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While women have juggled the responsibilities of work and child rearing for aeons, the term “mumpreneur” is relatively new. First appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011, it describes women who run their own business in addition to caring for their children – and it’s a group that’s rapidly expanding. According to a 2015 report, the number of women launching their own enterprises in Australia has increased by 46 per cent over the past 20 years – almost twice the growth rate of men – and they are more likely to have dependent children than any other employed people. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) shows that 10.3 per cent of women are involved in business start-ups nationwide, placing Australia fourth among developed economies for female participation in entrepreneurship.
There are myriad motivations for such a career path: lack of flexibility in traditional workplaces; high costs of (or lack of access to) childcare; and the desire to spend more time with their children without sacrificing career momentum. Plus, in many cases, mumpreneurship is driven by opportunity: women identifying a need for a product or service (often related to their experiences as a parent), which they can develop into a profitable venture.
Such was the case for business success coach and productpreneur Catherine Langman. In 2007, with a young child at home and another on the way, the prospect of returning to a full-time job was less than tempting. “I was looking around for an idea of what else I could do and it happened almost by accident,” Langman recalls. “I started out with a friend, designing and making eco-friendly products for our babies. We went from making products at the dining room table to building an international business.”
While the mumpreneur label can carry a negative connotation – implying a hobby rather than a serious enterprise – there are many success stories that prove the naysayers wrong. Businesswoman Janine Allis, for example, launched Boost Juice after noticing a lack of quick and healthy snacks available to her children when out and about. Now her empire boasts over 350 stores in 17 countries and Allis is one of Australia's wealthiest self-made women.
Langman believes that high-profile cases such as Allis’s have encouraged more women in recent years to launch their own business. “There are a lot of examples now in the media that show anyone can do it,” she says. “You don’t just have to be a wealthy business owner to pull off an idea.”
Here, Langman outlines five tips for women hoping to become mumpreneurs.
“The mumpreneurs I see who are most successful are the ones who aren’t thinking about something tiny, like making a couple of hundred bucks a week,” says Langman. “The successful ones have a vision and a strong idea that they’re working towards, even though it might take a while to get there.”
Develop a plan that explores all aspects of your business, suggests Langman. “I see quite a few mumpreneurs who focus on micro areas, like what they're going to post on Instagram, but not really addressing other aspects, such as how they’re going to consistently attract customers and make sales. A good business plan needs to take a more holistic view of connecting products with customers. Where are your customers and how do they want to be served?”
Talk to someone who has been in business in a similar area or with a similar business model. “Get opinions on board early and ask for some tips: what should I do next, how do I make this a reality? It really cuts down the learning curve and helps verify whether or not you’re onto a good thing.”
Connecting with a network that’s about more than just self-promotion can offer many benefits, says Langman. “When you’re a mumpreneur, you’re often working from home and it can be quite solitary. Being able to talk to people who are going on a similar journey is so valuable in ways you can’t predict. Sometimes it can lead to new business, or present solutions to problems you might have.”
Don’t expect too much too soon, suggests Langman, but be realistic about your earning potential in the early days. “For the first while when you’re starting a business, you put in more hours than you ever did working nine to five, for very little financial return,” she says. “You have to be patient before you can start drawing a decent wage and reaping the rewards.”
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