It's in the Network
You probably found out as soon as you had children that a secret society of moms exists, eager to share insider tips on motherhood. Thankfully, that network is just as present when it comes to mompreneurs helping other moms start businesses. From sharing marketing ideas and advice, to seeking other stay-at-home moms to work in your business, to sharing war stories about balancing work life and home life, women are supporting women all over.
The network is vast--and there's something for everyone. "One of the things that makes mom entrepreneurs different [from other entrepreneurs] is that they're already there--they understand what it's like to be a mom who's trying to start a business," says Shannon Cherry, founder of Mommy-Inc.com, a mom business blog. "You have your children and your other baby--your business. They understand that and how hard it can be to balance."
Finding the right network for you may take some time. There are mom business groups, direct-sales networks, stay-at-home mom (SAHM) or work-at-home mom (WAHM) groups, and even ones that share social or religious values as part of their businesses. The point, says Cherry, is to find the specific networks that fit your particular needs. Also consider groups where you are one of the only members in your industry, so you can seek not only mentoring and advice, but also referrals and customers.
After finding a network of supporters online, Heather Ledeboer, 28, founded Mom4Life.com, an online retailer for baby products. This Redlands, California, mother of two started her e-tailing business in 2003 after she went searching online for specialty mom-centric products and found there wasn't a whole lot to choose from. She decided to create a one-stop shop for items such as baby slings and nursing accessories. Not only did she find a community of mom customers, but her late-night forays onto the internet (after the kids were asleep) also brought her to a network of mom entrepreneurs who were often online at the same time. "It created an open arena for us to instant message, call or e-mail each other," says Ledeboer, who sought advice about finding employees, building a website and advertising. "[It was] basically a brainstorming session anytime it was needed."
Some of the networks Ledeboer looks to for mompreneur support are www.hotmomsclub.com, www.momstown.com and www.startupprincess.com. You may want to check out these other sites as well: www.clubmomcom, www.mompreneursonline.com, www.momtrepreneurs.com and Wild Women Entrepreneurs.
Ledeboer, who has built her company to annual sales of more than $600,000, notes that one of the best things about mompreneur support networks is the feeling that you're not alone. "Find people who can support and encourage you and be your cheerleaders, so that when you're feeling discouraged you can go to them," she says. "Find a resource of other moms in business that you can network and share ideas with. It's amazing how, once you get started, you start inspiring others, too."