Battling the myth of the (super)mumpreneur

As a business woman, mother and entrepreneur, I have more than once cringed at the one, diminutive term: “mumpreneur”. How dare people concatenate the role of mothers and business owners, as if somehow either role is easy, or a side-show or so intrinsically entwined. Or that our care for our children pre-empts and defines what we are capable of doing in business. I can say from many years of experience at both, that being a mother, or entrepreneur is a heck of a lot harder (and lonelier) than pulling any number of back-to-back all-nighters as an investment banker. Give me 24-hrs in the office, any day.

So what, then, is a “mumpreneur”?

A quick bit of research shows me that in 2016, “mumpreneur” Zhou Qunfei topped Forbes’ ranks of self-made women with a fortune of US$5.8 billion. Technically, “mumpreneur” Gina Rinehart would suit the bill. But I dare anyone to interview her and ask her how she manages the kids, $14.2 billion and what her top 10 tips are for still finding time for herself. (To be fair, we hardly need to ask about the kids, any more than the laundry already aired).

Other mums and entrepreneurs, like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jessica Alba seem to have attracted the term that goes one step further, the “supermumpreneur”. Which implies they really are doing it all. And while, yes, creating a slightly controversial company worth over US$1 billion, being a mum and looking that sensational in Sin City, is fairly super, I feel that is probably down to her being a fairly clever cookie in her own right - it didn’t just occur when her entrepreneurial abilities collided with being a mum.

After a bit of soul searching the next question you really have to ask, is: if technically all these incredible women are mothers and entrepreneurs, why do we have an issue with the term “mumpreneur” at all? Why is it seen as diminutive? Why isn’t it seen as some incredible feat? Look at me! I can successfully keep three tiny people alive while instead of sleeping, I am disrupting an entire industry and giving other people jobs! Do we fundamentally look down at being a mum? Or do we fundamentally not want to give mum’s who are entrepreneurs the kind of kudos they deserve? Perhaps we feel that the most important role in the world (for the future of the human race, let’s be frank) is somehow not esteemed and admired in the way that it should? Or is it a bit like “manflu”. In isolation, these terms are taken seriously, but together they... well... can become too easily a bit of a joke?

At this point, I’m a little confused. I haven’t slept a full night in years so I’m not sure I’m in the best state to think this one through thoroughly.

So, instead, I sat down to chat to Florencia Pyke, the Co-Founder of Business School for Mums. It’s the third hot coffee I have found time for in over four years and I am amazed that (somewhat superhumanly) Florencia is managing to hold an interview without feeling compelled to hustle her two year old out of the room. I think, just maybe, she can help me to decipher why “mumpreneur” is just so inciteful, instead be something phenomenally fierce and wonderful, and how can we help break down the myths around the word?

Lets start with the term “mumpreneur”. I have seen this term incite more debate than any other, (OK, perhaps second to vaccines.) What is going on?

The first time I heard the so-called title “Mumpreneur”… I thought… is this a joke? I mean it’s as bad as, if not worse than, “Fempreneur!” What is it with these labels? And how is it they are so readily used and accepted in society and media today?

I have never heard “dadpreneur” or “malepreneur” or, while we are on the topic, even “boyboss” used in the same vein.

Men in business are just “entrepreneurs” and the mention of kids doesn’t make it into the picture. Yet when a mum sets out on her own, she often gets tagged the “mumpreneur.” Why?

Is it because society assumes that once we are mums, that this should be our prime duty and focus?

Perhaps the rest of our lives should revolve around this sole prerogative (albeit it one that is fairly critical to, well, life)? Or is it because it’s assumed that we operate in our own category altogether? One that is independent of entrepreneurs? Or perhaps it’s just a term that a mum once proudly coined for herself: a decidedly efficient word, to describe what is really, doing it all.

Where did it come from and why does the term persist?

I tend to believe that the term “mumpreneur” has come about due to society’s belief that the “mumpreneur” is simply a mum whose main duty is to mother and that she also happens to run a side business – so why not mush the two together.

Do I agree with this? Absolutely not. I am a both a mother and a small business owner. Both come with their own set of challenges. And both play very important and very different roles within in my life. But they do not define me individually nor collectively.

I choose instead to see that I am someone fighting to create the life I want for myself around the things I value and love. In particular, when I don’t see many traditional businesses giving women (or men) the flexibility we all need when raising a family and trying to maintain a balance, I wanted to make a change.

After spending many too many nights heading to bed at 3am, before waking at 5am to feed a baby, and pining for those office days when I got to drink my coffee hot, I’m starting to realise that being a mumpreneur isn’t quite what Gwyneth and Gloop promised it would be. Who and where are these business mums that have it all?

Right. So to complement the “mumpreneur” myth there is of course also that common misconception that starting a small business from home as a mum means you can have it all.

You think you can make some extra income on the side, have total flexibility in how you work and be home and present for the family when you need.

It sounds pretty amazing. At first.

And it absolutely can be if and when you get to that point, depending on how you manage your business and your own goals… but the reality is that over 60% of small business owners fail in their endeavours – and the road to success is not an easy one.

As I said before, both kids and a business come with their own, often at times seemingly insurmountable, set of challenges. And just to add to the responsibility list is often the household and a ton of other things to manage as well.

You see… today, mums often contend with wearing all the hats at once so, it’s a massive juggle.

This juggle is also often compounded with a lack of self-confidence and self-belief due to workforce absence after having one or multiple children. Plus a huge identity struggle as we try and pull all these roles together… let alone, do them well.

So, mix all these emotions and pressures together… the juggle; the mental struggle; the lack of time; the workforce absence… and more…

…and let’s just see how easy this so called “mumpreneur” gig really is.

When you are living this reality everyday, you start to realised, that maybe, there’s a reason we have our own unique label. Balancing it all deserves a title all its own.

My sense is that traditional business is severely failing families. Not just mums, but also dads. We’re asking too much and not respecting sufficiently the balance that families require. With the advent of remote technology, flexibility, cheaper access to marketing, online retail, websites - lawyers - the works - there are record levels of mums setting up businesses. So how can I do what someone like Jessica Alba achieved (sans law suits)?

How do you do it? How do you start a business from home as a mum and make money from it? Because let’s face it… ultimately being able to monetise your business is one of the principal measures of success. Probably that, and your continued sanity and zest for what you originally set out to do.

OK. Experience tells me this: if you want your business to be a success you need to be prepared to invest in three core areas:

1) your education

Unless you have a business background, or a highly primed entrepreneurial mindset – there’s a good chance you’ll miss vital steps when you get started. And its these missed steps, which will often be your undoing. What’s more, if you’re going to be embracing a digital presence (which you’d be crazy not to) the landscape moves so quickly, you need to be plugged into those in the know.

2) finding a tribe to support you

You need community. You need feedback and support. Someone to brainstorm with, collaborate with, network with and more importantly… someone to pick you up when the going gets tough (of which there will be many).

And finally,

3) nurturing your mindset.

Mindset? The idea of needing to educate and find your tribe I hear often. Reaching for the stars is readily available on a Tony Robbin’s Netflix binge. But mindset? What does that actually mean?

I should preface by saying that my business partner specialises solely in this. It is a central part of all we do and one of the biggest issues we have seen mothers in business facing.

With business and motherhood comes so much uncertainty and so many unknowns – and you need to learn to trust and back yourself, find your feet in the chaos and push through to see results.

I share all this because today there is a trend amongst Mums to DIY their business, and to go it alone, to muddle through without help. Why? Well perhaps this links back to the fundamental myth that a mother’s business is often seen as a side hustle – it’s not taken seriously by those around her, which means… her business doesn’t really get the appropriate space or time to flourish.

Furthermore, it’s hard and scary to justify investing money into a side hustle that’s not taken seriously – and that will invariably take time away from the family… even when the flipside of such an investment means a dual income and an opportunity to create an incredibly nurturing family life style.

The bottom line here is that our view of mums in business needs to change.

A mother’s business needs to be seen just like another entrepreneur’s and it needs to be given recognition, support and space by those around her.

We also need to acknowledge her as a woman – outside of motherhood, and embrace her desire to continue to learn, grow and contribute.

And lastly, we should be celebrating her for the role model she is for her children as she shows them that they can fight for a life on their terms and follow their dreams.

Well, on the basis that before 11am Florencia has already helped me achieve a hot coffee and to spend time out from the normal daily mayhem, with a very clever woman chatting about business and all we want to do... I’m thinking she has a good point. Then I find out that Florencia is also a rockstar at Facebook ads too, which, if you aren’t Neil Patel I didn’t realise you could be. I’m off to listen to what else she might have to say on that one...

Florencia & Anna are the Co-Founders of Business School for Mums (BSFM). Together, thanks to their complementary skillsets in business, marketing, sales and mindset, Florencia & Anna have created a unique online platform to educate mums in business. And since their inception 18 months ago, they’ve helped 100’s of mums worldwide to start and grow successful small lifestyle businesses from home.

Anne Foster is a mum, investment manager, energy, tech and sustainability expert and founder of a social enterprise that with, a wave of international followers, is on its way to turning the way we consume, on its head... read more here.

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