Last Wednesday (19th November 2014) was the first proclaimed Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, so it seems apt to reflect on the Mumpreneurs – the unsung heroines of the 21st century. No longer having to decide between a career or children (circa 1980) or as career women who slot their babies into their work (think putting babies into work crèches circa 1990), the Mumpreneurs slot their work into their lives, kids and all. They are there for the kids when they come home from school, never miss a school play or sports day, and work on their own terms in between the school drop off and pick-up.
These mums have always been successful career women working, for example , for the BBC, law firms, in retail strategy, advertising, art directing for magazines and teaching. Fed up with the daily commute, asking for permission to pick up a sick child at school and missing out on attending their child’s teddy-bear picnic, these women decided to go it alone.
I am a career coach , advising adults and students on their next move, whether it be university study, mums going back to work, changing career or going for a promotion. Having spent seven years as teacher, which culminated in becoming Assistant Head of a comprehensive school in West London, the birth of my baby gave me the impetus to set up my coaching business, Lancer Coaching, for both employees in companies and individuals. I also deliver leadership training and write books about coaching and education. What I love about my work is the variety it brings and that in between clients or telephone calls, I can put on a soup, take my daughter to nursery or be at home for a delivery. I wanted to find out what other businesses mums had started, their motivations and how it worked around their lives in practice.
The first mum I interviewed was Belinda Lester, mother of 2, and founder of Lionshead Law. She was previously a partner in private practice specialising in employment law. Realising that billing by the minute was unpopular, she came up with an innovative solution – to offer the same service for fixed fees and monthly retainers, removing the nerve-wracking financial uncertainty that enlisting legal help so often entails. Her clients know that they can call her anytime, (“always here for you” is her company’s tag-line) but they might be on speakerphone if she’s en route to collect her children. This doesn’t make her less professional or good at her job. This makes her a real and approachable person just like them.
Jo Goldberg, of Gold Consulting, was a management consultant who was also disillusioned by the cold billing process at her accountancy firm. She decided she wanted to work in a more caring sector and got a job at a Jewish Charity. Having learnt many new skills over a five year period at the charity and realising that her working hours did not suit the school run, she decided she could offer advice about a specialist area – trust fundraising – as a freelancer. She, along with her associates, train employees in charities and offer strategic advice to help charities maximise their income. She loves the diversity of her role, meeting new clients and forming new relationships through networking and her post as the Treasurer of the Institute of Fundraising Trusts and Statutory Special Interest Group. Jo explains that the challenges of her work are that you have to be very organised both in your family and work life so that you are prepared for those times when you aren’t working because your kids are off school.
My journey then led me to Lucy Barnett, who wanted to create a company that would fit around her baby – and so RSVP Lucy was born. Using her talent as a former magazine Art Director she designs bespoke barmitzvah and wedding invitations. Deploring the “white square with silver writing” invitation, she offers a creative, modern alternative.
Leah Warren set up Watling Tutors, an academic tuition agency that combines her teaching and marketing experience. After having her first baby, she wanted to avoid her daily commute but also to utilise her skills. Leah points out it is the flexibility and scalability of the business that contributes to its success. She can scale down her marketing or rev it up according to what is going on in her life.
Julia Obrart drew on her experience in merchandising for big high street retailers and founded LittleBeauChic.co.uk, an online boutique for children aged 0-8, with her husband. They launched after the birth of their second child and offer affordable but different clothes to those available on the high street. Julia runs the business and harnesses social media to market her products. She points out that she doesn’t have to pay for childcare and she works when she wants.
Finally, I interviewed Zoe Sinclair, who was a producer at the BBC for eight years. She realised that it would be helpful for parents going back to work to have some kind of support. She developed the idea into Employees Matter, a company that provides lunch-time top-notch speakers about parenting, stress, work-life balance and caring for the elderly to companies such as banks, law firms and management consultancies.
What is remarkable about these women, is that they are all earning the same or more than what they earned before and they have a real sense of achievement. The mumpreneurs have redefined career success. It is not how far you can be promoted or how much money you can earn. It is how well you have achieved work-life balance. If you want to discuss how you can utilise your skills and get your ideas off the ground – you might want to contact a coach, who is a mum just like you!
Natalie is available for one-to-one coaching sessions for individuals of any age. She also does corporate coaching. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at email@example.com or 01923 85 0781. www.natalielancer.com