In the Merriam-Webster dictionary the second definition for the word mother reads: “one that has produced or nurtured something.” While obviously not the number-one or most widely recognized definition for the term, it is entirely appropriate when you consider the intense compassion of some of the mothers in the 2010 Leading Moms in Business contest. This nurturing quality runs deep in a significant number of mom entrepreneurs among our winners who have not only launched businesses, but also set their sights on a greater cause.
Whether through business plans with the less fortunate in mind, products that improve the lives of others or partnerships with fundraisers and nonprofits, many of these mom entrepreneurs are motivated by a mission to make a difference more so than to make a profit. This is corroborated by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute’s index that monitors the differences between men and women in business. Results from 25,000 respondents clearly show that women devote themselves more intensely to all things community than their male counterparts.
“Being a mom translates to giving,” says Dee Dee Fanning, nearly reciting the dictionary definition. “And making a difference and operating on a greater mission is what mom entrepreneurs are all about.” The founder of Letz Talk Inc. (ranked No. 43) launched her Springfield, Illinois, business last year in the hopes of building greater communication between children and adults. The company’s line of CareMail products, which were inspired by Fanning’s relationships with her three children and involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters, was created to boost children’s self-esteem and help them build meaningful connections.
Although mom entrepreneur Carol Tuttle’s business targets women, she, too, operates with the greater good in mind. Her business, Dressing Your Truth (ranked No. 11), grew out of the notion that women today are constantly “affected by their insecurities of looking and feeling beautiful,” she explains. With a background in alternative psychotherapy and her own experiences dealing with self-esteem issues, Tuttle built a brand that helps women become their own beauty experts through her book Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile, online courses, video tutorials and do-it-yourself makeover kits.
Entrepreneur Henry Ford once said: “To do more for the world than the world does for you—that is success.” But just how do you measure success when it doesn’t equate to profits? These mom entrepreneurs look at it quantitatively as the number of lives changed, or qualitatively as the gratification they feel knowing they’re making a difference.
“I have developed into the person I am from those who decided to make a difference in my life,” explains Fanning, 48. “I know that my purpose in life is to give back and make a difference, so how better to do that than change the lives of millions of children?”
Since launching her Draper, Utah, business in 2003, Tuttle has garnered 50,000 subscribers to her online newsletter; in the year since taking the Dressing Your Truth program online, more than 2,000 women have joined; and she has 20,000 monthly visitors to her blog. “We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of testimonials,” says the mom entrepreneur. “It went from a one-woman show with the passion of making a difference to this.”
More than profits
While these mom entrepreneurs are clearly doing great things with their businesses, one may wonder why they didn’t simply start nonprofits if they’re concerned more about the mission than making money. For Julie Kenney it was about marrying two things she was passionate about: entrepreneurship and charity work. Charitable fund-raising through her Pleasanton, California, for-profit business was part of the plan from the get-go. Since starting Jewels and Pinstripes (ranked No. 9), a company that creates gift bags for high-profile, celebrity and charity events, in 2004, the 39-year-old has raised more than $300,000 for different children’s charities, including the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Kids Against Hunger and the Care to Learn Foundation.
“I believe giving back should be a vital part of any successful business,” Kenney says, referencing the nurturing quality of mothers as to why this business aspect is more prominent among mom entrepreneurs.
In addition, as any economical person knows, it’s hard to do much of anything without some sort of funds. Even nonprofits need to have money coming in to accomplish the milestones they do. “You can get very passionate about wanting to make a difference, but it still has to be treated as a business,” points out Tuttle, 50. “I try to remember if I don’t stay in the black and am not profitable, I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing. If you overextend yourself, you won’t be able to make any difference.”
The mom entrepreneur makes a good point: “If it’s a business with the goal of making a difference, the more money you make, the more lives you change.”