idea, all it needed was a little TLC.
I chose not to use childcare so baby had to go wherever I went - to meetings, visiting suppliers, seeing the bank manager...everywhere, and he always got a great reaction.
When the time came for me to return to work, I took the plunge, called HR and told them I wouldn't be back. I did have to pay back some of my maternity pay, but it was worth it.
Even though I was sad to leave as I had made some great friends, I've never looked back.
Two and a half years later and my little baby is now a toddler and I work during his playgroup sessions and nap times.
The business has just had it's most profitable year yet and I'm currently in the process of expanding the product range.
I know not everyone will have such a great experience as me but I wouldn't discourage anyone from taking that big step into their own business.
Andrea Daly, The Accidental Businessmum
What’s my greatest challenge as an aspiring mumpreneur? Not enough time or money. Oh and not forgetting the lack of sleep (milk in the washing machine, dirty socks in the fridge – you get the picture).
The fact that I’ve had the word ‘aspiring’ in front of my job title for about eighteen months now gives you some idea of how long the research phase takes when you have babies.
But we mumpreneurs face even more challenges than a mere lack of time, money and sleep. If you’re short of cash from being on maternity leave or working part -time, then you need to start a business on a shoestring, which means you might have a lot of competition. And that means your marketing needs to be good if you’re to stand out from the crowd. That’s a tall order if this is your first journey into the world of business.
Most businesses have one main aim - to make money. Most mumpreneurs run businesses with two aims - to make money and to work around their family. This is a tough juggling act, especially if you’re grabbing an hour here and an hour there when the children are napping or at pre-school.
So why on earth are so many of us doing it?
Having children shifts your priorities in ways you cannot imagine until you do it. Of course your children become the centre of your world, but with this can come a huge burst in motivation and creativity. Your time becomes more precious – any working time is time away from your babies – so you want to make the absolute best of it.
The urge to provide for your family is not just for the guys. Mums have it too.
It’s this potent mix of instinct, motivation, determination and (let’s face it) necessity that drives us to start our own businesses at one of the toughest times of our lives.
Watch out, here we come.
Helen Lindop, www.businessplusbaby.com
Working for yourself is certainly one way in which to take control of your working hours, be more flexible with childcare arrangements and, more importantly, spend more time with your children when they need you. However, nothing in life is for free: everything has a cost attached. So what is the cost for work at home mums?
The house, the husband/partner/significant other and the children all continue to need you, and make demands on your time, but there is also a ‘New Kid on The Block’ – your business. For that to survive and be successful it also needs as much care and attention as a new-born baby. So when all these demands has been squeezed into a day… well there aren’t many minutes left.
On a personal level, being able to do the school run is a very important and key reason for choosing to work for myself. However, the pay off for that is a shortened working day, which results in working evenings and weekends. This in turn impacts on my relaxation time and time with my husband. So how do you counteract this?
Time management is one of the hottest topics around as we seem to be under pressure to cram more and more into each day. Mums generally are very adept at both multi-tasking and fitting 48 hours worth of tasks and activities into a day. Where the problem may lie is in delegation and prioritising, especially when it comes to ensuring we still have time for ourselves and our partners.
If you start with 24 hours and all the things that have to be fitted in, you will quickly come to the conclusion that cutbacks need to be made. The trick is to ensure that every ‘department’ should take a part in these cutbacks. So rather than the ‘me time’ and ‘us time’ sections being all but eroded, why not look to all areas. Highest on my own list for a cutback is housework, and it doesn’t take me a lot of encouragement to miss the dusting for a week or leave the ironing pile for another day. Likewise, much as I love cooking, there are times when the usual home-cooked-from-scratch meal is replaced by a take away or convenience food, and – surprise surprise - the world doesn’t end!
The majority of mums take the decision to work for themselves because of their children. However if this enables you take and collect your children from school and be with them in the holidays, then you shouldn’t feel guilty if Daddy does bedtime or you spend three hours working at the weekend; they will benefit more from the key times you are there compared to paid employment. Equally it is good to have your partner onside who can help understand that your attention and energy is being drawn in a new direction, but will support you and understands that in the long term this is a solution which will benefit you all.
Most important of all is ‘you’ time. This in my experience is the first to go when working for yourself and takes real strength of character to maintain; you have never ending to-do list, the housework is falling behind and the family are missing your undivided attention. How do you justify time for you, let alone actually find it? Firstly you need to re-train yourself; not an easy job if delegation is not one of your strengths or you are used to being 'mistress' of the home. Secondly you need to gradually retrain the rest of the family that Mummy doesn’t do everything, and accept that their way isn’t the wrong way.
And finally, convincing yourself that you deserve that time; you work hard all seven days of the week for the benefit of the family… so even if you only manage a half hour’s peace with a G & T in the bath, you truly need and deserve it. Without you, neither the business nor the family would be so successful. Cheers!
Sam Pearce & Helen Woodham, Mum's The Boss
A version of this post originally appeared on Mum's The Blog
My Count On It® labels enable busy households like mine to keep track of when food has been opened and make an informed decision of whether it should be thrown away. As a busy mother to two young boys, I was always throwing food away because I couldn’t remember when I’d opened it.
Such is the success of my business, a while ago I was invited to an event at Downing Street to celebrate the achievements of Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses – something I never thought would happen. It’s amazing – if somebody had told me two years ago that one of my ideas would be retailing through a national high street store and that I’d be invited to Downing Street because of it, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Getting the business off the ground took a combination of a tried and tested route with a helping of TV quiz show luck. Having come up with the concept I contacted Business Link for help. I then won £15,500 on Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal, which enabled me to move things forward quickly. Following research and trials of product samples, the first batch was manufactured in April 2008 and soon we were trading online (www.count-on-it.co.uk).
Lakeland and Betterware now stock my products and their popularity is growing through word of mouth, online via Twitter (@mummypreneur) and my website. I am also in talks with a distribution partner in America and have sold as far afield as Korea and Australia. Count On It® labels have received glowing endorsements from celebrity mums such as Amanda Holden and Angela Griffin, as well as green/eco advocate Janey Lee Grace.
Becoming a mumpreneur has changed my life and as an advocate for taking an idea to market should the opportunity arise, I’d encourage any mum who wants to fulfill her entrepreneurial dream to take that leap of faith. As Goethe succinctly puts it: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
Lyndsey Young, Count On It
Being a mum can be challenging, being a business woman can be challenging too. Trying to do both at once can be mind-boggling. I fight shy of the term mumpreneur, but if it suits you, then that's what I am. I run my small business from home and I am also full-time mum to two pre-schoolers.
I always swore I wouldn't and couldn't run a business, house and family at once and I was right, something had to give and sadly that was housework! If inspiration strikes but you think circumstances prevent you from acting on it, then ignore your head and go with your heart. Running your own business is a rewarding, fun, busy add-on to family life and just the challenge my poor nappy-brain needed. So a few tips if you fancy joining me on a self-employed mum adventure:
Good luck to you and I'd love to hear all about your experiences.
Working as a life coach and business mentor for the last three years, I have come across many challenges and issues mums face in trying to run their own business; time management, dealing with guilt etc. However, one of the major obstacles mums seem to come up against time and again is that they have difficulty selling their product or service. They aren't 'sales people'.
Ask any businessmum to describe her business and its benefits and she could probably explain to you in glowing and passionate terms what she does and why she does it. Ask her to sell you her business and she clams up. Why? Although I've asked for the same thing simply using different wording, many people assume that use of the word 'sell' implies pushiness or forcing a product or service onto someone who isn't interested. For example, when you think of a salesperson, how do you picture them? A bored girl in a shop, a car salesman? Or something different?
It makes sense that when starting out with an opinion of sales like this, it is always going to be difficult to sell yourself or your business. So, why not challenge those long-held beliefs? Think about all the people who have to sell in their line of work and how many of them actually fall into this category. Can a different picture of a salesperson be developed?
Alternately, why not classify the action of selling as something other than sales. For example, informing or enthusing (choose a word that suits you and your personality). If the burden is simply to inform a possible client about a product rather then sell, does this lift the pressure? Is the process approached with a lighter heart?
The second thing a lot of mums assume about selling is that it implies concluding with a sale, often by 'coaxing' or 'pressuring' a client into it. It doesn't need to be this way. If you truly understand your market and what they want and can present a product or service in such a way that it appeals, sales will be created simply by making people aware of what is on offer. Assuming the demand is there, of course.
Some other great ways to combat the no sale are:
Selling needn't be stressful or pressured. Approached positively, it can simply be a celebration of what you do and who you are and, in the end, aren't people more likely to buy from someone who's enthusiastic about their business than someone trying to force it down their throat?
Alli Price, Motivating Mum