Sleepless nights, crying babies and dirty nappies may not seem the best circumstances in which to start up a business, but for many new mums, becoming their own boss is the best way of juggling work and motherhood.
Alison Hopkins, managing director of the small business division of Barclays Bank says, ‘It’s actually more common for women who own small businesses to have children than not.’
Working from home and starting a new business allows many women to work flexible hours, pick their child up from nursery and have an income. ‘Being a mum of two young children I know how difficult it is to juggle a career and motherhood,’ says Alison. ‘Many women choose to work from home and become their own boss to make life a bit easier.
But Alison warns, ‘Starting a business isn’t easy so don’t underestimate the time, support and money you will need. And don’t be frightened to ask for help, both with the business and your children.’
These mums bit the bullet and started some home businesses.
‘I didn’t like being away from my son’
Nicola Morrow, 31, hated going back to work after the birth of her son, Sam, now 2. So she set up www.Mumstuff.co.uk, a website selling useful and unusual products for pregnant and new mums.
‘I had to return to work after maternity leave but I really didn’t want to. I worked as a secretary for the Open University and even though Sam was in the nursery at work, I didn’t like being away from him.
‘When I was pregnant I used to get quite frustrated at the lack of products for mums-to-be. All the pregnancy and baby websites focused on baby product and gifts. It was from this that my idea of a website selling products solely for pregnant women and mums grew. My husband and I spent Christmas 2004 choosing a domain name and researching the market and, three months later, on 6 March, the site was launched.
‘I found the Business Link website (www.businesslink.gov.uk) very helpful and got advice from my dad, who owns his own website. There’s a lot to grasp with the VAT, tax, and finances but an accountant helps me to stay on top of it.
‘Sam goes to a nursery two mornings a week, which works really well. It gives me time to make calls and get on with things without having to worry about what he’s doing. It can be difficult having him at home and running the business, especially if he’s in a clingy mood. But at other times he can be really helpful and we package up goods and put labels on them together.
‘I spend some evenings on the computer dealing with orders and emailing clients when I should probably be spending some time with my husband. But, at the end of the day, I’m at home with my family more than if I was still working in my old office job.’
‘I’m there for my family and independent, too’
Michelle Sims, 46, lives in Thames Ditton with her husband Stuart, 49, and her children, Jess, 17, and Emilie, 11. She set up a catering business, www.enjoycatering.co.uk, with a friend seven years ago. ‘It was when Emilie was 3 and at nursery that I decided to start a catering business, supplying food for dinner parties, with a friend who also has young children. Neither of us wanted to work full time but we love cooking and needed an income. The business has been a huge success.
‘I split with my business partner in October 2004 and have been working on my own since then. I have complete control and can pick and choose which catering jobs I do and when I want to do them.
‘Financially, I needed to work when the children were very little and I still do. But if you work every hour God sends, your children start to resent you. I worked for British Airways for 19 years so I am used to working full-time. While I loved being with the children, I also got bored when they were at nursery or school – there’s only one so much cleaning you can do.
‘Working from home and choosing what I do means I’m around for my family but still have some independence. After Emilie was born I went back to work for BA and had a nanny when I was flying. But I really wanted to be a hands-on mum and that’s difficult when you’re working long hours away from home.
‘When my partner and I first thought about starting the business we went to a business centre in Twickenham to get advice. Much of what we were told was just common sense but it still helps speaking to experts and sharing your thoughts.
‘My main piece of advice for other mums who want to start their own business is to research their market and choose something they have an interest in.’