It was after the birth of her first child, that Mums & Co. founder Carrie Kwan realised running a business and taking care of a small human came with considerable hurdles. Feeling isolated and time-stressed Kwan tells Kochies Business Builders (KBB) melding her personal and professional ambitions with motherhood’s relentless ‘juggle’ was challenging.
It wasn’t til she was pregnant with her second child that Kwan decided she needed more support to succeed, and the first inkling of Mums & Co. began to form.
“I began discussions with IAG about forming an online business to help mothers to succeed. This was an incredible opportunity to make the biggest impact. When I was seven months pregnant, Mums & Co launched. That you shouldn’t have to choose between your family and career is in our DNA.”
Given the number of Australian mums launching a side hustle, Kwan believes there is a real need for a service that connects mums with support and advice.
“It’s tough to succeed; it can be isolating when you’re small and can feel like a constant battle to get suppliers and partners to come to the party. It often involves taking on considerable risk. They’re building significant ventures, often working from home without access to training, professional support and insurance that we take for granted in bigger companies. Finding the right talent, resources and customers efficiently makes a massive difference to the small business ownership journey.”
According to Kwan, mums face unique challenges running a small business.
“It’s uncommon not to be working around and prioritising your constant parenting duties. Not to mention that going into business means leaving security behind, and that is more daunting when you have a family to support.
“I could see that mums in business needed special support to help them thrive. In particular, something that allowed them to find more family-friendly ways of working, to work in their own time and in their own way, to connect and network, save time and money, to be more productive, and to open up easier ways of doing business.”
Female entrepreneurs are on the rise in Australia and a significant number of these new entrepreneurs are young mums. Kwan tells KBB her aim with Mums & Co is to ensure these business mums thrive. She recently commissioned a report to discover mums’ pain points and motivations and the results were enlightening.
“What we learnt was that flexibility in working hours and location is one of the primary triggers to mothers starting their businesses. In addition, our report showed that half of mums in business needed to start their own business as working for someone else was not viable.”
Whilst Kwan says there is no such thing as a ‘typical mumpreneur’, from surveying almost a 1000 mums in business, she has a pretty good picture…
“She has two kids and is likely to be educated. Half of all business mums are between 30 and 39 years old. Most are in relationships but one in ten are single parents. Nearly a third are born overseas.
“A third started their businesses while on parental leave, one in 10 started their businesses while pregnant, and 6 out of 10 mums who started their business this year have an infant or toddler.
“She’s taking back control of what’s important to her and she’s happier for it. She is brave, remarkable and has that Aussie spirit of having a go. Going into business means leaving security behind and stepping into the unknown, and it’s even more daunting when it’s not just yourself you are looking after. More than half have businesses in a completely new field to what they were doing before.”
Mums in business are a hidden workforce. Mums & Co Australian Mums in Business report suggests while almost (84%) don’t have staff; those who do on average employ four to five people (a mix of full time, part time, casual and contractors). So, Aussie mumpreneurs are providing income to another 216,000 Australians.
Mums & Co’s data suggests the key benefit for mums in business is flexibility and being able to do something they are passionate about.
“When doing meaningful work women have seen both their incomes and levels of self-reported happiness increase,” Kwan explains. “Their business means they are more than just a mum. They get great satisfaction from being an entrepreneur and successful business woman.”
Which begs the question, how can we be more supportive of mumpreneurs?
“Enabling more mothers to work on their own businesses means that they can balance the things that are important to them – the time to spend with their children when they most need it, the flexibility to raise families as well as achieve their ambitions.”
These entrepreneurial women are leveraging their talents, strengths and passions to create businesses that build new models, create new solutions and mindsets for the benefit of many. Kwan says supporting them is vital for Australia and the economy.
“Support with childcare is an obvious challenge. A majority have the support of a partner in looking after the kids (60%), while four in ten call on family members, and business mums also heavily rely on schools and childcare centres. Our Mums & Co access to Emergency Childcare helps provide last minute options when you need it most. More investment is needed in affordable, quality childcare – with tax offsets also for those choosing in-home care. Flexibility is not just a gender issue either; we need to prioritise equal parental leave for both parents.”
With recent studies showing the impact and disruption to career path having a child can have for a woman, it’s no surprise that Kwan discovered almost half of all mums in business feel being a mum has acted as a barrier to their business success and 50 percent also found starting a business very challenging.
“More and more are now turning to social media and networking groups to get the support they need,” she says.
“Also, the report looked into what’s holding some mothers back from launching a business, and it found that one in two women believe that financial concerns act as a major barrier to them starting a business, both costs associated with setup and access to capital funding. Four in five considerers are concerned with the commerciality of their idea. They need guidance on all of the fundamentals of the business start-up process. For women who are already are in business, our report found that they need more help with knowledge about finances, marketing and setting up businesses correctly.”
As a successful entrepreneur, Kwan has good advice for any mum ready to take the plunge.
“I would advise anyone starting a business to create a personal and professional network that they can lean on. One easy way to do this is to join a community of other like-minded mums like Mums & Co – it’s really powerful having the strength of community and a pool of knowledge and resources to draw on. It’s also a win-win as we can help each other with connections, and business mums tend to want to work with (or purchase from) other business mums.”