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5 Single Parents Give Real Tips on Running a Business While Keeping Your Sanity

workingsingleParent Launching and growing a small business is a tremendous amount of work under any circumstance. When you combine the challenges of entrepreneurship with the daily struggles of being a single parent, it requires near super hero abilities to seamlessly orchestrate tasks, schedules, responsibilities, and finances.

Single parent business owners are a unique segment of entrepreneurs who are typically motivated by far more than just money. Often, they choose to go into business for themselves so that they can have more flexibility in their schedule for parenting. For many, starting a business also means the chance to regain control and make a better life for themselves and their children.

What these hard-working business owners have in common is that they are inspired and motivated each and every day by their children. With a family to support and only 24 hours in a day, it’s amazing what single parent business owners are able to achieve.

We were able to catch up with a few busy single parents and wanted to share their tips for achieving success when you’re doing double duty as parent and entrepreneur.

Budgeting

Making ends meet is one of the most challenging aspects of being a single parent. When you consider that nearly 62 percent of custodial parents do not receive child support, it’s easy to understand why money is often in short supply. It also explains the draw of entrepreneurship. With the opportunity to increase income, many single parents have been able to dramatically improve their financial situation by going into business for themselves.

Regina Demeo is a family law attorney with her own firm. She is also a single mom with an 11 year old son. Her number one suggestion to other single parent business owners is to have a realistic budget.

“In your business model, make sure you plan for those ‘bad years’ when your income may be low, says Regina. “Your overhead has to be manageable so that you can take home a sufficient income to meet your personal expenses. With your household budget, you really need to prioritize needs versus wants. Cover your basic needs first before you start spending funds on non-essentials.”

Staying Organized

There is often a lot of hustle and bustle in a single parent business owner’s home, especially in the morning. Getting kids ready for school while juggling a conference call or preparing for a meeting is not for the faint-hearted. The secret to keeping it together is to create workable organizational systems. Some rely heavily on smartphones and apps to stay on top of schedules and to-do lists, while others use more low-tech methods.

As a single mother of a 14-year-old and the CEO of The Beara Group, a Washington DC-based consulting practice, Corrie Shanahan has developed a multi-layered approach to managing her daily responsibilities.

“I maintain color-coded calendars for home and work appointments,” says Corrie. “This helps me see at a glance where there is a soccer game or school event and where the conference calls and meetings are. The calendars sync across all my devices, iPhone and laptop. My son is now a teenager with a smartphone, so I can also remind him of his orthodontic appointment by forwarding him the calendar entry with a note that I will pick him up there. After dinner, it’s homework time for both of us. I bring my laptop to the table and I do my own ‘homework.’” This helps me keep an eye on my son, while also getting things done in the evening.

Making Time

When you’re tackling day-to-day business responsibilities and actively trying to grow your client list, it can be tempting to put off spending time with your kids. Yet, scheduling quality time to attend a school event, go to the park, or just hang out is a must for strengthening your connection and recharging your batteries so that you can keep up with your daily frenetic schedule.

For single dad Alexander Hales, making time for his four year old daughter while running his own network engineering and support business is something he considers to be a top priority.

“Being in business for myself gives me the flexibility to take time off to be with my daughter,” says Alexander. “I can adjust my schedule, forward my calls, and take her to Disneyland in the middle of the week when it’s not as crowded. But, I have also created a strong network of daycare options for when I have to be working. I have plan A and plan B teams available when I need them.”

Asking for Help

Single parent business owners can’t help but be pulled in many different directions. To avoid being perpetually overwhelmed, it’s important to find help. A full-time nanny is rarely an option, but there are often cost-effective ways to get help with all that you do for your business and your family.

With three active teenagers and her own executive search firm, single mother Beth Carter stresses the importance of getting help.

“The first thing I learned is that you can’t do it all,” says Beth. “I used to hire college kids who would handle office and personal things for me. One day they would work on a project and the next they were at the supermarket or overseeing one of my children. I also got my kids involved in the business. They used to get the faxes from the machine, file, stuff presentation folders, and later they even prepared my PowerPoint presentations. This has served them well now that they are older.”

Remaining Flexible

Children grow, businesses evolve, and life continues to change. Being adaptable is a must for being a successful parent and business owner. Learning how to make the most with what you have while staying positive and forward-thinking is a skill that nearly every small business-owning single parent has in large quantities.

Owner of Quality Assessments Mystery Shoppers, Mary Furrie chose to adopt as a single parent and to own her own business. Her decision has enabled her to develop tremendous skills in being flexible and open to change.

“My tip is that you simply have to juggle and adjust all of it constantly,” says Mary. “My business is focused entirely on providing the very best service possible. That requires juggling technology, executing commitments to my clients while marketing to new business. I’m up early! Right after skimming the Wall Street Journal, I get to my emails and customers’ needs. And, by starting really early, that leaves me a lot of hours in the day to maneuver between work and parenting. You have to make it work!”

Are you a single parent who has been able to achieve success as a small business owner? We’d love to hear how you balance all that you do. Share your tips with us in the comment section below.

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Kabbage Team

The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.

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