Mums making it work

Mumpreneurs Tara O'Connell of New Lambton and Danielle Proctor of Williamtown networking. Picture by Max Mason-Hubers
Mumpreneurs Tara O'Connell of New Lambton and Danielle Proctor of Williamtown networking. Picture by Max Mason-Hubers

HUNTER women are joining a rapidly growing cohort of working mothers who are creating a new model for ‘‘having it all’’.

The word mumpreneur – a woman who combines running a business enterprise with looking after her children – was officially recognised by the Collins Dictionary in 2011.

Three Hunter-based ‘‘mumpreneurs’’ have been featured in a new book that seeks to highlight the contribution these home-based businesses make to the economy and inspire other entrepreneurial women.

In the book, How to create your own successful and profitable business from Home, compiled by network group Ausmumpreneur, Simone Cadell, Danielle Proctor and Tara O’Connell share their advice for running a business and creating life balance.

‘‘I think a mumpreneur is someone who understands that being a mum comes first and being able to work around your family is a priority,’’ says Ms Cadell, who opened her first Tiny Tutus dance studio when she was 32weeks pregnant with her second child.

 ‘‘It’s different from being a working mum, different from being a woman in business or a business owner,’’ the Wallsend Public School assistant principal says.

While Tiny Tutus started as a purely home-based enterprise it has grown into a national affair with dance groups Australia wide.

For The Baby Diaries co-founder and director Tara O’Connell, being a mumpreneur is a different way at looking at work – and the working day.

‘‘You can actually live your life by your values, rather than by the company that you work for’s values,” Ms O’Connell, a former chief executive officer says. ‘‘We don’t work nine to five. We stop in the middle of the day to go to school events; we drop off and pick up our kids from school.

‘‘I’ve got more balance in my life now than I’ve ever had – even if I work nights and weekends.’’

The Ausmumpreneur group – one of several network groups for mum entrepreneurs to emerge – was started by two sisters who couldn’t find the support they were looking for at either the playgroup mums groups or women’s business groups.

From 1000 members in 2009, the Australia-wide organisation has a network group of 36,000 mothers who are all running a business from home.

The Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry found the number of women who run their own businesses doubled between 2007 and 2012.

And Bank West senior analyst Tim Crawford said in 2012 the growth in the number of women running small business – also reflected in Bureau of Statistics data – was particularly strong among groups who worked part-time at first while raising children.

This year the number of nominations for the Ausmumpreneur awards jumped from 200 to 1000, including  ‘‘a great increase’’ in the number of nominees from the Hunter region, says Ausmumpreneur co-founder Peace Mitchell.

Sponsorship from the big banks showed  ‘‘big brands are now recognising the significance of home-based businesses,” Ms Mitchell says.

Small Biz Connect Advisor for Creative Industries in Newcastle Christina Gerakiteys is also noticing an increase in mothers starting their own business.

 ‘‘There is definitely an increasing number who are starting or working their businesses around their young children – day care hours, school hours,’’ Ms Gerakiteys says.

Despite the increase, the “mumpreneur” tag is still derisive.

‘‘I think the word mum in it makes some people think maybe they knit and sell their knitting down at the local market,’’ Ms O’Connell laughs. “It’s not like that at all ... some of the women in this group are internationally extremely successful with six or seven-figure businesses.”  

Danielle Proctor, who worked in HR and co-ran a crane business with her husband, agreed.

 ‘‘Regardless if you’re a mum or dad, a female or male, have children or not, you still need the skills and attributes and experience to be able to be successful,” Ms Proctor says. Her own business, The Rocky Road House, grew out of a fruitless search for allergy-safe products for a daughter, who at one stage had 26allergies and eczema covering 70per cent of her body.

‘‘I searched the supermarket shelves to try to find allergy-free products for her,” Ms Proctor, who then decided to manufacture her own, says.

“If I can help other kids live a normal life and enjoy that sweet treat occasionally, I’d be happy,” she says. 

Creating or sourcing a product they have a need of, and can’t find, is the number one reason mumpreneur businesses start. 

Lack of availability, or cost of childcare, desire to stay at home with children or lack of family friendly options in traditional workplaces are also fuelling the movement.

‘‘I’m trying to think of one mumpreneur that I know who didn’t start her business as a result of a need identified as a mum,” Ms O’Connell says.

The idea for her own product, an app for documenting and storing all the details to do with a baby’s eating, sleeping and toileting routines, came when she was waiting in emergency with then 11-week-old Alexander.

‘‘The nurses were asking how many wet nappies he had had in the last 24 hours,’’ Ms O’Connell says.

 ‘‘I didn’t know the answer to that ... I turned to my sister and said surely there’s an app for this.”

Ms O’Connell believes the internet has opened up the potential for a generation of entrepreneurial women to run businesses from home.

“We are the first generation who have tried to have absolutely all of it. .. families and partners and careers and travel and time for ourselves,” she says.

“But you can’t do absolutely everything unless you change the model slightly.”

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