Family Friendly

Homebased entrepreneurs mix kids and business.

When I had my baby, it was the old story: They put the baby in your arms, and you're in love," recalls Caroline Hull. "I realized I didn't want to go back to work and put in the travel and long hours my job required."

If you're a new parent feeling the same way, try to take time between diaper changes to read Moneymaking Moms (Citadel Press, $12, 800-447-BOOK, Distilling hard-won guidance from hundreds of moms, Hull and co-author Tanya Wallace tell you everything you need to know to run a homebased business while raising your kids.

With several businesses under their belts--and eight children between them--Hull and Wallace know what they're talking about. Hull, who founded a newsletter publishing company and a gourmet brownie mix business, now writes and consults on homebased business. Wallace owns Toddlin' Time, a parent/toddler play program she launched in 1990 and franchised two years later.

Business Start-Ups: What should parents ask themselves to determine if this is right for them?

Tanya Wallace: Are you organized and dedicated? Also, by walking away from a job, are you closing doors without a well-thought-out plan?

Caroline Hull: [Starting a business without a plan] isn't practical, especially if you rely on that second income. Instead, you may have to start part-time, which allows you time to get up and running. Another transitional strategy: Telecommute a couple days a week, and use the time you save to develop a business.

BSU: Are certain types of businesses best suited to work-at-home parents?

Hull: Look for a family-friendly business that meshes with your role as parent. Typically, businesses that work well are consumer-oriented and target young families.

Wallace: Another option is to start a business using skills from your job, so you don't have to learn new ones.

BSU: How can parents balance business and child care?

Hull: The key is to establish blocks of time when you can work uninterrupted. Access a network of homebased parents and swap kids from time to time. If you don't have an older child to help, hire someone [to babysit] a couple of times a week. Many parents work around their children's absences, whether it's nap time, before they get up or after they go to bed.

Wallace: I stole tiny blocks of time--15 minutes for a phone call, 15 minutes to design an ad--so I managed with little child care. I also relied on my husband. When he came home, I headed to my office. It's amazing how much you can get done in two hours if you really want to.

Hull: What works one year may not work another. Children are notorious for changing a routine just as you've come to rely on it. The 9-month-old who naps twice a day at regular times becomes the 18-month-old who fights the one nap you were relying on so you could do your bookkeeping. Be prepared to shift as the children do.

BSU: Is there an ideal time to start a homebased business when you have children?

Hull: Ideally, you anticipate what you want to do [before your child is born] and save money so you have a financial cushion while business gets underway. Another [good time] is after your children are in school, when you have time during the day.

Wallace: That's also a great time to expand your business. Someone who starts out having trouble grabbing blocks of time may find it's not as difficult two years down the road.

Hull: Until summer vacation.

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