Mompreneurs Mean Business

The mompreneur movement is exploding in Canada. With the corporate world still largely unaccommodating to family demands, many moms are striking out on their own.

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Take Amy Ballon, as an example. In 2001, Ballon was working as a management consultant on Bay Street in Toronto when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She took a leave of absence to spend more time with her mother and realized, “I didn’t want to be downtown, working a zillion hours a week.”

Recently married and planning to start a family, Ballon began to reconsider her career path. Her friend Danielle Botterell, who had recently graduated with an MBA, was in the same position, and the two decided to purchase a personalized baby blanket business in 2002 and rename it Admiral Road Designs.

Ballon and Botterell are typical of many moms who are opting out of the corporate world and starting their own business. There were 876,600 self-employed women in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Many of those are moms. Why?

“Too many organizations do far too little to help women maintain a connection with career during times when they have heavy family responsibilities,” says Alison Konrad, professor of organizational behaviour at the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario.

In a 2004-05 survey of Canadian companies she conducted, only 43% of respondents offered flexible work scheduling to employees, even fewer (35%) offered reduced work hours, and a mere 19% allowed for working at home.

Feeling torn between work and home, some moms choose to get out of the rat race altogether, but many educated and motivated moms still want to have a career. And, many families need the income.

“We just didn’t have the financial resources to be a one-income family,” explains Calgary-based Kathryn Bechthold, publisher/owner of The Mompreneur magazine.

Making the Transition

Moms start all kinds of businesses, everything from organic baby food to life coaching. For those in the 9-to-5 grind, the idea of running your own business and spending more time with your child sounds idyllic, but it can be tough going, especially in the first few years.

You’ll still be putting in long hours. Bechthold regularly works evenings and weekends. Similarly Crystal Dallner, president and founder of Outright Communications, an Edmonton-based marketing and design firm, admits that she has difficulty cutting off.

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“The phone will ring at 8 and I’m tempted even though Jacob [her son] is right next to me…I still feel that I need to deliver to my clients and I’ll run downstairs to take the call.”

Additionally, in the first few years, you’ll likely end up making less than you did in your staff position. Though Dallner, who launched her business in August 2005, says she is making a salary that is comparable to her previous position as a marketing manager at a media company, she is the exception.

Ballon admits her income is nowhere near what she used to pull in as a management consultant. “We’re starting a business with zero sales and a product to manufacture and inventory to carry…We were profitable in our first year, but we invested a ton of money back into the business.” 

What’s In It For Me?

So what’s the attraction, again? Well, for one you get to be your own boss (blaze your own trail and all) and you have the opportunity to choose work that you’re passionate about. (All these moms feel their work allows them to express and nurture their creativity.)

But equally attractive is the flexibility and control you have over your own schedule, which is much more difficult to find in a staff position. Dallner sees a lot of her son during the day as she and her husband (who also works at home with her) divide the time looking after Jacob.

“I play with him for an hour and we’ll swap back and forth,” she explains. Ballon boasts that she has been able to take her children to every doctor’s appointment her kids have ever had.

There are other benefits as well: no commute (for moms who are working at home), no road rage and even the decadent option of working in your PJs once in a while, according to Bechthold.

And what about those little mishaps that are bound to happen when you mix children and work? Well, a sense of humor is the best response, according to Dallner.

“Jacob once took a plastic hammer and was banging on my [office] door and my client says, ‘What’s going on there?’ and I said, ‘Oh, uh, construction’.”

Dallner’s best advice: “You always think there’s something you could do to plan it [becoming a mompreneur], but sometimes you just have to wing it.”

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