Relationship splits may inspire women to start their own business. A study by The Enterprising Women project showed 18% of the women business owners studied between June 2006 – June 2007 were single mothers. (see the Enterprising Women Community Statistics report, June 2007). Some of the most inspiring business owners I know are single parents, and here we hear from two of them.
Suzy Miller is a serial entrepreneur and single mum. She runs online directory of vetted professionals, is creating the first UK resource site to signpost people through life changing experiences and created the first UK divorce fairs. She explains why becoming a single parent allowed her to release the entrepreneur within:
“Being a single mother with 3 young children, I realised early on in my single motherhood, that I take enormous entrepreneurial risks, create meaningful businesses that may or may not make me self sufficient financially, and follow my vision, BECAUSE of my children. If ever there was a reason to follow your soul, be true to yourself, and lead by example, safe in the knowledge that children don’t see ‘failure’ the same way our adult peers do, it has been as a single mother. In a secure safe family environment with another adult to fully rely on, I would never have discovered and explored my love of creating a new business, or risked everything more than once to create businesses that I believe in. If everything went pear-shaped, the kids are still happy as long as I’m happy. But I would not want to put my ‘husband’ or ‘partner’s’ financial future at risk because of my entrepreneurial disposition. That would seem very irresponsible to most people, and I can understand why – but creating businesses is a passion, not a logical, sensible pastime. Running businesses takes logical sensible people – but creating anything involves courage and focus. These qualities can come into being from going through emotionally challenging, frightening experiences – like finding yourself alone with three children, the house being sold underneath you, with no legal rights because you stupidly didn’t sign any legal contract (and common law marriage does not exist). The worst things that happen, can become the best things ever to have happened.”
Suzy balances her work and children, but knows that as a single parent she has to have a clear focus about her busines: “My businesses and my children are both equally at the center of my lives. My youngest (8) often asks when I’m going to stop giving all my money to the business and get a ‘proper job’. I answer that I will review the situation at regular intervals. My children are realists and I listen to their wisdom, but they have learned that single mums do not treat business as a part time hobby – it’s too tough for that when your whole financial future is at stake, and you are alone. For us, business is an expression of who we are, who we aspire to be, and what we can create for others beyond the realm of our family life.”
Another mum and serial entrepreneur is Jane Hopkins of Mumsclub. Jane offers a range of services and support for mums in business, from websites and difrectories, the active Mumsclub forum, networking support, a magazine franchise opportunity and the annual Business Mum Week. She started all this as a brand new mum, and newly single too. She says, “I was basically motivated to provide a future for my son, I had a tiny baby which was a whole new ball game for me and I was suddenly single, it was dire straits and I had to do something to turn it all around. I couldn’t afford childcare but I really didn’t feel that employment was an option for me, it just didn’t feel right, I wasn’t emotionally ready for the employment route of CV’s interviews and the like. So the driving force for my own business was survival, and when I look back, it was (possibly subconsciously) for self esteem too. Being single had advantages as I was able to throw myself into work every evening and as well as surprising myself by managing a baby I saw my business as a hobby. Every time I saw money coming in, it was a huge achievement – no matter how small the amount was.”
Jane’s ambitions have grown since then. She explains, “Jamie is 4 now so has started school and it’s so much easier. I can plan my day knowing the hours I have (playground bumps and illnesses aside!) but before now I had to plan very carefully, using stolen moments throughout the day to check emails, quickly start a task, but mostly I used the daytime to plan that evening’s 3/4 hours of work (after little one’s bedtime). I find that a normal working day can indeed be crammed in to just a few hours – if you plan efficiently. A working day in an office for instance has many interruptions – the phone, chats by the kettle or photocopier, hearing those dreaded words “have you got a minute”… It works for me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
So, what can we learn from Suzy and Jane? Single mums may make great mumpreneurs because it is a question of ‘have to’. Without a partner, you may feel a greater need to achieve financial security and you also have a greater freedom to take the risk and set up your own business. Secondly, single mums setting up in business feel the benefits of working on their own terms. Your own business can be run in the hours you have available which can be a vital factor when you are also the main or sole carer. And finally, single mums feel the need to provide a role model for their children. Again, this need is not restricted to single mums but the pressure can be greater.
If you’re a single mum, let me know about your experiences.