by Christine Janssen,
Being a new business owner and a new mother are among the greatest challenges any woman can face. Doing both at the same time requires a certain set of skills and characteristics, including lots of determination, patience, and multitasking. (And perhaps that occasional glass of red wine at the end of a hectic day.) Introducing the “mompreneur” …
What exactly is a mompreneur? Intuitively speaking, she is a woman who simultaneously balances the roles of motherhood and entrepreneurship. The term is typically used to describe a woman who leaves the workplace to raise children and then launches a small, home-based business rather than returning to the traditional workplace. But this isn’t the only path to mompreneurship. Oftentimes women are first and foremost entrepreneurs and then become mothers.
The term “mompreneur” was actually coined back in the late 1990s by Ellen H. Parlapiano and Patricia Cobe, two leading authorities on women-owned businesses. They are co-authors of Mompreneurs: A Mother’s Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-Home Success and Mompreneurs Online: Using the Internet to Build Work@Home Success, and creators of www.mompreneursonline.com. While the term essentially describes any woman who is trying to balance both family and work responsibilities all under one roof, Cobe posits that there isn’t just one type of mompreneur. The distinction is that this title represents a woman who has at least one child and who has launched her own business. I liken mompreneurs to wonder women with super powers. Both roles are extremely demanding, and both carry responsibilities that rarely end when the 5 o’clock whistle blows.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how many mompreneurs there are in the United States, but according to some of the latest statistics from the Center for Women’s Business Research , the number of women-owned businesses has grown in excess of 40 percent over the past 10 years, and the number of women who are choosing to stay home to raise their children has increased nearly 15 percent.
Many new moms in particular have discovered that there are many lifestyle options available to them, and those “high-achieving” career women are deliberately choosing not to return to the daily grind of corporate America. Women who are used to earning a salary, spending as they wish, and being intellectually stimulated on a day-to-day basis are often left feeling a bit empty once they become stay-at-home mothers. They find themselves stuck in a chasm between making money and challenging themselves professionally vs. trying to be the perfect mother who devotes all of her time and attention to her children. Sadly, societal and economic pressures have driven us to rely on dual incomes to maintain a certain lifestyle, so once the stork delivers the goods and a woman chooses to stay at home to raise her children, couples are looking for creative ways to marry their old and new lifestyles with minimal sacrifices.
Today, a large percentage of new moms are highly educated, ambitious career women who want to be professionally challenged, so they are finding ways to stay connected with the business world. The desire to set and achieve personal goals often results in women launching their own businesses from the comfort of home. While not an easy position to be in, it works for many women and can provide the best of both worlds.
This trend of women who leave their jobs to have children and then opt to start their own business continues to grow. And don’t mistake this for a short-lived fad like big shoulder pads—there is a strong, definitive change in the world of entrepreneurship from both a social and economic standpoint. In 2007, the Intuit Future of Small Business Report was published to illustrate the changing face of entrepreneurship over the next 10 years. The report stated that “the face of small business will dramatically change as seasoned baby boomers, those fresh out of high school, mid-career women, mompreneurs and new immigrants will come together to create the most diverse pool of entrepreneurs ever.” Moreover, the study emphasized that the U.S. will continue to see increasing numbers of female entrepreneurs, thus transferring a large portion of the talent pool from corporate America to the small business sector.
Even though being a mompreneur is challenging on so many levels, more and more women are joining the ranks. So is it true? Can women have it all? When posed with this very question, every participant in our study responded with a resounding YES! But there are caveats. Christine Lavin of Fit2BMom commented that “having it all doesn’t necessarily mean having it all at the same time.” Admittedly, balance, sacrifice, and flexibility are all things that enable mompreneurs to have it all in the larger scheme of things. Another mompreneur, Dena Smith-Givens of Primal Parenting magazine brought up a good point in that “having it all” likely means different things to different people. So ask yourself what it is you want out of your life. What does “having it all” mean to you? Whatever it is, realize that—with a little planning and support—you can simultaneously be a fabulous wife, mother, business owner, and friend (see “Balance—Myth or Reality?” for more on this topic).
There is a definite parallel between launching a business and starting a family. They both need to be created and regularly nurtured. They both must take baby steps before they can run. Leverage your strengths as a woman, be it great organizational skills or relentless passion and enthusiasm. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Don’t lose sight of who you are and what you want from your life. Boldly tell the universe what you have to offer. Stop worrying about all the things you have yet to do, and congratulate yourself for all that you are and all that you have accomplished already.
Christine Janssen is a member of the New York City Incubator and the founder and president of denken Research & Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that provides end-to-end market research and writing services to small businesses.