I don't think there's ever been a time when so many moms have wanted to start their own businesses. Recent numbers from the Center for Women's Business Research show that there are currently some 10.6 million women-owned firms in the United States. And while not all of these businesses are owned by women with children, there are unusually high numbers of women these days who desire careers that are supportive of motherhood.
We're recognizing the high financial and emotional costs of having someone else raise our children while we go to work. And we look at success stories like Baby Einstein's Julie Aigner Clark and Lillian Vernon's catalog and say, "I could do that". We want rewarding, stimulating careers where we call the shots and decide the hours. And the best part of being in business for ourselves is that we can spend more time with our kids, either at home or at the office.
As a mompreneur myself, I can tell you that I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. If it weren't Stroller Strides (my business now), I'd start something else. But I do think it's important, before you actually launch a business, to think it through and know the realities of running an MOB. Most moms who know my daily life say they wouldn't want the same for themselves. So it's not for everybody.
So before you get started, ask yourself why you want to be a mompreneur so you can make sure it's right for you! Pay particular attention to these parameters:
Time. A lot of moms go into business for themselves because they want to be in control of the amount of time they spend with their family. In fact, that's the number-one reason women become mompreneurs. But if you truly desire to be with your kids during most of their waking hours, you need to look for a business that doesn't require you to work traditional hours, hold meetings in person or have a lot of uninterrupted phone time. For instance, in order to spend the day with your little one, would you be willing to go out at night to do scrapbooking parties or some other form of a business you could share with others once your family is in bed?
Once they really think about it, many moms realize they don't want to leave their family at night, either. I created Stroller Strides so that I could actually bring my baby to work with me. When my son was born, I looked and looked and couldn't think of any career that was truly supportive of motherhood. I wanted to work, but I didn't want someone else looking after my children.
I know one woman who, in order to do something that allowed her to spend more time with her children, opened a huge kids' activity center. She figured she could be her own boss and that her kids would love being there all the time. Wrong! What a fantasy that was. For one thing, it was still a business, and she still had to work (meaning she needed time where she didn't have to worry about her own kids). And two, the novelty of the activity center wore off pretty quickly for her kids. She ended up selling the business to her partners and starting a consulting business to help other women start up the same type of business.
To me, there's nothing better than knowing I can take the day off to take my son to the zoo or walk away from the computer to play blocks with my daughter. But that luxury comes with a price. In exchange for the typical five-day, 9 to 5 employee grind, I now work seven days from morning to night. I start work at 5:00 a.m. before my family wakes up and trade off work and family time throughout the day until I crash at 10:00 p.m., only to start all over again the next day. And it's hard to leave your work at home when your work is in your home.
Money. If you're starting a business because you want to make lots of money, beware! Going into business for yourself is a risk, plain and simple. Most new businesses can barely break even the first year. And it's hard to get off the ground if you're not willing to take some risk (all right, a lot of risk).
Success is different for everyone. What do you really want out of a business? Would you be a success if you just earned some extra shopping money or do you need your income to pay the mortgage? Get real about your finances and what your business has to do for you. There are not many jobs you can do at home where you won't need some sort of childcare. And if you have to pay a nanny to watch your children while you work at home, then is it really worth it? I often have problems finding employees who are young moms because they realize that the take-home pay isn't enough after they've paid the babysitter.
Being your own boss. Do you dream of being your own boss and calling all the shots? I can certainly understand your motivation--that's one of the reasons I went into business for myself. After more than a decade of working in the fitness industry for other people, I couldn't wait to do it my own way. I personally still love that part.
Just remember that it's not always all it's cracked up to be. What may seem like a glamorous or successful business on the outside can be scary, complicated and overwhelming on the inside. When it's your own business, you're the one who will lie awake at night, anxious about profits, the competition or how you're going to make payroll this month.
My dad once said to me that bigger kids make bigger problems. Well, it's the same for business. As your business grows, the weight of your problems will grow exponentially. Are you ready to put your home, your credit and your reputation on the line? If you go in to business saying, "Yes, I want to give it my all and not look back," then by all means start your own business. But if your stomach drops when you think about losing your home or carrying all that financial responsibility, then you might not have the stomach for this.
But that doesn't mean you still can't be a mom in business. You may just choose to participate in a proven business model or work for a company that's supportive of motherhood. What I'm trying to say is, you might be able to accomplish your goals without actually being the entrepreneur.
Without a doubt, being a mompreneur can give you a great deal of satisfaction, flexibility and added income. In future articles, I'll cover how to choose the best business for you, how to get started and how to successful run and grow your mommy-owned business.