Being a mom is tough. So is starting a business. Putting the two together to become a Mompreneur “can be a disaster,” say Pam Webber, chief operating officer of 99Designs. And yet, some Mompreneurs thrive despite the sometimes hostile environment.
What are the obstacles and how can a Mompreneur get past them to create thriving businesses?
The challenges come in a variety of forms. Women-owned businesses are less likely to draw outside funding than businesses owned by men. If they do get funding they often get less money.
Societal norms also encourage women to take on the bulk of the family volunteering and child care responsibilities, according to a recent survey sponsored by 99Designs. Indeed, 71% of women business owners volunteer each week vs. 61% of men.
More significantly, 30% of women business owners put in 50 hours of child care each week in addition to full-time jobs. Only 10% of male business owners do the same.
In other words, Mompreneurs have far more demands on their time.
The Mompreneur advantage
However, these bedeviling issues can also present opportunities. Think of all those people you meet while volunteering and while watching your kids at the park as your network, your focus group, your advisors. They can be highly valuable, particularly when you’re starting a kid-centric business.
“When you are a mom, you are connected to various communities that you were not before. Whether its play groups or other activities, you have access to people who might be relevant,” says Webber. “Leverage your network.”
Moms are also in a unique position to understand the “pain points” affecting other working parents, Webber says. That can be a source of entrepreneurial inspiration. If you come up with an idea of how you could solve some of these problems, your Moms’ network is a perfect focus group to flesh out the idea, she adds.
Ask other parents whether the problem you want to solve is vexing for them too. Is the problem troubling enough for your fellow parents that they would pay money to solve it? If so, would they be willing to pay enough to make the solution worth your time? Yes, again? Then do some research to figure out whether this is a business idea that would draw hundreds of clients or hundreds of thousands.
And, finally, make up a plan to put your idea into action. This should include the number of hours you’ll devote to it; the type of financing (if any) you’ll need; and the other resources, such as web development or marketing, that you’ll need to tap to get started and operate successfully.
A number of online platforms are already directed at parental pain-points. And some provide ways for Mompreneurs to launch a business without coming up with an original idea or business plan.
Wonderschool, for instance, can help you set up your own daycare center. For just 10% of your revenue, Wonderschool will handle your website, bookings and invoices. The site can also help you get started on the licenses and certifications you’ll need to be a daycare provider.
BabyQuip helps parents set up their own baby-equipment rental business for traveling parents. The business can help you leverage the cost of the cribs, playpens, high-chairs, carseats and toys that you’ve probably already purchased for your own youngsters. But the site fees are high. BabyQuip charges a $100 set-up fee, plus 18% of revenue, plus a charge for commercial liability coverage. All those fees are likely to amount to nearly half of your rental income.
Kango and HopSkipDrive invite parents and childcare providers to sign up to provide rides to and from school and after-school activities. The sites pay between $15 and $35 per hour to background-checked adults with late-model cars and child care experience.
Take your day-job home
However, many successful Mompreneurs have created businesses that have little to do with their children — other than providing the CEO/moms with hours that work around their families, that is. Their advice: Build your business and contacts in a traditional way, but then use those contacts to strike out on your own or create a more flexible work environment within the confines of your existing job.
Kim Angell, founder of Wish Public Relations, for instance, says she worked for agencies for years and built up a loyal group of clients. When her children were three and five-years-old, she decided it was time to strike out on her own.
“There were chorus concerts and musicals and plays and parent day at the preschool — so much that I was missing,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t be good at both my job and parenting while I was working for someone else.”
Now, she says, she takes on fewer clients, but earns more because she has a smaller, hand-picked staff. She also has more control over her life. Although she’s tethered to her phone, she feels as if she’s doing a better job for both her clients and her kids.
Neile Maimone, founder of AlignHealingCenter, had a chiropractic practice before she married and had children.
“I told my husband I am not quitting. I am not going to be a full time mom. It’s just not my scene,” she says. But she did change her schedule, moving toward morning or evening blocks of time that would better accommodate the kids’ schedules.
Her clients were completely accepting of the change, she added. “They went through the pregnancy with me. They saw me up until the time I delivered. Changing my schedule was one of the easiest changes I’ve ever made.”
Make time — and space — for work
That said, nearly every Mompreneur notes that there are challenges. Time management is one of the toughest. The very notion of being a Mompreneur says that you’re juggling both family responsibilities and work. However, you’d be wise to juggle them at different hours of the day, leaving dedicated time to each.
That means you need daycare during your work hours and a business answering machine or message service for the times you’re dedicating to your family. Maimone says she thinks its important to have physical distance from your personal responsibilities, too. Even if you work in a coffee shop, it takes away the distraction of thinking you ought to put in a load of laundry while you’re trying to concentrate on work, she says.
“There’s a constant pull to spend more time with the kids, but you have to set limits,” Angell says. “Is it more important to be at the volleyball game or do homework with them? You have to pick and choose and that’s hard.”
“You can’t just say yes all the time just because you are home,” she adds. “If don’t say ‘no’ to some of the things with the kids, I get this pileup of work and stress that makes me a worse mom.”