April Browne is a busy woman. Not only does she run Crystal Jewels – her online bespoke jewellery business – she also manages to hold down a day job and look after her two children. How does she do it?
“I’m based in Bristol. I sell jewellery online, which I design and make by hand. My business was formed in 2008, but I've been making jewellery as a hobby for about seven years now.
“People who run their own small business definitely face more pressure. There’s so much more riding on it – not least, generating enough money to pay your wages and possibly those of your employees. It’s a big responsibility.
“There are so many tasks to take care off, often things that are difficult or I dislike. The hours can be long, too. Your business is always there in your thoughts – you can’t just get home and switch off.
“Getting your work-life balance right is always a challenge, especially for people with children. It’s bad enough as an employee, but with the added demands of running your own business, it can seem impossible.
“The risk is you put so much effort into your business that your family life suffers. A partner or children can start to show resentment. That said, failure to devote enough time to the business usually proves disastrous. The business owner suffers, too. Not being able to manage domestic and other responsibilities can produce feelings of guilt, while failure can damage confidence.
“As well as running my business I have a day job and I’m a full-time single mum to two children. Obviously, they come first and I enjoy my job, but I also love making jewellery. Often I work very late nights and most weekends. There are times when I trying to fit it all in has led to mistakes, but everyone makes them, especially in the first few years of a business’s life.
“How do I make sure my business doesn’t impact on my kids too much? You have to draw a line. You can’t expect them to put up with you not spending time – quality time – with them, it’s just not fair and it’s likely to create problems sooner or later.
“Business-wise, I try not to do anything that needs my full attention while my children are around. If it’s really urgent, I explain this to my kids and ask them to entertain themselves for a short while. I'm lucky – they’re usually very understanding. Failing that – bribery can help!
“I can’t really rely on others to share childcare responsibilities, which makes things less stressful for other parents running their own business. I have the odd weekend where the kids are away, which helps. Oh – and I couldn't live without my Blackberry, it’s invaluable.
“We have 'family days', when business isn't allowed. My son hates that tag. Apparently, it’s not 'cool’. We do something they want to do, maybe go to the park, cinema or bowling, play computer games (even though I'm rubbish at those) or just get crafty with glue, paper, paint, etc. My phone is put on silent, but not turned off.
“Running your own business inevitably involves making sacrifices. Starting and establishing a new business takes a lot of hard work and commitment.
“Probably my biggest sacrifice has been sleep. It has also affected my ability to see friends as much as I’d like, but it has also opened up new social aspects of my life. I don’t have a partner, however, from past experience I know how hard it is to make time for someone when you have kids and a job, and that’s without running a business, too.
“Although there’s less social stigma now, I think women in business with children still face more pressure than men. It’s also fair to say that more men have become willing to help out at home and share childcare responsibility, which makes it easier for some women to run their own business.
“Balancing the demands of running a business and looking after your family and home can be done. It isn’t easy, different things work for different people and you can’t expect to get it right all of the time, but it can be done.”
Update: This case study was first published in January 2010. In February 2013, April Browne decided to close Crystal Jewels. She said: "Crystal Jewels has been a long and winding road, full of ups and down. It has given me many lessons, great pleasure, as well as being character building and a huge eye-opener. If you were to ask me if I would do it all over again, I'd more than likely say, ‘Let me think about it'."