Most mompreneurs find the transition to business owner is easier when the business is based at home. Though there are many resources to help you find such franchise or business opportunities--like www.entrepreneur.com/franchise and www.entrepreneur.com/bizopportunities/index.html --be cautious when considering those opportunities. "The biggest mistake I hear moms making is jumping into a business before they've done the homework and found whether it's a good fit," says Spencer. "Or if it's an opportunity they're investing in, [they don't investigate] whether it's a scam."
When deciding what type of business to start, consider what your talents are and what you're most passionate about. Spencer notes that for work-at-home moms, any business involving the internet--from web design to an online store--can be a particularly good fit.
Olivia Mullin found the perfect fit when she started her personalized stationery and gift company in Brentwood, Tennessee. Mullin started out doing wedding calligraphy for local brides. That led to making personalized stationery she peddled to local gift shops. Her products were selling so well, Mullin brought the business she started in 1995 out of her home and into an office space after about a year and a half.
The idea for the Olivia Mullin Co. was born after she gave birth to the first of her two daughters. A registered nurse, Mullin was on-call around the clock--and she wanted to be more available to her children. "Over time, as my children were growing up, my business was growing up," says Mullin, 44. "It's like having another baby. You're with your children when they're awake, and when you put them down for a nap, you start working on that baby."
For Mullin, the key to growing her company to more than $1 million in annual sales is organizing her time, surrounding herself with talented employees and advisors, and not being too hard on herself when she's not perfect. "Nothing is done 100 percent perfectly," she says. "You have to learn to be OK with that. You're going to forget things; you're going to miss meetings. You cannot beat yourself up."
And Mullin's daughters, now 17 and 13, are being groomed for the family business. Mullin is using her business to instill a solid work ethic and the idea that "the things that are most important are the things you worked the hardest for," she says. Her oldest, for example, had a school trip, and Mullin paid half of it--with the provision that her daughter would work at the business on the weekends to earn the rest. Says Mullin, "She's going to understand what it means to spend [money] and how hard you have to work to earn it."
Hard work can also be fun, which is what Cindy Schwartz is teaching her children with Concierge Connection Inc., the Coral Springs, Florida, concierge business she started in 1997. Schwartz left her job because it was taking too much time away from her children. "I quit because I knew I would be my own boss," says Schwartz, 44. "My kids would never be without their mother on a sick day or a school holiday."
It helps that the bulk of her concierge duties involve fun things like securing tickets for clients to shows--and that her children get to rub elbows with her celebrity clientele from time to time. Schwartz notes that her son, a professional wrestling fan, got to see his favorite wrestling stars in action and even got to meet some of the big names by virtue of his mom's business. Says Schwartz, "I want them to think about things they appreciate and things they've done."
Schwartz says her priorities are what keep her business running at about a quarter of a million dollars in annual sales. The fact that her kids are always first is key. "It's like triage--when you're hitting a hot point, when you have a kid who has to be at the doctor's office by 4 o'clock and you have a client on the phone ordering tickets," says Schwartz. "You can't be late for the kid, and you [have to] take care of the client. I live on my cell phone, and I love the challenges of this [business]."
If you're in the market for a challenge, balancing a business with a family certainly qualifies. But if you plan your strategy, start slowly, enlist some help and follow your passion, you can--like these moms--grow your business while growing your family tree.
Higher LearningYou know how you feel about starting a business, but what are youngsters thinking when they see their moms working out of their homes? Jennifer Dugan's 9-year-old son grew up watching his mom run her Los Alamos, New Mexico-based business, Dugan's Travels, and he understands (and is helping his 7-year-old brother to understand) that Mom works--she just works at home. Dugan says when she's in her home office, her boys are often playing in the same room. They're occupied, but they know she's there if they need her.
For older kids, seeing the ins and outs of entrepreneurship firsthand can imbue them with an innovative spirit. Cindy Schwartz, founder of Concierge Connection Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida, has set an example of self-employment for her kids. "I don't think my kids will do traditional work," she says. "I also know I'm not the only example. My ex-husband runs his own business out of his home, and he's extremely successful. My kids know you don't have to be a doctor or lawyer--you can do something unusual. And they know that both their parents put them first."
Look It UpStarting a business as a parent isn't easy, but check out some of these resources for education, assistance, inspiration--or just to network with some other mompreneurs.
- Bizymoms offers a website where you can chat with other mompreneurs, get business ideas, browse an e-book store, and get information from myriad articles.
- The Center for Women's Business Research has an abundance of statistics, resources and links about women business owners.
- National Association of Women Business Owners is a coalition of women entrepreneurs with chapters all over the country.
- The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Making Money From Home: Choosing the Business That's Right for You Using the Skills and Interests You Already Have (Prima Lifestyles) by Liz Folger