With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday 12th May, this edition of our blog is a celebration of working moms everywhere. In particular, we are celebrating women who have taken the plunge to become their own bosses. The growth of eCommerce has bought some fantastic opportunities to those wanting to start their own operations. In 2019 it is women, and particularly mothers, who are leading the charge.
With the opportunity to make work commitments more compatible with family life, it isn’t surprising that increasing numbers of women are starting their own businesses. According to Markets Insider, the number of female-owned businesses has increased by a whopping 144% in the last twenty years! Now that is a growing trend!
For both working and stay-at-home mothers, the prospect of starting a business from the comfort of your own home is an appealing one. Whether it’s just a side hustle, or a way to help you quit the 9-5 grind for good, the world really has become your oyster!
There’s no doubt that the ease and accessibility of platforms like Etsy and Shopify have played a key role. Blogging and social media also present a fantastic set of marketing tools for your brand. In short, it’s never been easier to ‘go it alone’ and find success as an independent online seller.
But being a business owner isn’t all fun and games, especially if you are a mother too. Juggling family and professional commitments isn’t an easy task for regular working women. This becomes even more of a balancing act if you run a business from home!
At noissue, we are proud to have some truly kick-ass mothers in our customer base, running successful eCommerce operations whilst also raising families. In honor of Mother’s Day 2019, we talked with five ‘mompreneurs’. We asked them two key questions: What does being a mother and a small business owner mean to them? What challenges have they faced in balancing their professional and family lives?
Francesca Kelly, co-founder of Soru Jewellery
Francesca founded Soru Jewellery with her sister Marianna back in 2013. Although both sisters had long been passionate about jewellery and dreamed of starting their own brand, their business was borne out of the shared circumstances of motherhood. Both had children around the same time and they had given up full-time work, which gave them the space to grow their passion project at their own pace. Today, Soru Jewellery is a thriving business those wares have been worn by the likes of Rita Ora, Jessie J and HRH the Duchess of Cambridge!
For Francesca, it’s the flexibility of running her own business that allows her to play a more hands-on role as a mother:
“It means I'm busy but very happy! I get to set a great example to my daughter that if you work hard, your dreams can come true. That you can enjoy your work life and also be there for your family. Working for myself means I get to pick my daughter up from school, I can be there for her on sports days and be flexible with my work hours to work at times to suit me and my family.”
But there is a flipside to your business being your (other) baby: it often ends up being a whole lot more than just 9-5. Every business owner knows that there are far more considerations than just the goods you sell. There’s your branding strategy, running your marketing channels, order fulfillment and shipping, and far more besides! This easily eats into your time, something that Francesca was founding challenging when it comes to her home life.
“Finding a balance has been hard; I could easily work all night and burn myself out! There are never enough hours in the day, and I’ve had to realise when it’s time to stop. It’s fantastic to be in control of your own working hours, but as a business owner your never truly 'off work' as such. So, setting myself boundaries when I'm at home (such as no phones in front of my daughter, no work after 8pm etc) and sticking to these has been the hardest challenge for me.”
Jad Robitaille, Founder of Mini Cycle Boutique
As someone with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science, Jad Robitaille knows more than most about textile pollution. Children’s clothing is one of the biggest contributors, because it only lasts months before no longer fitting. As a mother herself, Jad knew that expensive ethical garments weren't a sustainable solution. She started Mini Cycle to introduce a circular fashion economy - parents can resell their clothing garments back to her store once they have finished with them. The boutique has a goal of each garment being worn by six children over its lifetime.
By running a business with such a strong mission behind it, Jad has found that this has fitted well with her role as a mother. Being a business owner has provided the opportunity to educate both herself and her children on how to take better care of the planet:
“It means many things to me. Working harder, while also being more flexible for my kids and able to be there for them. Involving them in the business as the work/life lines get blended. Showing them the right example with a business that has a social and environmental purpose. Learning from them at the same time. This business is as much for them and the family as it is for me.”
If you are a business owner who works from home, this provides its own unique set of challenges. This can be convenient for mothers with young children. But maintaining a decent barrier between work and home takes a lot of discipline. Business concerns can easily get overwhelming, something that Jad is always working to improve:
“Working from home and on a computer/phone means I am working all the time. It is still a work in progress but making a clear delineation between and work and family life has been the biggest challenge. I also don't want to set a bad example by being on the phone all the time in front of my kids. Putting the phone down and the computer away on the weekends and afternoons/evenings while they are not in school or sleeping, and also being more efficient while working in order to maximize work-life balance, will be an ongoing struggle I am sure!”
Michelle Kreussel, Founder of The Fox in the Attic
Michelle’s business began in 2010 when she impulsively returned to a long-ago passion: embroidery. Before long, she had a growing range of soft toys, cushions, baby rattles, and swaddles, accented with beautiful watercolor illustrations. The following year she was selling her creations on Etsy, and The Fox in the Attic was born! Today she is running the business from her home studio, along with raising two daughters.
Running a creative business from home also has a very personal aspect for Michelle. She had an exceptional model growing up from her own mother, which has influenced how she approaches her own operation:
“When I was younger, my own mum worked from home, pursuing her creative endeavors and also running her own business from home. It inspired me to want to do the same one day, to work from home and to be with my children while they are young. I started my business before we had children, and I’m lucky that it has grown to the extent that I am able to help support our family. I love being able to do things with the children, but also to work in the studio with them and switch between the two when needed.”
There’s always a push and pull between wanting to deliver the next experience possible to your customers, and maintaining a work-life balance. Ultimately your business becomes what you put into it, and this does mean a lot of personal and emotional investment:
“There are many challenges, but balancing life and work is the biggest! When you work for yourself, work never really stops. I will reply to an email or quickly go to the studio to check stock in the middle of lunch, for example. Finding a way to properly switch off from work is the most challenging, but my business wouldn’t be where it is if I wasn’t always committed to delivering the best customer service.”
Sophia Pierro, Founder of Present Day Gifts
Through spending many years working as a set decorator in Toronto and sourcing pieces of TV and film, Sophia encountered many incredible craftspeople along the way. Developing a passion for these locally-made artisan goods, she was inspired to make these more available to those searching for truly unique gifts. This resulted in the launch of Present Day; a bespoke gift box service with a focus on locally-supplied goods.
Naturally, becoming a mother is a huge lifestyle change. But Sophia found a lot of parallels between growing into motherhood and growing a business, which helped her to navigate this momentous shift in her life:
“My business was my baby until I had my actual baby! It's been tough to shift from putting all of my energy into the business, to now splitting it between business and family. But I've been grateful to have my business, because it can feel like such a shift to your identity when you first become a mother (you feed, carry, and keep another human alive with your body and mind so intensely.) Having a place to be creative has been a great way to keep me grounded in myself. I am proud of the business I've created in a way that's different from creating a baby. Both give me joy (and, let's be honest, frustration at times) in such different ways. Yes, I'm stretched thin, and could probably use much more sleep, but I feel like I'm living my fullest life right now!”
When it comes to the age-old issue of balancing work and family life with a home-run business, Sophia hit on an innovative solution. But it’s sthe key relationships in her life which have allowed her to manage this balancing act:
“My business is in my home. My house is split into two - half business and half living, so it's been convenient to work and to keep my thriving business alive while living with a new baby. Yes, it means I don't get a real split or break from work, but I'm able to make it work, and the balance has been an interesting challenge! It's also tough on my marriage. My husband is often expected to pick up the slack when I need to attend to the business or the baby. I couldn't run my business without his help, even though he has a separate full-time job. That's been tough! But he knows that having the business guarantees us freedom in other ways.”
Pascale Hennessey, founder of Mama Organiser
Pascale Hennessey’s business was directly inspired by the adventures of motherhood; after sleepless nights with her newborn, she started thinking of a more minimalist approach to baby products. Having spent years living in tiny homes, she was determined to maintain a sustainable and clutter-free lifestyle. She began making parenting kits which contained all the essentials for busy parents, from feeding kits to nappy bags. Her resulting brand, Mama Organiser, aims to take the stress out of childcare and help parents to better enjoy their time with their children.
With the inspiration for her brand so in line with her personal life, Pascale finds a lot of harmony between her identity as a mother and a business owner:
“I truly believe that children will always feel loved if their parents spend enough quality time with them throughout their lives. My husband and I are both small business owners and so we’re all too familiar with the amount of work that goes into a new start-up, but the payoffs of being our own bosses are huge. I get to be a mum at the same time as being my creative self, producing something of value for other parents that is fun and and in line with what’s important to me, as well as being in line with where I am in life right now as a parent.”
Although having so much control over your work and family life can be an advantage, it can also be a burden as well. For Pascale, it’s learning to give up this control and relaxing a little which is the biggest challenge:
“In this day where how busy we are and how much we’re achieving in life determines our worth, it’s easy to get caught up in your own kind of rat race, multi-tasking, ticking off lists and rushing around doing, doing, doing without taking time out to enjoy the ride. Coupled with the financial and productive ups and downs of owning a business, it didn’t take long before I learned that running on empty was a completely stressful and unsustainable way to live. Busy-ness doesn’t equal worthiness. Motherhood helped me realise that in order to have a flourishing business, a happy marriage and a family life that’s congruent with our goals, I had to bring patience into the running of my business and I had to let go of the element of control a little, to surrender to however the day unfolds.”
So, what advice do these amazing women have this Mother’s Day for other mothers who are running businesses, or otherwise considering it?
Francesca Kelly: “Giving yourself time, just for you, is probably one of the most valuable things you can do. Even if that means scheduling that time into your diary and making no excuses (i.e. don't cancel on yourself!) Trust me, you will value that time as refueling to come back as a better mother and a business owner, and it will enhance your creativity and patience too.”
Jad Robitaille:“Keep your business and family separated, where possible. When you are with your kids, be with them 100% with your attention and presence. Try to leave the stress and current business issues behind until you are next working on it. This mental compartmentalization is key to your health and sanity and the wellbeing of the whole family!”
Michelle Kreussel: “Advice I don’t follow myself! Enjoy working for yourself, and remind yourself that the schedule is in your hands, and that you control what happens.”
Sophia Pierro:“Get help! Everyone says it, but you can't run yourself ragged. I have hired help with the business and with the baby off and on, even though it meant I wouldn't make as much money. Just take it easy, and don't pressure yourself as much. In this first year of having my baby, I have been late on deadlines for my website, and could not grow in the ways I had expected and planned on. But it's okay! When we approach motherhood and entrepreneurship with patience and the ability to adjust and let things go, we will ultimately be happier and both our children and our businesses will succeed in better ways.”
Pascale Hennessey:“I highly recommend reflecting on your goals and values with your family over the years as these can change with time and circumstance - this way you all get to be part of creating the family life you want to live, together in support of your business and of you!”
“Ultimately, if you’re doing something you love, that makes your heart sing and makes you happy every time you start your day, then you’re in the right place.”
Thanks so much to these ladies for contributing! Happy Mother's Day to all!