To work or not to work? That is surely the question all mothers today must face.
And what a loaded question it is too – its answer, dependent on a complex cocktail of factors, ranging from financial to personal, and dare we say it, even societal.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that in answer to this very black and white question, some women look to the grey. Forget ‘to work or not to work’. Choose: to work from home.
And many mothers are. According to the Office of National Statistics, there was an increase of 373,000 mumpreneurs and women registering as part-time and self-employed between the years 2001 and 2016; from 439,000 up to 812,000, the highest number since records began in 1992.
“The rise in technology has revolutionised what can be achieved from a laptop and a kitchen table,” says Sara Guiel, Director of The Mumpreneurs Networking Club, by way of explaining the increase. “Wifi availability across the UK has fuelled the easy access to working from anywhere… [and] the sophistication of handheld devices, such as smart phones and tablets – alongside apps designed for tasks such as invoicing, social media, admin and timetabling – has also contributed to this.
“Secondly, the prohibitive cost of childcare for preschool children, coupled with a lack of provision for school age children (particularly in school holidays) means that many mothers have to find their inner entrepreneur. In the UK, a lack of willingness to embrace flexible working or see the benefits in a workforce who can work flexibly, means that traditional businesses are not conducive to a positive working parent life.”
And so mothers are taking the plunge, going out on their own with their entrepreneurial totes on one arm, and their babies’ cradles in the other. How do they manage to do it, those superwomen? As any entrepreneur might attest, starting a business is no walk in the park. But juggling it alongside actual walks in the park – with the baby – seems nigh on impossible.
And yet, it can be done. To find out how, we quizzed four ‘mumpreneurs’ for their tales about their bold (and inspirational) experiences…
Where does the idea come from?
Isn’t that the million dollar question? Of course, there is no singular response. But for two mumpreneurs, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was motherhood itself wherein their inspiration lay.
“As a single mother with a young child I was supporting on my own, I struggled with the idea of leaving my son Beau in childcare,” says Catherine Parkins, founder of dog walking and behavioural training business, Fetch Fulham.
“The thought of returning to work in the city, working long hours and then travelling home, while someone else looked after Beau, was too much of an emotional struggle to envisage, not to mention financial constraints, like the rising costs of childcare and travel.
“My business idea was a lightbulb moment. Beau wanted to get a dog and I explained to him [about] the associated costs of having one – vets fees, for instance. Then it dawned on me. I genuinely love dogs and if I began training them, during the holidays he could help.”
For Emma Bianco, founder of Little Earth Baby – the non-toxic, biodegradable and natural baby products company – it was the horrifying realisation of what exactly was in the trusted products she gave to, and used on, her newborn son which got her entrepreneurial ideas buzzing.
“I was shocked by just how many products on the baby market are full of synthetic and often toxic substances,” Emma explains. “New parents have enough to think and worry about, and the products available to them should be safe and trustworthy.
“I was also surprised that all the wadded sleeping bags for sale were full of polyester, which inhibits the body’s ability to regulate temperature and can be dangerous for small babies prone to overheating. The only natural ones available had no wadding and (according to my research) were not warm enough nor practical for washing or tumble drying. There seemed to me an obvious solution.”
How to get started?
Idea in hand, what to do next? Think about it a bit – or, a lot? It’s a daunting prospect, starting a business, and procrastination might seem all too easy. But Celia Pool – co-founder of DAME, manufacturer of the world’s first reusable tampon applicator ‘D’ – says there’s no time for dallying.
“Silence that critic in your head and get on with it,” she says. “If you can imagine it being real, you can make it real.”