The post-baby return to work just wasn't working for Jessi McDonold anymore. Her job as a bartender required long shifts and late nights, neither of which go well with a crying baby. Exhausted and in need of a change, she took a pause from full-time work, only to return to it a short while later–this time as a small business owner.
Today, as owner of Wild June Photography, McDonold represents just one of the estimated 11.3 million women-owned firms in the U.S, up from about 9.1 million two years ago. The entrepreneurial lifestyle has grown especially appealing to moms desiring a schedule that's more flexible than the typical 9-to-5. In fact, mom and business coach Amy Applebaum thinks we are living in the time of the mompreneur.
"Starting your own business provides so many things that a 'job' doesn't: flexibility, income potential, freedom of time and schedule so moms can be home with their kids," says Applebaum.
And thanks to the assistance of companies like incorporate.com, it's never been easier or more affordable for budding mompreneurs to quickly launch and grow a business. Still, deciding not to return to a stable job and go it on your own can be scary. Applebaum recommends that moms start by doing some preliminary research online and getting on the email lists of a few good business coaches.
Build A Small Business Team
The next step she walks clients through is putting together a support team, which she refers to as a board of mentors. "Select these people by looking into your existing network for anyone you know that's really good at what they do: accounting, legal, administration, sales, marketing," says Applebaum.
To her, a board of mentors is a non-negotiable. "If you want to fail, don't work with mentors and try to figure out everything on your own," she says. "It's the fastest way to failure … period. Mentors will save you time and money and help you get more money and time."
Find Time for Work & Family
Applebaum, who also provides on demand business coaching through her Ambitious Women Success Club tells her clients that "owning a business and succeeding is a journey. It's not a quick sprint. It's a marathon." Which is why she also cautions moms to be very honest with themselves about what they're taking on.
"Your business has to be a non-negotiable, just like your kids. The question isn't whether you're capable, it's whether you're committed to doing what it takes … And if you're not really committed, don't do it. Because you don't have the luxury of time to waste when you're a mom," says Applebaum.
For McDonold, doing what it takes means working late at night after her daughter has gone to bed, and also placing a cap on just how much she works.
"I limit the amount of wedding and photography jobs I take to a number I know I can handle and still provide my clients with great service and spend lots of time with my family," she says.
Think Like An Entrepreneur
Achieving that ideal work-life balance often requires a lot of up-front work and a change in thinking. On her Pitch Me Moms podcast, Applebaum provides honest feedback to moms in the early stages of entrepreneurship, telling them to not get sidetracked by setbacks. "Fear and challenges derail most entrepreneurs and that's why most fail, but if you can learn to manage fear and challenges you will be way ahead," she says.
Finding a way through that self-doubt has proven successful for mom and business owner Nikki Elledge Brown. Known as a communication stylist, Brown has created an enterprise to help other entrepreneurs improve their copywriting chops and communication skills.
"So much of the entrepreneurial equation is about clearing through self-imposed, limiting beliefs, decluttering old stories you've told yourself about what's possible, and staying accountable to consistent action," says Brown.
As a mom of two, Brown doesn't sugarcoat the balancing act of motherhood and entrepreneurship.
"It's not all rainbows and butterflies, but if you're committed to making it happen, that feeling of adding real value to the marketplace, contributing to your family's finances and showing your kiddos what's possible makes it all worth it," she says.
In fact, Brown believes being a business owner has helped her be a better mom by giving her a creative outlet and forcing her into the world of personal development.
Take The First Step
For those moms just getting started, Brown says it's great to have a plan, but advises them to be flexible.
"Don't study too much. Just start doing," she says. "It's way too easy to psych yourself out and start to think you have to have all your ducks in a row before you put yourself out there. You don't. Take focused action and trust that you will learn what you need to learn as you go."
That's something McDonold discovered over time. "Some of my biggest challenges have just been learning how to run a business. Trying to figure out how much I need to make to actually take home some money for my family … it's a numbers game." She recommends her fellow mompreneurs take the leap into entrepreneurship, but pace themselves. "Take it slow and don't overdo it," she says.