Tips for mumtrepreneurs
Although widely-used in places like the United Kingdom and the United States, the terms ‘mumtrepreneur’ and ‘mumpreneur’ are not yet commonly-used in Africa. They are derived from the words ‘mum’ and ‘entrepreneur’ and therefore refer to a woman who combines running a business enterprise and looking after her family. Interestingly, there are many women in Africa who have opted for this kind of business and are simply unaware of the terminology.
Working from home is a worthwhile option for mothers to consider. You don’t have to get stuck in traffic every morning and afternoon. There are no marathon meetings to suffer through or office politics to deal with. You stand a better chance of striking a balance between earning a living and taking care of your family. In fact, most home-based businesses, particularly those owned by mothers, start off as an attempt to optimise the work-home balance.
Golda Meir, puts it like this: “At work you think of the children you have left at home. At home, you think of the work you’ve left unfinished.”
Many mothers are successful career women, expert multi-taskers and outstanding time-optimisers. When they put all these strengths into their own businesses, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.
A mother-owned business, like any other, can be as big or as small as the owner wants it to be. The list of mumtrepreneurs who have built up global companies includes formidable businesswomen such as the late Dame Anita Roddick, who started the hugely-successful ethical cosmetics business Body Shop and Natalie Ellis who started the well-known pet product brand Prestige Pets.
Whether you decide to go big or small, it is important to take your business seriously, otherwise no one else will. Here are a few basic tips:
- Hold a family conference and brief all affected parties about your plans and how you would like them to contribute to your success. In some cases, this involves requests for start-up money, but this briefing is primarily about making sure that everyone understands you are starting a business. Contrary to popular belief, working from home does not mean that you sit and watch TV all day and it certainly does not mean you are available to run all household chores or take unnecessarily long personal calls. Avoid personal calls during the office hours that you have set for yourself and text friends and family back to let them know that you will speak to them after hours.
- Balance the time spent nurturing the business and time spent nurturing the family. It is quite common in the beginning to find that by 5pm in the afternoon, you are not quite sure what you’ve achieved for the day. What works for most people is to work intensely for certain periods of time then take a break instead of multi-tasking and mixing up business and house work. Draw the line.
- Capitalise on your existing strengths. You’ll probably learn new skills along the way, but you’ll see positive results far quicker if you focus on the things you are already good at.
- Turn your business idea into a proper business plan. Make sure your plan is inspiring as you will need tons more inspiration as a mumtrepreneur than you did as an employee.
- Get the business essentials done. This would include things such as registering your company (there are institutions that will not do business with a company that is not registered), getting the kind of insurance that your business will need and drawing up a budget.
- Set up a workspace. Choose a space in your home that can be declared a family-free zone, so that everyone knows that when you go into that designated space you may not be disturbed.
- Set up a business support system. Such a support system would include people in your network who possess the resources you need for your business. Make sure one of them is a good accountant.
- Decide how you are going to market your business. Social networks provide brilliant opportunities for mumtrepreneurs to make sure their businesses are not isolated. This kind of business, perhaps more than any other, thrives on working collaboratively and within a mutually-supportive network. When you are in formal employment, there is a built-in social circle. When you are on your own, you need to actively create a network that will keep you energised and inspired.
- Depending on the nature of your business, there might be times when you do not wish to have meetings with clients or business associates in your home-based office. Many people then tend to host such meetings at coffee shops. While this is a pleasant option, you also run the risk of being distracted. If it happens more than once or twice a week, it might also be quite costly and you might end up consuming too much food and caffeine. It is therefore worthwhile to consider renting a co-working space such as Open in Johannesburg or The Office in Cape Town. The rent is affordable and the environment is conducive to effective interactions.
The writer – Manana Makhanya – is a mumtrepreneur who decided to leave a senior government position to start her own home-based business when her youngest child was born with congenital glaucoma. Mumtrepreneurship has enabled her to generate an income, while having the flexibility to give her child the special care that she requires.