Mothers are some of the most enterprising, energetic and resourceful people. Whether it’s juggling the responsibilities and demands of raising kids while also holding down a job, or being a helper, leader and motivational “life coach” to support their kids while growing up, moms seem to find innovative ways to handle the incessant demands of family life and their careers. One of the ways that moms are making a difference in the life of their families while also making a living is by starting businesses; the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 68 percent since 2007.
Having kids is a massively life-changing event, and many new moms find that the birth of their children is the impetus to make a big change in their careers by starting a business. Whether it’s to have more flexibility in their schedules, a better work-life balance or a chance to pursue a new career passion, starting a business can become an exciting new way for moms to support their families while maximizing their personal potential.
We talked to some mom entrepreneurs who decided to start a business by finding inspiration from their children.
Jennifer Clark, Emerge Events
Jennifer Clark is the founder of Emerge Events, an event planning company in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“I started my first business when I was pregnant with my first child in order to earn income with work that is more flexible. I sold that business when she was a toddler and started an event planning company, called Emerge Events, and again, running my own business helps me be more flexible with my hours and overall life.
Depending on the business, being an entrepreneur can offer more flexibility and the ability to work on your own terms. I had a second child a couple of years into my new business, and it did give us peace of mind that I did not have to go back to working 8-5 every day, leaving her at a daycare at six weeks old. But at the same time, that does not mean that I did not work. I actually did not really get any time off. I worked through labor, and definitely worked up until I had the baby. I had an event 2 weeks before I had my baby and another event two weeks after, but I still loved the flexibility of not having to go to work on someone else’s terms.
One of the lessons you learn from running your own business as a mom is that it is definitely not all bon bons and coffee with your feet up. It is a lot of working with children at home, working early in the morning or late at night, getting work done regardless of sleep needs, bringing infants to work in slings, pumping breast milk in all kinds of crazy environments, lots of help from family and friends, bringing children to work with you and more. I think you have to make sure to schedule down time. And during that down time, make a point to take time for you, not just for the kids. And then you have to schedule play time with the kids, so they are your number one focus during that time, without the phone or computer hovering in the background.
The biggest advice I would offer to other mom entrepreneurs is to PLAN. Plan your workday, plan your time off and become very disciplined to get things done. Be present wherever you are: when you are working, work hard and focus, when you are with the family, try to put the phone away and be present with them.
Being an entrepreneur helps me raise children to be somewhat independent, giving them the ability to play independently when I am working, giving them an entrepreneurial mindset, letting them help at events and with work. I am learning how to be better with my time, because if I can get work done quicker, I can get back to my kids quicker.”
Ebonie Townsend, 8Twelv
Ebonie Townsend is the founder of 8Twelv, a social media firm based in Chicago’s Englewood community.
“Being a mom has been an integral part of my business from Day One. My son Julian Ellis has inspired all facets of my business, starting with the very name of the company, 8Twelv, which was inspired by his birth date of August 12th. After his birth, I wanted to pursue a business that would afford me the lifestyle to work from home so that I could be available to him.
Motherhood is definitely more compatible with entrepreneurship versus traditional careers. While there are times when I work twice as many hours for myself than I did for former employers, I do have the flexibility of when I work – something I didn’t have on a 9 to 5 schedule. The income potential as an entrepreneur breaks through salary barriers as well. As an entrepreneur, working harder always equals increased pay. But with a traditional employer, you’re at the mercy of their budgets and discretion.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a mom and entrepreneur, is that you always have to protect your time and treat it as an invaluable asset. This includes things like charging consultation fees for advice and setting time boundaries for communication with clients. Also, as a mom and entrepreneur, you need to make time to take care of yourself! Self-care is just as essential to your business success as marketing, sales or any other critical business practices. You have to be responsible enough to take care of yourself first and foremost so that you can take care of your children and your clients.
As an entrepreneur, I feel like I’m always chasing the next goal and always searching for ways to better my business. Being a mom has inspired me to stop and celebrate my wins and be present in moments. Likewise, being an entrepreneur motivates me to be the very best version of myself for my son.”
Laura Ure, Keenability
Laura Ure is the owner of Keenability, an advertising agency in Boca Raton, Florida.
“When I opened the firm, I was seven months pregnant with my second child. I was already disappointed with the way that things were moving in my industry, so I decided to change it. I wanted to bring flexibility to an industry that is very strict with schedules and with its employees in general. I knew that with my second child I needed more freedom, something I wanted to give employees as well.
I have found motherhood to be more compatible with entrepreneurship than with a traditional employment model. While being an entrepreneur involves long hours, they can also be more flexible hours. Granted, the first two years can be very tough, but it is worth it. I know that now with an established firm I can spend more time with my kids.
One of the things that I have learned as a mom and entrepreneur that is most inspiring is that we don’t have to choose between being an amazing mom and an amazing career woman. When you run your own business, you really can have it all. You can dictate the terms of your employment, which is a blessing. I also learned that I don’t feel as guilty as I once did. I know that what I am doing is the right choice for my family.
Being an entrepreneur has made me a better mom by enhancing my ability to multi-task and become better organized. If I want to spend as much time as possible with my kids, but also produce great work, I have to be extremely organized. There is no room for slacking.
If you’re thinking of starting a business as a mom entrepreneur, my advice for you is: do it. Don’t give up. It may seem overwhelming at first, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it will be worth it. It will give you greater financial freedom and also more flexible control of your time once your business is up and running and you have the right staff in place.”
Alina Adams, NYC School Secrets
Alina Adams is an author and consultant who helps parents navigate the process of getting their kids into the right New York City schools.
“Applying to get a child into Kindergarten in New York City (yes, even your local, zoned one) is a full-time job – and I did it three times! As a result, other parents started coming to me for advice. So I gave out advice. Then they invited other parents, and it turned into a workshop. Preschools began offering to pay me to give a workshop. And parents at those workshops begged me to write a book so they could have all my information in one place.
Last April, I published the book they’d been clamoring for, Getting Into NYC Kindergarten, and now I regularly go to schools, religious organizations and other businesses, giving talks to help people navigate the draconian NYC school application system. I tell them everything the NYC Department of Education won’t. I’ve also launched a podcast.
Because so many people wanted to talk about their particular situation after reading the book/attending a workshop, I began offering private consultations, which turned out to be the most lucrative part of the process, and now it’s a full-time business. I do my consults over the phone or in person during the day, and am still available to do school drop off, pick up, attend any parent activities and get my kids to their after-school classes without it causing a disruption – most parents who need my services are free the exact same hours I am! But the thing I love best is that I am helping people who need it the most, and who often don’t know that they even have options until I tell them.”
Michelle C. Smith, MamaSuds
Michelle is the founder and owner of MamaSuds, a Michigan-based company that makes handcrafted, safe, eco-friendly cleaning products.
“My company, MamaSuds, sells handcrafted products to help label-reading parents who want to create a safe, clean home for the people they love by using simple, non-toxic and eco-friendly products. All of our products are made from ingredients that are local, natural and/or organic.
I was inspired to start this business while I was pregnant with my second daughter (I have three), and I had a small bottle of commercial baby shampoo leak onto some of our brand-new nursery room furniture. I wiped up the small drop of baby shampoo that leaked from the bottle and the furniture’s finish came off with it! This sparked a question in my head, “What am I putting on my baby’s skin?” Little did I know how much this little question would change my life. I instantly researched the ins and outs of soap. Soap is…soap, right? Nope. I do most of my research late at night, long after my husband is sleeping, and I distinctly remember sitting in bed with my laptop on my pregnant belly and learning that the soap I have been using on my three-year-old, and the soap we used on ourselves, actually had a bunch of “chemicals” and toxins in it. What!?! Since my husband was sleeping next to me, I had no one to look over at and spew this information at! A million questions led to hundreds more and I was soon lost in the abyss of the internet. The short version of this story ends with me making soap for our family and my husband insisting he set up a website for me.
In my opinion, motherhood is much more compatible with entrepreneurship than it is with a regular career. I am a recovering middle school teacher of 10 years, and even though the hours of that job were really great, I still couldn’t go on field trips or put my kids on/off the bus. With my own business I can set my own hours, volunteer in the classroom and be home when my kids are home.
One of the surprising things I’ve learned from running my own business is that I didn’t realize how much my kids would admire me. They are like little sales people, and it was all on their own. They are really proud of me and it’s the best feeling when my daughter says “I want to be MamaSuds when I grow up!” Uh, tears!
My advice to other moms who want to start a business is to find the time to work on your business that is best for you. I cringe when I read business blogs and posts about how the best business people get up at insanely early hours to work. That’s great for them, but they must not have kids or toddlers who need to eat. I work best from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. No one is up and I have no one to interrupt me. I get a good 5-6 hours of sleep in and wake up with the kids to start the day. It works for me; do what works for you.
I have found that entrepreneurship has made me a better mom because it helps me prioritize my time and have boundaries. Being a parent helps me think as my customer. My customers are typically moms with kids who are trying to use products that are safe and eco-friendly. I also think about things from my customer’s perspective first, and it has always been the right strategy for me.”
Congratulations to all of our featured mom entrepreneurs for doing so many great things for your businesses and your families! Best wishes for continued future success. If you’re interested in learning more about Kabbage, visit our business loans for women page.