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The Start Up Donut’s week-long celebration of mums who run businesses – mumpreneurs, kitchen table tycoons, business mums, businesswomen, call them what you will – is over for another year. What did we learn?

People don’t necessarily like to be labelled, so do we need a term to define this group? Is it necessary for people to know you’re a mum or is the fact you have children irrelevant?

The discussion surrounding the term ‘mumpreneur’ on our forum threw up some interesting opinions.

On the one hand, business women such as Laura Rigney are proud of the ‘mumpreneur’ tag. She said: “It takes an awful lot of determination and dedication to start a business from scratch and then continue running it while doing the everyday things that come with being a mother”.

Emily Cagle disagreed, saying: “The main issue for me is the irrelevant categorisation of a business owner (who happens to be female and a parent). People tend to mean well by using the term to recognise the challenges mums often face, but I think it’s generally unhelpful.”

There will always be disagreements over such things, anyway, if Cara Sayer is right, the term ‘mumprenenur’ will undoubtedly go out of fashion”. Other terms, such as ‘kitchen table tycoon’, were also disliked, it must be said.

We also invited guest blog posts from business mums last week and it was interesting to see the common themes: the importance of being resourceful; effective time-management; the need for multi-tasking; the need to start up on a shoestring; remain flexible; and being adept at prioritisation of time and tasks.

The lessons learned when managing a family and various school runs, mealtimes, hobbies and bedtime routines can be very useful when running a business.

You can see from the case studies that we’ve featured on the site, such as April Browne who runs Crystal Jewels, that despite much competition for their time, many mums continue to be inspired to start a business, while for some, such as Claire Willis of SnugBaby, necessity is still the mother of invention and the basis for many new mum-owned enterprises.

At the end of the week, I asked an open question on Twitter aimed at all business mums: “What was your inspiration for starting your business?” These were just some of the replies:

  • Being able to work around my children and hopefully be able to provide them with a fulfilling, nurtured life! @LauraARigney
  • Flexibility of working hours, being able to do kids’ illnesses with no guilt and calling my own shots on what I take on. @essentialnm
  • Being my own boss and the ability to work from home while still looking after my children. Doing something I love helps too! @EmmaEwers
  • I wanted more flexibility! My long-hours PR job didn’t suit any more – I wanted control! @businessmum
  • Sick of making a lot of money for someone else and wanting to spend time with my bubs! @bingoreviewer
  • Flexibility to not miss out on my children growing & to keep my brain active doing something I enjoy (designing websites). @glassraven
  • An overwhelming demand for my products. Initially a hobby, so I really had some learning to do!  and the realisation that if I worked hard enough I might be able to stay at home with George @Preciousparcels
  • Because it’s something I’m passionate about. I think more people would choose #realnappies if they knew how fab they are! @RealChoiceNappy
  • My inspiration was not wanting someone else to have the pleasure of bringing up my children when I had struggled to have them. @mumstheboss
  • I’d always wanted to work for myself & having my son made me desire financial independence. These 2 goals still motivate me. @EmmaWimhurst
  • Redundancy, divorce and the need to see my children through university. @cathyrecruit
  • I saw how much my kids enjoyed facepainting & had a go, 3 yrs on & i have a party business w/ online party shop. @myfunkyparty
  • Being able to work around my children and having the luxury of not having to rush treatments as I plan my own diary. @OnlyHolistic

These were broadly representative, with the vast majority related to having enough flexibility to look after children while still providing for the family. Starting a business seems to be the perfect solution for women who want to continue working but who also want to spend time with their children while they’re small.

On a personal level, it’s been really nice to be in touch with such a lovely group of people who’ve been so helpful and really got stuck in with the discussions.

I’d like to say a special thank you to our blog contributors and to everyone who retweeted, commented, said hello and helped to spread the word. Although Mother’s Day has been and gone, our support for mums running their own businesses will continue throughout the year.

Anna Kirby, BHP Information Solutions

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I don’t often write about the challenges of running a business and being a busy mum to four children. And whilst I do attend some of the women’s networking clubs, I do like to think that our business can stand on its own two feet – mum or not.

To be honest I think that most of us mums have a massive advantage over the men and child-free ladies who are competing in the business world.

Why?

Well firstly women are naturally blessed with amazing multi-tasking and time management skills. Show me a working mum and I will show you a lady who has set the alarm for one hour before the the kids are up to complete a project and who has successfully managed to feed a baby whilst drafting an email on her blackberry.

The second and most influential success factor for working mums is determination. I was a young teenage mum. Before the birth of my (now nearly 19 year old) daughter, I was studious but really lacked any kind of focus on what I wanted to be. Having had a baby before my first job (does a paper round count!?) prompted me to question what I needed out of life. And the answer to that 16 year old mum was money. I chose A-Levels and a Degree that would open doors (Maths, Physics, Business Studies and a Degree in Computing). In fact my whole adult life has been goal driven.

Now in my mid thirties and with baby number five on the way I am so happy to have been able to carve myself a career whilst managing the work-life balance. Just in the last few weeks our home has been struck with a sickness bug, terrible three week long colds and on Wednesday my three year old son woke up covered head to toe in a horrendous rash which later turned out to be an allergy. Had I still been in the corporate world I dread to think what my boss might have said each day as I requested more and more leave to care for my children!

Zoe Brown, B Websites Ltd

A version of this post originally appeared on the B Websites blog.

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Working for yourself is certainly one way in which to take control of your working hours, be more flexible with childcare arrangements and, more importantly, spend more time with your children when they need you. However, nothing in life is for free: everything has a cost attached. So what is the cost for work at home mums?

The house, the husband/partner/significant other and the children all continue to need you, and make demands on your time, but there is also a ‘New Kid on The Block’ – your business. For that to survive and be successful it also needs as much care and attention as a new-born baby. So when all these demands has been squeezed into a day… well there aren’t many minutes left.

On a personal level, being able to do the school run is a very important and key reason for choosing to work for myself. However, the pay off for that is a shortened working day, which results in working evenings and weekends. This in turn impacts on my relaxation time and time with my husband. So how do you counteract this?

Time management is one of the hottest topics around as we seem to be under pressure to cram more and more into each day. Mums generally are very adept at both multi-tasking and fitting 48 hours worth of tasks and activities into a day. Where the problem may lie is in delegation and prioritising, especially when it comes to ensuring we still have time for ourselves and our partners.

If you start with 24 hours and all the things that have to be fitted in, you will quickly come to the conclusion that cutbacks need to be made. The trick is to ensure that every ‘department’ should take a part in these cutbacks. So rather than the ‘me time’ and ‘us time’ sections being all but eroded, why not look to all areas. Highest on my own list for a cutback is housework, and it doesn’t take me a lot of encouragement to miss the dusting for a week or leave the ironing pile for another day. Likewise, much as I love cooking, there are times when the usual home-cooked-from-scratch meal is replaced by a take away or convenience food, and – surprise surprise – the world doesn’t end!

The majority of mums take the decision to work for themselves because of their children. However if this enables you take and collect your children from school and be with them in the holidays, then you shouldn’t feel guilty if Daddy does bedtime or you spend three hours working at the weekend; they will benefit more from the key times you are there compared to paid employment. Equally it is good to have your partner onside who can help understand that your attention and energy is being drawn in a new direction, but will support you and understands that in the long term this is a solution which will benefit you all.

Most important of all is ‘you’ time. This in my experience is the first to go when working for yourself and takes real strength of character to maintain; you have never ending to-do list, the housework is falling behind and the family are missing your undivided attention. How do you justify time for you, let alone actually find it? Firstly you need to re-train yourself; not an easy job if delegation is not one of your strengths or you are used to being ‘mistress’ of the home. Secondly you need to gradually retrain the rest of the family that Mummy doesn’t do everything, and accept that their way isn’t the wrong way.

And finally, convincing yourself that you deserve that time; you work hard all seven days of the week for the benefit of the family… so even if you only manage a half hour’s peace with a G & T in the bath, you truly need and deserve it. Without you, neither the business nor the family would be so successful. Cheers!

Sam Pearce & Helen Woodham, Mum’s The Boss

A version of this post originally appeared on Mum’s The Blog

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Being a mum can be challenging, being a business woman can be challenging too. Trying to do both at once can be mind-boggling. I fight shy of the term mumpreneur, but if it suits you, then that’s what I am. I run my small business from home and I am also full-time mum to two pre-schoolers.

I always swore I wouldn’t and couldn’t run a business, house and family at once and I was right, something had to give and sadly that was housework! If inspiration strikes but you think circumstances prevent you from acting on it, then ignore your head and go with your heart. Running your own business is a rewarding, fun, busy add-on to family life and just the challenge my poor nappy-brain needed. So a few tips if you fancy joining me on a self-employed mum adventure:

  • Plan, plan and plan some more. Time will be the biggest constraint on your business, so make sure you make the most of every bit of time you have. All of the usual business management tools work well: to-do lists, diary systems, electronic reminders. I’ve always preferred telephone contact to email, but am finding email works better for me now. It’s off your to do list, even if the person at the other end can’t help you there and then.
  • If you are house proud then don’t do it! There are not enough hours in the day to do everything and your business and family should come first. If you can’t sit and work at the kitchen table whilst stoically ignoring the pile of laundry and washing-up then this isn’t for you. Ignore the chores and don’t feel guilty, if you’ve got one get your other half to step up his cleaning contribution.
  • Set targets for the day. Aim to actually complete one task a day, that way you will feel that you are progressing your business plan.
  • Keep special family time. Make sure you set aside time in the day that is just for you and the children, no interruptions. Or you’ll get to the end of the day feeling that you’ve done neither job well.
  • Use TV wisely. DD2 still has a nap but DD1 conveniently gave hers up as I launched the business. We now have quiet time, no TV during the rest of the day (hopefully) but she watches for a chunk in the middle of the day while I crack on. Don’t be worried about using the TV to help, all children watch TV, use it wisely to get the most done.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of social media. It allows you to network quickly and cheaply from home, even if there is chaos all around you. Keep your laptop open and logged on and then you can pop in when you have five minutes.
  • Make time for yourself. You will inevitably do most of your work after their bedtime, but make sure there is time in the week for you to do something for yourself: gym trip, coffee and cake out, stroll around the block, whatever. If you don’t, you risk burn out and then you are no use to anyone.

Good luck to you and I’d love to hear all about your experiences.

Rachael Dunseath runs www.myroo.co.uk handmaking all-natural, luxurious skincare products. She also offers a baby range at www.millyandflossy.co.uk.

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I do love the support and compliments I get from my fellow mums. I am regularly asked: “How do you fit it all in – not just one child, but a baby and then your business?”.

There is no real secret to it. But this is how I manage:

1) Firstly motivation – without motivation, there is no way you will fit it all in. If you are motivated, then things do become much easier. This is what motivates me:

  • For starters, I only do what I love – I frequently refer to my business as a “hobby business” – it is a hobby for me and I enjoy what I do. If I didn’t enjoy it, then there would be little motivation.
  • Personally, I need something other than just the kids. I love my kids to bits, but come on – playing puzzles all day or dealing with another tantrum only gets you so far. Baking cakes is fun, but someone has to eat them all and I really do not want to go up two dress sizes.
  • At work you regularly get feedback – being at home with the kids, you don’t really – you don’t get a project review or an annual review, you don’t get a buzz from a presentation that you’ve done well. Nobody says: “Wow, you did ALL that washing this week!” or “well done for cooking all those meals” or “ten tantrums today? Good on you”. Every time I sell something, it is like getting a little pat on the back – well done me!

2) There is, of course, time management:

  • There is a lot to be said for “do it now” – today I had a choice: nap or write this post. I chose to write the post.
  • Write lists/ diary notes of what needs to get done – always look at the whole list and prioritise – that way you a) don’t forget anything and b) you soon discover what is important. Some things have been on my list for months – I see them and I don’t do them as I have other things to do first.
  • Cause and effect/ timelines. Think ahead. For example, I want my alphabet book done by Christmas so that Red Ted can start reading it before he is three (Feb 2011). Working back it means I need to do xx now and then yy.
  • Routine – this is a very important factor for us. My children know that I need half an hour or so at the computer in the morning, they also both (still) nap at lunchtime – giving me one-two hours of me time. Red Ted is also in nursery one day a week and I dedicate this to Red Ted Art and Pip Squeak (who still naps three times a day), I avoid doing “mummy” things like playdates, as it is work time.
  • Neglect the housework (much to my husbands dismay – tough luck I say!).

3) Set realistic expectations/adapt to the time you have:

  • Now that Pip Squeak is here (she is 3.5 mths old) I have lowered my expectations as to what I can achieve as she needs more cuddles and holding than Red Ted needs at two years old.
    • I have shifted my focus from going out and visiting shops to sell my cards/ paintings for me, to networking online, which you can do when you have five minutes here or there. When Pip Squeak is older, I will shift my focus again to something else.
    • Painting is limited to a little in the evenings (I can’t paint when it is too dark) and the weekends – so I currently sell less.

I was recently asked if I ever sleep – you know what – I do! I sleep more than my peers, almost eight to nine hours a night (with interruptions from the baby, of course) and I do read too – probably one book a week. So the tips above do work. Honest.

The key is probably to find something you love and the rest will follow naturally.

Margarita Woodley, Red Ted Art

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Dear aspiring mumpreneur,

I’m writing this open letter to you to outline some crucial points that I wish someone had laid out for me. I’ll keep it as short as possible because I know your time is precious but I’m sure that if you read this through, you’ll save a ton of time in the long run.

If you are truly serious about becoming a part of the wonderful world of mumpreneurialism, read carefully what I have written below, you’ll gain the information you need to act now and get in the right mindset.

Here are, not necessarily in the best order, my top tips to set you on your way:

  • You don’t need a university education to start a business… but you do need passion. If you have enough passion for what you are about to embark on then your chances of success are already sky high.
  • Market research ― please do your market research before you steam ahead with any product or idea. Just because you think it’s good – doesn’t mean it is and on the flip side, if someone tells you it sucks ― it doesn’t mean that it does. You need to get out there and research your target market, then and only then can you move forward.
  • Do your best to start your business on a shoe string, and then start to invest the revenue you make back in. You won’t turn a ‘profit’ for some time but your business asset will be growing substantially.
  • You have an array of skills at your disposal because you are a resourceful woman but it never hurts to brush up or learn new skills as you go. Unless you are hiring professionals you will need to know about marketing, social media, basic technical skills (if you don’t have a web designer), search engines, advertising, networking, blogging… but before you panic, there are resources out there to make this process painless and you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know the basics and get a little bit of experience and training.
  • Find a mentor or a few people that you admire and have a good connection with. If they are knowledgeable and willing to help you, then grab it with both hands and learn from them. It’s far better to connect, follow and utilise a small number of people rather than hopping from site to site trying to find answers.
  • Be strict with your time – time management is an art and one that you would do well to master. Some of the key areas to running a successful business are self-discipline, focus and managing your time effectively. Procrastination is an entrepreneur’s worst enemy and very common downfall. My best piece of advice here is to get yourself a simple kitchen timer and work in solid chunks of thirty minutes at a time. Within that period you focus on the task at hand – no email, no calls no Twitter (gasp!) or Facebook ― unless of course networking is your thirty minute task.
  • Fail fast – I suggested you do your research and work on some skills but ultimately put something out there, get going, don’t drag your heels waiting for perfection. If your project isn’t going to work then fail fast and move on to the next venture.
  • Set yourself up with a blog – preferably a self-hosted WordPress blog. Start talking about your business with the passion that you have for it. Draw your niche market in to your blog with insightful posts about you, your business, your plans and anything else that will interest THEM.
  • Network and revel in the strong support of the Mumpreneur community that is already out there. You’ll never be judged, you’ll always receive encouragement, opinions, advice and you will have the opportunity to create partnerships and life-long friends. Remember that these Mumpreneurs know exactly the struggles, hopes, fears and aspirations you have, because they have them too. Whilst it’s really important to get your family and friends behind you, the Mumpreneurs you meet online will understand your business goals and any problems you face far better than any of your offline friends. So don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
  • Learn the way of the Web 2.0 world of marketing and build relationships with your customers. Be completely transparent and react quickly to any queries, complaints or mentions of your business. Times have changed and the playing field has been leveled – you have the same social tools to market your business as the big guns, so utilise them well.
  • Suppress your whiny inner voice – the one that tells you you’re useless and makes you doubt every move that you make. Have faith in yourself and believe that you will succeed. If you can get yourself into the right mindset then half your battle is won. Never lose sight of your goals, always tackle everything with a passion and drive that feels like fuel running through you ― if it doesn’t feel like that ― something isn’t right!
  • Finally – be happy! Make time for yourself and your family because without them it will all be for nothing. You will need to work hard, you’ll likely be up to the early hours of the morning day in, day out to make this really work, but the passion you have for it will see you through, the love for your family will keep you going and the time and patience you allow yourself on this journey of discovery will make you feel proud, enlightened and like you’ve scaled the highest mountain.

So there you have it, the open advice that I wish I could have received when I first started out. I hope that it serves you well and that you go on to be truly successful and accomplish all that you set out to achieve. Maybe you could look me up in the Mumpreneur community and let me know how you’re getting on sometime ― I’d love to hear all about it.

So, from one Mumpreneur to another – good luck, stay focused and live each day to the max!

Nikki Backshall, WebMums.com

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