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My thoughts on “mumpreneurship”

April 05, 2011 by Ruth Lopardo

Ruth LopardoAs a female entrepreneur who started her business after having children, technically, I’m a “mumpreneur”. However, I’m ambivalent about the term. 

I’d never refer to myself as a mumpreneur – I prefer business-owner or self-employed – but I wouldn’t correct someone who referred to me as a mumpreneur. It’s a media-friendly term that can generate PR no business-owner would want to miss out on. It’s also a useful tag with which to identify other women in a similar position, for networking, solidarity and support. But the term itself is quite twee and patronising. For many people, it seems to conjure up the image of a kitchen table business, bringing in a bit of “pin money” for mum in between play dates and coffee mornings. 

There’s also the question of how widely the term can be applied. Are all female business-owners with children mumpreneurs or only those whose businesses are aimed at the baby or family market? Are female engineers mumpreneurs? If so, why aren’t entrepreneurial fathers referred to as “dadpreneurs”? If not, there’s an implication that the baby and family section of the market is “woman’s work” and that’s somehow less worthy than businesses run by “proper” entrepreneurs.

The very way in which the neologism – a newly coined term in the process of entering common use, but not yet mainstream – has been constructed signifies a belief that mother’s primary duty is to her family in a way that is not applied to fathers. She’s a mum first and an entrepreneur second.

Setting aside the label, I wholeheartedly support the phenomenon of women setting up their own businesses following the birth of their children. It’s wonderful to see the creativity and skill of so many women being showcased by their businesses. There seems to be a recurring theme of trying to make things better and easier for customers and suppliers as well as for the entrepreneurs themselves. Most mumpreneurs are keen to support each other and work together – even where their businesses are competing.

Everyone also knows that balancing a demanding job with a happy family life is difficult. Being your own boss is a good way to have total control of your own time. As an entrepreneur, if you’re awake, you’re working to some extent – but you can choose how, where and when. It makes me feel incredibly guilty when my three-year-old daughter says: “Put your computer down and give me a hug”. My seven-year-old, who can remember when I was a full-time management consultant, realises that at least now I’m around all the time to give hugs.

Ruth Lopardo is owner-manager of

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The surprising truth about mumpreneurs

April 04, 2011 by Joanne Dewberry

Networking MummiesThese days it’s the norm for women – especially mums – to aspire to “have it all”. This means you’ll probably be hard pressed to find a mum who isn’t playing numerous roles as a matter of course in her everyday life. From taxi driver to cleaner, cook to child-minder, PA to life coach. If you had to employ others to do the work of one mum within her family, you would probably need a small army. Add to that paid employment, be it full time, part time or self-employment and a small dollop of “me time” at the gym, socialising or whatever to preserve your sanity, and it’s little wonder we’re all feeling the pressure.

Mumpreneurs face similar challenges to other mums in juggling the demands of home and work but, in the early stages of their business’s lives especially, the line between work and the rest of your life becomes so blurred it’s almost imperceptible. There is no official start to your working day and no end of shift clock-off time. Consequently, it’s easy to let your exciting new business idea take over every aspect of your life.

Despite this, being an entrepreneur is in some ways an obvious career choice for mums. Self-employment allows flexibility – the “Holy Grail” for those seeking to balance work and earning potential with being there for their children. And yes, this sometimes means staggering bleary-eyed to the computer in the early hours to get an hour in before the kids wake up; making calls and sending messages while you wait for swimming lessons to end; burning the midnight oil, and neglecting the ironing. But for most of us – that is a small price to pay.

Working for yourself can be lonely, with no workplace banter or colleagues to bounce ideas off – but there’s no reason it has to be. I started Networking Mummies to go some way towards creating the support network evident within a “normal” working environment. So next time you see a group of mums chatting animatedly in Costa Coffee think twice – they might be discussing marketing strategies and the issues around patents as well as X Factor and the latest anecdotes about their children.

After being an employee, having your own business is an immensely liberating experience. You are in control; your decisions determine the direction your business takes; and every minute of work and inspirational idea you have benefits you directly. In simple terms, you get out what you put in – which isn’t always the case when you’re an employee. You can build up your business and your profits while still being around for nativity plays, illness and school pick-ups. For us it’s an exciting balance of work and home that feels like an adventure our whole family is going on together.

So what is the surprising truth about mumpreneurs? It’s the idea that any mum can be one. It may seem too risky, too daunting and too difficult but if you have a dream or great idea about which you’re passionate and have the support of those around you, the possibilities are endless. You will need to be determined, work hard and think creatively to get your business to work, but these are things we can all do if we are motivated by the desire to succeed.

Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. If you are a woman with children and want to work for yourself or have a great idea that you want to turn into a business – make 2011 the year you become a mumpreneur.

Joanne Dewberry and Jessica Boston, Networking Mummies 

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This blog post originally appeared on Joanne Dewberry's blogImages by McClure Humphries Photography, © Networking Mummies 2010

It’s Mumpreneur Week on the Start Up Donut!

April 04, 2011 by Anna Mullinder

Mumpreneur week logoNestled between Mothering Sunday and the final of Mumpreneur Idol (on Saturday 9 April), this week is the perfect time to celebrate mums who run businesses. 

Here’s what we’ll be up to this week:

So whether you love or hate the term ‘mumpreneur’ come and get involved and let us know what you think on the forum, on Twitter and on Facebook

Why you need to think about the end at the beginning

April 01, 2011 by Jonathan Rodger

When you’re starting a business, it’s easy to get bogged down in the priorities of winning business, product development, marketing, admin and so on. Your ultimate exit from the business can seem like an eternity away, hardly worthy of your precious time. However, the day will come when you finally leave the business and the value you extract from it can be maximised by decisions you make early on.

The most common exit for a small business owner is via a trade sale, where the whole company or just its assets are sold to a third party (often another company in the same sector). Having been involved in selling two businesses I started, I've learned the hard way that value is not just decided by turnover and profit. Here are some key factors to consider at an early stage.

1 Ownership

It’s important to retain the copyright for your designs; to register trademarks and product patents where possible; and make sure you own the source code for your software. It may sound obvious, but many outsource contracts allow the contractor to retain intellectual property (IP) for their work and it’s crucial to stipulate that all IP reverts to you.

2 Control

In a service business, it’s tempting to outsource as much of your service as possible to third party providers. This often makes sense during normal business operations because it keeps costs more predictable. However, going towards a sale, if your offering relies upon another company for delivery, it will be perceived as an extra risk by a buyer.

3 Billing methods and cashflow

This is something that makes sense for the general well being of your business – with or without a sale in mind. Recurring income streams are extremely valuable. If your business model allows, invoice your clients on a regular monthly, quarterly or annual plan, ideally using a passive billing method such as credit card or direct debit. That way, the buyer of your business knows that they will walk into a cash-generating machine from day one.

Monthly or quarterly billing cycles are best. Annual billing cycles are great for cashflow, but be prepared for your buyer to query the unused portion of any pre-payment as a liability. Get advice from a good accountant on how to counter this.

4 Less is more

To fund business development, you might need investors. Avoid building up a large number of small shareholders, because the chances are that one of them will at some point become a problem. Ideally you want to keep 100 per cent of the business for yourself.

If you need to give away equity, only do so when all other options have been exhausted. Pay for a lawyer to create a watertight shareholders’ agreement that ensures you maintain overall control of the company, and can drag along all other shareholders should you wish to sell.

So it may sound counter intuitive to think about the end at the beginning, but it will help shape your long-term plans and ensure you develop an asset worth selling.

Jonathan Rodger is managing director of email marketing service Message Horizon.

How to create a blog as unique as your business

March 31, 2011 by Zoe Brown

The design and functionality of your blog should be determined by your blogging targets and goals. Not all blogs will look the same or require the same functionality. Getting exactly the right blog for your business takes careful consideration. 

How will my visitors look for my content?

How people find content on your blog is call “navigation” and numerous common methods are used:

  1. Order of presentation. Some vistors will simply read the content in the order it’s displayed on the screen.
    • In full. If you achieve a large following, your most recent article should always display in full on your blog home page. This is because visitors have already read your previous entries and they will usually want to read your recent article and then leave.
    • Most recent. It is nice to include the most recent (10 or so) articles on the home page, this encourages new visitors to read on. This is not suitable for blogs using lots of images as the page could become bloated and slow to load.
    • Excerpts. You may choose to include only excerpts on the home page. These are small summary paragraphs which click through to the full article. But beware, the excerpts need to create interest.
    • Category search. Posts can be assigned to a category. The number of categories you decide on will depend on your business and the frequency of your post. Ideally, if you have more than eight categories you should consider sub categorising and so on. Using categories as the main navigation method is useful for larger blogs with lots of content and blogs with many contributors. It is not relevant if the content is date sensitive. For example, technology articles might be out dated quite quickly and therefore it’s not important for people to be able to search via category.
  2. Archive/date search. Visitors are usually able to find content based upon the published date. I prefer to read personal blogs in date order, it brings me closer to the author and I like the time line. If your blog is being used for news & events, a date search is really important. 
  3. Blog search. It’s always nice to include a search tool, however, visitors will only use this as a backup if the main navigation is not adequate or they are looking for a specific post. Ensure that it is easy to find but it does not need to take up a lot of screen space.
  4. Browse. First-time visitors like to browse. To encourage browsing you should include as many options to find content as possible including: internal links and next/previous options.
  5. Active posts. Many blogs include a recent comments section which link through to blogs with recent activity.
  6. Integrated menu. If the real goal of your blog is to drive traffic to your main website then you should consider integrating the main website menu into your blog.  This means that users can easily find your main website and don’t get “trapped” in your blog.

It’s fine to encourage all methods of navigation but it’s useful to decide on one method for the primary navigation. A useful exercise is to rank the different types above in order of importance.

Where should the main menu live?

Your primary navigation (menu) should be easy for visitors to spot, higher up the page, more prominent and allocated enough space. Your menu will usually be placed across the top of the screen (horizontal menu) or down the left hand side (left hand menu). I often see the menu on the right, which is acceptable, but remember that will be the first section of the page to be hidden on smaller monitors (and therefore visitors might need to scroll to reach it).

  1. Horizontal menu. This type of navigation is fixed in size and can only accommodate a small number of categories (I’d say 8-12 max). It’s possible to use drop down menus for sub categories, but these are harder for people to use, not useful for people with disabilities and don’t always work on all browsers or devices (such as iPhones and Blackberry’s). I would recommend avoiding a drop down menu if at all possible, at the very least offer a text based alternative.
  2. Left hand menu. By far the most appropriate place to position a larger or expanding menu is down the left of your content. This options allows for many more options including larger menus with sub categories.

How often should I post and how long should they be?

I often hear that the magic number is at is at least three times a week. However, the truth is the frequency of posts should be calculated based upon your goals and the return on your investment (time). 

  1. Frequent posting. Posting three times a week (or more) is great if you require lots of repeat visitors or if your goal is to build up lots of content for SEO purposes. But remember to measure the return on your time and to avoid publishing low quality content. Generally, if you are posting frequently you’ll want to keep your articles short and snappy.
  2. Less frequent. If the goal of your blog is to simply demonstrate an authority on your topic (valid where you are selling large value items to less customers) you do not need post quite so often. High quality and low quantity content is also perfect for encouraging back links. Your posts can be longer, more technical and more in depth.
  3. Not Frequently. If you do not intent on posting very frequently, there is little point in featuring the date in your posts. Leave it out and avoid putting off visitors.

How personal does the blog need to be?

  1. The personal blog. If you are the owner of a small business then you may opt for a personalised blog. You may personalise with your photo, the style of your writing and use of graphics.
  2. The company blog.  For larger companies you may have a team of individuals posting on the blog, the blog may even be used more for PR, News & Event – in which case it can be more corporate.  If may be useful to include a bio for each contributor so that visitors can meet the authors – but this will depend on your business goals.

How much interaction should I encourage?

One great blog features is the ability to allow visitors to post comments on your posts. But don’t just use the feature because it’s available. Comments can be subject to abuse and you’ll need to monitor them closely.  If you do want to encourage lots of comments, then remember to ask for them and always respond to people quickly. Alternatively, you might not want to allow comments or you may choose to turn them off for some articles only – all up to you and your goals.

To summarise – As with all marketing, there is no “one size fits all” approach. The way you manage your blog will depend on your goals, your company and the resources available.  Your blog and your approach to managing your blog should be as unique as your business.

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Things you should know about finance, risk and reward

March 30, 2011 by Chris Barling

It seems to always be true that the only time that it’s easy to raise finance for a start-up is when you no longer need it. That’s certainly been my experience.

Over the years, I’ve raised money from family and friends, personal savings, government grants, business angels, venture capitalists and going public on the stock market. I’ve only ever once sought a loan from my bank and been offered it, but I turned it down.

I’ve also been an investor in a number of companies, with good and bad results. Here are a few thoughts that result from my experience on the whole process of raising money…

There are two factors involved when anyone decides whether to invest or lend you money – risk and reward. If you want to raise money, think long and hard about how you can persuade the potential source that the risk is low and the reward is likely to be high. You also need to think this equation through for your own personal well-being. If you have no idea of the risk and no plan should the business fail, you’re probably not realistic enough to start a business.

If your start-up is unproven, any bank finance isn’t that appropriate and if available, it will most likely be tied to a guarantee against your personal assets – which means you are the one taking the risk. It’s bad enough if your business goes bust, but losing your house too can turn it into a personal disaster. If you’re considering going down this route, think about selling the house, investing the money in the business and renting or remortgaging your house. When you do the sums, it will probably be a much cheaper source of finance, while having the same risk profile.

The time when bank finance, or finance from someone such as Lombard makes more sense is when the money will be used to purchase tangible assets, and the source of finance can take a charge on these assets.

If you have prosperous friends or family, they might be able to lend you money or invest in your business. Remember, though, if the business fails the result can be damaged relationships – and that might be a risk not worth taking.

Business angels and venture capitalists want the same thing as we all do – a risk-free, returns-rich opportunity. While this doesn’t really exist, you need to form your business pitch to get as close to that as possible. Don’t sell your proposition like you would to a customer; instead paint the picture of why and how they will get a major return. You can find lots of potential sources of finance by searching for “Business Angels” and “Venture Capital” on Google.

For a start-up with a strong offering, crowd funding is another option. It’s where you pitch your business proposition to the general public and build the capital you require from lots of small investments. Look at sites like KickStarter, CrowdCube and RocketHub to find out more.

Raising money is usually a frustrating experience, where persistence and hard work are the keys. Good luck with your fundraising – it can be the key to major growth and success.

Chris Barling is Chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck


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