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
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.
Enterprise Nation, the home business website, has been on a roadtrip. Starting in Scotland, the touring team travelled south to meet and film home-based businesses in what will become a mini documentary charting the rise of this modern way of working. While out and about, a few trends became apparent.
Now is a great time to start
The mood throughout the week was incredibly upbeat. One moment that will stick in my mind is when Patrick Elliott, CEO of Business Link in London, opened an event with one key question to the audience: ‘Do you think this is a good time to start a business?’ A ripple from the 200 people gathered quickly turned into a resounding ‘Yes’.
Throughout the week, we met people who are starting up while holding down a day job, as well as others who have come out of redundancy to realise their business ambitions. We met a wide cross-section of businesses and there was nothing but positive chat from them all.
Technology means trade
All of the businesses we filmed are making the most of technology, whether it be Stuart Mills, who is applying the web to the pub world, or Malcolm Gallagher, who is communicating his business message through online videos, produced cost-effectively from a home studio.
Many of the craft businesses are using sites such as Etsy.com to sell their products to a national – and international – audience. Technology is clearly broadening the trade and partnering horizons of many a small business.
Freedom and control are key motivators
We stopped counting the number of times these words were used in interviews. Having started up, home-based business owners are finding greater freedom and flexibility in their working lives and they are relishing being in control of their creativity, working environment and earnings.
The importance of being ethical
Every business owner we interviewed is doing something ‘good’ by being in business, whether it be: Clare Nicolson, who believes in giving work to the people in her neighbourhood; Emma Henderson, who sources fair trade fabrics from India; or Emma Warren, who offers time and business experience to a charity. They would not refer to themselves as ‘ethical entrepreneurs’ as such, but these business owners are having a positive impact in many a varied way.
Growth through outsourcing
The old adage – ‘Do what you do best and outsource the rest’ – is being taken seriously by the home businesses we met. Companies are partnering up and work is being outsourced to professionals. In the case of BodieandFou, Karine Kong outsourced the design and build of her website to an expert she has yet to meet. Technology tools such as Skype, email and project-management software means there’s no need to be in the same place, but for others, physical networks are important places to meet business partners – as well as just to have a social chat.
It was a crammed and fascinating week that showed just how bright and vibrant the start up sector is. The documentary will be aired for the first time on Home Enterprise Day – Friday 20th November – when home business owners will be travelling to us.