More stay-at-home moms are redirecting their creativity, experience and education into starting businesses on the side. Whether your goals are as simple as supplementing the family's income or as lofty as building a company that could eventually be worth millions, starting part-time is a great way to test the business waters.
But between helping the kids with complex homework assignments, shuttling them to countless activities and volunteering at their school--all while managing the household and trying to carve out a little time for yourself--where do you find the time to start a business?
First, "prepare a thorough business plan," says Jennifer Bluemle, who built Buffalo, New York-based J.W. Daigler Co., which offers custom-designed notecards, invitations and birth announcements, all while raising Finn, 3. A business plan will help keep you on track so you use your limited time wisely, and it also provides a blueprint for taking the business full-time should you decide to do so later. Gather information on market trends, demographics and similar businesses, and use this information to write your plan. Plenty of books and resources can guide you through the process; one helpful source is www.onepagebusinessplan.com.
Before launching a part-time business, be sure you have the support of your spouse and family. Now--not three months into startup--is the time to bring any of their concerns into the open. Work with your spouse to come up with solutions to possible problems (could you divide up some of your household chores, for example?). Lay some ground rules--for instance, no working on Sundays or discussing business at the dinner table.
After you launch your business, know there will be even greater demands on your time as market forces begin to take over. At this point, it's extremely important to stay on top of things. "Be organized, use your time wisely, and try to be on a schedule," Bluemle suggests. "Write a daily to-do list. Be realistic, and make sure you get the key tasks done. Also remember that things always take more time than you think, so don't get frustrated."
It's also important to get your child-care needs in order. Although this can vary depending on your business, expecting to work with small children underfoot is probably unrealistic. Many moms use part-time day care, in-home nannies or babysitters to free up chunks of time when they can work on the business. Once children are in school, you'll have more time to yourself. Still, most moms find it necessary to squeeze in business at night after the kids are in bed.
Bluemle organizes her workday around Finn's schedule, working while he's in preschool, during nap times and after he goes to bed. She also has a babysitter come over two days per week. When she has unexpectedly busy workdays but no babysitter, she has disciplined herself to put off work for a later time. "There's always work that can be done," Bluemle explains. "But I have to tell myself it will still be there tomorrow."
Tamara Monosoff is Entrepreneur.com's "Inventions" columnist; founder and CEO of Mom Inventors Inc., a product development and manufacturing company; and author of The Mom Inventors Handbook: How to Turn Your Great Idea Into the Next Big Thing.