“Once you label me you negate me.”
– Danish philosopher : Soren Kierkegaard
Like most business people I’ve struggled with who I serve with my business – you see, just like you I can help “everyone” … Well, everyone in business! I truely believe that I could provide value to anyone in business by helping them to improve their online presence in some way. There are a few problems with this though:
- I can’t market to everyone effectively.
- I don’t actually want to work with everyone – in fact there are many people I don’t ‘want’ to work with.
- And I would never be able to provide ‘everyone’ with the coaching they deserve.
This is an exercise I regular go through with my coaching students and like many coaches I am the epitome of “do as I say and not as I do” …
Recently I was going through this process again – re-honing exactly who my target market is – in an effort to improve my marketing message to these fantastic women. This exercise had me researching ‘work from home mums’ and ‘self employed mums’, because they are the people I like helping most and I feel my digital business skills will provide them with the biggest steps forward. During this research I realised just how much I hate the word “mumpreneur” (or mompreneur if you’re in the USA). Every where I turned this term was being used to identify women who had children AND owned a business.
“The term ‘mumpreneur’ implies that the businesses are not serious, that they have been started ‘because’ these women have children.”
Personally the term itself implies to me that any business these women (including myself) were running was a hobby, something to do while the kids were at home, and once they went to school, so these women could be flexible enough to work around the kids school/activities. The term ‘mumpreneur’ implies that the businesses are not serious, that they have been started ‘because’ these women have children. Moreover, that the main focus for these women is their children and not so much their business.
The reality is somewhat different as any business owning mother will tell you. Starting a business from your kitchen table is often the first step in birthing a new child, with time consuming demands and needs just like your real children. I’m sure I’m not the only mother to have neglected all the household chores, feeding the kids and even occasionally picking up the precious children because of a business deadline that has overtaken your life!
Becoming a successful business owner requires just as much disciple whether you’re a man or a women, with or without children. When a mother achieves some success in her business, she is often labeled as a mumpreneur, taking a little of the shine off her achievement.When a father is successful in a similar fashion in business you don’t hear him being referred to as a dadpreneur, in fact whether he has children or not is considered irrelevant, and rightly so!
After a little research I’ve found that I’m not the only one who prickles when referred to as a mumpreneur, in fact theres quite a back swing against the term:
“I hate the term mumpreneur. I think it’s degrading and patronising. You don’t see male entrepreneurs with kids called Dadpreneurs,” – Stuff.co.nz/business
There was another quote in the same NZ article which quoted a winner of a mumpreneur award as saying she was a little embarrassed to say she’d won this award as it felt ‘less’ of an award than it would of been had it been an award for just entrepreneurship! One of my businesses won an award in 2011 for its entrepreneurship and I would have to say I’m glad that it was a general classification and not labeled a mumpreneurs award.
You could argue that mothers are better business owners than non-parents because they do have the ability to get organised and keep a number of balls in the air at the same time. There are a large number of businesses started by new mums, many of them don’t survive the nappies (diapers) stage but for those that do they offer these women more choice, once their child is ready for school. They can choose to stay “at home” work their business and be more available for the kids or drop them off at school each day and re-join the workforce they came from before motherhood. Both choices are valid and have their merits. Returning to the workforce provides financial security for the family, while running your own business gives you more flexibility to fit around your families needs. We could have a whole discussion on how much security you really have in a job, but thats for another day 🙂
Being a mother does appear to be a catalyst for many woman starting a business in the first place – “mothers of young children are up to three times more likely to be self-employed than other working women, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics” – smh article. There has been numerous studies as to why this is the case – they bring up a range of conclusions:
- monetary considerations (to bring in extra cash for the family),
- to solve family/baby problems which the mother suddenly becomes aware of (many new mothers create baby related products),
- professional women who have suddenly (for the first time in their lives) found themselves at a loose end – they want something to stimulate them, beyond the baby and the house,
- the new mother not wishing to return to an inflexible workforce.
Personally all of the above motivations were catalysts for my own business ventures! What about you – why did you start a business or why are you thinking about starting a business?
“An entrepreneurial perfect storm is created when you take professional women out of the workforce and place them with a young child and a whole bunch of repetitive activities!”
Have you noticed that many of the products that new mums create are baby/children related? An entrepreneurial perfect storm is created when you take professional women out of the workforce and place them with a young child and a whole bunch of repetitive activities! Their brains go into overdrive to find ways to make this new situation they find themselves in (motherhood), more efficient, work better, more rewarding etc. They basically become a one women research and development arm of their family. When you multiply this by millions you have a massive number of R and D departments working away in their kitchens around the world, coming up with the next new sippy cup that ensures junior’s meal times will be “less” messy 🙂 Maybe mothers who start businesses based around baby/family problems that they’ve solved should be called “mumpreneurs”?
My first exploration into self employment had me creating wooden fish puzzles which I sold to the local tourism shops (I had 2 young children at this stage), then my sisters and I created a family organiser magnate that stuck to your fridge, which we sold locally (this was my family product). These ventures where what I would call mumpreneurial as they really didn’t amount to much more than hobbies, the magnet in particular was even related to being a mother and organising family life. However after returning to the workforce as a teacher I soon realised I loved teaching but hated having to be at school every day between 8am and 4pm! In 2002 (with 4 children and a 5th child on the way), I chose to start and run a business online. Thanks to that decision I’ve had unprecedented flexibility, not just in being around for my kids but also in where I choose to actually work (and that freedom was my main motivation). You see with a digital business I can be any where as long as there is an internet connection. We tested this out in 2014-15 and took our 3 youngest children traveling around the world for 18 months, while we still ran our digital business! It was the best experience ever – we ran a travel blog at: upsticksandgo.com – if you want to check it out…
But back to the label mumpreneur, it implies I have a hobby business – after 14 years and hundreds of clients, I do not believe it is a hobby – it also implies I’m at home running my business from the kitchen table – and sometimes I am, but in the past I’ve also leased an office for 4 years, ran webinars in cafes on the other side of the world, ran webinars in a tent on the beach, worked from a co-sharing space in Vietnam and just sat in a park with my laptop. Being a digital business owner has given me the flexibility to be the kind of mother I want to be – one who is around, one who will drop everything and play, one who will cheer from the sidelines at footsal, one who will sit through (sometimes boring) school assemblies, one who is not afraid to get a little uncomfortable and one who is trying to show her kids that they can do and be what ever they want, including an entrepreneur! I am an entrepreneur who happens to be a mother to 5 gorgeous kids, but please don’t call me a mumpreneur!
P.S. Oh and I forgot to tell you – this little business has supported our family since 2006 🙂