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Raising kids is important enough, and demanding enough, for many women all by itself. Let us be the first – Hi, Mom! – to salute their unparalleled role in nurturing and nudging the next generation into a state of responsibility and respectability. But many mothers also harbor an urge to start a business and nurture it right along with their children.
It’s a daunting mission, but the nation’s many thousands of entrepreneur moms (“mompreneurs”) show it can be done.
For actual and hopeful mom entrepreneurs, here’s some advice that we’ve particularly tailored to their needs, as well as information and resources that will help them achieve their small business and motherhood goals:
Apply what you know
The best businesses can spring from what the entrepreneur is most familiar with or passionate about. That applies to moms, who have the special advantage of being attuned to kids’ needs and desires. So examine your daily life as a caregiver as well as a consumer for startup ideas and opportunities, and you’ll probably find more than one. Brenda Dronkers, for example, was a freelance marketing consultant in Pleasanton, Calif., when she noticed a few years ago what a great time her three children were having with simple inflatable toys at a church social. Thus was born Pump It Up, which has become the nation’s largest franchisor of giant, portable, inflatable playgrounds.
Another great story of mom entrepreneurs inventing something based on their daily child-rearing experiences is that of Karla Scanlan and Karen Kuhn, sisters and inventors of the NoThrow baby bottle tether. They dreamed the invention up when their children kept throwing their bottles and sipping cups out of their strollers and car seats.
Start with the basics
Whether you want to start a service- or product-oriented company, you can follow the same tried-and-true path to success that any entrepreneur does by using our 10 Steps to Open for Business. Beyond that, a few other things are basic if you want to work from home, notes Missy Cohen-Fyffe, a mompreneur who has started one of each. Check with your local government to determine whether you need a permit or license to work legally from your residence, advises Cohen-Fyffe, who lives in Pelham, N.H. Also, says Cohen-Fyffe, make sure your home has a room or area that can be used exclusively for your small business – and can be separated by a door from the rest of the house.
Lesley Spencer, founder and president of Home Based Working Moms Inc., also has a basic laundry list of the essentials for starting a home-based business. They include a website, business cards and high-speed internet access.
Make organization paramount
Many mom entrepreneurs say that being and staying organized is the most crucial thing they do to succeed in both worlds. “I literally carry my organizer around with me everywhere, plotting and planning my family’s and my company’s every move,” says Irene Tamaras, whose company, Dynamic Pain Relief, provides products and information for management of chronic pain. “I write down everything and analyze everything that must be done so as to best maximize the time I have for work and family."
Create your own support network
Create a “dream team” or “mastermind group,” advises Michelle Neujahr, author of Hey Girlfriend! Live Passionately Real, a motivational book for women, and a management consultant based in Yarmouth, Maine. This involves finding two or three other women who own businesses or want to own businesses, and creating a group. “The purpose is to strategize for each person, hold one another accountable, and share the ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” Neujahr says. “By having the support of other women who have done it or are on the same path, women are empowered to take the steps needed to live their dream.”
Another great way to get support from mom entrepreneurs all around the country, and to learn more about how they’re handling things such as work-life balance and marketing their businesses, is to visit groups such as Work It, Mom!, MOMtrepreneurs, Bizymoms.com, Mompreneurs Online, and Ladies Who Launch.
Our Bottom Line
Mom entrepreneurs have unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to starting a business. Information and advice aimed at helping them get started are springing up like mushrooms, but our core advice for entrepreneur moms is this: look for business ideas in your everyday surroundings; use our 10 Steps to Open for Business to help you with the startup basics; maintain an organized work-life balance; and tap into a support network of fellow mom entrepreneurs.
Are you a Mom Entrepreneur? Check out StartupNation’s Leading Moms in Business 2009 Competition!