So you're wanting to start a home based business so you can be home for your kids. It may sound like the ideal solution but what are the common pitfalls that women face whilst trying to raise children and build a business at the same time, and how can you overcome them?
To find the answers to these questions I caught up with three inspiring women who have been able to successfully navigate the challenges of raising children and building a business.
Mumpreneur Expert #1: Susan J Sohn, founder of GetRealLive.
Susan is a verified social/mobile/online media maverick. She has launched #1 iTunes music albums, created social media engagement for a live event with 60,000 attendees, and has grown a Facebook page from 35,000 to 900,000 in less than 2 years. As a wife, and mother of 3 beautiful children, she firmly believes that community starts in the home, and her "others" focused ethos drives her to leverage the technology platforms to maximum effect, connecting people to stories, and people to one another.
Mumpreneur Expert #2: Kristy Smith, Founder of Virtual Elves Outsourcing.
Kristy has worked with many businesses over the last 3 years, developing strategies/methods/tools around outsourcing to help businesses scale, grow and be profitable. Prior to founding Virtual Elves Kristy managed large teams and implemented front office processes and customer service training to Private Hospitals and 5 Star Hotels. Kristy is a mother of two busy children and lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and family. Her daughter was 5 and son was 3 when she left working for someone else and went out on her own.
Mumpreneur Expert #3: Tracey Eker, founder of Flexiworkforce.
Just over a year ago Tracey was upcycling junk furniture and looking for part-time work. Now the "energetic Aussie" is launching her own national jobs website that's poised to shake up the world of recruitment. Tracey was inspired by the difficulties she herself faced trying to get back to work after having her daughter and twin boys.
After speaking to these super women it was identified that the top 3 challenges of being a "mumpreneur" are time, self doubt and guilt. Let's look at each in detail.
Challenge #1: Not enough time
Finding time to look after your children and fit in everything else is challenging enough as a mother, so to juggle the responsibilities that come with building a business at the same time is even more difficult. So how exactly do you balance the responsibilities of being a mother and building your own business?
Tracey says: "Any mum who works balances work with family. I was an organised person before I had kids but becoming a mum forced me into hyperdrive! Kids take up a lot of time, especially when you have 3 (including twin boys). I have never lost my drive to succeed and am probably more driven now than before I had kids. Accept that you will have to work flexibly around your family. Being an entrepreneur, starting your own business means that you don't have standard working hours. You do what you need to do whenever you need to do it."
Kristy advises: "The only way out of this is to be kind to yourself, not try to be 'super mum', spend quality time with your kids and husband, take 30mins a day just for yourself, get hired help (outsource some daily tasks) so you have space for your business too - get a housekeeper, aupair, anything that makes your life easier and more manageable."
Susan advises: "Be prepared to be tired for the next ten years of your life. You do it tired, you do everything tired. Do it tired and keep going. I live by lists. Everything has a list. I get up in the morning and I write a list. Determine what time of the day you work the best. Early morning is my quiet time. That's the time I go for a run, I walk, whatever I need to do. I meditate on what the day will look like for me. Learn to be very disciplined. I pick a day to work at a cafe. Because I normally work from home I go to a cafe and work all day. Keep that space (in your calendar and mentally) so that it's a "work space", so when my kids are done from school I can focus on them."
Challenge #2: Self Doubt
When building your own business the pressure you place on yourself to succeed can be immense, and this is even before pressure from friends, family and others. Self-doubt will inevitably appear as you question whether or not you're doing the right thing, whether or not you're good enough to be successful, and whether or not you should keep going or pack it in and go back and "get a real job". For some there's a real fear of failing and being told "I told you so" by unsupportive family members or friends.
So what can you do about managing self doubt?
Kristy says: "This is a big one when you have a vision for what you want to do but because your main focus is on raising a family, that vision is not always realised in the early stages of your business. My suggestion is to spend the time to mould your 'millionaire' mindset so you start to dream bigger than what you are, giving you more drive to succeed and push beyond your comfort zone. It does mean giving you and your business more focus sometimes and particularly that was hard for me to do as I needed to be a bit selfish which is totally out of character for me!"
Susan says: "It's hard work. The hardest thing has been the not knowing. When you're out for dinner and people ask you 'what do you do?' and you can't articulate it. You are good enough. Is your product good enough? I'm not sure but YOU are definitely good enough. Give yourself permission to just be you and be the best version of you that you can be. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and take risks. Give yourself permission to not let rejection rule you but to fuel you. When you're building something of your own you're being vulnerable, and putting yourself out there.Get a grasp on your identity, knowing who you are and walking in that. The waves and the wind, and everything will come. That sense of identity is fundamental in that."
Tracey advises: "Be realistic about what you can and can't do. In all honesty, I would say that being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. You need to sacrifice a lot, from job security to family time. However the outcome of building a successful business should mean that you can claw back all the lost time and have enough money to treat your family for all the sacrifices they made to help your build it in the first place."
Challenge #3: Guilt
A close relative to self doubt is guilt. At times it seems that building a business, which requires absolute focus, time and energy is in conflict with raising a family. Time spent on the business is time away from your kids. Then there's the all important "me time" that you need to check in with yourself, refresh, re-evaluate, and remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing.
This can be really tough for budding mumpreneurs.
Kristy shares: "The guilt is about not being 100% present for everything and everyone all the time. This is a big one as a mother and business owner. There were many times I would beat myself up and be in tears because I wanted more for my business, my family and me, but I just could not let one thing slide to give to the other. I had to learn to say 'no' more often and really make sure the attention I was giving to the things I chose was focussed and 100% at that time. It was and still is not easy to do. Booking blocks of things into your day helps with this and allows you to focus. Also getting help both out of and in the business through outsourcing has been my saviour."
Susan says: "I don't know if it really goes away but that guilt does fade. I just work hard. I put boundaries around that. Our doors are always open, our home is the place that people come and hang out, to avoid that isolation. We are body, soul and spirit and we have to recognise that. Your community plays a big part in dealing with this."
Tracey says: "I would recommend that women who are trying to start their own business have the full support of their kids and husband. You all need to have realistic expectations of how life will be for a while as there will not be as much money in the kitty and your time with them will be reduced but if you are all involved and speak about what is going on, on a constant basis then you should be able to muddle by. It won't always be possible to have an idyllic family life but that will improve with time and what you end up with will be worth it for all of you!"
So what other tips do these successful women offer to someone starting the journey of being a mumpreneur?
1. Give yourself permission to cheer other people on.
The success of a business is dependent upon the community that rallies around it. I've come to learn in the work that I do that when you shift from a mindset of "everyone's competing against each other" to one of collaboration then interesting opportunities for growth appear.
Susan says: "Be part of this global community and celebrate each other, not compare and "me, me, me". When I champion someone else and when I get behind someone else's vision and I go "how can I help you?" in and through that what I'm working on expands every time."
2. Prioritise time for family.
This may come across as obvious but if you don't make a conscious effort to block non-negotiable family time this can have negative effects on your relationship with your family. So develop a ritual around family and give you and them quality time to connect as often as possible. Family meals are a great opportunity to do this.
Susan says: "Breakfast and dinner time is a sacred time for our family. The dinner table is the central nervous system for our family. This is important, this is a priority and everything stems from that. Turn off technology, we come around the table, we talk about our day. We have eye contact and connection."
3. Schedule "me time".
Understand what you need for "me time" and block out that time in your schedule. Every mum needs me time in order to get clarity, re-focus, and rejuvenate.
Susan says: "For me it's a massage. I love massages. It doesn't have to be a $500 spa package, just go to the local shopping centre and grab a quick massage. I go to the movies by myself, once a month. I carve that time out, I sit with my own popcorn, I don't need to talk to anyone. Find those spaces that rejuvenate you."
4. Minimise risk.
If you're working in a job and contemplating leaving to start your own business take the opportunity to start researching whilst you're in your current job and getting a regular income.
Kristy says: "Understand where your strengths are, what it is you do really well. Then think about the things that you don't do really well that you could get some help with and think about how you can get that help. There are so many ways you can get help such as Odesk and Elance."
5. Find your community of support, or start one.
In order to flourish you need to surround yourself with people who inspire you, push you up, guide you, and also challenge you and hold you accountable. A supportive community, mentors and coaches are critical to success.
Kristy says: "Build a network around you of women who are in a similar position plus women who have already done it. That will give you the confidence to do it."
Mentors can be invaluable and not only in the area of business. You can find a mentor for being a great mother, and to guide you in other areas of your life, too.
Susan says: "Mentoring and speaking into other people (are important). I found great people who I look up to in different spheres. Find a woman who has raised great kids. My sister is one of my greatest spaces I go to for parenting wisdom. I have a friend in LA who I go to, which allows me to silence the other voices that give me all this unrequested advice. Find 2 to 3 people who have blazed trails and have gone ahead of you. Connect with them. Find people who can give you a "smackdown" i.e. be a mirror and be honest with you. Wisdom comes from hearing."