As Mothers’ Day approaches, a new business advice website praises UK ‘Mumpreneurs’
Combining the demands of running a business with the responsibility of bringing up children is a tough if not seemingly impossible task, yet ever increasing numbers of mothers continue to start their own enterprises. This has given rise to the tag “Mumpreneur” and for many years, this has been one of the UK’s fastest growing small-business phenomena.“We come across hundreds of new businesses each week, but without doubt, young mums are setting up some of the most fresh, creative and successful new enterprises,” says Mark Williams, editor of the Start Up Donut, a website that offers budding mumpreneurs and others free resources, online tools and advice about starting a business.“Many young women are setting up businesses as a more work-life-friendly alternative to returning to full-time employment after having babies, while the experience of looking after toddlers enables other mums to spot gaps in the market they fill with fabulous new products.”
Baby talkAccording to the Times Online, more than a third of female entrepreneurs in the UK are aged 30 or under. And, amazingly, almost three-quarters of women who start a business do so before their first child reaches two-years-old. It seems a woman’s work really is never done.One of the UK’s leading voices on the subject is Antonia Chitty, Start Up Donut expert and author of the Mumpreneur Guide and other books and articles. “Mums who run their own businesses contribute about £4.4bn to the UK economy, each turning over an average of £26,000. About 170, 000 self-employed mothers are believed to work from home in the UK.So what are the main obstacles they face? “Limited resources — time and money,” Antonia replies, “Almost all mumpreneurs are starting their own businesses so they can spend more time with their family, but finding the right balance is always a struggle. It’s hard to find enough time for your business, family, partner and yourself.“That said, many mumpreneurs are experts at time-management because – unlike other business owners – most must finish at three o’clock so they can pick up kids from school or nursery. Mums need to factor in enough time for themselves, otherwise they risk burn out.”Mothers of inventionAs Mark Williams observes: “Traditionally, many mumpreneur businesses have been based on children and their needs – toys, clothing, etc. An example? Recently, I interviewed Surrey-based mumpreneur Cara Sayer, who has just launched the SnoozeShade™, a blackout blind for prams she invented because she couldn’t buy one. It’s designed to help babies sleep during the day.”Based in Carlisle, SnugBaby was founded in 2008 by mother of two Claire Willis. “I started my business by accident,” Claire confesses. “When my son was born in October 2006, I needed to be able to comfort him while looking after my toddler and getting through day-to-day tasks in the home. After failing to find a suitable baby carrier in the shops or online, I designed my own. The result was a sling and when friends saw it they asked me to make them one.“Following word-of-mouth recommendations, demand grew until I realised I had the basis for a viable business. The launch on my online store in February 2008 kicked things off and soon I had customers all over the UK. I was able to start my business on a tight budget, which is always advisable, because it lessens risk. I didn’t have a great deal of money to invest anyway.”As Start Up Donut editor Mark Williams observes: “Emerging ‘Kitchen Table Tycoons’ – as they’re sometimes called – are widening the focus. Virtual secretarial services and wedding-related business are popular, while many mums start part-time businesses based on their professions, for example, small-scale PR and marketing consultancies. The rise of the Internet has also made it possible for people to start online businesses, which often require less of an entrepreneur’s time, while enabling them to sell 24/7 to customers all over the world.”A woman’s workCraft-based hobbies continue to provide another popular entrepreneurial spur, even for very busy women such as April Browne. Not only does she run Crystal Jewels, she also holds down a day job and looks after her two children. “I’m based in Bristol and 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 seven years.“Getting your work-life balance is a challenge, especially for those with young kids – even more so for single parents like me. You risk putting so much effort into your business that your family suffers. Children can start to show resentment, while failure to devote enough time to the business usually proves disastrous.” Not balancing domestic and business responsibilities effectively can give rise to feelings of guilt and diminished self-esteem.“Often, because of my business, I have to work late nights and weekends, but you must draw a line. You can’t expect children to put up with you not spending quality time with them – it’s not fair. We have ‘family days’, when no business or work is allowed. My son hates that tag. Apparently, it’s not ‘cool’.” April confesses that running a business inevitably involves some sacrifice: “It can’t be done without hard work and commitment”.
What key advice does Antonia Chitty offer to mums who want to start their own business?“Look closely at your domestic and family 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, which can require less of your time. Running a part-time business could be a good option. Be realistic about your long-term ambitions and daily objectives. Oh, and never try to pretend to customers you don’t have small children — it’s best to be honest,” she concludes.
Visit the Start Up Donut for free advice about starting a busines