09/05/2006 - 22:00

Mumpreneurs strike balance

09/05/2006 - 22:00

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For some professional women in Perth, motherhood has been the catalyst for them to start their own businesses.

Mumpreneurs strike balance

Finding a role that combines career opportunities and flexibility has long been a challenge for women seeking to re-enter the workforce after starting a family.

The hours, demands and expectations in the corporate workplace are often too rigid for those who have to nurse a sick child or keep a whole family together, let alone attend the occasional  jimbaroo class.

Increasingly, women are using the skills they learned before motherhood to start their own business ventures, establishing a new life that better suits their new needs.

Furthermore, many of the examples uncovered by WA Business News combined both the principals’ corporate acumen with recently acquired parental knowledge, gener-ating a range of new businesses in fields as diverse as children’s clothing to online parenting advice.

The outcome, they say, is the double bonus of having greater control over their lives and more time to enjoy their children and families.

And by establishing their own businesses, these women are also distancing themselves from the constraints associated with the ‘glass ceiling’. Instead of feeling their decision to have children had put their career on hold, they are retaking control of their working lives by starting from scratch.

They are the mumpreneurs.

Public relations consultant and new mother Kellie Croxon went to a family wedding in Bolivia, central South America, over a year ago and left shortly after for Buenos Aires, Argentina, to escape civil unrest.

It was here that Ms Croxon recognised the potential of a successful children’s wear label called Gimos, and wasted no time in bringing the range back to Australia.

Together with corporate affairs executive Tanya Hudson, Ms Croxon has launched Gimos aussie, selling the unique pieces online while juggling two children each and another on the way for Ms Croxon.

“Our business model is focused on internet sales and our plan is to penetrate regional markets, particularly those isolated small towns that don’t necessarily have the same choices as people in the city,” she told WA Business News.

“The business allows us great flexibility to be with our kids and when we must be hands-on at times, our parents are very supportive.”

Edith Cowan University Small and Medium Enterprise Research Centre director Beth Walker believes many women struggle to balance a traditional corporate career with motherhood, often finding the combination too hard.

“Starting a business can be a reactionary decision after finding out that balancing the corporate world and motherhood is just too hard,” she said. “It may not be their preferred choice to start a business but it’s something they can do rather than something they desperately want to do.”

Ms Walker said women were using their newfound skills in motherhood to go into businesses they understood while drawing on existing skills.

“Women more often go into a business that they have some background in and are more likely to succeed in new business than men because they do their homework and take more advice to begin with,” she said.

Already a recognised entrepreneur, ineedhits.com co-founder Rachel Cook has started a parenting website, minti.com, which allows her extra time with her son, Cody.

Ms Cook recently resigned as a director at ineedhits.com to focus more on her son and new business.

“I felt like I was doing it 24 hours a day and being a mum actually felt like a break. Now I’m giving so much back to the family and have a bigger role in their lives,” she said.

The idea for minti.com came when Ms Cook was unable to find suitably detailed advice about parenting online.

“I experienced the normal worries and fears of a first-time parent and wanted to know about children’s issues, but the answers I found just touched the surface. I wanted something deeper,” she said.

Ms Cook’s husband and ineedhits.com co-founder, Clay, now works full-time in the minti.com business as chief executive while she works at her own pace, researching the online parenting space, monitoring the user experience of the site and contributing her own advice to other parents.

“It’s quite helpful being a mum as every day I’m learning more about parenting, which helps me become a better mum and a web entrepreneur,” Ms Cook said.

Curtin Business School Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit director Tim Atterton said women were starting their own businesses because of the potential to control their working day and to escape the prejudices of male dominated networks. 

“The percentage of businesses run exclusively by women is increasing, while a higher percentage of women run their businesses in a team,” he said.

Mr Atterton said many women had a predisposition to success in this field.

“I believe women run better businesses than men because they have the patience to see a business experience incremental growth and will build the business based on their experience.”

Former pharmacist and WA Business News 40under40 winner, Anastasia Brotherson, and her sisters, Tara Fowlers and Sian Kelly, started Aura Pregnant Sexy Motherwear in 2004 after feeling frustrated at the lack of fashionable clothes available to mothers.

The trio has built a successful retail store in Subiaco and Ms Brotherson finds herself working as little as 20 hours a week compared with the long hours she worked as a pharmacist.

“The store is going well as we’ve increased our gross profits by keeping costs down,” Ms Brotherson said. “We stay realistic and know that we have limitations; we can’t make massive business commitments because of our responsibility to our families.”

Of course, all this sounds great in theory, but many new mothers still struggle to bring their old corporate lives and new roles as mothers together.

This has prompted Deborah Pitter to launch her new venture, Icon Business Solutions, a consultancy aiming to help new parents strike a work-life balance.

Ms Pitter said she struggled to find a balance because her former consulting practice was totally based around her and, after having two children in quick succession, she realised the “grind of the corporate world” was not for her.

Ms Pitter now passes on the lessons she has learned as a businesswoman and mother to others, helping them put business systems in place.

“Besides travelling for training, I usually work about 25 hours a week now and spend most of my time with the kids. I can’t miss out on jimbaroo,” Ms Pitter said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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