Meet the mumtrepreneurs

From resourcing to time management and motivation, one rising phenomenon holds lessons for all small businesses.

mumtrepreneurs

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. For parents, one thing’s certain: having children means inventing whole new ways of working.

Running a business and raising a family are both roles that take maximum time, energyand commitment. So how can mumtrepreneurs – and dadtrepreneurs, for that matter – deal with the extra drains on their energy, hours and their finances, and develop both major ‘projects’ successfully?

To find out, we talked to business coaches about the best ways to manage your time and resources. We also discovered that parenthood can provide business owners with inspiration, motivation and a renewed enthusiasm.

Wendy Shand of Tots to Travel

An unsettling experience on holiday when her son was a toddler inspired Northamptonshire-based Wendy Shand to set up Tots to Travel, a holiday company specialising in villa rentals for families with pre-school children.

After her son fell into a swimming pool at a French villa when he was just three, Wendy realised there was a gap in the market for a company to manage holiday lets that had been vetted for safety and kitted out with toddlers in mind. She completed a local authority-run business course and then approached villa owners in France. In return for a fee added to their rental price, each property was advertised and marketed through the Tots to France website (totstofrance.co.uk). Wendy visited each property, checked it for safety and provided it with a parent kit that included toys and stair-gates.Since she launched Tots to Travel in April 2006, Wendy has turned over £500,000 and she now has 40 properties on her books in France, Italy and Spain. Her children, Maisy and Barnaby are now five and seven respectively. She says: “I never knew I had it in me to be a businesswoman, but there’s something very motivating about having children. You suddenly have the drive to make life as you want it to be, rather than living by somebody else’s rules.”

Laura Tenison of Jojo Maman Bébé

Running a successful chain of 22 mother-and-baby shops, as well as a thriving mail order business, makes Laura Tenison, MBE and founder of JoJo Maman Bébé, one of the most high-profile of that new breed – the mumtrepreneur.However, despite selling clothes, shoes and nursery equipment for babies, she actually got her inspiration to start the business before she had children.

This makes her the ideal person to ask about how having a family changes an entrepreneur’s approach to business and how to combine the two time-consuming and challenging roles.

“Both my children were born on Fridays so it gave me the weekends to recover before going back to work on the Monday,” says Laura, whose business has bases in Battersea, London and Newport, South Wales. “Maternity leave just does not exist when you are running a business. But you can juggle both – even though it meant I had to take the children into work since I breastfed until they were nearly a year old. Then they used to come on business trips with me and I even used them as models for our catalogues.

“Now my sons are aged 11 and 15 it is a bit easier but they still demand my time so I try to be there in the evenings and for much of the school holiday. But they’re used to the fact that I run a business – they log on at their desks at my home office.”

What’s the secret to combining roles? “If you want it enough, you can do it. Plus I’m good at multi-tasking. Family must come first. Although I am responsible for 250 people’s pay cheques, my children come first. I am better at empathising with parents as a result and we area family-friendly business.

“Use children as an inspiration. JoJo started before I had children but the minute I had kids my innovative ideas took off – for example, I designed our children’s wet suits by making one for my own children.

“Be prepared for a busy life. Having children means I have learned to survive on five hours’ sleep. I get the kids to bed and then do four hours’ work at night. And use your kids as a motivation. I love what I do and my children inspire me to work hard! Remember, you don’t have to be in the office all the time. I have internet access everywhere I go. My desk overlooks the garden so I can watch them on the trampoline while I work. Sometimes it is just a case of being there – you can work and be with the children.

“Step back; let others be entrepreneurial. It is only when you let others take risks – just like you did, and in a blame-free culture – that they too can be entrepreneurial and come up with ideas to grow the business.”

Hannah McNamara of the SME Academy: Managing your responsibilities

Business coach Hannah McNamara, of the SME Academy, has come up with the following tips for dealing with parenthood and running a business in the current economic environment.

Harness support: In difficult times you need to have the understanding of your family – and that means open conversations. Some people get convinced that their other half is having an affair because they start to spend so much time in the office. Also it helps to explain why you are tired or irritable when you get home.

Set priorities: Take time out even if it is for half an hour a day on the way to work – and think about what is important. When times are tough, people go into panic mode and tend to run around like headless chickens doing too much but achieving little. Spend quality time with the clients or on the projects that matter rather than spreading yourself thin.

Be objective: Owner-managers tend to be too emotionally attached to their business.

Delegate: Do you think if you want to get something done well, then you have got to do it yourself? Write down what you have to do and what can be delegated easily. Doing everything yourself is a false economy – leave time to play to your strengths.

Remember: You don’t have to be there all the time: think of yourself as an Olympic athlete. If you train day in day out with no rest, you will underperform. Get some balance in your life so you can be in peak condition.

Children grow up fast: It amazes me that people will outsource childcare but feel they can’t outsource business tasks. Your children do notice when you are not there – you can’t get that time back.

Be realistic: Write down what needs to be done in a day and if that is going to take more than eight hours, then you are not going to get it all done – particularly if you allow for distractions. Time yourself – if you give yourself 15 minutes to do something, you have a target to reach and you are more likely to achieve this than if you have all day.

Ros Taylor is a psychologist, businesswoman, TV and radio presenter and author of Fast Track to the Top. Here are her tips on how to run a business and a family

With a family and a business to look after, it is tempting to forget yourself. Are you sleeping, eating and taking time out?

Remember, people work best in blocks of an hour to 90 minutes – that’s when you need to take a rest. Make time for your family – book them into your diary too.

Relaxing is vital as it helps you to see things differently and it is when you get your bright ideas – you may be able to come up with 24 new ideas after a recharge.

For my book, I interviewed 80 top chief executives and asked for the four top secrets to their success. They were: problem solving – and for that you need to be relaxed; the ability to deliver the goods; wanting to win; and having fabulous relationships both at home and work.

When you are stressed your relationships deteriorate. The executives I interviewed all said that relationships are key to success.