Mums making money

15 Jun

I just changed the headline of this post. I was going to call it “mumpreneurs” but the word is frankly just too schmaltzy for comfort.

It’s the kind of word you’d expect to see stuck to someone’s forehead on a pink post-it note during a brainstorming session run by a Soho marketing consultancy. And that is a world away from the kind of thing I’m thinking about.

Yesterday I met a woman who sold her house to start her business. She couldn’t get a bank loan, didn’t qualify for any of her local council’s start-up schemes and has a young child of her own. Her idea – a cafe with a Fun House type play area (yup, showing my age there) – opened its doors a few weeks ago.

She bought the cafe venue outright and had the play area designed specifically to fit the space.

She has to clear £14000 profit in her first year just to pay the council tax. The hummous sandwich I bought there for my little son cost £2 – that’s a hell of a lot of hummous sandwiches. She may feel she deserved more encouragement from the authorities – but even if she does, she is not daunted by the scale of her challenge.

Her only regret is that her own little boy would rather help mummy in the kitchen than run free in his new soft play kingdom.

Coincidentally yesterday a friend also added me to a new Facebook group of local businesswomen. Oh my God. There are hundreds of them. Selling cakes, offering photography services, painting faces, organising clothing sales – the group is growing by the hour. In the last two days nearly 200 women have joined.

I am astonished and amazed by the way in which these women are turning their lives into their livelihoods. Who said we were no longer a nation of shopkeepers? I have worked for a large employer, for  a number of years, doing the job I always wanted to do.  I’m not sure whether I would have the balls to start out from scratch, on my own, offering something I do for free for my family every single day. What is it worth, in cold hard cash? I have no idea. My family may be duty-bound to eat whatever I rustle up for them in the kitchen, for example, but I’m not sure I could actually charge for it (that may say more about my catering skills than my business nous).

Here in the UK the last three months of maternity leave, if you choose to take it, is unpaid. Having no income of my own has been a humbling experience, to say the least. But while the champagne hasn’t exactly been flowing, I have seen my son begin to wave, point, crawl and say “mama”. If I’m lucky he will take his first steps with me before I return to work full time in August. That for me is payment enough of course – but it’s not going to pay the rent.

To be honest right now, any company that could offer me 10 hours of glorious, uninterrupted sleep could name its price.

Hmm – now there’s an idea.

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11 Responses to “Mums making money”

  1. toby June 15, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    “To be honest right now, any company that could offer me 10 hours of glorious, uninterrupted sleep could name its price.”

    Toddler hotel. Brilliant idea! Drop em off, put em to sleep and there’s someone there to look after them and play with them in the morning until you surface from the luxurious super-king sized bed in a different part of the hotel.

    I’ve been thinking the same for years now. How do I unshackle myself from an employer so that I can choose how to live my life without suddenly going bust and losing my house. It’s tough, and gets harder as we get older as there are more costs and responsibilities that we have to cover as a minimum. A supportive other half means I get to spend most nights hacking code together to try and get something working.

    • almost witty June 15, 2012 at 8:50 am #

      I’d pay for that too! And it’s Father’s Day coming up!

      My little precious one wakes up at 5am some mornings now. Bah.

      • zskdorset June 15, 2012 at 9:18 am #

        us too – damn you BST….

      • toby June 15, 2012 at 11:29 am #

        pretty much 5am for me every morning at the minute 😦

      • KateC June 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

        I owe my sleep to the ‘Gro anywhere’ blackout blind…. Sucker it to any window (within reason!) and hey presto – pretty much complete blackout meaning sleep until at least 7am!

  2. zskdorset June 15, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    It certainly does get tougher – I feel far more risk averse now than i did 10 years ago, and I’ve never been much of a gambler. But I don’t want to suddenly discover that my son is a teenager and I’ve been too busy working to notice (although perhaps I’ll be getting more sleep by then!)

  3. almost witty June 15, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Being an entrepreneur sounds like a great idea, but it comes with a lot of risk, and is a bigger timesink than parenthood.

    My Dad only set up his own business after he found himself with three kids, and had to move to rural Wales to do it while working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in one of the sweatiest, hardest, back-breaking industries one can think of. He worked extremely hard so that my sisters and I could have two VCRs, Commodore Amigas and so that we could go to University. But then I look at the shell of the man he has become – and I wonder sometimes whether it was worth it. I’d sacrifice said VCRs and Amigas now so I could have a coherent conversation with him, especially now I’ve managed to get him what he always wanted – a grandson.

    Which is probably why I’ve actively resisted going solo/freelance/setting up my own business (although I have a few unachieveable ideas) and now instead am in the safe warm bosom of an employer. Though that comes with its own problems.

  4. almost witty June 15, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    It’d also be interesting to ponder on how many of those self-businesses are self-sustaining generating worthwhile revenue, or are they being subsidised by someone else working a regular income?

    • zskdorset June 15, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      my parents set up their own business at around the time i was born. it gave my mum the flexibility to look after my sister and i and do her work around us – but it was exhausting for them both and i don’t remember seeing a great deal of my dad when i was wee. sometimes we had money, sometimes we didn’t – thinking about it now that must have been spine chilling for them but i don’t remember it impacting on us (although now i realise that we didn’t have many holidays abroad etc… but when you’re a kid you don’t think about it)

  5. zskdorset June 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Kate – I have just ordered one! *crosses fingers*

  6. The Coffee Table Years June 20, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    Once you have children, it does almost seem like someone has to have a regular job so that someone else could freelance or become entrepreneurial. Otherwise, how would you pay the bills? Most new businesses don’t pay for years. But I would love to have the guts to do it. I’d much rather support your acquaintance’s cafe than another boring chain. Sadly, most people still go to the chains.
    My friend started her own business after having children, but I don’t how well it is doing.

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