Combining the demands of running a business with the responsibility of bringing up children is a demanding task, yet ever increasing numbers of mums continue to start their own successful enterprises. Antonia Chitty, entrepreneur and author of Family Friendly Working and many others books and articles, talks about the challenges of balancing babies with business
What are the main issues facing mums who also run businesses?
Limited resources - time and money. Almost all mums in business 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 between the two. It's hard to find time for your business, your family, your partner and yourself.
How would an entrepreneurial mum usually finance her business?
A lot of mums wisely seek to grow their businesses organically, so they start them on a small budget. Very few want to take out large loans, so they're likely to use their own money, maybe a few hundred pounds of savings. They tend to use their existing resources, usually their homes, and build things from there. Some women go for a small loan or grant but, the truth is, there isn't much available.
How much time should a mum devote to her business?
You have to think about where you'd like to see yourself and your family in five years' time and then prioritise. You might want to run a very small business that brings in just enough money every month, and actually your real priority is to be with your children. On the other hand, if you want the business to become the sole source of the family's income, you will have to make it a bigger priority and commit more hours to it. It's about what's right for you.
Most entrepreneurial mums are experts on time-management, because unlike many other business owners, they often have to finish at three o'clock to pick the kids up from school or nursery, so they must make the most of every moment. However, you need to factor in time for yourself to ensure you don't burn yourself out.
Is it necessary to run the business from home?
Not for everyone. For some people, being able to run a business from their home is the very thing that enables them to also look after their children, especially very young children. They might use a spare room or maybe an outbuilding, such as a garage or a shed. Of course, it's not possible to run certain kinds of business from home. There are also those who prefer to separate home from work, so they also might operate from different premises.
How can entrepreneurial mums network effectively?
The internet provides a wonderful meeting point for those whose main point of social contact might otherwise be the school gate. There are parenting forums with 'working parents' sections, and that's a great way to link up with like-minded people. You can post a question on an online forum and someone hundreds of miles away can give you good advice.
While not all networking groups take place at times convenient for mums, but, your local business support organisation will be able to provide you with a list of networking events and you can look for ones in your local area that suit you.
What key advice would you offer to mums who want to start their own business?
Take a good hard look at your week, think about your domestic responsibilities and work out how many hours you could devote to running a business. That will affect the type of business you can run, but there are many options, including online businesses.
If you can only work part-time, you should expect your business to remain in the start-up stages for three or four years, which is fine for many people.
Be realistic about your ambitions and what you can achieve.
One final thing: never try to pretend to clients that you don't have small children - it's best to be honest.