Since the global financial crisis the number of women opening their own small businesses versus men has nearly doubled. There is an unquestionable parallel between the rise of female-owned start-ups and the beginnings of a generation of mothers who are also entrepreneurs.
Mumpreneur is a term used to describe a woman running a business whilst looking after her children – added to the Collins Dictionary in October 2011. Call it a turning point, or an acknowledgement of the times, mumpreneur is continually being attached to stories of working women who have discovered the balance between having a career whilst also being successful mothers.
These working women have found the ideal happy medium, creating success stories beyond the executive horizon of the Silicon Valley and making way for more local ambassadors to expand the entrepreneurial voice of working women in Australia.
Aussie mums setting the trend
Janine Allis, mother of four, first noticed a gap in the health fast food industry at a time in her life when she was trying to find a working alternative which would allow her to escape the 9-5 grind whilst being able to look after her children.
She now runs a business which is active with over 200 stores – both local and internationally – including Australia, Hong Kong, UK, Portugal, Dubai, Chile, and South Africa. What started as a household exercise of making juices in her garage for her sons has now turned into a global health phenomenon, selling products which are 98% fat free and are made without artificial flavours or colours. This is a business which now turns over 130 million dollars a year worldwide. Janine is the founder and executive director of Boost Juice.
Naomi Simpson, mother of two and recipient of the Ernst & Young’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, climbed the corporate ladder as a marketer for years before using her experience to develop her own online gift retailer Red Balloon, which she started from the front room of her house. Her multi-million dollar business was listed in BRW’s Fastest Start-ups six times, highlighting her business achievement as one of the most successful female start-ups in Australia over the last ten years.
At the age of 18 Carolyn Creswell, founder of muesli empire Carmen’s Kitchen, dished out the last of her savings to buy out a home-made muesli business for $1,000, which was being run from the café she was working in at the time. Carolyn, now a mother of four, has grown the once humble and healthy, homemade cereal start-up into a million dollar empire, exporting produce to over 32 countries. Her list of credits include Ernst & Young’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a finalist for Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year, and noted as one of BRW’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies.
Why are women choosing to work for themselves?
For some it means maintaining a part-time connection to the workforce whilst allowing time for looking after children, and for others it means the opportunity to be their own boss. Juggling motherhood and a career, especially a role with managerial significance, can be difficult. Changes in technology, however, have made life easier for many mothers in Australia as they are able to work from home and have more mobility. Some factors influencing the rise of SME start-ups by women include:
- Rising cost of childcare
- Flexibility and independence
- Less risk of gender indifference with equal wages in workplace
- Ability to work from home or on-the-go with mobile technology
- Wanting to be their own boss
- Experiment with creativity and devise new ways of making money
Technology giving business and family life mobility
Naomi Simpson has suggested that the rise of mobile technology, such as iPhones and iPads, has helped revolutionise the day-to-day business connections of Red Balloon, in addition to helping her juggle working commitments with motherhood.
“As the founder of an online business I’d be a hypocrite to say that I don’t embrace technology. With this commitment to embracing great technology and the mobile work culture that this enables, we are able to offer the sought after flexible work arrangements that employees need to make their work and personal lives operate in harmony.”
“Technology has certainly helped me juggle my many commitments – both work and home-related – over the years,” commented Simpson.
Beyond Silicon Valley
According to a recent BankWest research report, the number of women starting their own businesses in Australia has grown by seven percent since 2006, with the percentage of men’s only growing by one percent. And while it is important to acknowledge the current wave of success relating to international entrepreneurial mums, such as the Sandbergs and Mayers of the business word, we should also foster the local voice of Australian working woman. The trend of mumpreneurship awakens in a working era where the grey cloud of equal opportunity still lingers within some industries still stipulating pay indifference between men and women.
The more women who choose to take the plunge and remove themselves from the security of a day job create a favourable outlook towards female SME leadership and are changing the shape of the workforce.