There’s nothing quite like being at home on maternity leave with your precious little bundle to make you rethink your career path – suddenly the idea of jumping back on the corporate ladder can look very unappealing.
And it’s at this moment that revisiting that brilliant business idea you once had starts to feel like it could really be a better career option.
Carrie Kwan is a co-founder of Mums & Co, an Australian business mums community created to help mums in business, do business. As a mum of two young children, she really understands the unique business challenges that exist for business mums.
So if you’ve ever fantasised about starting your own business but don’t know where to begin – or you’re worried that it’s too big a risk to take when you have a young family – Carrie has plenty of smart advice that might just help turn your business dream into a reality.
Q: I think I have a good business idea. What’s the best way to work out if my idea is solid?
A: If you can explain your business concept clearly, with a clear sight of the issue it solves or why there is demand for it, then you should have a solid concept to build on. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they think about it – will the product or solution be useful for them? Gaining other people’s insights can be incredibly valuable and make you realise a whole new audience or perspective.
Q: What kind of research should I do before starting?
A: Depending on your field, it is always worth doing some research into your space. Many people don’t think about competitors and the market before launching their product but this can be a huge mistake. Would you pour your heart and soul into launching something if you knew the same product was already available and hugely successful? Find out what other competitors there are, think about barriers to purchasing and don’t be afraid to ask people in the sector or potential customers what they think of your idea.
Q: How do I explore financing? I don’t have a lot of capital to invest.
A: This is a subject many founders in our network struggle with. Many think the only way to go forward with a business idea is a loan or bootstrapping, but we give them information on different types of funding to consider what suits them.
MORE Work and Finance
Our Australian Mums In Business Survey showed that one in two businesses believe that financial concerns act as a major barrier to them starting a business, both costs associated with setup and access to capital funding.
Only 2.2 percent of venture capital funds is currently being awarded to women-led ventures and women-owned businesses still face more challenges when it comes to securing finance compared to those owned by men.
We acknowledge this challenge and are offering women entrepreneurs a chance to participate in a Pitch Comp wherein entrants compete for a $10,000 cash prize and mentoring sessions with investors and industry experts. The Competition is running in conjunction with the Be MPowered Conference, which takes place on 23rd August at Ovolo Woolloomooloo.
Q: What skills do you really need to have before starting your own business so you have the best chance of success?
A: Regardless of what the business is, simply starting one is daunting. You are unsure of the market, reception to your product and what lies ahead. But it takes courage and determination to do so. I would like to say to aspiring business mums that you shouldn’t have to choose between your career and your family, and just go for it!
Over half of business mums in Australia are launching businesses in areas where they have had no prior experience, so I believe purpose and a passion for the problem or pain point you’re addressing will hold you in good stead. You will also need problem-solving skills, effective communication, networking know-how and confidence and resilience to deal with pressure.
One smart way to build these skills and business connections 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.
Q: If I’m a busy mum, is it smart to look for a partner? What are the pros and cons?
A: Being a working mum is tough! Being able to juggle the equally demanding tasks of motherhood and business ownership is a big task.
There are hundreds of thousands of small businesses run by mums. But when you’re doing it alone, it’s not easy to succeed. We need to support each other to grow and provide help wherever we can. That’s where Mums & Co come in. We equip working mums with the tools to achieve their business ambitions and personal goals. We aim to be the co-founder our members never had.
You can, of course, explore finding a partner for your company, but usually, this is something that happens organically with someone you trust and who has the correct skillset.
Q: What are the most common mistakes people make when starting their own small business?
A: Mistakes can be blessings as you are learning from them. As Elon Musk says: “If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.” However, we can learn from other people’s mistakes and find like-minded people to learn from. Through the Mums & Co community, many of our members use local meet ups and online forums to troubleshoot and gain useful advice for their specific business problems.
One common mistake that people make is not thinking about the entire customer journey from how they will hear about your company, what makes the product unique, what will make them buy it and then the customer service.
Some people are wonderfully creative but don’t think about the logical and technical side of things whilst some are very logical but perhaps needs some creative flair and feedback on their product. This is why surrounding yourself with such a great network of people like the Mums & Co network of 20,000+ women founders is so important.
Q: Should you put boundaries around work and home when you are launching a new business?
A: This depends on your lifestyle and family dynamic. Of course, as working mothers, there is typically a wide divide between work and home. However, many of our female founders have told us that since starting their companies, they experience less mum guilt as things are on their own terms. For example, you can work more flexibly (location and time) whenever you like or perhaps take your child into the office. Because we know how important this is, our Be MPowered Conference is one of the first family-friendly conferences with childcare and breastfeeding areas.
Some mothers like to have very separate work areas and others like to work from home with their children. Everyone is different. That’s why we encourage mums to do whatever works best for them, but the most important thing is making time for your family and making sure you don’t burnout. This is a very popular topic that our network often discusses.
Q: What’s the single smartest thing I can do to get my small business dream going?
A: It sounds basic, but just do it. So many of us, especially mothers with one hundred things on their to-do list and another hundred worries of what could go wrong, justify why not to start a business. However, what we find when people join our network and attend our events is, they gain the confidence, camaraderie and coaching they need to launch if they have been hesitant.
Another top tip of advice is to ask for help and feedback – you’ll be surprised who might be willing to offer you help if you just ask. We have thousands of women (and men) who understand you, get you and want to see you succeed.