Love it or hate it, the word “mumpreneur” has become a buzzword over the last couple of years. The “mum economy” is predicted to be worth £9.5 billion in the UK by 2025, and women currently launch more than half of the UK’s new businesses. One in ten mums who return to work after maternity leave now choose to become self-employed. So why has motherhood become such a catalyst for entrepreneurship?
The motherhood penalty
For most mothers, the entire system of work is broken. In the UK, having a baby explains up to 44% of the gender pay gap, with women’s salaries not catching up to their male counterparts 10 years after giving birth. A fifth of parents have been forced to quit their jobs, and 62% have had to reduce their hours, due to the cost of childcare.
Furthermore, a staggering 54,000 women lose their jobs in the UK every year after having a baby. Those that do keep their jobs face high levels of discrimination and harassment.
One study in the retail sector revealed that managers believe that women returning to work after a baby are less ambitious than their colleagues – even though mothers have no less drive, ambition and desire to progress than anyone else.
Faced with these circumstances, it’s no wonder that mothers are escaping toxic employment environments to become their own bosses, or having to become self-employed out of necessity.
Discovering a need
On the positive side, sometimes having a baby can give you the spark of inspiration to start a new business. The journey of pregnancy, birth and child-raising can be a real eye-opener to many women. When you’re struggling with a particular problem or looking for a certain product, you have your moment of “why doesn’t this thing exist?!”
Then you build it.
Brands like Mush, Sunuva and Buddy Pockets were all conceived by mothers who were looking for something that wasn’t available, so they made it themselves.
Self-employment is a much better fit for a mother’s lifestyle than the traditional workplace. Being able to set your own hours, work at your own pace and take time off whenever you need to is ideal when you have children who might not sleep through the night or might need picking up from school at a moment’s notice. Especially when your children are little, being able to work around them and align your schedule with theirs is invaluable.
For me, I have been able to make the same money that I would have made working full time in employment by working just three days a week for myself. I work 10am to 4pm so that I can spend the morning and evening with my daughter, and then I get two full days each week with her. Sometimes I might need to do a bit of work when she’s asleep, but I can also take a morning off to sleep myself if she’s kept me up all night! I’m not going to deny, there have also been a few days where I’ve just not wanted to leave her and, if I’ve felt I could comfortably put off the work I had planned until tomorrow, I’ve just taken the day off to take my little one to the park instead! Those moments while she is so young are incredibly precious, and being able to have that time with her means the world to me.
The “mumpreneur” debate
So where do you stand on the word “mumpreneur”? I find this a tricky question. I can completely understand why people have a problem with it – it sounds patronising. No one is talking about “dadpreneurs”; men with a business are just businessmen, regardless of their parental status. Why should mums be put into a separate, second class category? We want to be treated like entrepreneurs the same as anyone else. There is also something in the term that suggests that a mumpreneur’s business might not be a proper business – it’s more a hobby or a bit of fun or something frivolous on the side while she’s looking after the children (because don’t we have so much time for frivolous hobbies when we’re looking after children!).
On the other hand, I quite like that the term instantly connects me to a particular tribe. When we identify ourselves as “mumpreneurs” we can instantly see each other and go, “you’re one of me!” There are very specific challenges and experiences in running a business as a mother that other entrepreneurs might not understand. Being able to connect to that community and identify as a group on a similar journey I personally find empowering.
Society shouldn’t look down its collective nose at “mum” businesses – let’s not forget that the Body Shop, Net-a-Porter and Not on the High Street were all founded by mum entrepreneurs. Maybe we need to take the term “mumpreneur” back and wear it with pride? I’m interested to hear different thoughts on this!
Do you want to start a business that works for and around your family? If you’re just getting started, don’t know where to start or are starting to worry you might need to start all over again, let’s chat about whether coaching could be just what you need.