Once you have children, one of the hardest dilemmas you face is how to balance work and family life. You have to make things financially viable, spend time with your children, while keeping hold of your own sanity at the same time. Women have been repeatedly told that they can have it all but often the reality doesn’t quite stack up. It’s not easy to give your all to both your career and your children without feeling like you lose something of yourself along the way. One of the ways a growing number of mums reconcile the demands of work and family is to shun the traditional 9-5 and start up their own business. Is being your own boss the solution to finding this work-life balance? And does it make enough to pay the bills? One thing’s for sure, lots of mums are taking the plunge to find out.
Sisters are doing it for themselves
The number of mums starting up their own businesses or becoming self-employed to do freelance work has more than doubled since the millennium. According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of women registering as part-time and self-employed rose from 439,000 up to 812,000 between the years 2001 and 2016.
More and more mums are becoming frustrated by trying to find an employer who offers flexible work that fits in with family life. They are increasingly fed up about the soaring costs of childcare and about missing out on so many important moments of their child’s life. Mums are tired of wasting time commuting or being too scared to ask for yet another day off because their child is poorly or to watch their child star in their nativity play. So they are taking the brave leap to go it alone and be their own boss.
We spoke to three inspiring mums who chose to go it alone and have never looked back.
Let the business be-gin
Inger Russon is a mum of three and when she’s not looking after the kids she can often be found surrounded by bottles of gin. And it’s her children who drove her to the bottle. Just not in the way you might imagine. Inger is actually the co-founder of The Curious Gin Company, based in North Yorkshire. They organise gin-tasting parties and events.
With three children under 5 Inger found the practicalities of a 9-5 job almost impossible. She said,
I would hardly have seen the kids and the cost of childcare would have made it hardly worth my while for the amount I was sacrificing.
She decided to tap into the growing trend for designer gins and use her existing skills as an event manager to launch her own business. Inger says that the flexibility of being her own boss is priceless:
I can get the kids ready and take them to nursery/school and then have time to plan and organise events. Many of the events we run take place in the evenings when the children are tucked up in bed. It’s great too as I can take on more work in term times and still carve our enough time in the school holidays. It really is the best of both worlds.
Making work pay
The Curious Gin Company is relatively new but is already reaping financial rewards. Inger told us:
My kids are still little and I very much work round family life. Once they are older then the scope to grow the business is definitely there. It does bring in enough money to make a difference and right now I feel I’ve got the balance right. Of course, being able to taste so many delicious gins is a definite perk of the job too!
Dancing the path to success
Caroline Brockbank’s love of Scottish country dancing inspired her to start her own business, Ceilidh Kids.
Caroline didn’t set out to start up her own business. She originally set out to teach pre-schoolers simple ceilidh dances (Scottish country dancing) for a 6-week block, taking her own two young children along with her to the classes. The classes were so popular and such a success that she decided to carry on. Over ten years later she now runs a successful small business, teaching classes to preschool children, in schools, hosting children’s parties and even running workshops in the Edinburgh Festival.
Fitting in business around family life
One of the best things about running Ceilidh Kids is that Caroline has been able to fit it in around bringing up her own two children. When they were little they came along with her to join in the classes, bypassing any need for a babysitter. When they grew older she was able to shape her working week around the needs of her children. She told us:
I can avoid taking bookings at times I need to be around for family stuff. For example when my children were wee I made sure I was always free at school pick-up times and in the school holidays.
Things are not always plain sailing, especially when a child’s illness or a family emergency throws a spanner in the works. Caroline says:
It’s trickier when family crises happen at short notice. These days the kids can be left home alone if they’re ill or if their dad needs to be somewhere unexpectedly, but that wasn’t always the case.
It’s not all plain sailing, but it’s worth it
It’s not always easy though and being self-employed does have its downsides. She lists them as:
the lack of sick leave, sick pay, compassionate leave etc. If I have agreed to something I have to do it, no matter what; I don’t have the option to just not turn up. Plus I have to do my own accounts and tax return, and I’m terrible at figures. It can be quite lonely at times because although I see lots of people, they’re clients, not colleagues. But I LOVE my job and wouldn’t change it for anything.
The pawfect business
Imagine if your day was spent not trapped in an office but walking in the beautiful countryside with some gorgeous four legged friends for company. This is daily life for Holly Burnett, a mum of two from Fife, who turned her love of dogs into her own business. She works as a professional dog walker and after the school run she picks up a number of pooches and takes them out for a roam up the hill. At weekends she provides doggy day care and overnight boarding to boost her business more. While this is work, again, it blends brilliantly with family life. She told us:
I feel so lucky that I have a job that works so well with being a mum. I can work my hours round the school day and even if I look after dogs in the school holidays they just join in with whatever family activities we are doing. I’ve taken dogs that I’m looking after to watch school sport’s days and two even joined us on a family holiday.
Building up the business
Holly did worry in the beginning about whether she could make her dog walking business pay enough to be able to do it as a long term business but has found that there is no shortage of people who want their dogs to be walked or looked after by someone they know and trust. She says:
My business grew by word of mouth and I have never been short of work. I can only walk a small group of dogs to make sure they are all happy and safe so there is a natural limit as to how much work I can do and how much I can earn but it is enough for me and I can honestly say that I love my job. The only time I ever grumble is when it is freezing cold and rainy in the Scottish winters. Even then, I am still happy that I am out in the beautiful countryside and not stuck in an office.
Inspired? Could you take the leap too?
All the mums we interviewed started with an idea or a passion and grew their businesses from there. Are you creative? If you are then you can turn your hobby into a business. Do you have a passion? Maybe you can create a business out of it. Do you have skills from a previous job? Maybe you can use them to shape your own business. The possibilities are endless. What you need is a clear idea, a lot of determination and then a little bit of bravery to take the leap. If you do you might never look back.
Feeling a bit nervous? Try a franchise
An easy route into setting up your own small business is to join a franchise. It’s a way of setting up on your own but also having a hand to hold as you receive support and training along the way. All require an initial outlay of funds and so this is something to consider but many have found that the more you put into your franchise work the greater the rewards. There are so many franchises looking for mums who want to set up their own small business. Everything from selling books, to running baby or toddler activity classes, from direct selling products to cleaning houses. Look around for something that might suit you. The good thing about franchises is that you get access to tried and tested strategies and techniques and often a connection to a community of other franchises. This means you can ask questions and brainstorm ways to grow and develop your business.
Is setting up your own business the way forward for mums?
It’s the ultimate way to get flexibility and freedom to find the perfect balance between work and family. Not every mum who sets up her own business will be an overnight success but if you have a great idea and are prepared to put in a lot of hard work then it’s a very real option for mums.
We want to support mums in business so do join us over on our social media pages and say hello.
For helpful tips for mums working from home see our article 15 productivity hacks for working from home.