Moms Choose Flexibility Despite Difficulty

Managing a business and a family makes for a full plate, but the winners of the 2009 Leading Moms in Business competition wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Being an entrepreneur and a mom is a lot to manage, but these women wouldn’t have it any other way.

Virtually every winner in the 2009 StartupNation Leading Moms in Business competition started a business to live out the dream of working for herself and turning her passion into a business. But the reality is that being an entrepreneur isn’t always a walk in the park; the title comes with things like working long hours and days, taking out a second mortgage on your home, turning your guest bedroom into a makeshift office and more.

On the flipside, it’s those same factors about going into business for yourself that entrepreneurs love. Sure, you may have long days, but you get to work your long hours for own benefit instead of someone else’s; you’re the one who decides how money is spent; and working out of the home saves you a commute and keeps you closer to your family. This flexibility is a big reason entrepreneurship appeals to moms. Whether they run the household, bring home the bacon or both, running a business puts more control in their hands.

What Matters Most

For Lori Titus, the flexibility of her part-time venture meant she could still work a full-time job, too. She worked in the forensics field for 10 years, running her honey and beeswax products company, The Bee Folks (ranked No. 75), on the side. But, she says, “I always knew that when the day came, I could quit my day job, stay home, raise kids and sell honey for income.” And the real test came sooner than expected, when her husband suffered a severe stroke while she was pregnant. Titus became not only the sole breadwinner for the family, but also the primary caregiver for her recovering husband and newborn. Although she was able to get by in the beginning, maintaining her hives and selling her honey in her spare time, she knew something had to change.

Following an especially bad week at work, “I remember wondering if I could make the business pay the expenses,” recallsTitus, 39. “I had an hour [commute], my boss hated me, my husband was recovering and my daughter was not yet one year old. My final decision was that life was too short, and that family mattered most.” She quit her job and pledged to put her time and energy into her family and business. “I knew I had made the right decision when, that day, I made a $1,000 sale just by being available to answer the phone,” she adds. “A bit later I watched as my daughter took her first steps. I would have missed both of these if I hadn’t chosen to work for myself.”

Backyard Business

Family was a primary reason No. 39-ranked Olive Kids Direct co-founder Anita Oliveira chose entrepreneurship, too. As a mother of three, she wanted to be a part of her children’s lives and pursue her passion in fashion and design. “As most moms will [agree], the first priority is always your kids,” says Oliveira, 50. “To be able to build a business that allows me to be with my kids has been an incredible blessing—but also a real challenge. We realized there needed to be some separation between home and work.” Fortunately, running their own business allowed her and her co-founder husband to do it out of their home—and they just so happened to have a large, vacant barn on their property in Marlborough, New Hampshire. So, they renovated the 150-year-old structure and built a studio, where they now design all Olive Kids bedding, furnishings and room décor. Working in the barn-turned-studio gives them the flexibility to work from “home” and be available for their kids, while still having a place to focus on their company on their own terms.

Bee-keeper Titus created a similar setup at her home in Mount Airy, Maryland. She and her family live in a rural area on two acres that house the hives, a garage and office near the house, and a storage facility. “By working from home, I can arrange my work schedule around my family without compromising the business,” she explains, adding that it saves her gas and time from commuting and allows her to watch her daughter and newborn triplets grow. “I can incorporate household management into my business management. There are times when it’s not ideal, but with the family circumstances being what they are, I cannot imagine how we’d cope if I still had to travel an hour [each way] to work.”

Titus admits the flexibility to choose her own hours leaves her working longer days, “but I feel more fulfilled,” she says. And to help with the workload, in addition to her two full-time employees and seasonal staff, she brought on family members mom—who makes the candles—and her dad, who manages the organization.  “The joke around here is that I’m creating my own workforce, my own hive, so to speak,” she says. “It has been two and a half years since I chose to quit. Money is tighter, our lifestyle has changed, but I’m happier. And we’re still paying the bills.” If Titus has her own hive, we think it’s apt to refer to her as “queen bee.”

Any entrepreneur will tell you that starting and running a business is a lot of work. It can require long hours, test relationships and require lots of creative financing. But on the other hand, entrepreneurship offers business on your own terms. The flexibility can mean more time with family, more money saved, less time commuting and more. And for most moms, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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