Moms wear many hats: chauffeur, nurse, chef, storyteller, slayer of monsters. Donning the entrepreneurial hard hat means adding another responsibility to your ever-evolving tasks. But those in the know say it can be done.
“Every mom is an entrepreneur by nature,” says Ianthe Mauro, founder of Objects With Purpose, a company that makes nontoxic candles that are sold online and in 200 stores across the country.
In both roles, you have to be willing to try new things, Mauro says. Every day as a parent, you have to take risks, pay attention to the information in front of you, process it and solve problems in creative ways. “How is that not an entrepreneur?”
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Business ideas for ‘mompreneurs’
If you’re a mom who wants to start a business – whether for reasons of flexibility, fulfillment or financial necessity – play to your strengths and passions. Here are ideas for a range of personalities and skill sets.
Creative moms: Freelance copywriter, Etsy artist or piano teacher.
Whether you’re making use of your writing skills or are up to your elbows in sheet music, a mom with a creative streak has numerous outlets for entrepreneurship. Mauro, an artist, treats her candles – which are scented naturally, without chemicals – as a way to tell a story and “share light” with her customers, a process she finds personally rewarding and impactful. Remember, making and selling your own products is only one way to capitalize on your skills; you can also teach.
Techie moms: Computer repair service, web design or coding contractor.
In our increasingly online world, tech skills, such as coding and website design, are in high demand. Tech-talented moms can reach out to local businesses (or other mompreneurs) to offer help with websites and apps, or run a repair service for broken electronics.
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Healthy moms: Fitness studio owner, personal trainer, nutrition consultant.
Moms with a flair for fitness can tap their energy with active pursuits, such as acting as a tour or hiking guide, becoming a personal trainer or running a yoga studio. Note: If health and safety are involved, make sure you are properly licensed, and have your customers sign a waiver.
Mathematical moms: Accounting service, tax preparation, bookkeeping agency.
The best thing about being a math whiz is there will always be people looking to you for help. Starting a one-woman bookkeeping firm, for example, is an option for numbers-savvy moms. Keep in mind that these services may require certification or licensing.
Analytical moms: Consulting or referral services.
Good at writing business plans or developing marketing strategies? Consider turning your skill into a business. For Debra Cohen, a New York entrepreneur, success came in the form of a contractor referral business that she started in 1997; it’s since grown into a million-dollar venture. Solving problems, either as a consultant or by creating a new service, as Cohen did, allows moms to flex their analytical muscles while helping others in the business community.
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The rise of mompreneurship
Although adding “mom” to “entrepreneur” may seem like an unnecessary qualifier for women on the path to running their own businesses, it captures a specific segment of the market, one that allows women to utilize their many talents in two complex and sometimes overlapping areas of life.
“‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘motherhood’ are two of the most revered concepts in this country,” says Jennifer Friedman, vice president of Wolters Kluwer’s BizFilings, which helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Perhaps, she says, that’s because they both describe roles that are difficult but potentially fulfilling. “Investors, business mentoring and entrepreneurship programs around the country can actively seek more ways to engage this fast-growing, unique and important market.”
According to the most recent Survey of Business Owners, conducted every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau, women-owned businesses generated $1.4 trillion in receipts in 2012, up 18.7% from 2007. Not all female small-business owners are mothers, of course, but Friedman cites the growing mompreneur network, both online and in the real world, as evidence that many are. Organizations such as The Founding Moms and Business Among Moms offer support and advice to mompreneurs in the making.
“Running a house and running a business are very much the same,” says Cohen, president of the contractor referral company Home Remedies of NY Inc. and the creator of the Homeowner Referral Network. “It requires your attention all the time. You have to nurture it; it requires you to bring creativity and give it the proper attention.”
Candle entrepreneur Mauro says her motivation is tied directly to her children. “I wanted to show my children what it looks like to be a mom who also can support the family, sustain a business and create something that then sustains all of us,” she says. “I wanted my son to see what women can do; I wanted my daughter to see what she can do.” Her first two candles, Asher and Dahlia, were named after her children and are perennial best-sellers.
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Tips for mompreneurs
Women interviewed for this article offered some tips for making entrepreneurship work for busy mothers.
Make your time count: “I had to be efficient with my time,” Cohen says, “waking up before the babies and making the most of nap times – and not feeling guilty if I was working.”
Consider outsourcing: Instead of trying to focus on both the nitty-gritty of building a business and the nitty-gritty of being a mom, Cohen hired virtual assistants and someone to build her website (all of whom were mompreneurs themselves).
Keep business and family separate: If you plan on growing your business, Friedman says, separating your business and family life physically, financially and professionally is crucial. Have a space dedicated to your business both inside and outside your home. Interacting with others and actively seeking fresh sources of information and new ideas can help keep you energized. Additionally, keep a separate bank account for your business, and distinguish your business assets from your personal assets by incorporating or forming an LLC.
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Don’t bite off more than you can chew: As Mauro’s business began to grow, she added seven employees to her staff. “It got out of control,” she says. Finding her routine filled with managerial duties instead of the creative pursuits she enjoyed, she decided to scale back.
“It also came down to cash flow,” she says. “I didn’t have consistent enough cash flow to keep that many people.” She’s now been in business six years, and with the help of a career coach and weekly small-group teleconferences with Justin Krane, founder of Make the Numbers Make Sense, which offers money management support for small-business owners, Mauro feels she has the cash and the knowledge to start growing again – even if it’s scary.
“Thank the fear,” she says. “I know when I’m afraid, it means I have exciting possibilities. Take those risks – don’t let fear stop you.”
Create your own definition of ‘success’: Regardless of whether you choose to grow your business or stay the course, being an entrepreneur means you can set your own metric for success.
“Yes, there are moms who have become multimillionaires from building large businesses,” Friedman says. “But most mompreneurs don’t define their success just by dollars raised or employee head count; their metrics include the quality time they spend with their kids and families.”
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Jackie Zimmermann is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jackie_zm.
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